The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

His Only Way

I stood to-day high on the Downs

And talked long with a shepherd lad;

I found him pondering by his sheep,

Motionless, staring-eyed, and sad.

But, leaning on his Pyecombe crook --

Long polished by his father's hand --

He told, with slow-tongued eagerness,

This love-tale of his Sussex land:

"Me and my mate, Dick, loved a girl,

But he was always down at plough,

And in and out the village, like,

And -- well, he 'listed, anyhow;

"While I bides up here 'long me sheep;

And our girl, though she liked us two

Equal it seemed, she took his ring --

As, sure, she'd right enough to do.

"Well, Dick he fought and met his death,

Somewheres in Flanders, so 'tis said;

And I can't go to her, I feels,

Because of Dick there lying dead.

"They do tell she gets pine and thin,

And mopes and mourns that bitterly,

But I can't go and say a word,

Because he died for her, you see.

"And day by day I sees it more --

I've pieced it all out clear and plain --

As I must go like Dick has gone,

Afore I looks at her again.

"Old wall-eyed Bob, there, '11 pine awhile,

And listen, maybe, for my call;

And master, he'll be proper mad,

With lambing coming on, and all.

"But there 'tis, and there ain't two ways:

He went, and 'tis the only thing;

Else I shall grow to hate the hill

And get ashamed o' shepherding.

"That there's her window down below,

Aside the copse, where I could see

(It seems a score o' years agone)

Our girl stand waving up to me.

"Come Sunday, then, I'll 'list for sure

(The same as you done, Dick, old lad!)

Then, if I gets back, I can go

Fair, like, and face her proud and glad."