The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Boy Next Door

THERE used to be a boy next door

Whom I often have longed to throttle;

I've wished a thousand times and more

That he had died while "on the bottle"!

Oft in the past it has been hard

For me to check my inclination,

When he had cluttered up our yard,

To hand him heavy castigation.

With freckles on his tilted nose

And ears that far in space protruded,

He was not one, as heaven knows,

To whom I in my prayers alluded.

Derisively he showed his tongue

And scorned the warnings which I gave him,

But now I list myself among

The ones who pray the Lord to save him.

How vividly I can recall

Him at the window, making faces;

I used to think that in him all

The impish traits had lurking places.

He stole the green fruit from my trees,

Not caring how it might affect him;

Today he's fighting overseas,

And may the God of hosts protect him!

From childhood into youth he passed,

And then my little garden flourished;

And still his friendship was not classed

Among the treasures which I nourished.

He tortured first a slide tombone,

And next he tried a squeaky fiddle;

His voice took on a raucous tone

That used to rasp me down the middle.

How soldierly our lad appeared

When with his comrades he departed!

I wonder if he knew I cheered,

Or guessed that I was heavy--hearted.

If I have damned him heretofore

I now retract each foul aspersion

God bless the boy who lived next door,

And used to be my pet aversion!