by Edgar A. Guest
Something for a soldier knitting,
What in fancy can you see?
Many pictured come to me
Through the stitch that now you're making:
I behold a bullet breaking;
I can see some soldier lying
In that garment slowly dying,
And that very bit of thread
In your fingers, turns to red.
Gray to-day; perhaps to-morrow
Crimsoned by the blood of sorrow.
It may be some hero daring
Shall that very thing be wearing
When he ventures forth to give
Life that other men may live.
He may braver wield the saber
As a tribute to your labor
And for that, which you have knitted,
Better for his task be fitted.
When the thread has left your finger,
Something of yourself my linger,
Something of your lovely beauty
May sustain him in his duty.
Some one's boy that was a baby
Soon shall wear it, and it may be
He will write and tell his mother
Of the kindness of another,
And her spirit shall caress you,
And her prayers at night shall bless you.
You may never know its story,
Cannot know the grief or glory
That are destined now and hover
Over him your wool shall cover,
Nor what spirit shall invade it
Once your gentle hands have made it.
Little woman, hourly sitting,
Something for a soldier knitting,
'Tis no common garb you're making,
These, no common pains you're taking.
Something lovely, holy, lingers
O'er the needles in your fingers
And with every stitch you're weaving
Something of yourself you're leaving.
From your gentle hands and tender
There may come a nation's splendor,
And from this, your simple duty,
Life may win a fairer beauty.
I can't describe the joys with which his quaint expressions fill us.
He says the military life is not of his selection,
He's only soldiering to-day to give the Flag protection.
But since he's in the army now and doing duties humble,
He'll do what all good soldiers must, and he will never grumble.
He's not so keen for standing guard, a lonely vigil keeping,
"But when I must," he writes to us, ""they'll never find me sleeping!
I hear a lot of boys complain about the tasks they set us
And there's no doubt that mother's meals can beat the ones they get us,
But since I'm here to do my bit, close to the job I'm sticking;
I'll take whatever comes my way and waste no word in kicking.
"I'd like to be a captain, dad, a major or a colonel,
I'd like to get my picture in some illustrated journal;
I don't exactly fancy jobs that now and then come my way,
Like picking bits of rubbish up that desecrate the highway.
But still I'll do those menial tasks as cheerfully as could one,
For while I am a private here I'm going to be a good one.
"A soldier's life is not the way I'd choose to make my living,
But now I'm in the ranks to serve, my best to it I'm giving.
Oh, I could name a dozen jobs that I'd consider finer,
But since I've got this one to do I'll never be a whiner.
I'm just a private in the ranks, but take it from my letter,
They'll never fire your son for one who'll do his duty better."
An imitation Santa Claus must serve his little boy;
Last year he heard the reindeers paw the roof above his head,
And as he dreamed the kindly saint tip-toed about his bed,
But Christmas Eve he will not come by any happy chance;
This year his kindly Santa Claus must guard a trench in France.
His mother bravely tries to smile; last Christmas Eve was gay;
Last Christmas morn his daddy rose at dawn with him to play;
This year he'll hang his stocking by the chimney, but the hands
That filled it with the joys he craved now serve in foreign lands.
He is too young to understand his mother's troubled glance,
But he that was his Santa Claus is in a trench in France.
Somewhere in France this Christmas Eve a soldier brave will be,
And all that night in fancy he will trim a Christmas tree;
And all that night he'll live again the joys that once he had
When he was good St. Nicholas unto a certain lad.
And he will wonder if his boy, by any sad mischance,
Will find his stocking empty just because he serves in France.
As a symbol of the brave;
Let it float upon the breeze
As a sign for each who sees
That beneath it, where it rides,
Loyalty to-day abides.
Show the flag and signify
That it wasn't born to die;
Let its colors speak for you
That you still are standing true,
True in sight of God and man
To the work that flag began.
Show the flag that all may see
That you serve humanity.
Let it whisper to the breeze
That comes singing through the trees
That whatever storms descend
You'll be faithful to the end.
Show the flag and let it fly,
Cheering every passer-by—
Men that may have stepped aside,
May have lost their old-time pride,
May behold it there, and then
Consecrate themselves again.
Show the flag! The day is gone
When men blindly hurry on
Serving only gods of gold;
Now the spirit that was cold
Warms again to courage fine.
Show the flag and fall in line!
God watch them when they sleep at night, and guard them through the day.
We've stamped their names upon our walls, the list in glory grows,
Our brave boys and our splendid boys who stand to meet our foes.
Oh, here are sons of mothers fair and fathers fine and true,
The little ones of yesterday, the children that we knew;
We thought of them as younsters gay, still laughing at their games,
And then we found the honor roll emblazoned with their names.
We missed their laughter and their cheer; it seems but yesterday
We had them here to walk with us, and now they've marched away.
And here where once their smiles were seen we keep a printed scroll;
The absent boy we long to see is on the honor roll.
So quickly did the summons come we scarcely marked the change,
One day life marched its normal pace, the next all things seemed strange,
And when we questioned where they were, the sturdiest of us all,
We saw the silent honor roll on each familiar wall.
The laughter that we knew has gone; the merry voice of youth
No longer rings where graybeards sit, discussing sombre truth.
No longer jests are flung about to rouse our weary souls,
For they who meant so much to us are on our honor rolls.
A bit of the Motherland, too;
A strain of the fur-trapper wary,
A blend of the old and the new;
A bit of the pioneer splendor
That opened the wilderness' flats,
A touch of the home-lover, tender,
You'll find in the boys they call Pats.
The glory and grace of the maple,
The strength that is born of the wheat,
The pride of a stock that is staple,
The bronze of a midsummer heat;
A blending of wisdom and daring,
The best of a new land, and that's
The regiment gallantly bearing
The neat little title of Pats.
A bit of the man who has neighbored
With mountains and forests and streams,
A touch of the man who has labored
To model and fashion his dreams;
The strength of an age of clean living,
Of right-minded fatherly chats,
The best that a land could be giving
Is there in the breasts of the Pats.
© 1999, Lynn Waterman