The Birthday Review

Said the Prince, “This is my birthday:
Day for wasp-waist, sword and stars!
Let it be a feast and mirth-day—
Muster my Death's Head Hussars!”

Southward to the blue Swiss border,
North to Flemish sand-dunes pale,
Ran the Prince's birthday order,
“Skull and Crossbones, zu Befehl!”

Meanwhile, he put on his frock of
Whalebone, tinsel, gilded braids—
Garments that had borne the shock of
Many glittering parades.

Clomb the tallest of his stallions
Ready for his martial stunt;
Waiting for his proud battalions,
Playboy of the Western Front.

To the great reviewing stand he
Cantered, and his aides deployed—
Angrily the royal dandy
Gazed about him, much annoyed.

“Where are all my men?” he thundered
“Did I not give orders strict?”
Uniformed attachés wondered;
Heels of sub-lieutenants clicked.

Then, from trench and field blood-weary,
And from hamlets black with scars,
Came dead voices, thin and eerie,
Spoke the Prince's lost Hussars:

“I am here where Verdun held us.”
“In a shattered trench I lie.”
“I, where Joffre's legions felled us.”
“I, and I, and I, and I.”

“I am where the great guns slew us.”
“At Bapaume death set me free.”
“I, where men in blue went through us—
They no braver men than we.”

“I am here where Haig defied us.”
“I, where England stood at bay.”
“British dead are thick beside us,
We no braver men than they.”

“I, on Kemmel, where war squanders
All that honest men desire.”
“I lie here in muddy Flanders
On a trench's clotted wire.”

“Come, Commander, what you covet
We have bought you, flesh and soul—
This is war; and since you love it,
Join us, fill our muster-roll.”

On the broad parade ground, waiting
In his coat of braid and stars,
Stood the Crown Prince, celebrating,
Last of the Death's Head Hussars.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.