Edgar A. Guest
He came down the stairs
of the laughter-filled grill
Where patriots were eating and drinking
The tap of his crutch on the marble of white
Caught my ear as I sat all alone
there that night.
I turned – and a soldier my eyes fell upon,
He had fought for his country,
and one leg was gone!
As he entered a silence fell over the place;
Every eye in the room was turned
up to his face.
His head was up high and his eyes
With a wonderful light, and he laughed
as he came.
He was young – not yet thirty –
yet never he made
One sign of regret for the price he had paid.
One moment before this young soldier
I had caught bits of speech in the
clatter and din
From the fine men about me in life's
Who were boasting the cash sacrifices
And I'd thought of my own paltry service
When I turned and that hero of battle I spied.
I shall never forget the hot flushes of shame
That rushed to my cheeks as that
young fellow came.
He was cheerful and smiling and clear-eyed
And out of his face golden light
seemed to shine.
And I thought as he passed me on crutches:
Are the gifts that I make if I don't give my all."
Some day in the future in many a place
More soldiers just like him
we'll all have to face.
We must sit with them, talk with them,
laugh with them, too,
With the signs of their service
forever in view
And this was my thought as I looked
at him then –
Oh, God! make me worthy to stand
with such men.
from Collected Verse of Edgar Guest
NY:Buccaneer Books, 1976, pg. 270