Verse > Anthologies > George Herbert Clarke, ed. > A Treasury of War Poetry
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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953).  A Treasury of War Poetry.  1917.
 
119. To a Soldier in Hospital
 
By Winifred M. Letts
 
 
COURAGE came to you with your boyhood’s grace
    Of ardent life and limb.
Each day new dangers steeled you to the test,
    To ride, to climb, to swim.
Your hot blood taught you carelessness of death        5
        With every breath.
 
So when you went to play another game
    You could not but be brave:
An Empire’s team, a rougher football field,
    The end—perhaps your grave.        10
What matter? On the winning of a goal
        You staked your soul.
 
Yes, you wore courage as you wore your youth
    With carelessness and joy.
But in what Spartan school of discipline        15
    Did you get patience, boy?
How did you learn to bear this long-drawn pain
        And not complain?
 
Restless with throbbing hopes, with thwarted aims,
    Impulsive as a colt,        20
How do you lie here month by weary month
    Helpless, and not revolt?
What joy can these monotonous days afford
        Here in a ward?
 
Yet you are merry as the birds in spring,        25
    Or feign the gaiety,
Lest those who dress and tend your wound each day
    Should guess the agony.
Lest they should suffer—this the only fear
        You let draw near.        30
 
Greybeard philosophy has sought in books
    And argument this truth,
That man is greater than his pain, but you
    Have learnt it in your youth.
You know the wisdom taught by Calvary        35
        At twenty-three.
 
Death would have found you brave, but braver still
    You face each lagging day,
A merry Stoic, patient, chivalrous,
    Divinely kind and gay.        40
You bear your knowledge lightly, graduate
        Of unkind Fate.
 
Careless philosopher, the first to laugh,
    The latest to complain,
Unmindful that you teach, you taught me this        45
    In your long fight with pain:
Since God made man so good—here stands my creed—
        God’s good indeed.
 

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