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.
 
83. The Cricketers of Flanders
 
By James Norman Hall
 
 
THE FIRST to climb the parapet
With “cricket balls” in either hand;
The first to vanish in the smoke
Of God-forsaken No Man’s Land;
First at the wire and soonest through,        5
First at those red-mouthed hounds of hell,
The Maxims, and the first to fall,—
They do their bit and do it well.
 
Full sixty yards I’ve seen them throw
With all that nicety of aim        10
They learned on British cricket-fields,
Ah, bombing is a Briton’s game!
Shell-hole to shell-hole, trench to trench,
“Lobbing them over” with an eye
As true as though it were a game        15
And friends were having tea close by.
 
Pull down some art-offending thing
Of carven stone, and in its stead
Let splendid bronze commemorate
These men, the living and the dead.        20
No figure of heroic size,
Towering skyward like a god;
But just a lad who might have stepped
From any British bombing squad.
 
His shrapnel helmet set atilt,        25
His bombing waistcoat sagging low,
His rifle slung across his back:
Poised in the very act to throw.
And let some graven legend tell
Of those weird battles in the West        30
Wherein he put old skill to use,
And played old games with sterner zest.
 
Thus should he stand, reminding those
In less-believing days, perchance,
How Britain’s fighting cricketers        35
Helped bomb the Germans out of France.
And other eyes than ours would see;
And other hearts than ours would thrill;
And others say, as we have said:
“A sportsman and a soldier still!”        40
 

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