Verse > Edgar Lee Masters > Spoon River Anthology

Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950).  Spoon River Anthology.  1916.

194. Harry Wilmans

I WAS just turned twenty-one, 
And Henry Phipps, the Sunday-school superintendent, 
Made a speech in Bindle’s Opera House. 
“The honor of the flag must be upheld,” he said, 
“Whether it be assailed by a barbarous tribe of Tagalogs         5
Or the greatest power in Europe.” 
And we cheered and cheered the speech and the flag he waved 
As he spoke. 
And I went to the war in spite of my father, 
And followed the flag till I saw it raised  10
By our camp in a rice field near Manila, 
And all of us cheered and cheered it. 
But there were flies and poisonous things; 
And there was the deadly water, 
And the cruel heat,  15
And the sickening, putrid food; 
And the smell of the trench just back of the tents 
Where the soldiers went to empty themselves; 
And there were the whores who followed us, full of syphilis; 
And beastly acts between ourselves or alone,  20
With bullying, hatred, degradation among us, 
And days of loathing and nights of fear 
To the hour of the charge through the steaming swamp, 
Following the flag, 
Till I fell with a scream, shot through the guts.  25
Now there’s a flag over me in Spoon River! 
A flag! A flag! 



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