The Soldier on Crutches


Edgar A. Guest

USA stars and stripes bunting bar

He came down the stairs
     of the laughter-filled grill
Where patriots were eating and drinking
     their fill,
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
     seemed aflame
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
     came in
I had caught bits of speech in the
     clatter and din
From the fine men about me in life's
     dress parade
Who were boasting the cash sacrifices
     they'd made;
And I'd thought of my own paltry service
     with pride,
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 fine
And out of his face golden light
     seemed to shine.
And I thought as he passed me on crutches:
     "How small
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