The Veteran by Robert James Campbell Stead 1880 1959

Whilst engaged in researching the history of “shellshock” in the CEF and beyond the war years as well as World War I disabled veterans I came across Robert James Campbell Stead’s poem “The Veteran” published in his 1917 book of poems “Kitchener and Other Poems” Toronto, Ontario: The Musson Book Co. Limited xiv, October, 1917 xiv, October 1917 161 pages
https://archive.org/details/kitchenerotherpo00steauoft
Readjustment difficulties of returned soldiers to civil society especially when the conflict ended but also during the war are focused on the state’s responsibilities towards these now privileged men with entitled state and local community assistance and a clearly implied forewarning to both the state and local community to not forget these men’s earned privileges.

“The Veteran” pp. 23 – 24

You shouted for your heroes when they marched away
to war,
And your eyes were wet for those they left behind;
You were loud in declamations on the Cause they
battled for,
And to any imperfection you were blind;
They sprang from field and counter and from every
kind of trade;
You were proud of them in khaki when the blaring
bugles brayed;
You were half apologetic for the fact that you had
stayed
While the flag of Britain beckoned in the wind.

You read the glowing tributes to their valor at the
front
As they battered on the very gates of hell;
You could close your eyes and see them as they bore
the battle’s brunt,
And you wished that you had played your part as
well;
You could see their bloody bay’nets in the pyrotechnic
flare —
You could hear the crash of battle — you could hear
them shout and swear
As they swept the reeking trenches — God, you wished
that you were there —
And you’d count it greater glory if you fell!

Now their fighting days are finished and some are
coming back,
But they don’t fit in as easy as of yore;
They have learned to shoot and parry, they can meet
and beat attack,
But they cannot do the things they did before;
They could hold the broken trenches in the high ex-
plosive rain,
They didn’t mind the danger – they didn’t mind the
pain —
They were in it for the finish – now they’re coming
back again,
And they’re hoping for a welcome at the door.

There are those who didn’t muster when they heard
the bugles play,
Though they claimed to feel the patriotic flame,
They couldn’t leave their business, and it’s not for us
to say
That they didn’t do their part to play the game;
But the soldier is returning, minus eye, or lung, or
limb;
He is back from war’s abysses, though he tottered on
the brim;
He saved his blooming country; will his country now
save him,

Or will it drown its glory in its shame?”

About hospitalship1

Historian teacher
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2 Responses to The Veteran by Robert James Campbell Stead 1880 1959

  1. heatherannej51 says:

    Poignant words … thank goodness for veteran organisations and charities …

    Like

    • I posted this poem because it was written about veterans whilst the war was still hotly going on so as to draw attention that returning soldiers were recognized quite early as significant political, social and economic concerns for all Canadians. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

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