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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

Henry Newbolt

A Letter from the Front

I WAS out early to-day, spying about

From the top of a haystack—such a lovely morning—

And when I mounted again to canter back

I saw across a field in the broad sunlight

A young Gunner Subaltern, stalking along

With a rook-rifle held at the ready, and—would you believe it?—

A domestic cat, soberly marching beside him.

So I laughed, and felt quite well disposed to the youngster,

And shouted out “the top of the morning” to him,

And wished him “Good sport!”—and then I remembered

My rank, and his, and what I ought to be doing:

And I rode nearer, and added, “I can only suppose

You have not seen the Commander-in-Chief’s order

Forbidding English officers to annoy their Allies

By hunting and shooting.”

But he stood and saluted

And said earnestly, “I beg your pardon, Sir,

I was only going out to shoot a sparrow

To feed my cat with.”

So there was the whole picture,

The lovely early morning, the occasional shell

Screeching and scattering past us, the empty landscape,—

Empty, except for the young Gunner saluting,

And the cat, anxiously watching his every movement.

I may be wrong, and I may have told it badly,

But it struck me as being extremely ludicrous.