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

Arthur Conan Doyle

The Guards Came Through

MEN of the Twenty-first

Up by the Chalk Pit Wood,

Weak with our wounds and our thirst,

Wanting our sleep and our food,

After a day and a night—

God, shall we ever forget!

Beaten and broke in the fight,

But sticking it—sticking it yet.

Trying to hold the line,

Fainting and spent and done,

Always the thud and the whine,

Always the yell of the Hun!

Northumberland, Lancaster, York,

Durham and Somerset,

Fighting alone, worn to the bone,

But sticking it—sticking it yet.

Never a message of hope!

Never a word of cheer!

Fronting Hill 70’s shell-swept slope,

With the dull dead plain in our rear.

Always the whine of the shell,

Always the roar of its burst,

Always the tortures of hell,

As waiting and wincing we cursed

Our luck and the guns and the Boche,

When our Corporal shouted, “Stand to!”

And I heard some one cry, “Clear the front for the Guards!”

And the Guards came through.

Our throats they were parched and hot,

But Lord, if you’d heard the cheers!

Irish and Welsh and Scot,

Coldstream and Grenadiers.

Two brigades, if you please,

Dressing as straight as a hem,

We—we were down on our knees,

Praying for us and for them?

Lord, I could speak for a week,

But how could you understand!

How should your cheeks be wet,

Such feelin’s don’t come to you.

But when can me or my mates forget,

When the Guards came through?

“Five yards left extend!”

It passed from rank to rank.

Line after line with never a bend,

And a touch of the London swank.

A trifle of swank and dash,

Cool as a home parade,

Twinkle and glitter and flash,

Flinching never a shade,

With the shrapnel right in their face

Doing their Hyde Park stunt,

Keeping their swing at an easy pace,

Arms at the trail, eyes front!

Man, it was great to see!

Man, it was fine to do!

It’s a cot and a hospital ward for me,

But I’ll tell ’em in Blighty, wherever I be,

How the Guards came through.