The Day the Soldiers Came

The Day the Soldiers Came

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

The old man sat at his cottage door

As the soldiers came to town,

And laughed as the trucks went rumbling by,

Laughed as the soldiers frowned,

They carried their rifles high that day,

Marched past him by the score,

And scowled as the old man mocked them there,

As they waged their futile war!


The tanks sat threatening in the square,

The people stood in the street,

Watching the flood of khaki power,

The boots on the marching feet,

The General stood in his jeep that day

A scroll in his scrawny hand:

‘It’s never too late to liberate

The folk in this tortured land!’


But then a ripple of laughter came

From the townsfolk standing there,

They seemed to enjoy a local joke,

A joke that they wouldn’t share.

The soldiers were tense, bemused at that,

They’d rather the ripple of fear

They’d felt in a hundred similar towns

Since the war broke out that year.


The General barked, ‘Enough of that!

Where is your National Pride?

We’ve come to free you from servitude

And a great deal more, beside!’

But the old man, sat in his cottage seat

Had let out a great guffaw,

And the soldiers dragged him out of his chair,

To face the General’s scorn.


‘Why do you laugh, old man,’ he said,

‘I could shoot you in your pride!’

‘I’m sure you could, and probably would

As you scorch our countryside!

But what price honour, when history

Ascribes your deeds to your name,

Will shooting a poor old peasant man

Ring loud in your Hall of Fame?’


‘Then why do you laugh?’ the General said,

‘The picture here is grim!

These soldiers fought, and died and bled,

 You lack respect for them!’

‘This town has sat two thousand years,’

The old man said at last,

‘Was here when Hannibal’s elephants stopped

To feed on the mountain grass.’


‘The Roman Legions passed through here

In their conquest and their might,

And Charlemagne’s Grand  Army

For a single, baleful night;

Even Napoleon Bonaparte

Conquered this little town,

For years, we had the Fascisti, and

The Nazis held us down.’


‘But where have their soldiers gone today,

They lie, each under his mound,

While we sit back, as your troops attack

And thrive in our little town.

You’ll only be here for a moment more

Two lines on a history page,

Just one more army to pass through here

In your arrogance, and your rage!’


The army was there for a week or so,

But then, they had to withdraw,

The old man laughed as the soldiers passed,

He let out a great guffaw;

The Rebel General brought his tanks

And a speech that he had planned:

‘It’s never too late to liberate

The folk in this tortured land!’


David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget

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Featured Review

An enjoyable tale to read. I like the way you've presented two alternative viewpoints of 'war' within it. Very strong clear image of the old peasant sitting there laughing, I could almost hear him!
I guess you know I'm going to have to mention the rhythm - which is spot on as always. Your word combinations just roll over the tongue beautifully :)

Posted 9 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


Superb narrative with excellent historical details that are woven in credible perfection into this story. I did enjoy this the first time I read it and still amazes me this second read. You write with intricate finesse and reading the poem was like reading a novel (or watching a movie) - something you can't leave without seeing the ending. Suspense and mystery grips the reader from beginning to end. Only you can perfect it in such an engaging way. A great read, a learning experience, and truly an excellent use of time. Never disappointed. Bravo!

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

there are those of us who are so incredibly spoiled to have never experienced this scenario. We are blessed that we see it only through the words of the poet. You never disappoint.

Posted 8 Years Ago

This is one of the best poems that I have ever read, I love it.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

David..lately it seems to be hapening over and over in Muslem countries..yet all they do is destroy the towns and then other countries build them back.Since the beginning of time it has been this way,,man will never learn..Nice write..Hope all is well down under and that Lyn and you are healthy and happy..Love to you both.Kathie

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A great prtrayal of the old dilemma. When are we free to be free?

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What an enthralling powerful read this was! What a picture you painted of that village and that old man standing up against an army of war-worn soldiers. I too wondered why the old man laughed. And then you launched into that coiurageous recitation of the conquests that village had undergone and came out the other side. I am so captivated by your story and how its images shimmer in my mind that I don't know how you wrote this. It must have been done well because the story is all I knew as I was reading and as I sit now. Bravo, Mr. Paget

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wow! Well written Mr. Paget. I played your story like a movie in my head. Awesome.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

what a wonderful ride that was, rhythmic and compelling. You are a master story teller my friend of that there is no doubt

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

excellent writing. for some reason it reminded me of Shelley's Ozymandias. the arrogance of governments and armies. you tell a wonderful story in a skillful way. this will go on my favorites.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Your gift of takes this reader on a "trip". With a forte that draws me with ease from line to line. Such humor and insight are created in your imaginings. Always a Pleasure David! ~ :-)

Posted 9 Years Ago

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19 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on August 18, 2012
Last Updated on August 18, 2012
Tags: tanks, square, general, withdraw


David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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