Soldier Settlement

We present this work in honor of the 60th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Alan Mulgan
1881 – 1962


In Comfort Street the shop-fronts blaze;
The well-fed people laugh and drift
Along the smooth, enticing ways,
And wear their fortune as a gift.

Here wheels in cushioned service purr,
And buttons pressed command delight;
And soft, obsequious odours stir
The languors of an ordered night.

And in the frippery of talk
You catch: “Here’s butter down again—
Poor farmers!”—“Yes, I think The Hawk
Will win… Ten quid on Lover’s Lane.”

Haggard he looks about his world—
The leaning shack, the broken fence,
The little flag of green unfurled
Before the forest’s walled defence;

The dwindling, unconditioned herd
Nosing about the barren burn;
The mocking of the care-free bird;
The creeping barrage of the fern.

Without, the hidden enemy
That strikes beneath its green deceit;
Within, the long-drawn agony
When love and hope may never meet.

He looks along the bitter years
To when the myriad bugles thrilled;
When duty banked the fount of tears,
And life with high adventure filled.

In that unfathomable pit
Of blasting death or doom long drawn,
Where anguish of a night was lit
By presage of a dreadful dawn,

He saw beyond the murdered earth
And moaning of the tortured skies,
The promise of his place of birth,
A dream-home to his weary eyes.

And over all the undying Cause,
And goodly fellowship of kin.
“If I should die ‘twould make no pause
In certainty’s long reckoning.”

For there death could not conquer hope,
Master of faith was never found,
And on the long, red battle slope
The soldier fell, but won his ground.

But here, in this remote reward,
No banner flies aloft to cheer;
The arm that, stricken, drops the sword
Sinks in a common black despair.

Resolve with love high-hearted went
To fame this gift of wilderness;
Now high is low and hearts are spent
And lord of all is sharp distress.

All this he sees, and turns again
To face dear eyes that love but dread—
Hunger and want, the deeper pain
That knows at last that hope is dead.

Dully by fire’s caprice he reads
In news prepared by comfort’s hands,
Of how the city over-breeds—
“The land, young man! Go on the land!”

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