He fell in victory’s fierce pursuit,
Holed through and through with shot,
A sabre sweep had hacked him deep
Twixt neck and shoulderknot….
The potman cannot well recall,
The ostler never knew,
Whether his day was Malplaquet,
The Boyne or Waterloo.
But there he hangs for tavern sign,
With foolish bold regard
For cock and hen and loitering men
And wagons down the yard.
Raised high above the hayseed world
He smokes his painted pipe,
And now surveys the orchard ways,
The damsons clustering ripe.
He sees the churchyard slabs beyond,
Where country neighbours lie,
Their brief renown set lowly down;
His name assaults the sky.
He grips the tankard of brown ale
That spills a generous foam:
Oft-times he drinks, they say, and winks
At drunk men lurching home.
No upstart hero may usurp
That honoured swinging seat;
His seasons pass with pipe and glass
Until the tale’s complete.
And paint shall keep his buttons bright
Though all the world’s forgot
Whether he died for England’s pride
By battle, or by pot.