The Private of the Buffs

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The Private of the Buffs
by Francis Hastings Doyle
The Private of the Buffs (or The British Soldier In China) is a ballad by Sir Francis Hastings Doyle describing the execution of a British infantryman by Chinese soldiers in 1860.
— Excerpted from The Private of the Buffs on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Last night, among his fellow roughs,
  He jested, quaffed, and swore;
A drunken private of the Buffs,
  Who never looked before.
To-day, beneath the foeman's frown,
  He stands in Elgin's place,
Ambassador from Britain's crown,
  And type of all her race.

Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
  Bewildered, and alone,
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
  He yet can call his own.
Ay, tear his body limb from limb,
  Bring cord or axe or flame,
He only knows that not through him
  Shall England come to shame.

Far Kentish hop-fields round him seemed,
  Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleamed,
  One sheet of living snow;
The smoke above his father's door
  In gray soft eddyings hung;
Must he then watch it rise no more,
  Doomed by himself so young?

Yes, honor calls!--with strength like steel
  He put the vision by;
Let dusky Indians whine and kneel,
  An English lad must die.
And thus, with eyes that would not shrink,
  With knee to man unbent,
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
  To his red grave he went.

Vain mightiest fleets of iron framed,
  Vain those all-shattering guns,
Unless proud England keep untamed
  The strong heart of her sons;
So let his name through Europe ring,--
  A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta's king,
  Because his soul was great.