Marching Men: War Verses/When First He Put the Khaki On

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WHEN first he put the khaki on
He tried with careful art
To seem blasé and casual
And play the proper part,
But it was plain as plain could be
He was a child at heart.

Although he talked in knowing terms
Of what "the boys" had done,
Likewise of ammunition tests,
And how to load a gun,
And bragged that in his stocking feet
He stood full six foot, one.

Yet all the while the child looked out
With mild appealing eyes,
Unconscious he was visible
Beneath the man's disguise,
Nor dreaming what the look evoked
In hearts grown mother-wise.

How could he know the sudden pang,
The stir of swift alarms,
The yearning prayer that innocence
Be kept from all that harms,
The inner reach of tenderness,
And cradling of soft arms?