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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (1810–1888)

The Private of the Buffs

  • [Private Moyse, with other prisoners, having fallen into the hands of the Chinese, was ordered to perform kotou; and refusing, was knocked upon the head.

  • 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.