The Old Soldier

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, The Old Soldier


You won’t have any trouble believing that this poem was written about someone close. It remains an issue close to Ron’s heart that a man (like thousands of others) gave his youth for this country, only to be a misunderstood in their old age. The war was hard enough to fight at the age of nineteen, let alone in their seventies. I have seen this poem recited to an Anzac day audience of over three hundred and there was not a dry eye to be found.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

It’s Tuesday the Third of March, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Eight,
An old soldier died this morning, fifty-three years too late.
And the nurses in the nursing home hated to be near him,
‘Cause he’d spit and curse and fume, and cause a mighty din.
And the doctors were glad to see him go, he was dangerous in their eyes,
He’d knocked one out with a single blow, and he was twice his size.
And when he’d snarled at visitors, and spooked the other old folks,
They took away his privileges, his magazines and his smokes.
And they lectured him on manners, and called him a disgrace,
When at night he woke from screaming, lathered in sweat, pale faced.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
But the nursing home’s not mourning, for the latest turn of fate.
And the doctor chatting to the pretty nurse, has something else in mind,
Cause soon he’ll be on the golf course, with others of his kind.
And from cross the road, the wind will bring the sound of children’s laughter,
And in the tree’s the birds will sing, and will forever after.
The day goes on and before very long, the passing might never have been,
No lasting sorrow nor mournful song, for nasty old men it seems.
So go and put him in the ground and mind you bury him deep,
That way we won’t hear the sound, of him screaming in his sleep.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
With no regrets in going, nor pity at his fate.
But what cruel trick life gave him, and who designed the law,
That would slip his mind back in time, and make him relive the war.
Back to the tropical jungles, with sweat and mud and rain,
Back to the yellow terror he visits again and again.
Where the very land around him is trying to kill him as well,
With the crocs and snakes and malaria he lives in living hell.
It’s no wonder he was cranky in his final golden years,
When he heard the screams of the dying in his nightly sleeping ears.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
His mind went back to war in ninety-seven and ninety-eight.
And the sight of the gardener pruning in bushes on bended knee,
Was to him the enemy sneaking, as plain as plain could be.
And when the Docs came to get him he caused such trouble and strife,
But little did they realise he was fighting for his life.
And so he suffered daily at the hands of a hidden foe,
Hunted and haunted nightly by fears we’ll never know.
Why now so many years later should he fight all over again?
When surely he has already fought, more than most other men.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
He spent three years in Changi, Weary Dunlop was his mate.
And the Burma Rail was built with blood of men that he called mates,
And all of those men and most of his sight was lost behind Changi’s gates.
And though he lived over fifty years past the end of that terrible place,
That a part of him had died there was written on his face.
And fifty years of silence had its own nasty price,
Because in one single lifetime he had to live it twice.
Rest in Peace now old soldier you have deserved it yet,
And may the rest of us remember, Lest We Forget.

© Ron Wilson