Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, June 8, 2018

Prayer of a Soldier in France


by  Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918)

Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

"Prayer of a Soldier in France" was originally published in Joyce Kilmer. Ed. Robert Cortes Holliday. New York: Kennikat Press, 1918.



  1. Kilmer enlisted in the New York National Guard and was deployed to France with the 69th Infantry Regiment (the famous "Fighting 69th") in 1917.The 69th served with the 42 ID (Rainbow Div). He was killed by a sniper's bullet at the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 at the age of 31.
    He died on the battlefield near Muercy Farm by the Ourcq River near Seringes-et-Nesles. He was buried in the Oise-Aisne Cemetary in Aisne, Picardy, France.

    1. Thank you for this information. Would you mind providing me with a source for this information? A book or website in which to which information may be attributed?

  2. In fact, the cemetery is just outside Seringes-et- Nesles and not far from where Kilmer was killed.