Prayer of a Soldier in France (1918)

"Joyce Kilmer". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Joyce Kilmer”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

During this week of Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, I’d like to share a poem from World War 1.

In doing research for my novella, Julia’s Gifts, I found this beautiful and moving poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, entitled, “Prayer of a Soldier in France,” where Kilmer compares the soldier’s journey to Christ’s passion as a prayer for perseverance.

Prayer of a Soldier in France (1918)
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.

6 thoughts on “Prayer of a Soldier in France (1918)

  1. Simple. Moving. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this with your readers, Ellen. All the best to you and your beautiful family.

  2. As a grade schooler, I was required to memorize “Trees,” a requirement for which I remain very grateful. Although many decades later I clearly remember only the first and last two verses, as someone who loves to read and write poetry, those lines have special meaning. When I learned very recently that Joyce Kilmer died in WWI, his poem took on added meaning. Now, thanks to you, Ellen, his “Prayer of a Soldier in France” multiples my admiration and affection for him, one of America’s–and the Church’s–fallen heroes. Thank you so very much for profiling him and this beautiful poem-prayer of his–not that “Tress” was any less of a prayer. God bless you for sharing. Thank you!…p.s. Before reading this post, I was thinking about writing about Mr. Kilmer for a Memorial Day posting. If I do, do you mind if I reference your post as the source of my learning about his soldier prayer? …Not a problem if you prefer that I not…Peace! bt

  3. Joyce Kilmer is portrayed in the 1940 movie “The Fighting 69”. The actor portraying Kilmer recites this poem as he and his fellow soldiers are going into battle. This is a movie worth watching.

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