The poem “The Soldier” is a love letter to England. Emanating from nearly every line is the poet’s deep loyalty to his country, his appreciation of the nature that abounds in his country of origin, and even Heaven belongs to his England. In the first lines, the soldier anticipates his death in “some corner of a foreign field,” but that corner has now become English because he has fallen there. He may become an unknown soldier in the land in which he has died, but his identification with his home country is profound.
The ground where he lies has become richer because of his presence there, as “in that rich earth a richer dust concealed”; the worth of the ground where he lies has been enhanced because it now contains a piece of England. The soldier has died for his beloved England, which nourished him,” shaped him,” giving him her flowers, her land on which to roam. His body belongs to England, despite the fact that he has died on a foreign land, dreaming of when he was able to breathe English air.
He has been cleansed by the rivers in a foreign land while being blest by” suns of home”, meaning possibly both the sunlight streaming down from his England as well as” sons” blessing him, referring to his comrades in arms who may be alongside him as he fights and has fallen. England has determined the sort of man he has become, it has contributed to his identity and he has given his life to defend it. And think, this heart, all evil shed away” suggests that whenever he has had to do that might be considered evil under other circumstances was necessary to do for England, in wartime, and his death has cleansed his heart of all misdeeds and sinful behavior. This line suggests to me that the soldier has reclaimed his innocence even though he knows full well that some of the acts of war in which he has been involved were “evil” yet in death he is to be forgiven.
He gave his life for England and for that, his soul will be redeemed. The heart of the soldier beats eternally in God’s mind, and he is granted the ability to retrieve the joy and happy thoughts that he has had of England. He recalls the sights and sounds of his England , and dreams of the happiness that he remembers in his home country: “her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day”. He has idealized England, remembering all the good things about it, and appears to be leaving it to others who will follow him in defending it.
He has fought for his country with honor and pride and now has to leave his legacy to the soldiers who will follow him in defending their nation. The soldier speaks of “laughter, learnt of friends’ and gentleness” as he reminisces about friends, perhaps fellow soldiers, and their kindness and laughter and he is at peace under an English heaven because he has fought for his country, and given his life for it, the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country.
He is grateful for all that England has given him and so he is willing to give it all back for his country. This poem is quite touching and even though was written in 1914, it is as relevant today as ever given all of the soldiers fighting and dying in foreign lands, far from their homes, the countries that they love, demonstrating no greater loyalty and patriotism than what they have sacrificed on the battlefield.