Robert Service, the 'Bard of the Yukon', is claimed by three countries: born in Preston, England, he grew up in Scotland, and moved to Canada aged 21. He was the laureate of the Klondike gold rush (although he first visited the area a decade later), making his name with poems like 'The Shooting of Dan McGrew' and 'The Cremation of Sam McGee'.
Less well-known are Service's war poems. During the First World War, he worked for the Canadian Red Cross, and his experiences were recorded in The Rhymes of a Red-Cross Man (1916). The book deserves much more attention: it belongs with the best of Canadian war poetry.
'Tri-colour' (click on this link) is probably voiced for a British or French soldier, as signalled by the red, white and blue of the flowers. (The United States did not join the war until 1917.) It was written in the same year as Canadian John McCrae's 'In Flanders Fields'. Both works are dramatic monologues, but whereas McCrae claims to give voice to the dead, Service speaks powerfully for the mad. The Christian consolation at the end is tantalisingly ambiguous. Does the dying soldier hallucinate the vision, or is mercy finally granted?