Jeffery, or, the Solder’s Progress

Lur’d by some Captain’s smooth address,
His scarlet coat and roguish face,
One Half-A-Joe on drum-head laid,
A tavern-treat—and reckoning paid;
See yonder simple lad consign’d
To slavery of the basest kind.

With only skill to drive a plough
a musquet he must handle now;
Must twirl there and twirl it there
Now on the ground, no in the air:
Its every motion by some rule
Of practice, taught in Frederick’s school, *
Must be directed—nicely true—
Or he be beaten black—and blue.

A sergeant, rais’d from cleaning shoes
May now this country lad abuse:—
On meager fare grown poor and lean,
He treats him like a mere machine,
Directs his look, directs his step,
And kicks him into decent shape,
From aukward habit frees the clown,
Erects his head—or knocks him down,

Last Friday week to Battery-Green
The sergeant came with this Machine—
One motion of the firelock miss’d—
The Tutor thump’d him with his fist:
I saw him lift his hickory cane,
I heard poor Jeffery’s head complain!—
Yet this—and more—’s forc’d to bear;
And this goes on from year to year,
’Till desperate grown at such a lot,
He drinks—deserts—and so is shot!


°The Prussian manual exercise.


This poem is in the public domain.

About this Poem

Freneau recounts a story of a young farmer forced into the British army, beaten during training and considered to be "a mere machine" until he is shot for desertion.