Bradley T. Van Deusen

Bradley T. Van Deusen

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A Song of Legions
Old Soldiers' Drums, 1933, pp.29-30
By TenEyck Van Dusen [Deusen]

Bright badges of servitude 
Then the Legions turned from Britain 
On the long white road to Gaul 
From the purple patterned heather 
Bound tight against the Wall. 
The Little Painted Peoples 
Ran shadows through the grass 
As they clawed aside the branches 
To watch our Eagles pass. 
The gallant, vanquished Eagles 
With their faces turned toward home, 
The proud and polished Eagles 
That led the shields from Rome. 
The blazing day flung glory 
From each rank of tilted spears 
And the Cohorts sang of Roma 
As their thoughts rolled back the years. 
The salt sweat burned the callous 
Where the wet straps tugged and tore 
And each shift of shield and armour 
But seemed to cut the more. 
This land was Rome's and Romans held it 
Though the black seas bit the beach, 
And wing-helmed through ice and snow whorls 
Came those of alien speech. 
Huge men and brave in combat 
Yellow-haired and raiders all; 
But they dropped sail once near Vectis 
And we pinned them near the Wall. 
Good blades and mighty axemen 
And they met us knee to knee, 
But our sullen, dark browed Legion 
Turned and flung them back to sea. 
Yes, they tossed their sails and left us 
Bruised and battered, bloody, numb 
Yes, we whipped them, whipped them, whipped them 
But they never ceased to come! 
They'll come again and take this 
All this bleakly lovely shore; 
The Picts can never stop them 
And the Eagles soar no more. 
For the Legions turn from Britain 
And their half-completed task - 
Rome's will - there is no question 
That a soldier dares to ask, 
Dares to ask or stops to wonder - 
There is no Law but Rome! 
But the land my comrades died in 
The Legions called it - home. 

         TenEyck Van Deusen

Historical Notes

Bradley's father was a peripatetic wanderer following, and leading, into gold and rare metals camps from Nome Alaska to Central America. Bradley, himself, seems to have inherited the bug, though the army was his entry into the traveling life. The Daily Maroon's Editor, Louis H. Engel, notes on Jan 9, 1929 that "The Stumble Bum's been around -- gone places and seen things. He's poked his silly old nose into all sorts of God-forsaken ports. Singapore, Rangoon, Shanghai, Algier -- they're all old places to him."

Ten days later, Louis writes an article about Bradley.

Only the good Lord knows where he came from or where he's likely to go. (The one question is as problematical as the other.) I don't know but what the Lord Himself may have lost track of this boy at some stage of the game, for from the stories he tells he's batted around all over Hell and gone. Occasionally I pick up a snatch of the travelogue. I've never been able to weave them into any kind of a consistent story. I might question the Tiger sometime, but I probably couldn't get any satisfaction out of him. You see, one of his most delightful characteristics is his inconsistency.

There was one night when we went to the Hamburger joint down on the corner of 61st and Cottage Grove. We were down at the printer's working on the Christmas edition and along about 2 in the morning we felt the pangs of hunger and hied ourselves down to the aforementioned hole in the wall where we hopped up on the stools, like the little men we were, and ordered our scuttles of coffee. The Tiger was blue. Talked rather incoherently about lots of things. Something about being gassed in the war and spending a few months in a base hospital. Somewhere or other China rang into the story. It seems as though when the war ended he enlisted for the Phillipine service, and when he got through with that he went over and showed the Chinese rebels how to handle a rifle. That episode ended with an escape from beneath an executioner's axe -- a rather juicy detail.

Someplace along the line England and the University of Illinois play a part. [Bradley attended for a semester between enlistments.] The Tiger's getting along in years, you see, but from the way he acts at times you might think he was a Freshman. That indictment, though might hold true of anyone over in our local menagerie.

But back to the Tiger. (He sometimes travels under the name of the Stumble Bum, too.) He's been around. Ask him to tell you about any of the dives in Rangoon, Singapore, Shanghai, or some other romantic port. Of course, I can't check his stories, for I've never been east of Indiana or west of the Mississippi, but he tells them with such realistic touches that one can't help believing him.

The Tiger is something more than an adventurer. He's an aesthete -- if you can imagine such a thing as an aesthetic ex-prize fighter. He claims intimacy with some of the literary lights of our American Bohemia and has written poetry himself. He's got a knapsack full of verse and pictures (You really out to see some of his photos. They've been snapped in every quarter of the globe and they include pictures of everything from the Hula queen to hizzoner himself in football togs.)

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