Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, by Robert W. Service

Rhymes of a Red Cross Man by Robert W. Service Rhymes of a Red Cross Man by Robert W. Service Author of “The Spell of the Yukon”, “Ballads of a Cheechako”, “Rhymes of a Rolling Stone”, etc. | | –+—————————+– | To the Memory of | | My Brother, | | LIEUTENANT ALBERT SERVICE |
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  • 1916
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Rhymes of a Red Cross Man

by Robert W. Service [British-born Canadian Poet — 1874-1958.]

[Note on text: Italicized stanzas are indented 5 spaces. Italicized words and phrases are capitalized. Lines longer than 77 characters are broken according to metre, and the continuation is indented two spaces from the previous line. Stanzas that are italicized AND indented are indented 10 spaces. Due to numerous French words and phrases in this particular text, and the importance of accents to pronunciation, accents are marked, using these characters (/\,^) AFTER each letter they accompany. In two cases (me^le/e & cha^teau) the words have worked their way into the English language, and the accents are omitted.]

[This etext has been transcribed from a New York edition of 1916. Some very minor corrections have been made.]

Rhymes of a Red Cross Man
by Robert W. Service

Author of “The Spell of the Yukon”, “Ballads of a Cheechako”, “Rhymes of a Rolling Stone”, etc.

| |
| To the Memory of |
| My Brother, |
| Canadian Infantry |
| Killed in Action, France |
| August, 1916. |
| |


The Call
The Fool
The Volunteer
The Convalescent
The Man from Athabaska
The Red Retreat
The Haggis of Private McPhee
The Lark
The Odyssey of ‘Erbert ‘Iggins
A Song of Winter Weather
Tipperary Days
Our Hero
My Mate
Milking Time
Young Fellow My Lad
A Song of the Sandbags
On the Wire
Bill’s Grave
Jean Desprez
Going Home
My Bay’nit
Carry On!
Over the Parapet
The Ballad of Soulful Sam
Only a Boche
My Prisoner
A Pot of Tea
The Revelation
The Black Dudeen
The Little Piou-piou
Bill the Bomber
The Whistle of Sandy McGraw
The Stretcher-Bearer
The Coward
Missis Moriarty’s Boy
My Foe
My Job
The Song of the Pacifist
The Twins
The Song of the Soldier-born
Afternoon Tea
The Mourners


I’ve tinkered at my bits of rhymes In weary, woeful, waiting times;
In doleful hours of battle-din,
Ere yet they brought the wounded in; Through vigils of the fateful night,
In lousy barns by candle-light;
In dug-outs, sagging and aflood, On stretchers stiff and bleared with blood; By ragged grove, by ruined road,
By hearths accurst where Love abode; By broken altars, blackened shrines
I’ve tinkered at my bits of rhymes.

I’ve solaced me with scraps of song The desolated ways along:
Through sickly fields all shrapnel-sown, And meadows reaped by death alone;
By blazing cross and splintered spire, By headless Virgin in the mire;
By gardens gashed amid their bloom, By gutted grave, by shattered tomb;
Beside the dying and the dead,
Where rocket green and rocket red, In trembling pools of poising light,
With flowers of flame festoon the night. Ah me! by what dark ways of wrong
I’ve cheered my heart with scraps of song.

So here’s my sheaf of war-won verse, And some is bad, and some is worse.
And if at times I curse a bit,
You needn’t read that part of it; For through it all like horror runs
The red resentment of the guns.
And you yourself would mutter when You took the things that once were men, And sped them through that zone of hate To where the dripping surgeons wait;
And wonder too if in God’s sight War ever, ever can be right.

Yet may it not be, crime and war
But effort misdirected are?
And if there’s good in war and crime, There may be in my bits of rhyme,
My songs from out the slaughter mill: So take or leave them as you will.

The Call

(France, August first, 1914)

Far and near, high and clear,
Hark to the call of War!
Over the gorse and the golden dells, Ringing and swinging of clamorous bells, Praying and saying of wild farewells:
War! War! War!

High and low, all must go:
Hark to the shout of War!
Leave to the women the harvest yield; Gird ye, men, for the sinister field;
A sabre instead of a scythe to wield: War! Red War!

Rich and poor, lord and boor,
Hark to the blast of War!
Tinker and tailor and millionaire,
Actor in triumph and priest in prayer, Comrades now in the hell out there,
Sweep to the fire of War!

Prince and page, sot and sage,
Hark to the roar of War!
Poet, professor and circus clown,
Chimney-sweeper and fop o’ the town, Into the pot and be melted down:
Into the pot of War!

Women all, hear the call,
The pitiless call of War!
Look your last on your dearest ones, Brothers and husbands, fathers, sons:
Swift they go to the ravenous guns, The gluttonous guns of War.

Everywhere thrill the air
The maniac bells of War.
There will be little of sleeping to-night; There will be wailing and weeping to-night; Death’s red sickle is reaping to-night:
War! War! War!

The Fool

“But it isn’t playing the game,” he said, And he slammed his books away;
“The Latin and Greek I’ve got in my head Will do for a duller day.”
“Rubbish!” I cried; “The bugle’s call Isn’t for lads from school.”
D’ye think he’d listen? Oh, not at all: So I called him a fool, a fool.

Now there’s his dog by his empty bed, And the flute he used to play,
And his favourite bat . . . but Dick he’s dead, Somewhere in France, they say:
Dick with his rapture of song and sun, Dick of the yellow hair,
Dicky whose life had but begun,
Carrion-cold out there.

Look at his prizes all in a row:
Surely a hint of fame.
Now he’s finished with, — nothing to show: Doesn’t it seem a shame?
Look from the window! All you see
Was to be his one day:
Forest and furrow, lawn and lea,
And he goes and chucks it away.

Chucks it away to die in the dark:
Somebody saw him fall,
Part of him mud, part of him blood, The rest of him — not at all.
And yet I’ll bet he was never afraid, And he went as the best of ’em go,
For his hand was clenched on his broken blade, And his face was turned to the foe.

And I called him a fool . . . oh how blind was I! And the cup of my grief’s abrim.
Will Glory o’ England ever die
So long as we’ve lads like him?
So long as we’ve fond and fearless fools, Who, spurning fortune and fame,
Turn out with the rallying cry of their schools, Just bent on playing the game.

A fool! Ah no! He was more than wise. His was the proudest part.
He died with the glory of faith in his eyes, And the glory of love in his heart.
And though there’s never a grave to tell, Nor a cross to mark his fall,
Thank God! we know that he “batted well” In the last great Game of all.

The Volunteer

Sez I: My Country calls? Well, let it call. I grins perlitely and declines wiv thanks. Go, let ’em plaster every blighted wall, ‘Ere’s ONE they don’t stampede into the ranks. Them politicians with their greasy ways; Them empire-grabbers — fight for ’em? No fear! I’ve seen this mess a-comin’ from the days Of Algyserious and Aggydear:
I’ve felt me passion rise and swell, But . . . wot the ‘ell, Bill? Wot the ‘ell?

Sez I: My Country? Mine? I likes their cheek. Me mud-bespattered by the cars they drive, Wot makes my measly thirty bob a week,
And sweats red blood to keep meself alive! Fight for the right to slave that they may spend, Them in their mansions, me ‘ere in my slum? No, let ’em fight wot’s something to defend: But me, I’ve nothin’ — let the Kaiser come. And so I cusses ‘ard and well,
But . . . wot the ‘ell, Bill? Wot the ‘ell?

Sez I: If they would do the decent thing, And shield the missis and the little ‘uns, Why, even _I_ might shout “God save the King”, And face the chances of them ‘ungry guns. But we’ve got three, another on the way; It’s that wot makes me snarl and set me jor: The wife and nippers, wot of ’em, I say, If I gets knocked out in this blasted war? Gets proper busted by a shell,
But . . . wot the ‘ell, Bill? Wot the ‘ell?

Ay, wot the ‘ell’s the use of all this talk? To-day some boys in blue was passin’ me, And some of ’em they ‘ad no legs to walk, And some of ’em they ‘ad no eyes to see. And — well, I couldn’t look ’em in the face, And so I’m goin’, goin’ to declare
I’m under forty-one and take me place To face the music with the bunch out there. A fool, you say! Maybe you’re right.
I’ll ‘ave no peace unless I fight. I’ve ceased to think; I only know
I’ve gotta go, Bill, gotta go.

The Convalescent

. . . So I walked among the willows very quietly all night; There was no moon at all, at all; no timid star alight; There was no light at all, at all; I wint from tree to tree, And I called him as his mother called, but he nivver answered me.

Oh I called him all the night-time, as I walked the wood alone; And I listened and I listened, but I nivver heard a moan; Then I found him at the dawnin’, when the sorry sky was red: I was lookin’ for the livin’, but I only found the dead.

Sure I know that it was Shamus by the silver cross he wore; But the bugles they were callin’, and I heard the cannon roar. Oh I had no time to tarry, so I said a little prayer, And I clasped his hands together, and I left him lyin’ there.

Now the birds are singin’, singin’, and I’m home in Donegal, And it’s Springtime, and I’m thinkin’ that I only dreamed it all; I dreamed about that evil wood, all crowded with its dead, Where I knelt beside me brother when the battle-dawn was red.

Where I prayed beside me brother ere I wint to fight anew: Such dreams as these are evil dreams; I can’t believe it’s true. Where all is love and laughter, sure it’s hard to think of loss . . . But mother’s sayin’ nothin’, and she clasps — A SILVER CROSS.

The Man from Athabaska

Oh the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas nothing but the thrumming Of a wood-pecker a-rapping on the hollow of a tree; And she thought that I was fooling when I said it was the drumming Of the mustering of legions, and ’twas calling unto me; ‘Twas calling me to pull my freight and hop across the sea.

And a-mending of my fish-nets sure I started up in wonder, For I heard a savage roaring and ’twas coming from afar; Oh the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas only summer thunder, And she laughed a bit sarcastic when I told her it was War; ‘Twas the chariots of battle where the mighty armies are.

Then down the lake came Half-breed Tom with russet sail a-flying, And the word he said was “War” again, so what was I to do? Oh the dogs they took to howling, and the missis took to crying, As I flung my silver foxes in the little birch canoe: Yes, the old girl stood a-blubbing till an island hid the view.

Says the factor: “Mike, you’re crazy! They have soldier men a-plenty. You’re as grizzled as a badger, and you’re sixty year or so.” “But I haven’t missed a scrap,” says I, “since I was one and twenty. And shall I miss the biggest? You can bet your whiskers — no!” So I sold my furs and started . . . and that’s eighteen months ago.

For I joined the Foreign Legion, and they put me for a starter In the trenches of the Argonne with the Boche a step away; And the partner on my right hand was an `apache’ from Montmartre; On my left there was a millionaire from Pittsburg, U. S. A. (Poor fellow! They collected him in bits the other day.)

But I’m sprier than a chipmunk, save a touch of the lumbago, And they calls me Old Methoosalah, and `blagues’ me all the day. I’m their exhibition sniper, and they work me like a Dago, And laugh to see me plug a Boche a half a mile away. Oh I hold the highest record in the regiment, they say.

And at night they gather round me, and I tell them of my roaming In the Country of the Crepuscule beside the Frozen Sea, Where the musk-ox runs unchallenged, and the cariboo goes homing; And they sit like little children, just as quiet as can be: Men of every crime and colour, how they harken unto me!

And I tell them of the Furland, of the tumpline and the paddle, Of secret rivers loitering, that no one will explore; And I tell them of the ranges, of the pack-strap and the saddle, And they fill their pipes in silence, and their eyes beseech for more; While above the star-shells fizzle and the high explosives roar.

And I tell of lakes fish-haunted, where the big bull moose are calling, And forests still as sepulchres with never trail or track; And valleys packed with purple gloom, and mountain peaks appalling, And I tell them of my cabin on the shore at Fond du Lac; And I find myself a-thinking: Sure I wish that I was back.

So I brag of bear and beaver while the batteries are roaring, And the fellows on the firing steps are blazing at the foe; And I yarn of fur and feather when the `marmites’ are a-soaring, And they listen to my stories, seven `poilus’ in a row, Seven lean and lousy `poilus’ with their cigarettes aglow.

And I tell them when it’s over how I’ll hike for Athabaska; And those seven greasy `poilus’ they are crazy to go too. And I’ll give the wife the “pickle-tub” I promised, and I’ll ask her The price of mink and marten, and the run of cariboo, And I’ll get my traps in order, and I’ll start to work anew.

For I’ve had my fill of fighting, and I’ve seen a nation scattered, And an army swung to slaughter, and a river red with gore, And a city all a-smoulder, and . . . as if it really mattered, For the lake is yonder dreaming, and my cabin’s on the shore; And the dogs are leaping madly, and the wife is singing gladly, And I’ll rest in Athabaska, and I’ll leave it nevermore.

The Red Retreat

Tramp, tramp, the grim road, the road from Mons to Wipers (I’ve ‘ammered out this ditty with me bruised and bleedin’ feet); Tramp, tramp, the dim road — we didn’t ‘ave no pipers, And bellies that was ‘oller was the drums we ‘ad to beat. Tramp, tramp, the bad road, the bits o’ kiddies cryin’ there, The fell birds a-flyin’ there, the ‘ouses all aflame; Tramp, tramp, the sad road, the pals I left a-lyin’ there, Red there, and dead there. . . . Oh blimy, it’s a shame!

A-singin’ “‘Oo’s Yer Lady Friend?” we started out from ‘Arver, A-singin’ till our froats was dry — we didn’t care a ‘ang; The Frenchies ‘ow they lined the way, and slung us their palaver, And all we knowed to arnser was the one word “vang”; They gave us booze and caporal, and cheered for us like crazy, And all the pretty gels was out to kiss us as we passed; And ‘ow they all went dotty when we ‘owled the Marcelaisey! Oh, Gawd! Them was the ‘appy days, the days too good to last.

We started out for God Knows Where, we started out a-roarin’; We ‘ollered: “‘Ere We Are Again”, and ‘struth! but we was dry. The dust was gummin’ up our ears, and ‘ow the sweat was pourin’; The road was long, the sun was like a brazier in the sky. We wondered where the ‘Uns was — we wasn’t long a-wonderin’, For down a scruff of ‘ill-side they rushes like a flood; Then oh! ’twas music ‘eavenly, our batteries a-thunderin’, And arms and legs went soarin’ in the fountain of their blood.

For on they came like bee-swarms, a-hochin’ and a-singin’; We pumped the bullets into ’em, we couldn’t miss a shot. But though we mowed ’em down like grass, like grass was they a-springin’, And all our ‘ands was blistered, for our rifles was so ‘ot. We roared with battle-fury, and we lammed the stuffin’ out of ’em, And then we fixed our bay’nets and we spitted ’em like meat. You should ‘ave ‘eard the beggars squeal; you should ‘ave seen the rout of ’em,
And ‘ow we cussed and wondered when the word came: Retreat!

Retreat! That was the ‘ell of it. It fair upset our ‘abits, A-runnin’ from them blighters over ‘alf the roads of France; A-scurryin’ before ’em like a lot of blurry rabbits, And knowin’ we could smash ’em if we just ‘ad ‘alf a chance. Retreat! That was the bitter bit, a-limpin’ and a-blunderin’; All day and night a-hoofin’ it and sleepin’ on our feet; A-fightin’ rear guard actions for a bit o’ rest, and wonderin’ If sugar beets or mangels was the ‘olesomest to eat.

Ho yus, there isn’t many left that started out so cheerily; There was no bands a-playin’ and we ‘ad no autmobeels. Our tummies they was ‘oller, and our ‘eads was ‘angin’ wearily, And if we stopped to light a fag the ‘Uns was on our ‘eels. That rotten road! I can’t forget the kids and mothers flyin’ there, The bits of barns a-blazin’ and the ‘orrid sights I sor; The stiffs that lined the wayside, me own pals a-lyin’ there, Their faces covered over wiv a little ‘eap of stror.

Tramp, tramp, the red road, the wicked bullets ‘ummin’ (I’ve panted out this ditty with me ‘ot ‘ard breath.) Tramp, tramp, the dread road, the Boches all a-comin’, The lootin’ and the shootin’ and the shrieks o’ death. Tramp, tramp, the fell road, the mad ‘orde pursuin’ there, And ‘ow we ‘urled it back again, them grim, grey waves; Tramp, tramp, the ‘ell road, the ‘orror and the ruin there, The graves of me mateys there, the grim, sour graves.

The Haggis of Private McPhee

“Hae ye heard whit ma auld mither’s postit tae me? It fair maks me hamesick,” says Private McPhee. “And whit did she send ye?” says Private McPhun, As he cockit his rifle and bleezed at a Hun. “A haggis! A HAGGIS!” says Private McPhee; “The brawest big haggis I ever did see.
And think! it’s the morn when fond memory turns Tae haggis and whuskey — the Birthday o’ Burns. We maun find a dram; then we’ll ca’ in the rest O’ the lads, and we’ll hae a Burns’ Nicht wi’ the best.”

“Be ready at sundoon,” snapped Sergeant McCole; “I want you two men for the List’nin’ Patrol.” Then Private McPhee looked at Private McPhun: “I’m thinkin’, ma lad, we’re confoundedly done.” Then Private McPhun looked at Private McPhee: “I’m thinkin’ auld chap, it’s a’ aff wi’ oor spree.” But up spoke their crony, wee Wullie McNair: “Jist lea’ yer braw haggis for me tae prepare; And as for the dram, if I search the camp roun’, We maun hae a drappie tae jist haud it doon. Sae rin, lads, and think, though the nicht it be black, O’ the haggis that’s waitin’ ye when ye get back.”

My! but it wis waesome on Naebuddy’s Land, And the deid they were rottin’ on every hand. And the rockets like corpse candles hauntit the sky, And the winds o’ destruction went shudderin’ by. There wis skelpin’ o’ bullets and skirlin’ o’ shells, And breengin’ o’ bombs and a thoosand death-knells; But cooryin’ doon in a Jack Johnson hole Little fashed the twa men o’ the List’nin’ Patrol. For sweeter than honey and bricht as a gem Wis the thocht o’ the haggis that waitit for them.

Yet alas! in oor moments o’ sunniest cheer Calamity’s aften maist cruelly near.
And while the twa talked o’ their puddin’ divine The Boches below them were howkin’ a mine. And while the twa cracked o’ the feast they would hae, The fuse it wis burnin’ and burnin’ away. Then sudden a roar like the thunner o’ doom, A hell-leap o’ flame . . . then the wheesht o’ the tomb.

“Haw, Jock! Are ye hurtit?” says Private McPhun. “Ay, Geordie, they’ve got me; I’m fearin’ I’m done. It’s ma leg; I’m jist thinkin’ it’s aff at the knee; Ye’d best gang and leave me,” says Private McPhee. “Oh leave ye I wunna,” says Private McPhun; “And leave ye I canna, for though I micht run, It’s no faur I wud gang, it’s no muckle I’d see: I’m blindit, and that’s whit’s the maitter wi’ me.” Then Private McPhee sadly shakit his heid: “If we bide here for lang, we’ll be bidin’ for deid. And yet, Geordie lad, I could gang weel content If I’d tasted that haggis ma auld mither sent.” “That’s droll,” says McPhun; “ye’ve jist speakit ma mind. Oh I ken it’s a terrible thing tae be blind; And yet it’s no that that embitters ma lot — It’s missin’ that braw muckle haggis ye’ve got.” For a while they were silent; then up once again Spoke Private McPhee, though he whussilt wi’ pain: “And why should we miss it? Between you and me We’ve legs for tae run, and we’ve eyes for tae see. You lend me your shanks and I’ll lend you ma sicht, And we’ll baith hae a kyte-fu’ o’ haggis the nicht.”

Oh the sky it wis dourlike and dreepin’ a wee, When Private McPhun gruppit Private McPhee. Oh the glaur it wis fylin’ and crieshin’ the grun’, When Private McPhee guidit Private McPhun. “Keep clear o’ them corpses — they’re maybe no deid! Haud on! There’s a big muckle crater aheid. Look oot! There’s a sap; we’ll be haein’ a coup. A staur-shell! For Godsake! Doun, lad, on yer daup. Bear aff tae yer richt. . . . Aw yer jist daein’ fine: Before the nicht’s feenished on haggis we’ll dine.”

There wis death and destruction on every hand; There wis havoc and horror on Naebuddy’s Land. And the shells bickered doun wi’ a crump and a glare, And the hameless wee bullets were dingin’ the air. Yet on they went staggerin’, cooryin’ doun When the stutter and cluck o’ a Maxim crept roun’. And the legs o’ McPhun they were sturdy and stoot, And McPhee on his back kept a bonnie look-oot. “On, on, ma brave lad! We’re no faur frae the goal; I can hear the braw sweerin’ o’ Sergeant McCole.”

But strength has its leemit, and Private McPhun, Wi’ a sab and a curse fell his length on the grun’. Then Private McPhee shoutit doon in his ear: “Jist think o’ the haggis! I smell it from here. It’s gushin’ wi’ juice, it’s embaumin’ the air; It’s steamin’ for us, and we’re — jist — aboot — there.” Then Private McPhun answers: “Dommit, auld chap! For the sake o’ that haggis I’ll gang till I drap.” And he gets on his feet wi’ a heave and a strain, And onward he staggers in passion and pain. And the flare and the glare and the fury increase, Till you’d think they’d jist taken a’ hell on a lease. And on they go reelin’ in peetifu’ plight, And someone is shoutin’ away on their right; And someone is runnin’, and noo they can hear A sound like a prayer and a sound like a cheer; And swift through the crash and the flash and the din, The lads o’ the Hielands are bringin’ them in.

“They’re baith sairly woundit, but is it no droll Hoo they rave aboot haggis?” says Sergeant McCole. When hirplin alang comes wee Wullie McNair, And they a’ wonnert why he wis greetin’ sae sair. And he says: “I’d jist liftit it oot o’ the pot, And there it lay steamin’ and savoury hot, When sudden I dooked at the fleech o’ a shell, And it — DRAPPED ON THE HAGGIS AND DINGED IT TAE HELL.”

And oh but the lads were fair taken aback; Then sudden the order wis passed tae attack, And up from the trenches like lions they leapt, And on through the nicht like a torrent they swept. On, on, wi’ their bayonets thirstin’ before! On, on tae the foe wi’ a rush and a roar! And wild to the welkin their battle-cry rang, And doon on the Boches like tigers they sprang: And there wisna a man but had death in his ee, For he thocht o’ the haggis o’ Private McPhee.

The Lark

From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn, The guns have brayed without abate;
And now the sick sun looks upon
The bleared, blood-boltered fields of hate As if it loathed to rise again.
How strange the hush! Yet sudden, hark! From yon down-trodden gold of grain,
The leaping rapture of a lark.

A fusillade of melody,
That sprays us from yon trench of sky; A new amazing enemy
We cannot silence though we try;
A battery on radiant wings,
That from yon gap of golden fleece
Hurls at us hopes of such strange things As joy and home and love and peace.

Pure heart of song! do you not know
That we are making earth a hell?
Or is it that you try to show
Life still is joy and all is well?
Brave little wings! Ah, not in vain You beat into that bit of blue:
Lo! we who pant in war’s red rain
Lift shining eyes, see Heaven too.

The Odyssey of ‘Erbert ‘Iggins

Me and Ed and a stretcher
Out on the nootral ground.
(If there’s one dead corpse, I’ll betcher There’s a ‘undred smellin’ around.)
Me and Eddie O’Brian,
Both of the R. A. M. C.
“It’s a ‘ell of a night
For a soul to take flight,”
As Eddie remarks to me.
Me and Ed crawlin’ ‘omeward,
Thinkin’ our job is done,
When sudden and clear,
Wot do we ‘ear:
‘Owl of a wounded ‘Un.

“Got to take ‘im,” snaps Eddy;
“Got to take all we can.
‘E may be a Germ
Wiv the ‘eart of a worm,
But, blarst ‘im! ain’t ‘e a man?”
So ‘e sloshes out fixin’ a dressin’ (‘E’d always a medical knack),
When that wounded ‘Un
‘E rolls to ‘is gun,
And ‘e plugs me pal in the back.

Now what would you do? I arst you.
There was me slaughtered mate.
There was that ‘Un
(I’d collered ‘is gun),
A-snarlin’ ‘is ‘ymn of ‘ate.
Wot did I do? ‘Ere, whisper . . .
‘E’d a shiny bald top to ‘is ‘ead,
But when I got through,
Between me and you,
It was ‘orrid and jaggy and red.

“‘Ang on like a limpet, Eddy.
Thank Gord! you ain’t dead after all.” It’s slow and it’s sure and it’s steady
(Which is ‘ard, for ‘e’s big and I’m small). The rockets are shootin’ and shinin’,
It’s rainin’ a perishin’ flood,
The bullets are buzzin’ and whinin’, And I’m up to me stern in the mud.
There’s all kinds of ‘owlin’ and ‘ootin’; It’s black as a bucket of tar;
Oh, I’m doin’ my bit,
But I’m ‘avin’ a fit,
And I wish I was ‘ome wiv Mar.

“Stick on like a plaster, Eddy.
Old sport, you’re a-slackin’ your grip.” Gord! But I’m crocky already;
My feet, ‘ow they slither and slip! There goes the biff of a bullet.
The Boches have got us for fair.
Another one — WHUT!
The son of a slut!
‘E managed to miss by a ‘air.
‘Ow! Wot was it jabbed at me shoulder? Gave it a dooce of a wrench.
Is it Eddy or me
Wot’s a-bleedin’ so free?
Crust! but it’s long to the trench. I ain’t just as strong as a Sandow,
And Ed ain’t a flapper by far;
I’m blamed if I understand ‘ow
We’ve managed to get where we are.
But ‘ere’s for a bit of a breather. “Steady there, Ed, ‘arf a mo’.
Old pal, it’s all right;
It’s a ‘ell of a fight,
But are we down-‘earted? No-o-o.”

Now war is a funny thing, ain’t it?
It’s the rummiest sort of a go.
For when it’s most real,
It’s then that you feel
You’re a-watchin’ a cinema show.
‘Ere’s me wot’s a barber’s assistant. Hey, presto! It’s somewheres in France,
And I’m ‘ere in a pit
Where a coal-box ‘as ‘it,
And it’s all like a giddy romance.
The ruddy quick-firers are spittin’, The ‘eavies are bellowin’ ‘ate,
And ‘ere I am cashooly sittin’,
And ‘oldin’ the ‘ead of me mate.
Them gharstly green star-shells is beamin’, ‘Ot shrapnel is poppin’ like rain,
And I’m sayin’: “Bert ‘Iggins, you’re dreamin’, And you’ll wake up in ‘Ampstead again.
You’ll wake up and ‘ear yourself sayin’: `Would you like, sir, to ‘ave a shampoo?’ ‘Stead of sheddin’ yer blood
In the rain and the mud,
Which is some’ow the right thing to do; Which is some’ow yer ‘oary-eyed dooty,
Wot you’re doin’ the best wot you can, For ‘Ampstead and ‘ome and beauty,
And you’ve been and you’ve slaughtered a man. A feller wot punctured your partner;
Oh, you ‘ammered ‘im ‘ard on the ‘ead, And you still see ‘is eyes
Starin’ bang at the skies,
And you ain’t even sorry ‘e’s dead. But you wish you was back in your diggin’s Asleep on your mouldy old stror.
Oh, you’re doin’ yer bit, ‘Erbert ‘Iggins, But you ain’t just enjoyin’ the war.”

“‘Ang on like a hoctopus, Eddy.
It’s us for the bomb-belt again.
Except for the shrap
Which ‘as ‘it me a tap,
I’m feelin’ as right as the rain.
It’s my silly old feet wot are slippin’, It’s as dark as a ‘ogs’ead o’ sin,
But don’t be oneasy, my pippin,
I’m goin’ to pilot you in.
It’s my silly old ‘ead wot is reelin’. The bullets is buzzin’ like bees.
Me shoulder’s red-‘ot,
And I’m bleedin’ a lot,
And me legs is on’inged at the knees. But we’re staggerin’ nearer and nearer.
Just stick it, old sport, play the game. I make ’em out clearer and clearer,
Our trenches a-snappin’ with flame. Oh, we’re stumblin’ closer and closer.
‘Ang on there, lad! Just one more try. Did you say: Put you down? Damn it, no, sir! I’ll carry you in if I die.
By cracky! old feller, they’ve seen us. They’re sendin’ out stretchers for two.
Let’s give ’em the hoorah between us (‘Anged lucky we aren’t booked through). My flipper is mashed to a jelly.
A bullet ‘as tickled your spleen.
We’ve shed lots of gore
And we’re leakin’ some more,
But — wot a hoccasion it’s been!
Ho! ‘Ere comes the rescuin’ party.
They’re crawlin’ out cautious and slow. Come! Buck up and greet ’em, my ‘earty,
Shoulder to shoulder — so.
They mustn’t think we was down-‘earted. Old pal, we was never down-‘earted.
If they arsts us if we was down-‘earted We’ll ‘owl in their fyces: `No-o-o!'”

A Song of Winter Weather

It isn’t the foe that we fear;
It isn’t the bullets that whine;
It isn’t the business career
Of a shell, or the bust of a mine;
It isn’t the snipers who seek
To nip our young hopes in the bud:
No, it isn’t the guns,
And it isn’t the Huns —
It’s the MUD,

It isn’t the melee we mind.
That often is rather good fun.
It isn’t the shrapnel we find
Obtrusive when rained by the ton;
It isn’t the bounce of the bombs
That gives us a positive pain:
It’s the strafing we get
When the weather is wet —
It’s the RAIN,

It isn’t because we lack grit
We shrink from the horrors of war.
We don’t mind the battle a bit;
In fact that is what we are for;
It isn’t the rum-jars and things
Make us wish we were back in the fold: It’s the fingers that freeze
In the boreal breeze —
It’s the COLD,

Oh, the rain, the mud, and the cold,
The cold, the mud, and the rain;
With weather at zero it’s hard for a hero From language that’s rude to refrain.
With porridgy muck to the knees,
With sky that’s a-pouring a flood,
Sure the worst of our foes
Are the pains and the woes
Of the RAIN,
the COLD,
and the MUD.

Tipperary Days

Oh, weren’t they the fine boys! You never saw the beat of them, Singing all together with their throats bronze-bare; Fighting-fit and mirth-mad, music in the feet of them, Swinging on to glory and the wrath out there. Laughing by and chaffing by, frolic in the smiles of them, On the road, the white road, all the afternoon; Strangers in a strange land, miles and miles and miles of them, Battle-bound and heart-high, and singing this tune:

It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go;
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
And the sweetest girl I know.
Good-bye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Lester Square:
It’s a long, long way to Tipperary, But my heart’s right there.

“Come, Yvonne and Juliette! Come, Mimi, and cheer for them! Throw them flowers and kisses as they pass you by. Aren’t they the lovely lads! Haven’t you a tear for them Going out so gallantly to dare and die?
What is it they’re singing so? Some high hymn of Motherland? Some immortal chanson of their Faith and King? `Marseillaise’ or `Brabanc,on’, anthem of that other land, Dears, let us remember it, that song they sing:

“C’est un chemin long `to Tepararee’, C’est un chemin long, c’est vrai;
C’est un chemin long `to Tepararee’, Et la belle fille qu’je connais.
Bonjour, Peekadeely!
Au revoir, Lestaire Squaire!
C’est un chemin long `to Tepararee’, Mais mon coeur `ees zaire’.”

The gallant old “Contemptibles”! There isn’t much remains of them, So full of fun and fitness, and a-singing in their pride; For some are cold as clabber and the corby picks the brains of them, And some are back in Blighty, and a-wishing they had died. And yet it seems but yesterday, that great, glad sight of them, Swinging on to battle as the sky grew black and black; But oh their glee and glory, and the great, grim fight of them! — Just whistle Tipperary and it all comes back:

It’s a long way to Tipperary
(Which means “‘ome” anywhere); It’s a long way to Tipperary
(And the things wot make you care). Good-bye, Piccadilly
(‘Ow I ‘opes my folks is well); It’s a long, long way to Tipperary — (‘R! Ain’t War just ‘ell?)


(The Wounded Canadian Speaks)

My leg? It’s off at the knee.
Do I miss it? Well, some. You see
I’ve had it since I was born;
And lately a devilish corn.
(I rather chuckle with glee
To think how I’ve fooled that corn.)

But I’ll hobble around all right.
It isn’t that, it’s my face.
Oh I know I’m a hideous sight,
Hardly a thing in place;
Sort of gargoyle, you’d say.
Nurse won’t give me a glass,
But I see the folks as they pass
Shudder and turn away;
Turn away in distress . . .
Mirror enough, I guess.

I’m gay! You bet I AM gay;
But I wasn’t a while ago.
If you’d seen me even to-day,
The darndest picture of woe,
With this Caliban mug of mine,
So ravaged and raw and red,
Turned to the wall — in fine,
Wishing that I was dead. . . .
What has happened since then,
Since I lay with my face to the wall, The most despairing of men?
Listen! I’ll tell you all.

That `poilu’ across the way,
With the shrapnel wound in his head, Has a sister: she came to-day
To sit awhile by his bed.
All morning I heard him fret:
“Oh, when will she come, Fleurette?”

Then sudden, a joyous cry;
The tripping of little feet;
The softest, tenderest sigh;
A voice so fresh and sweet;
Clear as a silver bell,
Fresh as the morning dews:
“C’est toi, c’est toi, Marcel!
Mon fre^re, comme je suis heureuse!”

So over the blanket’s rim
I raised my terrible face,
And I saw — how I envied him!
A girl of such delicate grace;
Sixteen, all laughter and love;
As gay as a linnet, and yet
As tenderly sweet as a dove;
Half woman, half child — Fleurette.

Then I turned to the wall again.
(I was awfully blue, you see),
And I thought with a bitter pain:
“Such visions are not for me.”
So there like a log I lay,
All hidden, I thought, from view,
When sudden I heard her say:
“Ah! Who is that `malheureux’?”
Then briefly I heard him tell
(However he came to know)
How I’d smothered a bomb that fell
Into the trench, and so
None of my men were hit,
Though it busted me up a bit.

Well, I didn’t quiver an eye,
And he chattered and there she sat; And I fancied I heard her sigh —
But I wouldn’t just swear to that.
And maybe she wasn’t so bright,
Though she talked in a merry strain, And I closed my eyes ever so tight,
Yet I saw her ever so plain:
Her dear little tilted nose,
Her delicate, dimpled chin,
Her mouth like a budding rose,
And the glistening pearls within;
Her eyes like the violet:
Such a rare little queen — Fleurette.

And at last when she rose to go,
The light was a little dim,
And I ventured to peep, and so
I saw her, graceful and slim,
And she kissed him and kissed him, and oh How I envied and envied him!

So when she was gone I said
In rather a dreary voice
To him of the opposite bed:
“Ah, friend, how you must rejoice!
But me, I’m a thing of dread.
For me nevermore the bliss,
The thrill of a woman’s kiss.”

Then I stopped, for lo! she was there, And a great light shone in her eyes.
And me! I could only stare,
I was taken so by surprise,
When gently she bent her head:
“May I kiss you, Sergeant?” she said.

Then she kissed my burning lips
With her mouth like a scented flower, And I thrilled to the finger-tips,
And I hadn’t even the power
To say: “God bless you, dear!”
And I felt such a precious tear
Fall on my withered cheek,
And darn it! I couldn’t speak.

And so she went sadly away,
And I knew that my eyes were wet.
Ah, not to my dying day
Will I forget, forget!
Can you wonder now I am gay?
God bless her, that little Fleurette!


When your marrer bone seems ‘oller,
And you’re glad you ain’t no taller, And you’re all a-shakin’ like you ‘ad the chills; When your skin creeps like a pullet’s,
And you’re duckin’ all the bullets, And you’re green as gorgonzola round the gills; When your legs seem made of jelly,
And you’re squeamish in the belly,
And you want to turn about and do a bunk: For Gawd’s sake, kid, don’t show it!
Don’t let your mateys know it —
You’re just sufferin’ from funk, funk, funk.

Of course there’s no denyin’
That it ain’t so easy tryin’
To grin and grip your rifle by the butt, When the ‘ole world rips asunder,
And you sees yer pal go under,
As a bunch of shrapnel sprays ‘im on the nut; I admit it’s ‘ard contrivin’
When you ‘ears the shells arrivin’, To discover you’re a bloomin’ bit o’ spunk; But, my lad, you’ve got to do it,
And your God will see you through it, For wot ‘E ‘ates is funk, funk, funk.

So stand up, son; look gritty,
And just ‘um a lively ditty,
And only be afraid to be afraid;
Just ‘old yer rifle steady,
And ‘ave yer bay’nit ready,
For that’s the way good soldier-men is made. And if you ‘as to die,
As it sometimes ‘appens, why,
Far better die a ‘ero than a skunk; A-doin’ of yer bit,
And so — to ‘ell with it,
There ain’t no bloomin’ funk, funk, funk.

Our Hero

“Flowers, only flowers — bring me dainty posies, Blossoms for forgetfulness,” that was all he said; So we sacked our gardens, violets and roses, Lilies white and bluebells laid we on his bed. Soft his pale hands touched them, tenderly caressing; Soft into his tired eyes came a little light; Such a wistful love-look, gentle as a blessing; There amid the flowers waited he the night.

“I would have you raise me; I can see the West then: I would see the sun set once before I go.” So he lay a-gazing, seemed to be at rest then, Quiet as a spirit in the golden glow.
So he lay a-watching rosy castles crumbling, Moats of blinding amber, bastions of flame, Rugged rifts of opal, crimson turrets tumbling; So he lay a-dreaming till the shadows came.

“Open wide the window; there’s a lark a-singing; There’s a glad lark singing in the evening sky. How it’s wild with rapture, radiantly winging: Oh it’s good to hear that when one has to die. I am horror-haunted from the hell they found me; I am battle-broken, all I want is rest.
Ah! It’s good to die so, blossoms all around me, And a kind lark singing in the golden West.

“Flowers, song and sunshine, just one thing is wanting, Just the happy laughter of a little child.” So we brought our dearest, Doris all-enchanting; Tenderly he kissed her; radiant he smiled. “In the golden peace-time you will tell the story How for you and yours, sweet, bitter deaths were ours. . . . God bless little children!” So he passed to glory, So we left him sleeping, still amid the flow’rs.

My Mate

I’ve been sittin’ starin’, starin’ at ‘is muddy pair of boots, And tryin’ to convince meself it’s ‘im.
(Look out there, lad! That sniper — ‘e’s a dysey when ‘e shoots; ‘E’ll be layin’ of you out the same as Jim.) Jim as lies there in the dug-out wiv ‘is blanket round ‘is ‘ead, To keep ‘is brains from mixin’ wiv the mud; And ‘is face as white as putty, and ‘is overcoat all red, Like ‘e’s spilt a bloomin’ paint-pot — but it’s blood.

And I’m tryin’ to remember of a time we wasn’t pals. ‘Ow often we’ve played ‘ookey, ‘im and me; And sometimes it was music-‘alls, and sometimes it was gals, And even there we ‘ad no disagree.
For when ‘e copped Mariar Jones, the one I liked the best, I shook ‘is ‘and and loaned ‘im ‘arf a quid; I saw ‘im through the parson’s job, I ‘elped ‘im make ‘is nest, I even stood god-farther to the kid.

So when the war broke out, sez ‘e: “Well, wot abaht it, Joe?” “Well, wot abaht it, lad?” sez I to ‘im. ‘Is missis made a awful fuss, but ‘e was mad to go, (‘E always was ‘igh-sperrited was Jim).
Well, none of it’s been ‘eaven, and the most of it’s been ‘ell, But we’ve shared our baccy, and we’ve ‘alved our bread. We’d all the luck at Wipers, and we shaved through Noove Chapelle, And . . . that snipin’ barstard gits ‘im on the ‘ead.

Now wot I wants to know is, why it wasn’t me was took? I’ve only got meself, ‘e stands for three. I’m plainer than a louse, while ‘e was ‘andsome as a dook; ‘E always WAS a better man than me.
‘E was goin’ ‘ome next Toosday; ‘e was ‘appy as a lark, And ‘e’d just received a letter from ‘is kid; And ‘e struck a match to show me, as we stood there in the dark, When . . . that bleedin’ bullet got ‘im on the lid.

‘E was killed so awful sudden that ‘e ‘adn’t time to die. ‘E sorto jumped, and came down wiv a thud. Them corpsy-lookin’ star-shells kept a-streamin’ in the sky, And there ‘e lay like nothin’ in the mud. And there ‘e lay so quiet wiv no mansard to ‘is ‘ead, And I’m sick, and blamed if I can understand: The pots of ‘alf and ‘alf we’ve ‘ad, and ZIP! like that — ‘e’s dead, Wiv the letter of ‘is nipper in ‘is ‘and.

There’s some as fights for freedom and there’s some as fights for fun, But me, my lad, I fights for bleedin’ ‘ate. You can blame the war and blast it, but I ‘opes it won’t be done Till I gets the bloomin’ blood-price for me mate. It’ll take a bit o’ bayonet to level up for Jim; Then if I’m spared I think I’ll ‘ave a bid, Wiv ‘er that was Mariar Jones to take the place of ‘im, To sorter be a farther to ‘is kid.

Milking Time

There’s a drip of honeysuckle in the deep green lane; There’s old Martin jogging homeward on his worn old wain; There are cherry petals falling, and a cuckoo calling, calling, And a score of larks (God bless ’em) . . . but it’s all pain, pain. For you see I am not really there at all, not at all; For you see I’m in the trenches where the crump-crumps fall; And the bits o’ shells are screaming and it’s only blessed dreaming That in fancy I am seeming back in old Saint Pol.

Oh I’ve thought of it so often since I’ve come down here; And I never dreamt that any place could be so dear; The silvered whinstone houses, and the rosy men in blouses, And the kindly, white-capped women with their eyes spring-clear. And mother’s sitting knitting where her roses climb, And the angelus is calling with a soft, soft chime, And the sea-wind comes caressing, and the light’s a golden blessing, And Yvonne, Yvonne is guessing that it’s milking time.

Oh it’s Sunday, for she’s wearing of her broidered gown; And she draws the pasture pickets and the cows come down; And their feet are powdered yellow, and their voices honey-mellow, And they bring a scent of clover, and their eyes are brown. And Yvonne is dreaming after, but her eyes are blue; And her lips are made for laughter, and her white teeth too; And her mouth is like a cherry, and a dimple mocking merry Is lurking in the very cheek she turns to you.

So I walk beside her kindly, and she laughs at me; And I heap her arms with lilac from the lilac tree; And a golden light is welling, and a golden peace is dwelling, And a thousand birds are telling how it’s good to be. And what are pouting lips for if they can’t be kissed? And I’ve filled her arms with blossom so she can’t resist; And the cows are sadly straying, and her mother must be saying That Yvonne is long delaying . . . GOD! HOW CLOSE THAT MISSED!

A nice polite reminder that the Boche are nigh; That we’re here to fight like devils, and if need-be die; That from kissing pretty wenches to the frantic firing-benches Of the battered, tattered trenches is a far, far cry. Yet still I’m sitting dreaming in the glare and grime; And once again I’m hearing of them church-bells chime; And how I wonder whether in the golden summer weather We will fetch the cows together when it’s milking time. . . . (English voice, months later): —

Young Fellow My Lad

“Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad, On this glittering morn of May?”
“I’m going to join the Colours, Dad; They’re looking for men, they say.”
“But you’re only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad; You aren’t obliged to go.”
“I’m seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know.”

. . . . .

“So you’re off to France, Young Fellow My Lad, And you’re looking so fit and bright.”
“I’m terribly sorry to leave you, Dad, But I feel that I’m doing right.”
“God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad, You’re all of my life, you know.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll soon be back, dear Dad, And I’m awfully proud to go.”

. . . . .

“Why don’t you write, Young Fellow My Lad? I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so, and I’m awfully sad, And it’s months since you went away.
And I’ve had the fire in the parlour lit, And I’m keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home; and here I sit Into the quiet night.”

. . . . .

“What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad? No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away?
I hear them tell that we’ve gained new ground, But a terrible price we’ve paid:
God grant, my boy, that you’re safe and sound; But oh I’m afraid, afraid.”

. . . . .

“They’ve told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad: You’ll never come back again:
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad, And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell That my boy was one of the best.

“So you’ll live, you’ll live, Young Fellow My Lad, In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child, In all sweet things that are.
And you’ll never die, my wonderful boy, While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy We will owe to our lads like you.”

A Song of the Sandbags

No, Bill, I’m not a-spooning out no patriotic tosh (The cove be’ind the sandbags ain’t a death-or-glory cuss). And though I strafes ’em good and ‘ard I doesn’t ‘ate the Boche, I guess they’re mostly decent, just the same as most of us. I guess they loves their ‘omes and kids as much as you or me; And just the same as you or me they’d rather shake than fight; And if we’d ‘appened to be born at Berlin-on-the-Spree, We’d be out there with ‘Ans and Fritz, dead sure that we was right.

A-standin’ up to the sandbags
It’s funny the thoughts wot come; Starin’ into the darkness,
‘Earin’ the bullets ‘um;
A-leanin’ against the sandbags
Wiv me rifle under me ear,
Oh, I’ve ‘ad more thoughts on a sentry-go Than I used to ‘ave in a year.

I wonder, Bill, if ‘Ans and Fritz is wonderin’ like me Wot’s at the bottom of it all? Wot all the slaughter’s for? ‘E thinks ‘e’s right (of course ‘e ain’t) but this we both agree, If them as made it ‘ad to fight, there wouldn’t be no war. If them as lies in feather beds while we kips in the mud; If them as makes their fortoons while we fights for ’em like ‘ell; If them as slings their pot of ink just ‘ad to sling their blood: By Crust! I’m thinkin’ there ‘ud be another tale to tell.

Shiverin’ up to the sandbags,
With a hicicle ‘stead of a spine, Don’t it seem funny the things you think ‘Ere in the firin’ line:
Hunkerin’ down when a star-shell
Cracks in a sputter of light,
You can jaw to yer soul by the sandbags Most any old time o’ night.

They talks o’ England’s glory and a-‘oldin’ of our trade, Of Empire and ‘igh destiny until we’re fair flim-flammed; But if it’s for the likes o’ that that bloody war is made, Then wot I say is: Empire and ‘igh destiny be damned! There’s only one good cause, Bill, for poor blokes like us to fight: That’s self-defence, for ‘earth and ‘ome, and them that bears our name; And that’s wot I’m a-doin’ by the sandbags ‘ere to-night. . . . But Fritz out there will tell you ‘e’s a-doin’ of the same.

Starin’ over the sandbags,
Sick of the ‘ole damn thing;
Firin’ to keep meself awake,
‘Earin’ the bullets sing.
Dreamin’ ‘ere by the sandbags
Of a day when war will cease,
When ‘Ans and Fritz and Bill and me Will clink our mugs in fraternity,
And the Brotherhood of Labour will be The Brotherhood of Peace.

On the Wire

O God, take the sun from the sky!
It’s burning me, scorching me up.
God, can’t You hear my cry?
`Water! A poor, little cup!’
It’s laughing, the cursed sun!
See how it swells and swells
Fierce as a hundred hells!
God, will it never have done?
It’s searing the flesh on my bones; It’s beating with hammers red
My eyeballs into my head;
It’s parching my very moans.
See! It’s the size of the sky,
And the sky is a torrent of fire,
Foaming on me as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of the thousands that wheeze and hum
Heedlessly over my head,
Why can’t a bullet come,
Pierce to my brain instead,
Blacken forever my brain,
Finish forever my pain?
Here in the hellish glare
Why must I suffer so?
Is it God doesn’t care?
Is it God doesn’t know?
Oh, to be killed outright,
Clean in the clash of the fight!
That is a golden death,
That is a boon; but this . . .
Drawing an anguished breath
Under a hot abyss,
Under a stooping sky
Of seething, sulphurous fire,
Scorching me up as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Hasten, O God, Thy night!
Hide from my eyes the sight
Of the body I stare and see
Shattered so hideously.
I can’t believe that it’s mine.
My body was white and sweet,
Flawless and fair and fine,
Shapely from head to feet;
Oh no, I can never be
The thing of horror I see
Under the rifle fire,
Trussed on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of night and of death I dream;
Night that will bring me peace,
Coolness and starry gleam,
Stillness and death’s release:
Ages and ages have passed, —
Lo! it is night at last.
Night! but the guns roar out.
Night! but the hosts attack.
Red and yellow and black
Geysers of doom upspout.
Silver and green and red
Star-shells hover and spread.
Yonder off to the right
Fiercely kindles the fight;
Roaring near and more near,
Thundering now in my ear;
Close to me, close . . . Oh, hark!
Someone moans in the dark.
I hear, but I cannot see,
I hear as the rest retire,
Someone is caught like me,
Caught on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Again the shuddering dawn,
Weird and wicked and wan;
Again, and I’ve not yet gone.
The man whom I heard is dead.
Now I can understand:
A bullet hole in his head,
A pistol gripped in his hand.
Well, he knew what to do, —
Yes, and now I know too. . . .

Hark the resentful guns!
Oh, how thankful am I
To think my beloved ones
Will never know how I die!
I’ve suffered more than my share;
I’m shattered beyond repair;
I’ve fought like a man the fight,
And now I demand the right
(God! how his fingers cling!)
To do without shame this thing.
Good! there’s a bullet still;
Now I’m ready to fire;
Blame me, God, if You will,
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Bill’s Grave

I’m gatherin’ flowers by the wayside to lay on the grave of Bill; I’ve sneaked away from the billet, ’cause Jim wouldn’t understand; ‘E’d call me a silly fat’ead, and larf till it made ‘im ill, To see me ‘ere in the cornfield, wiv a big bookay in me ‘and.

For Jim and me we are rough uns, but Bill was one o’ the best; We ‘listed and learned together to larf at the wust wot comes; Then Bill copped a packet proper, and took ‘is departure West, So sudden ‘e ‘adn’t a minit to say good-bye to ‘is chums.

And they took me to where ‘e was planted, a sort of a measly mound, And, thinks I, ‘ow Bill would be tickled, bein’ so soft and queer, If I gathered a bunch o’ them wild-flowers, and sort of arranged them round Like a kind of a bloody headpiece . . . and that’s the reason I’m ‘ere.

But not for the love of glory I wouldn’t ‘ave Jim to know. ‘E’d call me a slobberin’ Cissy, and larf till ‘is sides was sore; I’d ‘ave larfed at meself too, it isn’t so long ago; But some’ow it changes a feller, ‘avin’ a taste o’ war.

It ‘elps a man to be ‘elpful, to know wot ‘is pals is worth (Them golden poppies is blazin’ like lamps some fairy ‘as lit); I’m fond o’ them big white dysies. . . . Now Jim’s o’ the salt o’ the earth; But ‘e ‘as got a tongue wot’s a terror, and ‘e ain’t sentimental a bit.

I likes them blue chaps wot’s ‘idin’ so shylike among the corn. Won’t Bill be glad! We was allus thicker ‘n thieves, us three. Why! ‘Oo’s that singin’ so ‘earty? JIM! And as sure as I’m born ‘E’s there in the giddy cornfields, a-gatherin’ flowers like me.

Quick! Drop me posy be’ind me. I watches ‘im for a while, Then I says: “Wot ‘o, there, Chummy! Wot price the little bookay?” And ‘e starts like a bloke wot’s guilty, and ‘e says with a sheepish smile: “She’s a bit of orl right, the widder wot keeps the estaminay.”

So ‘e goes away in a ‘urry, and I wishes ‘im best o’ luck, And I picks up me bunch o’ wild-flowers, and the light’s gettin’ sorto dim, When I makes me way to the boneyard,
and . . . I stares like a man wot’s stuck, For wot do I see? BILL’S GRAVE-MOUND STREWN WITH THE FLOWERS OF JIM.

Of course I won’t never tell ‘im, bein’ a tactical lad; And Jim parley-voos to the widder: “Trez beans, lamoor; compree?” Oh, ‘e’d die of shame if ‘e knew I knew; but say! won’t Bill be glad When ‘e stares through the bleedin’ clods and sees the blossoms of Jim and me?

Jean Desprez

Oh ye whose hearts are resonant, and ring to War’s romance, Hear ye the story of a boy, a peasant boy of France; A lad uncouth and warped with toil, yet who, when trial came, Could feel within his soul upleap and soar the sacred flame; Could stand upright, and scorn and smite, as only heroes may: Oh, harken! Let me try to tell the tale of Jean Desprez.

With fire and sword the Teuton horde was ravaging the land, And there was darkness and despair, grim death on every hand; Red fields of slaughter sloping down to ruin’s black abyss; The wolves of war ran evil-fanged, and little did they miss. And on they came with fear and flame, to burn and loot and slay, Until they reached the red-roofed croft, the home of Jean Desprez.

“Rout out the village, one and all!” the Uhlan Captain said. “Behold! Some hand has fired a shot. My trumpeter is dead. Now shall they Prussian vengeance know; now shall they rue the day, For by this sacred German slain, ten of these dogs shall pay.” They drove the cowering peasants forth, women and babes and men, And from the last, with many a jeer, the Captain chose he ten; Ten simple peasants, bowed with toil; they stood, they knew not why, Against the grey wall of the church, hearing their children cry; Hearing their wives and mothers wail, with faces dazed they stood. A moment only. . . . READY! FIRE! They weltered in their blood.

But there was one who gazed unseen, who heard the frenzied cries, Who saw these men in sabots fall before their children’s eyes; A Zouave wounded in a ditch, and knowing death was nigh, He laughed with joy: “Ah! here is where I settle ere I die.” He clutched his rifle once again, and long he aimed and well. . . . A shot! Beside his victims ten the Uhlan Captain fell.

They dragged the wounded Zouave out; their rage was like a flame. With bayonets they pinned him down, until their Major came. A blonde, full-blooded man he was, and arrogant of eye; He stared to see with shattered skull his favourite Captain lie. “Nay, do not finish him so quick, this foreign swine,” he cried; “Go nail him to the big church door: he shall be crucified.”

With bayonets through hands and feet they nailed the Zouave there, And there was anguish in his eyes, and horror in his stare; “Water! A single drop!” he moaned; but how they jeered at him, And mocked him with an empty cup, and saw his sight grow dim; And as in agony of death with blood his lips were wet, The Prussian Major gaily laughed, and lit a cigarette.

But mid the white-faced villagers who cowered in horror by, Was one who saw the woeful sight, who heard the woeful cry: “Water! One little drop, I beg! For love of Christ who died. . . .” It was the little Jean Desprez who turned and stole aside; It was the little bare-foot boy who came with cup abrim And walked up to the dying man, and gave the drink to him.

A roar of rage! They seize the boy; they tear him fast away. The Prussian Major swings around; no longer is he gay. His teeth are wolfishly agleam; his face all dark with spite: “Go, shoot the brat,” he snarls, “that dare defy our Prussian might. Yet stay! I have another thought. I’ll kindly be, and spare; Quick! give the lad a rifle charged, and set him squarely there, And bid him shoot, and shoot to kill. Haste! Make him understand The dying dog he fain would save shall perish by his hand. And all his kindred they shall see, and all shall curse his name, Who bought his life at such a cost, the price of death and shame.”

They brought the boy, wild-eyed with fear; they made him understand; They stood him by the dying man, a rifle in his hand. “Make haste!” said they; “the time is short, and you must kill or die.” The Major puffed his cigarette, amusement in his eye. And then the dying Zouave heard, and raised his weary head: “Shoot, son, ’twill be the best for both; shoot swift and straight,” he said. “Fire first and last, and do not flinch; for lost to hope am I; And I will murmur: VIVE LA FRANCE! and bless you ere I die.”

Half-blind with blows the boy stood there; he seemed to swoon and sway; Then in that moment woke the soul of little Jean Desprez. He saw the woods go sheening down; the larks were singing clear; And oh! the scents and sounds of spring, how sweet they were! how dear! He felt the scent of new-mown hay, a soft breeze fanned his brow; O God! the paths of peace and toil! How precious were they now! The summer days and summer ways, how bright with hope and bliss! The autumn such a dream of gold . . . and all must end in this: This shining rifle in his hand, that shambles all around; The Zouave there with dying glare; the blood upon the ground; The brutal faces round him ringed, the evil eyes aflame; That Prussian bully standing by, as if he watched a game. “Make haste and shoot,” the Major sneered; “a minute more I give; A minute more to kill your friend, if you yourself would live.”

They only saw a bare-foot boy, with blanched and twitching face; They did not see within his eyes the glory of his race; The glory of a million men who for fair France have died, The splendour of self-sacrifice that will not be denied. Yet . . . he was but a peasant lad, and oh! but life was sweet. . . . “Your minute’s nearly gone, my lad,” he heard a voice repeat. “Shoot! Shoot!” the dying Zouave moaned; “Shoot! Shoot!” the soldiers said. Then Jean Desprez reached out and shot . . . THE PRUSSIAN MAJOR DEAD!

Going Home

I’m goin’ ‘ome to Blighty — ain’t I glad to ‘ave the chance! I’m loaded up wiv fightin’, and I’ve ‘ad my fill o’ France; I’m feelin’ so excited-like, I want to sing and dance, For I’m goin’ ‘ome to Blighty in the mawnin’.

I’m goin’ ‘ome to Blighty: can you wonder as I’m gay? I’ve got a wound I wouldn’t sell for ‘alf a year o’ pay; A harm that’s mashed to jelly in the nicest sort o’ way, For it takes me ‘ome to Blighty in the mawnin’.

‘Ow everlastin’ keen I was on gettin’ to the front! I’d ginger for a dozen, and I ‘elped to bear the brunt; But Cheese and Crust! I’m crazy, now I’ve done me little stunt, To sniff the air of Blighty in the mawnin’.

I’ve looked upon the wine that’s white, and on the wine that’s red; I’ve looked on cider flowin’, till it fairly turned me ‘ead; But oh, the finest scoff will be, when all is done and said, A pint o’ Bass in Blighty in the mawnin’.

I’m goin’ back to Blighty, which I left to strafe the ‘Un; I’ve fought in bloody battles, and I’ve ‘ad a ‘eap of fun; But now me flipper’s busted, and I think me dooty’s done, And I’ll kiss me gel in Blighty in the mawnin’.

Oh, there be furrin’ lands to see, and some of ’em be fine; And there be furrin’ gels to kiss, and scented furrin’ wine; But there’s no land like England, and no other gel like mine: Thank Gawd for dear old Blighty in the mawnin’.


When a girl’s sixteen, and as poor as she’s pretty, And she hasn’t a friend and she hasn’t a home, Heigh-ho! She’s as safe in Paris city
As a lamb night-strayed where the wild wolves roam; And that was I; oh, it’s seven years now (Some water’s run down the Seine since then), And I’ve almost forgotten the pangs and the tears now, And I’ve almost taken the measure of men.

Oh, I found me a lover who loved me only, Artist and poet, and almost a boy.
And my heart was bruised, and my life was lonely, And him I adored with a wonderful joy.
If he’d come to me with his pockets empty, How we’d have laughed in a garret gay!
But he was rich, and in radiant plenty We lived in a villa at Viroflay.

Then came the War, and of bliss bereft me; Then came the call, and he went away;
All that he had in the world he left me, With the rose-wreathed villa at Viroflay. Then came the news and the tragic story: My hero, my splendid lover was dead,
Sword in hand on the field of glory, And he died with my name on his lips, they said.

So here am I in my widow’s mourning,
The weeds I’ve really no right to wear; And women fix me with eyes of scorning,
Call me “cocotte”, but I do not care. And men look at me with eyes that borrow The brightness of love, but I turn away; Alone, say I, I will live with Sorrow,
In my little villa at Viroflay.

And lo! I’m living alone with `Pity’, And they say that pity from love’s not far; Let me tell you all: last week in the city I took the metro at Saint Lazare;
And the carriage was crowded to overflowing, And when there entered at Chateaudun
Two wounded `poilus’ with medals showing, I eagerly gave my seat to one.

You should have seen them: they’d slipped death’s clutches, But sadder a sight you will rarely find; One had a leg off and walked on crutches, The other, a bit of a boy, was blind.
And they both sat down, and the lad was trying To grope his way as a blind man tries;
And half of the women around were crying, And some of the men had tears in their eyes.

How he stirred me, this blind boy, clinging Just like a child to his crippled chum.
But I did not cry. Oh no; a singing Came to my heart for a year so dumb,
Then I knew that at three-and-twenty There is wonderful work to be done,
Comfort and kindness and joy in plenty, Peace and light and love to be won.

Oh, thought I, could mine eyes be given To one who will live in the dark alway!
To love and to serve — ‘twould make life Heaven Here in my villa at Viroflay.
So I left my `poilus’: and now you wonder Why to-day I am so elate. . . .
Look! In the glory of sunshine yonder They’re bringing my blind boy in at the gate.

My Bay’nit

When first I left Blighty they gave me a bay’nit And told me it ‘ad to be smothered wiv gore; But blimey! I ‘aven’t been able to stain it, So far as I’ve gone wiv the vintage of war. For ain’t it a fraud! when a Boche and yours truly Gits into a mix in the grit and the grime, ‘E jerks up ‘is ‘ands wiv a yell and ‘e’s duly Part of me outfit every time.

Left, right, Hans and Fritz!
Goose step, keep up yer mits!
Oh my, Ain’t it a shyme!
Part of me outfit every time.

At toasting a biscuit me bay’nit’s a dandy; I’ve used it to open a bully beef can;
For pokin’ the fire it comes in werry ‘andy; For any old thing but for stickin’ a man. ‘Ow often I’ve said: “‘Ere, I’m goin’ to press you Into a ‘Un till you’re seasoned for prime,” And fiercely I rushes to do it, but bless you! Part of me outfit every time.

Lor, yus; DON’T they look glad?
Right O! ‘Owl Kamerad!
Oh my, always the syme!
Part of me outfit every time.

I’m ‘untin’ for someone to christen me bay’nit, Some nice juicy Chewton wot’s fightin’ in France; I’m fairly down-‘earted — ‘ow CAN yer explain it? I keeps gettin’ prisoners every chance.
As soon as they sees me they ups and surrenders, Extended like monkeys wot’s tryin’ to climb; And I uses me bay’nit — to slit their suspenders — Part of me outfit every time.

Four ‘Uns; lor, wot a bag!
‘Ere, Fritz, sample a fag!
Oh my, ain’t it a gyme!
Part of me outfit every time.

Carry On!

It’s easy to fight when everything’s right, And you’re mad with the thrill and the glory; It’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
And wallow in fields that are gory. It’s a different song when everything’s wrong, When you’re feeling infernally mortal;
When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none, Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

Carry on! Carry on!
There isn’t much punch in your blow. You’re glaring and staring and hitting out blind; You’re muddy and bloody, but never you mind. Carry on! Carry on!
You haven’t the ghost of a show.
It’s looking like death, but while you’ve a breath, Carry on, my son! Carry on!

And so in the strife of the battle of life It’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
It’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave, When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat With a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing; The man who can fight to Heaven’s own height Is the man who can fight when he’s losing.

Carry on! Carry on!
Things never were looming so black. But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak, And though you’re unlucky you never are weak. Carry on! Carry on!
Brace up for another attack.
It’s looking like hell, but — you never can tell: Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the deserts of doubt, And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labour with zest, and to give of your best, For the sweetness and joy of the giving; To help folks along with a hand and a song; Why, there’s the real sunshine of living.

Carry on! Carry on!
Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer; There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here. Carry on! Carry on!
Let the world be the better for you; And at last when you die, let this be your cry: CARRY ON, MY SOUL! CARRY ON!

Over the Parapet

All day long when the shells sail over I stand at the sandbags and take my chance; But at night, at night I’m a reckless rover, And over the parapet gleams Romance.
Romance! Romance! How I’ve dreamed it, writing Dreary old records of money and mart,
Me with my head chuckful of fighting And the blood of vikings to thrill my heart.

But little I thought that my time was coming, Sudden and splendid, supreme and soon;
And here I am with the bullets humming As I crawl and I curse the light of the moon. Out alone, for adventure thirsting,
Out in mysterious No Man’s Land;
Prone with the dead when a star-shell, bursting, Flares on the horrors on every hand.
There are ruby stars and they drip and wiggle; And the grasses gleam in a light blood-red; There are emerald stars, and their tails they wriggle, And ghastly they glare on the face of the dead. But the worst of all are the stars of whiteness, That spill in a pool of pearly flame,
Pretty as gems in their silver brightness, And etching a man for a bullet’s aim.

Yet oh, it’s great to be here with danger, Here in the weird, death-pregnant dark,
In the devil’s pasture a stealthy ranger, When the moon is decently hiding. Hark!
What was that? Was it just the shiver Of an eerie wind or a clammy hand?
The rustle of grass, or the passing quiver Of one of the ghosts of No Man’s Land?

It’s only at night when the ghosts awaken, And gibber and whisper horrible things;
For to every foot of this God-forsaken Zone of jeopard some horror clings.
Ugh! What was that? It felt like a jelly, That flattish mound in the noisome grass; You three big rats running free of its belly, Out of my way and let me pass!

But if there’s horror, there’s beauty, wonder; The trench lights gleam and the rockets play. That flood of magnificent orange yonder
Is a battery blazing miles away.
With a rush and a singing a great shell passes; The rifles resentfully bicker and brawl, And here I crouch in the dew-drenched grasses, And look and listen and love it all.

God! What a life! But I must make haste now, Before the shadow of night be spent.
It’s little the time there is to waste now, If I’d do the job for which I was sent.
My bombs are right and my clippers ready, And I wriggle out to the chosen place,
When I hear a rustle . . . Steady! . . . Steady!