Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Rhymes of a Red Cross Man
21st Aug 2014Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

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Rhymes of  a Red Cross Man
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RHYMES of a 
RED CROSS MAN

 

 

By
ROBERT W. SERVICE

 

Author of
Songs of a Sourdough,” “Ballads of a Cheechako,”
Rhymes of a Rollings Stone,” and
The Trail of ‘98”

 

 


 

 

TORONTO:
WILLIAM BRIGGS
1916
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COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1916, by
ROBERT W. SERVICE [unnumbered page]

To the Memory of
My Brother
LIEUTENANT ALBERT SERVICE
Canadian Infantry
Killed in Action.      France, August 1916
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FOREWORD

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; [page 7]
Beside the dying and the dead,
Where rocket green and rocket red,
In trembling pools of poison 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 song from out the slaughter mill:
So take or leave them as you will. [page 8]

CONTENTS

PAGE
FOREWORD

   I’ve tinkered at my bits of rhymes.
7
THE CALL

   Far and near, high and clear.
15
THE FOOL

   “But it isn’t playing the game,” he said.
17
THE VOLUNTEER

   Sez I: My Country calls? Well, let it call.
20
THE CONVALESCENT

   ... So I walked among the willows very quietly all night.
22
THE MAN FROM ATHABASKA

   Oh, the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas nothing but the thrumming.
24
THE RED RETREAT

   Tramp, tramp, the grim road, the road from Mons to Wipers.
29

[page 9]

 

THE HAGGIS OF PRIVATE McPHEE

   “Ha’e ye heard whit ma auld mither’s postit tae me?
34
THE LARK

   From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn,
41
THE ODYSSEY OF ’ERBERT ’IGGINS

   Me and Ed and a stretcher.
43
A SONG OF WINTER WEATHER

   It isn’t the foe that we fear.
49
TIPPERARY DAYS

   Oh weren’t they the fine boys! You never saw the beat of them.
51
FLEURETTE

   My leg? It’s off at the knee.
54
FUNK

   When your marrer bones seems ’oller
59
OUR HERO

   “Flowers, only flowers,—bring me dainty posies.
61
MY MATE

   I’ve been sittin’ starin’, starin’ at ’is muddy pair of boots.
63

[page 10]

 

MILKING TIME

   There’s a drip of honeysuckle in the deep green lane.
67
YOUNG FELLOW MY LAD

   “Where are you going, young fellow my lad,
71
A SONG OF THE SAND-BAGS

   No, Bill, I’m not a-spooning out no patriotic tosh,
74
ON THE WIRE

   Oh God! take the sun from the sky!
78
BILL’S GRAVE

   I’m gatherin’ flowers by the wayside to lay on the grave of Bill.
82
JEAN DESPREZ

   Oh ye whose hearts are resonant, and ring to War’s romance.
86
GOING HOME

   I’m goin’ ’ome to Blighty—ain’t I glad to ’ave the chance.
94
COCOTTE

   When a girl’s sixteen, and as poor as she’s pretty.
96
MY BAY’NIT

   When first I left Blighty they gave me a bay’nit.
99

[page 11]

 

CARRY ON

   It’s easy to fight when everything’s right.
101
OVER THE PARAPET

   All day long when the shells sail over.
104
THE BALLAD OF SOULFUL SAM

   You want me to tell you a story, a yarn of the firin’ line,
108
ONLY A BOCHE

   We brought him in from between the lines; we’d better have let him lie.
113
PILGRIMS

   For oh! when the war will be over.
118
MY PRISONER

   We was in a crump-’ole, ’im and me.
120
TRI-COLOUR

   Poppies, you try to tell me, glowing there in the wheat.
124
A POT OF TEA

   You make it in your mess-tin by the brazier’s rosy gleam.
126
THE REVELATION

   The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut.
128

[page 12]

 

GRAND-PÈRE

   And so when he reached my bed.
132
SON

   He hurried away, young heart of joy, under our Devon sky!
134
THE BLACK DUDEEN

   Humping it here in the dug-out.
137
THE LITTLE PIOU-PIOU

   Oh! some of us lolled in the château.
141
BILL THE BOMBER

   The poppies gleamed like bloody pools through cotton-woolly mist.
144
THE WHISTLE OF SANDY McGRAW

   You may talk o’ your lutes and your dulcimers fine.
151
THE STRETCHER-BEARER

   My stretcher is one scarlet stain.
156
WOUNDED

   Is it not strange? A year ago to-day.
158
FAITH

   Since all that is was ever bound to be.
164
THE COWARD

   “ ’Ave you seen Bill’s mug in the Noos to-day?
165

[page 13]

 

MISSIS MORIARTY’S BOY

   Missis Moriarty called last week, and says she to me, says she:
169
MY FOE

   Gurr! You cochon! Stand and fight!
171
MY JOB

   I’ve got a little job on and, the time is drawin’ nigh.
175
THE SONG OF THE PACIFIST

   What do they matter, our headlong hates, when we take the toll of our Dead?
177
THE TWINS

   There were two brothers, John and James.
180
THE SONG OF THE SOLDIER-BORN

   Give me the scorn of the stars and a peak defiant.
181
AFTERNOON TEA

   As I was saying ... (No, thank you; I never take cream with my tea.
184
THE MOURNERS

   I look into the aching womb of night.
191
L’ENVOI

   My job is done: my rhymes are ranked and ready.
193

[page 14]

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! [page 15]
        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! [page 16]

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. [page 17] 

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, blind was I!
   And the cup of 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. [page 18]

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. [page 19]

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 me 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 guess ’ard and well,
But—wot the ’ell, Bill? Wot the ’ell? [page 20]

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 the 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. [page 21]

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 silver cross he wore;
But the bugles they were callin’, and I heard the cannon roar. [page 22]
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 the 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. [page 23]

THE MAN FROM ATHABASKA

OH, the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas nothing but the thrumming
Of a woodpecker 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. [page 24]

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; [page 25]
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 caribou goes homing,—
And they sit like little children, just as quiet as can be:
Men of every clime and colour, how they hearken unto me! [page 26]

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; [page 27]
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 promissed 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 never more. [page 28]

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; [page 29]
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 fro’ God Knows Where, we started out a-roarin’;
We ’ollered: “’Ere We Are Again,” and’s truth! 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; [page 30]
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; [page 31]
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 automobeels.
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. [page 32]

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. [page 33]

THE HAGGIS OF PRIVATE McPHEE

“HA’E ye heard whit ma auld mither’s postit tae me?
It fair mak’s 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 whiskey—the birthday o’ Burns.
We maun find a dram; then we’ll ca’ in the rest
O’ the lads, and we’ll ha’e 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 looks at Private McPhun;
“I’m thinkin’, ma lad, we’re confoundedly done.” [page 34]
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 ha’e 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 thousand 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. [page 35]
And while the twa cracked o’ the feast they would ha’e,
The fuse it wis burnin’ and burnin’ away;
Then sudden a roar like the thunner o’ doom,
A hell-leap o’ flame... then the wheeshto’ 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 biddin’ 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’ missin’ that braw muckle haggis ye’ve got.” [page 36]

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 masicht,
And we’ll baith ha’e a kyte-fu’ o’ haggis the night.”

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! Doon, 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; [page 37]
And the shells bickered doon wi’ a crump and a glare,
And the hameless wee bullets were dingin’ the air.
Yet on they went staggerin’, cooryin’ doon
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-out.
“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 McPhee answers: “Dammit, auldchap!
For the sake o’ that haggis I’ll gang till I drap.”
And he gets on his feet wi’ a heave and strain,
And onward he staggers in passion and pain. [page 38]

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 peetiful plight,
And someone is shoutin’ away on their right;
And someone is running; 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 SergeantMcCole,
When hirplin’ alang comes wee Wullie McNair,
And they a’ wonert why he wis greetin’ sae sair.
And he says: “I’d just 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, [page 39]
And on through the night 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. [page 40]

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. [page 41]

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. [page 42]

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), [page 43]
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 the ’Un
(I’d collared ’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. [page 44]

“Stick on like a plaster, Eddy.
    Old sport, you’re a-slakin’ 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. [page 45]
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 somehow 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 aman, [page 46]
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 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. [page 47]

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 must’nt 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. [page 48]

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,
                      MUD,
                            MUD.

It isn’t the mêlée 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,
                      RAIN,
                            RAIN. [page 49]

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,
                      COLD,
                            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. [page 50]

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. [page 51]

“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 Brabançon, 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 Square!
    C’est un chemin long ‘to Tepararee,’
    Mais mon coeur ‘ees Zaire.’” [page 52]

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.
Ah me! It seems but yesterday, that great, glad sight of them,
    Swinging on to battle as the sky grew black and black;
Yet 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?) [page 53]

FLEURETTE

(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. [page 54]

I’m gay! You bet I am gay;
    But I wasn’t a while ago;
If you’d see 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 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; [page 55]
Clear as a silver bell;
    Fresh as the morning dews:
“C’est toi, c’est toi, Marcel!
    Mon frère, 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 malheureuse?”
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. [page 56]

Well, I didn’t quiver an eye,
    And he chattered, and there she sat;
And I fancied I heard her sigh,
    Though 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 ventures 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! [page 57]
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! [page 58]

FUNK

WHEN your marrer bones 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 wants 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; [page 59]
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. [page 60]

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 blue-bells 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. [page 61]

“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. [page 62]

MY MATE

I’VE been sittin’ starin’, starin’ at ’is muddy pair of boots,
    An tryin’ to convince meself it’s ’im.
(Look out there, lad! That sniper,—’e’s a dysey wen ’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 his 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. [page 63]
For when ’e copped Maria 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-father 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. [page 64]
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 Toosday; ’e was ’appy as a lark,
    And ’e’d just received a letter from his 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. [page 65]
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 o 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. [page 66]

MILKING TIME

THERE’S a drip of honeysuckle in the deep greenlane;
There’s old Martin jogging homeward on hisworn 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 blessèd 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; [page 67]
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. [page 68]

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. [page 69]
Yet still I’m sitting dreaming in the glare and grime, 
And once again I’m hearing of the 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:

“Ow, Bill! A rottin’ Frenchy. Whew! ’E ain’t’arf prime.” [page 70]

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; [page 71] 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; (Oh God! the dreams and the dreams I had, And the hoped I’ve nursed in vain!) 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.” [page 72] “So you’ll live, you’ll live, young fellow my lad, In the gleam of the evening star, In the wood note wild and 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 peace and joy, We will owe to our lads like you.” [page 73]

A SONG OF THE SANDBAGS

No, Bill, I’m not a-spooning out no patriotic tosh,
    (The cove behind 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; [page 74]
       (Zing! Zip! Ping! Rip!
          ’Ark ’ow 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 pots of ink just ’ad to sling their blood:
    By Crust! I’m thinkin’ there’d 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: [page 75]
       (Wee! Whut! Ziz! Zut!
          Lord! ’Ow the bullets whine!)
      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 of 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 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 dam thing;
      Firin’ to keep meself awake,
          ’Earin’ the bullets sing. [page 76]
       (Hiss! Twang! Tsing! Pang!
          Saucy 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 out mugs in fraternity,
      And the Brotherhood of Labour will be
          The Brotherhood of Peace. [page 77]

ON THE WIRE

OH 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 cursèd 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; [page 78]
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 the 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, Oh 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,
    Shapeless from head to feet; [page 79]
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... [page 80]

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 belovèd 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... [page 81]

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. [page 82]

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 here.

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. [page 83]

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 corn-fields, 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’ wildflowers, and the light’s getting’ 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. [page 84]

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? [page 85]

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 ravageing 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. [page 86]
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 scared 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. [page 87]

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.” [page 88]

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. [page 89]

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 brought 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. [page 90]
“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 so 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;
Oh God! the paths of peace and toil! How precious were they now! [page 91]

The Summer days and Summer ways, how bright they were with 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 barefoot 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. [page 92]
Yet... he was but a peasant lad, and oh! but your life was sweet...
“Your minute’s nearly done, 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. [page 93]

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’. [page 94]

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’.  [page 95]

COCOTTE

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. [page 96]

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. [page 97]

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 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 like 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. [page 98]

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,
He 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. [page 99]

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 rushed to do it, but bless you!
    Part of me outfit every time.

              Lor’, yus, don’t they looks 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. [page 100]

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! [page 101]

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 ofdoubt, 
    And some who in brustishness wallow;
There are others I know who in piety go
    Because of a Heaven to follow. [page 102]
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 arehere.
              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! [page 103]

OVER THE PARAPET

ALL day 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. [page 104]

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! [page 105]

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!
    Who am I staring slap in the face?

There in the dark I can hear him breathing,
    A foot away, and as still as death;
And my heart beats heard, and my brain is seething,
    And I know he’s a Hun by the smell of his breath. [page 106]
Then “Will you surrender?” I whisper hoarsely,
    For it’s death, swift death to utter a cry.
“English Schwein-hund!”he murmurs coarsely,
     “Then we’ll fight it out in the dark, “ say I.

So we grip and we slip and we trip and wrestle
    There in the gutter of No Man’s Land;
And I feel my nails in his wind-pipe nestle,
    And he tries to gouge, but I bite his hand.
And he tries to squeal, but I squeeze him tighter:
     “Now,” I say, “I can kill you fine;
But tell me first, you Teutonic blighter!
    Have you any children?” He answers: “Nein.”

Nine! Well, I cannot kill such a father,
    So I tie his hands and I leave him there.
Do I finish my little job? Well, rather;
    And I get home safe with some light to spare.
Heigh-ho! by day it’s just prosy duty,
    Doing the same old song and dance;
But oh! with the night—joy, glory, beauty;
    Over the parapet—Life, Romance. [page 107]

THE BALLAD OF SOULFUL SAM

You want me to tell you a story, a yarn of the firin’ line,
Of our thin, red-kharki ’eroes, out there where the bullets whine;
Out there where the bombs are bustin’, and the cannons like ’ell-doors slam—
Just order another drink, boys, and I’ll tell you of Soulful Sam.

Oh, Sam, he was never ’ilarious, though I’ve ’ad some mates as was wus;
He ’adn’t C.B. on his programme, he never was known to cuss.
For a card or skirt or a beer-mug he ’adn’t a friendly word,
But when it came down to Scriptures, say! wasn’t he just a bird! [page 108]

He always ’ad tracts in his pocket, the which he would haste to present,
And though the fellers would use them in ways that they never was meant,
I used to read ’em religious, and frequent I’ve been impressed
By some of them bundles of ’oly dope he carried around in his vest.

For I—and oh! ’ow I shudder at the ’orror the word conveys!—
’Ave been—let me whisper it ’oarsely—a gambler ’alf of me days;
A gambler, you ’ear—a gambler. It makes me wishful to weep,
And yet ’ow it’s true, my brethren—I’d rather gamble than sleep.

I’ve gambled the ’ole world over, from Monte Carlo to Maine;
From Dawson City to Dover, from San Francisco to Spain.
Cards! They ’ave been me ruin, they’ve taken me pride and me pelf,
And when I’d no one to play with, why, I’d go and I’d play by meself. [page 109]

And Sam ’e would sit and watch me, as I shuffled a greasy deck,
And ’e’d say: “You’re bound to Perdition,” and I’d answer: “Git off me neck.”
And that’s ’ow we came to get friendly, though built on a different plan,
Me wot’s a desprite gambler, ’im sich a good young man.

But on to me tale. Just imagine... Darkness! The battle-front!
The furious ’Uns attackin’! Us ones a-bearin’ the brunt!
Me crouchin’ be’ind a sandbag, tryin’ ’ard to keep calm,
When I ’ears someone singin’ a ’ymn toon;—behold! it is Soulful Sam.

Yes, right in the crash of the combat, in the fury of flash and flame,
’E was shootin’ and singin’ serenely as if ’e enjoyed the same;
And there in the ’eat of the battle, as the ’ordes of demons attacked,
He dipped down into ’is tunic, and ’e ’anded me out a tract. [page 110]

Then a star-shell flared, and I read it: “Oh! flee from the wrath to come!”
Nice cheerful subject, I tell yer, when you’re ’earin’ the bullets ’um.
Then before I ’ad time to thank ’im, just one of them bits of lead
Comes slingin’ along in a ’urry, and it ’its my partner... Dead?

No siree! Not by a long sight! For it plugged ’im ’ard on the chest,
Just where ’e’d tracts for a harmy corps stowed away in ’is vest.
On its mission of death that bullet ’ustled along and it caved
A ’ole in them tracts to ’is ’ide, boys—but the life o’ me pal was saved.

And there as ’e showed me in triumph, and ’orror was chokin’ me breath,
On came another bullet on its ’orrible mission of death;
On through the night it cavorted, seekin’ it’s ’aven of rest,
And it zipped through a crack in the sandbags, and it wolloped me bang on the breast. [page 111]

Was I killed, do you ask? Oh no, boys. Why am I sittin’ ’ere,
Gazin’ with mournful vision at a mug long empty of beer?
With a throat as dry as a—— Oh, thanky! I don’t much mind if I do.
Beer with a dash of ’Ollands, that’s my particular brew.

Oh, that was a terrible moment. It ’ammered me ’ard o’er the ’eart.
It bowled me down like a nine-pin, and I looked for the blood to start.
And I saw in the flash of a moment, in that thunder of hate and strife,
Me wretched past like a pitchur, the sins of a gambler’s life.

For I ’ad no tracts to save me, to thwart that mad missile’s doom;
I ’ad no pious pamphlets to ’elp me to cheat the tomb;
I ’ad no ’oly leaflets to baffle a bullet’s aim;
I’d only—a deck of cards, boys, but... it seemed to do just the same. [page 112]

ONLY A BOCHE

WE brought him in from between the lines; we’d better have let him lie;
For what’s the use of risking one’s skin for a type that’s going to die?
What’s the use of tearing him loose under a gruelling fire,
When he’s shot in the head, and worse than dead,and all messed up on the wire?
However, I say, we brought him in. Diable! The mud was bad;
The trench was crooked and greasy and high, and oh! what a time we had!
And often we slipped, and often we tripped, but never he made a moan;
And how we were wet with blood and with sweat, but we carried him like our own.

Now there he lies in the dug-out dim, awaiting the ambulance,
And the doctor shrugs his shoulders at him, and remarks, “He hasn’t a chance.” [page 113]
And we squat and smoke at our game of bridge on the glistening, straw-packed floor.
And above our oaths we can hear his breath deep-drawn in a kind of snore.
For the dressing station is long and low, and the candles gutter dim,
And the mean light falls on the cold clay walls and our faces bristly and grim;
And we flap our cards on the lousy straw, and we laugh and jibe as we play,
And you’d never know that the cursèd foe was less than a mile away.
As we con our cards in the rancid gloom, oppressed by that snoring breath,
You’d never dream that our broad roof-beam was swept by the broom of death.

Heigh-ho! My turn for the dummy hand; I rise and I stretch a bit;
The fetid air is making me yawn, and my cigarette’s unlit,
So I go to the nearest candle flame, and the man we brought is there,
And his face is white in the shabby light, and I stand at his feet and stare. [page 114]
Stand for awhile, and quietly stare, for strange though it seems to be,
The dying Boche on the stretcher there has a queer resemblance to me.

It gives one a kind of turn, you know, to come on a thing like that,
It’s just as if I were lying there, with a turban of blood for a hat;
Lying there in a coat grey-green instead of a coat grey-blue,
With one my eyes all shot away, and my brain half tumbling through;
Lying there with a chest that heaves like a bellows up and down,
And a cheek as white as snow on a grave, and lips that are coffee-brown.

And confound him, too! He wears like me on his finger a wedding ring,
And around his neck, as around my own, by a greasy bit of string,
A locket hangs with a woman’s face, and I turn it about to see:
Just as I thought... on the other side the faces of children three; [page 115]
Clustered together cherub-like, three little laughing girls,
With the usual tiny rosebud mouths and the usual silken curls.
“Zut!” I say, “he has beaten me; for me, I have only two,”
And I push the locket beneath his shirt, feeling a little blue.

Oh! it isn’t cheerful to see a man, the marvellous work of God,
Crushed in the mutilation mill, crushed to a smeary clod;
Oh! it isn’t cheerful to hear him moan; but it isn’t that I mind;
It isn’t the anguish that goes with him, it’s the anguish he leaves behind;
For his going opens a tragic door that gives one a world of pain,
And the death he dies, those who live and love, will die again and again.

So here I am at my cards once more, but it’s kind of spoiling my play,
Thinking of those three brats of his so many a mile away. [page 116]
War is war, and he’s only a Boche, and we all of us take our chance;
But all the same I’ll be mighty glad when I’m hearing the ambulance.
One foe the less, but all the same I’m heartily glad I’m not
The man who gave him his broken head, the sniper who fired the shot.

No trumps you make it, I think you said? You’ll pardon me if I err;
For a moment I thought of other things—Mon Dieu! Quelle vache de guerre. [page 117]

PILGRIMS

FOR oh! when the war will be over,
    We’ll go and we’ll look for our dead;
We’ll go when the bee’s on the clover,
    And the plume of the poppy is red;
We’ll go when the year’s at its gayest,
    When meadows are laughing with flow’rs;
And there where the crosses are grayest,
    We’ll seek for the cross that is ours.

For they cry to us: Friends, we are lonely,
    A-weary the night and the day;
But come in the blossom-time only,
    Come when our graves will be gay:
When daffodils all are a-blowing,
    And larks are a-thrilling the skies,
Oh, come with the hearts of you glowing,
    And the joy of the Spring in your eyes. [page 118]

But never, oh! never come sighing,
    For ours was the Splendid Release;
And oh! but ’twas joy in the dying
    To know we were winning you Peace.
So come when the valleys are sheening,
    And fledged with the promise of grain;
And here where our graves will be greening,
    Just smile and be happy again.

And so when the war will be over,
    We’ll seek for the Wonderful One;
And maiden will look for her lover,
    And mother will look for her son;
And there will be end to our grieving,
    And gladness will gleam over loss,
As—glory, beyond all believing!—
    We point... to a name on a cross. [page 119]

MY PRISONER

WE was in a crump-’ole, ’im and me;
Fightin’ wiv our bayonets was we;
Fightin’ ’ard as ’ell we was,
Fightin’ fierce as fire because
    It was ’im or me as must be downed;
’E was twice as big as me;
I was ’arf the weight of ’e;
    We was like a terrier and a ’ound.

’Struth! But ’e was sich a ’andsome bloke.
Me, I’m ’andsome as a chunk o’ coke.
Did I give it ’im? Not ’arf!
Why, it fairly made me laugh,
    ’Cos ’is bloomin’ bellows wasn’t sound.
Couldn’t fight for monkey-nuts,
Soon I gets ’im in the guts,
    There ’e lies a-floppin’ on the ground. [page 120]

In I goes to finish up the job.
Quick ’e throws ’is ’ands above ’is nob;
Speakin’ English good as me:
“’Tain’t no use to kill,” says ’e;
    “Can’t yer tyke me prisoner instead?”
“Why, I’d like to, sir,” says I;
“But—yer knows the reason why:
    If we pokes our noses out we’re dead.

“Sorry, sir. Then on the other ’and
(As a gent like you must understand),
If I ’olds you longer ’ere,
Wiv yer pals so werry near,
    It’s me ’oo’ll ’ave a free trip to Berlin;
If I lets you go away,
Why, you’ll fight another day:
    See the sitooation I am in.

“Anyway, I’ll tell you wot I’ll do,
Bein’ kind and seein’ as it’s you,
Knowin’ ’ow it’s cold, the feel
Of a ’alf a yard o’ steel,
    I’ll let yer ’ave a rifle ball instead;
Now, jist think yerself in luck...
’Ere, ol’ man! You keep ’em stuck,
    Them saucy dooks o’ yours, above yer ’ead.” [page 121]

’Ow ’is mits shot up it made me smile.
’Ow ’e seemed to ponder for a while.
Then ’e says: “It seems a shyme,
Me, a man wot’s known ter fyme:
    Give me blocks of stone, I’ll give yer—gods.
Whereas, pardon me, I’m sure
You, my friend, are still obscure...”
    “In war,” says I, “that makes no blurry odds.”

Then says ’e: “I’ve painted picters too...
Oh, dear God! The work I planned to do,
And to think this is the end!”
“’Ere,” says I, “my hartist friend,
    Don’t you give yerself no friskin’ airs.
Picters, statoos, is that why
You should be let off to die?
    That the best ye done? Just say yer prayers.”

Once again ’e seems ter think awhile.
Then ’e smiles a werry ’aughty smile:
“Why, no, sir, it’s not the best;
There’s a locket next me breast,
    Picter of a gel ’oo’s eyes are blue.
That’s the best I’ve done,” says ’e;
“That’s me darter, aged three...”
    “Blimey!” says I, “I’ve a nipper too.” [page 122]

Straight I chucks my rifle to one side;
Shows ’im wiv a lovin’ father’s pride,
Me own little Mary Jane,
Proud ’e shows me ’is Elaine,
    And we talks as friendly as can be;
Then I ’elps ’im on ’is way,
’Opes ’e’s sife at ’ome to-day,
    Wonders—’ow would ’e ’ave treated me? [page 123]

TRI-COLOUR

Poppies, you try to tell me, glowing there in the wheat;
    Poppies! Ah no! You mock me: it’s blood, I tell you, it’s blood.
It’s gleaming wet in the grasses, it’s glist’ning warm in the wheat,
    It dabbles the ferns and the clover, it brims in an angry flood;
It leaps to the startled heavens, it smothers the sun, it cries
    With scarlet voices of triumph from blossom and bough and blade.
See the bright horror of it! It’s roaring out of the skies,
    And the whole red world is a-welter... Oh God! I’m afraid, I’m afraid.

Cornflowers, you say, just cornflowers, gemming the golden grain;
    Ah, no! You can’t deceive me. Can’t I believe my eyes? [page 124]
Look! It’s the dead, my comrades, stark on the dreadful plain,
    All in their dark-blue blouses, staring up at the skies.
Comrades of canteen laughter, dumb in the yellow wheat,
    See how they sprawl and huddle! See how their brows are white!
Goaded on to the shambles, there in death and defeat...
    Father of Pity, hide them! Hasten, O God,Thy night!

Lilies (the light is waning), only lilies, you say,
    Nestling and softly shining there where the spear-grass waves.
No, my friend, I know better; brighter I see than day:
   It’s the poor little wooden crosses over their quiet graves.
Oh, how they’re gleaming, gleaming! See! Each cross has a crown.
   Yes, it’s true, I am dying,—little  will be the loss...
Darkness... but look! In Heaven, a light, and it’s shining down...
   God’s accolade! Lift me up, friends. I’m going to win—my Cross. [page 125]

A POT OF TEA

YOU make it in your mess-tin by the brazier’s rosy gleam;
    You watch it cloud, then settle amber clear;
You lift it with your bay-nit, and you sniff the fragrant steam,
    The very breath of it is ripe with cheer.
You’re awful cold and dirty, and a-cursing of your lot;
You scoff the blushin’ ’alf of it, so rich and ripping hot;
It bucks you up like anythink, just seems to touch the spot:
       God bless the man that first discovered Tea.

Since I came out to fight in France (which ain’t the other day),
    I think I’ve drunk enough to float a barge;
All kinds of fancy foreign dope, from caffy and doo lay,
    To rum they serves you out before a charge; [page 126]
In back rooms of estaminays I’ve gurgled pints of cham;
I’ve swilled down mugs of cider till I’ve felt a bloomin’ dam;
But s’truth! they all ain’t in it with the vintage of Assam;
       God bless the man that first invented Tea.

I think them lazy lumps o’ gods wot kips on asphodel
    Swigs nectar that’s a flavour of Oolong;
I only wish them sons o’ guns a-grillin’ down in ’ell
    Could have their daily ration of Suchong.
Hurrah! I’m off to battle, which is ’ell and ’eaven too;
And if I don’t give some poor bloke a sexton’s job to do,
To-night by Fritz’s campfire won’t I ’ave a gorgeous brew,
        (For fightin’ mustn’t interfere with Tea).
To-night we’ll all be telling of the Boches that we slew,
       As we drink the giddy victory in Tea. [page 127]

THE REVELATION

The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut;
Chained all day to the same old desk, down in the same old rut;
Posting the same old greasy books, catching the same old train:
Oh, how will I manage to stick it all, if I ever get back again? 

We’ve bidden good-bye to life in a cage, we’re finished with pushing a pen;
They’re pumping us full of bellicose rage, they’re showing us how to be men;
We’re only beginning to find ourselves; we’re wonders of brawn and thew;
But when we go back to our Cissy jobs, Oh! what are we going to do? [page 128]

For shoulders curved with the counter stoop will be carried erect and square,
And faces white from the office light will be bronzed by the open air;
And we’ll walk with the stride of a new-born pride, with a new-found joy in our eyes,
Scornful men who have diced with death under the naked skies.

And when we get back to the dreary grind, and the bald-headed boss’s call,
Don’t you think that the dingy window-blind, and the dingier office wall
Will suddenly melt to a vision of space, of violent, flame-scarred night?
Then... Oh! the joy of the danger-thrill, and oh! the roar of the fight!

Don’t you think as we peddle a card of pins the counter will fade away,
And again we’ll be seeing the sand-bag rims, and the barb-wire’s misty grey?
As a flat voice asks for a pound of tea don’t you fancy we’ll hear instead
The night-wind moan and the soothing drone of the packet that’s overhead. [page 129]

Don’t you guess that the things we’re seeing now will haunt us through all the years;
Heaven and hell rolled into one, glory and blood and tears;
Life’s pattern picked with a scarlet thread, where once we wove with a grey,
To remind us all how we played our part in the shock of an epic day.

Oh, we’re booked for the Great Adventure now, we’re pledged to the Real Romance;
We’ll find ourselves or we’ll lose ourselves somewhere in giddy old France.
We’ll know the zest of the fighter’s life; the best that we have we’ll give,
We’ll hunger and thirst; we’ll die,... but first—we’ll live, by the gods, we’ll live!

We’ll breathe free air and we’ll bivouac under the starry sky;
We’ll march with men, and we’ll fight with men, and we’ll see men laugh and die;
We’ll know such joy as we never dreamed; we’ll fathom the deeps of pain;
But the hardest bit of it all will be—when we come back home again. [page 130]

For some of us smirk in a chiffon shop, and some of us teach in a school;
Some of us help with the seat of our pants to polish an office stool;
The merits of somebody’s soap or jam some of us seek to explain,
But all of us wonder what we’ll do when we have to go back again. [page 131]

GRAND-PÈRE

AND so when he reached my bed
    The General made a stand:
“My brave young fellow,” he said,
        “I would shake your hand.”

So I lifted my arm, the right,
    With never a hand at all;
Only a stump, a sight
        Fit to appal.

“Well, well. Now that’s too bad!
    That’s sorrowful luck,” he said;
“But there! You give me, my lad,
        The left instead.”

So from under the blanket’s rim
    I raised and showed him the other,
A snag as ugly and grim
        As its ugly brother. [page 132]

He looked at each jagged wrist,
    He looked, but he did not speak;
And then he bent down and kissed
        Me on either cheek.

You wonder now I don’t mind
    I hadn’t a hand to offer;
They tell me (you know I’m blind)
        ’Twas Grand-père Joffre. [page 133]

SON

HE hurried away, young heart of joy, under our Devon sky!
And I watched him go, my beautiful boy, and a wary woman was I. 
For my hair is grey, and his was gold; he’d the best of his life to live,
And I’d loved him so, and I’m old, I’m old, and he’s all I had to give.

Ah yes, he was proud and swift and gay; but oh! how my eyes were dim!
With the sun in his heart he went away, but he took the sun with him.
For look! How the leaves are falling now, and the Winter won’t be long...
Oh! boy, my boy with the sunny brow, and the lips of love and of song! [page 134]

How we used to sit at the day’s sweet end, we two by the firelight’s gleam;
And we’d drift to the Valley of Let’s Pretend, on the Bountiful River of Dream.
Oh, dear little heart! All wealth untold would I gladly, gladly pay
Could I just for a moment closely hold that golden head to my grey.

For I gaze in the fire, and I’m seeing there a child, and he waves to me;
And I run and I hold him up in the air, and he laughs and shouts with glee;
A little bundle of love and mirth, crying: “Come, Mumsie dear!”
Ah me! If he called from the ends of the earth I know that my heart would hear.

Yet the thought comes thrilling through all my pain: how worthier could he die?
Yea, a loss like that is a glorious gain, and pitiful proud am I.
For Peace must be bought with blood and tears, and the boys of our hearts must pay;
And so in our joy of the after years, let us bless them every day. [page 135]

And though I know there’s a hasty grave with a poor little cross at its head,
And the gold of his youth he so gladly gave, yet to me he’ll never be dead.
And the sun in my Devon lane will be gay, and my boy will be with me still,
So I’m finding the heart to smile and say: “Oh God, if it be Thy will!” [page 136]

THE BLACK DUDEEN

       Humping it here in the dug-out,
           Sucking me black dudeen,
       I’d like to say, in a general way,
           There’s nothing like Nickyteen;
       There’s nothing like Nickyteen, my boys,
           Be it pipes or snipes or cigars;
       So be sure that a bloke
       Has plenty to smoke,
           If you wants him to fight your wars.

When I’ve eat my fill and my belt is snug,
I begin to think of my baccy plug;
I whittle a fill in my horny palm,
And the bowl of me old clay pipe I cram.
I trim the edges, I tamp it down,
I nurse a light with an anxious frown;
I begin to draw, and my cheeks tuck in,
And all my face is a blissful grin:
And up in a cloud the good smoke goes,
And the good pipe glimmers and fades and glows; [page 137]
In its throat it chuckles a cheery song,
For I likes it hot and I likes it strong.
Oh! it’s good is grub when you’re feeling hollow,
But the best of a meal’s the smoke to follow.  

There was Micky and me on a night patrol, 
Having to hide in a fizz-bang hole;
And sure I thought I was worse than dead,
Wi’ them crump-crumps hustlin’ over me head.
Sure I thought ’twas the dirty spot,
Hammer and tongs till the air was hot.
And, mind you, water up to your knees.
And cold! A monkey of brass would freeze.
And if we ventured our noses out
A “type-writer” clattered its pill about.
The Field of Glory! Well, I don’t think!
I’d sooner be safe and snug in clink.

Then Micky, he goes and he cops one bad,
(He always was having ill luck, poor lad).
Says he: “Old chummy, I’m booked right through;
Death and me ’ad a wrongday-voo.
But... ’aven’t you got a pinch of shag?
I’d sell me perishin’ soul for a fag.”
And there he shivered and cussed his luck,
So I gave him me old black pipe to suck. [page 138]
And he heaves a sigh, and he takes to it
Like a babby takes to his mammy’s tit;
Like an infant takes to his mother’s breast,
Poor little Micky! he went to rest.

But the dawn was near, though the night was black,
So I left him there and I started back.
And I laughed as the silly old bullets came,
For the bullet ain’t made wot’s got me name.
Yet some of ’em buzzed onhealthily near,
And one little blighter just chipped me ear.
But there! I got to the trench all right,
When sudden I jumped wi’ a start o’ fright,
And a word that doesn’t look well in type:
I’d clean forgotten me old clay pipe.

So I had to do it all over again, 
Crawling out on that filthy plain.
Through shells and bombs and bullets and all—
Only this time I do not crawl.
I run like a man wot’s missing a train,
Or a tom-cat caught in a plump of rain.
I hear the spit of a quick-fire gun
Tickle my heels, but I run, I run,
Through crash and crackle, and flicker and flame,
(Oh! the packet ain’t issued wot’s got me name!) [page 139]

I run like a man that’s no ideer
Of hunting around for a sooveneer.
I run bang into a German chap,
And he stares like an owl, so I bash his map.
And just to show him that I’m his boss,
I gives him a kick on the parados;
And I marches him back with me all serene,
Wiv, tucked in my gub, me old dudeen.

       Sitting here in the trenches
           Me heart’s a-splittin’ with spleen
       For a parcel o’ lead comes missing me head,
           But it smashes me old dudeen.
       God blast that red-headed sniper!
           I’ll give him something to snipe;
       Before the war’s through
       Just see how I do
           That blighter that smashed me pipe. [page 140]

THE LITTLE PIOU-PIOU

OH! some of us lolled in the château,
    And some of us slinked in the slum;
But now we are here with a song and a cheer
    To serve at the sign of the drum.
They put us in trousers of scarlet,
    In big sloppy ulsters of blue;
In boots that are flat, a box of a hat,
    And they call us the little piou-piou,
                Piou-piou,
The laughing and quaffing piou-piou,
The swinging and singing piou-piou;
And so with a rattle we march to the battle,
The weary but cheery piou-piou.

        Encore un petit verre de vin.
        Pour nous mettre en route;
        Encore un petit verre de vin
        Pour nous mettre en train. [page 141]

They drive us head-on for the slaughter;
    We haven’t got mush of a chance;
The issue looks bad, but we’re awfully glad
    To battle and die for La France.
For some must be killed, that is certain;
    There’s only one’s duty to do;
So we leap to the fray in the glorious way
    They expect of the little piou-piou.
                En avant!
The way of the gallant piou-piou,
The dashing and smashing piou-piou;
The way grim and gory that leads us to glory
Is the way of the little piou-piou.

        Allons enfants de la Patrie,
        Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

To-day you would scarce recognize us, 
    Such veterans war-wise are we;
So grimy and hard, so calloused and scarred,
    So “crummy,” yet gay as can be,
We’ve finished with trousers of scarlet,
    They’re giving us breeches of blue,
With a helmet instead of a cap on our head,—
    Yet still we’re the little piou-piou.
                Nous les aurons! [page 142]
The jesting, unresting piou-piou,
 The cheering, unfearing piou-piou;
The keep-your-head-level and fight-like-the-devil,
The dying, defying piou-piou.

        À la bayonette! Jusqu’a la mort!
        Sonnez la charge, clairons! [page 143]

BILL THE BOMBER

THE poppies gleamed like bloody pools through cotton-woolly mist;
The Captain kept a-lookin’ at the watch upon his wrist;
And there we smoked and squatted, as we watched the shrapnel flame;
’Twas wonnerful, I’m tellin’ you, how fast them bullets came.
’Twas weary work the waiting, though; I tried to sleep a wink,
For waitin’ means a-thinkin’, and it doesn’t do to think.
So I closed my eyes a little, and I had a niceish dream
Of a-standin’ by a dresser with a dish of Devon cream;
But I hadn’t time to sample it, for sudden-like I woke;
“Come on, me lads!” the Captain says, ’n I climbed out through the smoke. [page 144]

We spread out in the open: it was like a bath of lead;
But the boys they cheered and hollered fit to raise the bloody dead,
Till a beastly bullet copped ’em, then they lay without a sound,
And it’s odd,—we didn’t seem to ’eed them corpses on the ground.
And I kept on thinkin’, thinkin’, as the bullets faster flew,
How they picks the werry best men, and they lets the rotters through;
So indiscriminatin’ like, they spares a man of sin,
And a rare lad wots a husband and a father gets done in.
And while havin’ these reflections and advancin’ on the run,
A bullet biffs me shoulder, and says I: “That’s number one.”

Well, it downed me for a jiffy, but I didn’t lose me calm,
For I knew that I was needed; I’m a bomber, so I am.
I ’ad lost me cap and rifle, but I “carried on” because
I ’ad me bombs and knew that they was needed so they was. [page 145]
We didn’t ’ave no singin’ now, nor many men to cheer;
Maybe the shrapnel drowned ’em, crashin’ out so werry near;
And the Maxims got us sideways, and the bullets faster flew,
And I copped one on me flipper, and says I: “That’s number two.”

I was pleased it was the left one, for I ’ad me bombs, ye see,
And ’twas ’ard if they’d be wasted like, and all along o’ me.
And I’d lost me ’at and rifle—but I told you that before,
So I packed me mit inside me coat and “carried on” once more.
But the rumpus it was wicked, and the men were scarcer yet,
And I felt me ginger goin’, but me jaws I kinda set;
And we passed the Boche first trenches, which was ’eapin’ ’igh with dead,
And we started for their second, which was fifty feet ahead, [page 146]
When somethink like a ’ammer smashed me savage on the knee,
And down I came all muck and blood. Says I: “That’s number three.”

So there I lay all ’elpless like, and bloody sick at that,
And worryin’ like anythink, because I’d lost me’at;
And thinkin’ of me missis, and the partin’ words she said:
“If you gets killed, write quick, ol’ man, and tell me as you’re dead.”
And lookin’ at me bunch o’ bombs,—that  was the ’ardest blow,
To think I’d never ’ave the chance to ’url them at the foe.
And there was all our boys in front, a-fightin’ there like mad,
And me as could ’ave ’elped ’em wiv the lovely bombs I ’ad.
And so I cussed and cussed, and then I struggled back again,
Into that bit of battered trench, packed solid with its slain. [page 147]

Now as I lay a-lyin’ there and blastin’ of me lot,
And wishin’ I could just dispose of all them bombs I’d got,
I sees within the doorway of a shy, retirin’ dug-out
Six Boches all a-grinnin’, and their Captain stuck ’is mug out;
And they ’ad a nice machine gun, and I twigged what they was at,
And they fixed it on a tripod, and I watched ’em like a cat;
And they got it in position, and they seemed so werry glad,
Like they’d got us in a death-trap, which, condemn their souls! they ’ad:
For there our boys was fightin’ fifty yards in front, and ’ere
This lousy bunch of Boches they ’ad got us in the rear.

Oh! it set me blood a-boilin’ and I quite forgot me pain;
So I started crawlin’, crawlin’ over all them mounds of slain; [page 148]
And them barstards was so busy like they ’ad no eyes for me,
And me bleedin’ leg was draggin’, but me right arm it was free...
And now they ’ave it all in shape, and swingin’ sweet and clear,
And now they’re all excited like, but—I am drawin’ near;
And now they ’ave it loaded up, and now they’re takin’ aim...
Rat-tat-tat-tat! Oh here, says I, is where I join the game.
And my right arm it goes swingin’, and a bomb it goes a-slingin’,
And that “typewriter” goes wingin’ in a thunderbolt of flame.

Then those Boches, wot was left of them, they tumbled down their ’ole,
And up I climbed a mound of dead, and down on them I stole.
And oh! that blessèd moment when I heard their frightened yell,
And I laughed down in that dug-out, ere I bombed their souls to hell! [page 149]
And now I’m in the hospital, surprised that I’m alive.
We started out a thousand men, we came back thirty-five.
And I’m minus of a trotter, but I’m most amazin’ gay,
For me bombs they wasn’t wasted, though, you might say, “thrown away.” [page 150]

THE WHISTLE OF SANDY McGRAW

YOU may talk o’ your lutes and your dulcimers fine,
    Your harps and your tabors and cymbals and a’,
But here in the trenches jist gi’e me for mine,
    The wee penny whistle o’ Sandy McGraw
Oh! it’s: “Sandy, ma lad, will you lilt us a tune?”
    And Sandy is willin’ and trillin’ like mad;
Sae silvery sweet that we a’ throng aroun’,
    And some o’ it’s gay, but the maist o’ it’s sad.
Jist the wee simple airs that sink intae your hert,
    And grup ye wi’ love and wi’ longin’ for hame;
And ye glour like an owl till you’re feelin’ the stert
    O’ a tear, and you blink wi’ a feelin’ o’ shame.
For his song’s o’ the heather, and here in the dirt
    You listen and dream o’ a land that’s sae braw,
And he mak’s you forget a’ the harm and the hurt,
    For he pipes like a laverock, does Sandy McGraw.

[page 151]

At Eepers I mind me when rank upon rank
    We rose from the trenches and swept like the gale,
Till the rapid-fire guns got us fell on the flank
    And the murderin’ bullets came swishin’ like hail:
Till a’ that were left o’ us faltered and broke;
    Till it seemed for a moment a panicky rout,
When shrill through the fume and the flash and the smoke
    The wee valiant voice o’ a whistle piped out
“The Campbells are Comin’”: Then into the fray
    We bounded wi’ bayonets reekin’ and raw,
And oh! we fair revelled in glory that day,
    Jist thanks to the whistle o’ Sandy McGraw.

At Loose, it wis after a sconnersome fecht,
    On the field o’ the slain I wis crawlin’ aboot,
And the rockets were burnin’ red holes in the nicht,
    And the guns they were veciously thunderin’ oot.
When sudden I heard a bit sound like a sigh,
    And there in a crump-hole a kiltie I saw:
“Whit ails ye, ma lad? Are ye woundit?” says I.
     “I’ve lost ma wee whustle,” says Sandy McGraw. [page 152]
“’Twas oot by yon bing where we pressed the attack,
    It drapped frae ma pooch, and between noo and dawn
There isna much time, so I’m jist crawlin’ back.”
     “Ye’re daft, man!” I telt him, but Sandy wis gone.
Weel, I waited a wee, then I crawled oot masel’,
    And the big stuff wis gorin’ and roarin’ around,
And I seemed tae be under the oxter o’ hell,
    And creation wis crackin’ tae bits by the sound,
And I says in ma mind: “Gang ye back, ye auld fule!”
    When I thrilled tae a note that wis saucy and sma’;
And there in a crater, collected and cool,
    Wi’ his wee penny whistle wis Sandy McGraw.
Ay, there he wis playin’ as gleg as could be,
    And listenin’ hard wis a spectacled Boche;
Then Sandy turned roon’ and he noddit tae me,
    And he says: “Dinna blab on me, Sergeant McTosh.
The auld chap is deein’. He likes me tae play,
    It’s makin’ him happy. Jist see his een shine!”
And thrillin’ and sweet in the hert o’ the fray
    Wee Sandy wis playin’ “The Watch on the Rhine.”

[page 153]

The last scene o’ a’,— ’twas the day that we took
    That bit o’ black ruin they ca’ Labbiesell.
It seemed the hale hillside jist shivered and shook,
    And the red skies were roarin’ and spewin’ oot shell.
And the Sergeants were cursin’ tae keep us in hand,
    And hard on the leash we were strainin’ like dugs,
When upward we shot at the word o’ command,
    And the bullets were dingin’ their songs in oor lugs.
And onward we swept wi’ a yell and a cheer,
    And a’ wis destruction, confusion and din,
And we knew that the trench o’ the Boches was near,
    And it seemed jist the safest bit hole tae be in.
So we a’ tumbled doon, and the Boches were there,
    And they held up their hands, and they yelled: “Kamarad!”
And I marched aff wi’ ten, wi’ their palms in the air,
    And my, I was proodlike, and my! I was glad.
And I thocht: if ma lassie could see me jist then...
    When sudden I sobered at somethin’ I saw, [page 154]
And I stopped and I stared, and I halted ma men,
    For there on a stretcher wis Sandy McGraw.
Weel, he looks in ma face, jist as pert as ye please:
     “Ye ken hoo I hate tae be workin’,” says he;
“But noo I can play in the street for bawbees,
    Wi’ baith o’ ma legs taken aff at the knee.”
And though I could see his wis rackit wi’ pain,
    He reached for his whistle and started tae play;
And quaverin’ sweet wis the plaintive refrain:
“The flo’ers o‘ the forest are a’ wede away.”
Then sudden he stoppit: “Man, wis it no’ grand
    Hoo we took a’ them trenches?” ... He shakit his heid:
“I’ll—no’—play—nae—mair— ” feebly doon frae his hand
    Slipped the wee penny whistle and... Sandy wis deid.

And so ye may talk o’ your Steinways and Strads,
    Your wunnerfu’ organs and brasses sae braw,
But oot in the trenches jist gi’e me, ma lads,
    Yon wee penny whistle o’ Sandy McGraw. [page 155]

THE STRETCHER-BEARER

MY stretcher is one scarlet stain,
    And as I tries to scrape it clean,
I tell you wot,—I’m sick with pain
    For all I’ve ’eard, for all I’ve seen;
Around me is the ’ellish night,
    And as the war’s red rim I trace,
I wonder if in ’Eaven’s height,
    Our God don’t turn away ’Is face.

                I don’t care ’ose the Crime may be;
                    I holds no brief for kin or clan;
                I ’ymns no ’ate; I only see
                    As man destroys ’is brother man;
                I waves no flag; I only know,
                    As ’ere beside the dead I wait,
                A million ’earts is weighed with woe,
                    A million ’omes is desolate. [page 156]

In dripping darkness, far and near, 
    All night I’ve sought them woeful ones.
Dawn shudders up and still I ’ear
    The crimson chorus of the guns.
Look! like a ball of blood the sun
    ’Angs o’er the scene of wrath and wrong—
“Quick! Stretcher-bearers on the run!”
    O Prince of Peace! ’ow long, ’ow long? [page 157]

WOUNDED

Is it not strange? A year ago to-day,
    With scarce a thought beyond the humdrum round,
I did my decent job and earned my pay;
    Was averagely happy, I’ll be bound.
Ay, in my little groove I was content,
    Seeing my life run smoothly to the end,
With prosy days in stolid labour spent,
    And jolly nights, a pipe, a glass, a friend.
In God’s good time a hearth-fire’s cosy gleam,
    A wife and kids, and all a fellow needs;
When presto! like a bubble goes my dream:
    I  leap upon the Stage of Splendid Deeds.
I yell with rage; I wallow deep in gore:
I, that was clerk in a drysalter’s store.

Stranger than any book I’ve ever read:
    Here on the reeking battlefield I lie
Under the stars, propped up with smeary dead,
    Like, too, if no one takes me in, to die. [page 158]
Hit on the arms, legs, liver, lungs and gall;
    Damn glad there’s nothing more of me to hit;
But calm, and feeling never pain at all,
    And full of wonder at the turn of it.
For of the dead around me three are mine,
    Three foemen vanquished in the whirl of fight;
So if I die I have no right to whine,
    I feel I’ve done my little bit all right;
I don’t know how,—but there the beggars are,
As dead as herrings pickled in a jar.

And here am I, worse wounded than I thought;
    For in the fight a bullet bee-like stings;
You never heed; the air is metal-hot,
    And all alive with little flicking wings.
But on you charge. You see the fellows fall;
    Your pal was by your side, fair fighting-mad;
You turn to him, and lo! no pal at all;
    You wonder vaguely if he’s copped it bad.
But on you charge. The heavens vomit death;
    And vicious death is besoming the ground.
You’re blind with sweat; you’re dazed, and out of breath,
    And though you yell, you cannot hear a sound.
But on you charge. Oh! War’s a rousing game!
    Around you smoky clouds like ogres tower;
The earth is rowelled deep with spurs of flame,
    And on your helmet stones and ashes shower. [page 159]

But on you charge. It’s odd! You have no fear.
    Machine-gun bullets whip and lash your path;
Red, yellow, black and smoky giants rear;
    The shrapnel rips, the heavens roar in wrath.
But on you charge. Barbed wire all trampled down,
    The ground all gored and rent as by a blast;
Grim heaps of grey where once were heaps of brown;
    A ragged ditch, the Hun first line at last.
All smashed to hell. Their second right ahead.
    So on you charge. There’s nothing else to do.
More reeking holes, blood, barbed wire, gruesome dead;
     (Your puttee strap’s undone,—that worries you.)
You glare around. You think you’re all alone.
    But no; your chums come surging left and right.
The nearest chap flops down without a groan,
    His face still snarling with the rage of fight.
Ha! here’s the second trench,—just like the first,
    Only a little more so, more “laid out”;
More pounded, flame-corroded, death-accurst;
    A pretty piece of work, beyond a doubt. [page 160]

Now for the third, and there your job is done,
    So on you charge. You never stop to think.
Your cursèd puttee’s trailing as you run;
    You feel you’d sell your soul to have a drink.
The acrid air is full of cracking whips.
    You wonder how it is you’re going still.
You foam with rage. Oh God! to be at grips.
    With someone you can rush and crush and kill.
Your sleeve is dripping blood; you’re seeing red;
    You’re battle-mad; your turn is coming now.
See! there’s the jagged barbed wire straight ahead,
    And there’s the trench,—you’ll get there anyhow.
Your puttee catches on a strand of wire,
    And down you go; perhaps it saves your life,
For over sandbag rims you see ’em fire,
    Crop-headed chaps, their eyes ablaze with strife.
You crawl, you cover, then once again you plunge
    With all your comrades roaring at your heels.
Have at ’em, lad! You stab, you jab, you lunge;
    A blaze of glory, then the red world reels.
A crash of triumph, then... you’re faint a bit...
    That cursèd puttee! Now to fasten it... [page 161]

Well, that’s the charge, and now I’m here alone.
    I’ve built a little wall of Hun on Hun;
To shield me from the leaden bees that drone;
     (It saves me worry, and it hurts ’em none.)
The only thing I’m wondering is when
    Some stretcher-men will stroll along my way?
It isn’t much that’s left of me, but then
    Where life is, hope is, so at least they say.
Well, if I’m spared I’ll be the happy lad,
    I tell you I won’t envy any king.
I’ve stood the racket, and I’m proud and glad;
    I’ve had my crowning hour. Oh, War’s the thing!
It gives us common, working chaps our chance,
    A taste of glory, chivalry, romance.  

Ay, War, they say, is hell; it’s heaven, too.
    It lets a man discover what he’s worth.
It takes his measure, shows what he can do,
    Gives him a joy like nothing else on earth.
It fans in him a flame that otherwise
    Would flicker out, these drab and sordid days;
It teaches him in pain and sacrifice
    Faith, fortitude, grim courage past all praise. [page 162]

Yes, War is good. So here beside my slain,
    A happy wreck I wait amid the din,
For even if I perish mine’s the gain...
    Hi there, you fellows! Won’t you take me in?
Give me a fag to smoke upon the way...
    We’ve taken La Boiselle! The hell, you say!
Well, that would make a corpse sit up and grin...
    Lead on! I’ll live to fight another day. [page 163]

FAITH

SINCE all that is was ever bound to be;
    Since grim, eternal laws our Being bind;
    And both the riddle and the answer find;
And both the carnage and the calm decree;
Since plain within the Book of Destiny
    Is written all the journey of mankind
    Inexorably to the end; since blind
And mortal puppets playing parts are we:

Then let’s have faith; good cometh out of ill;
    The power that shaped the strife shall end the strife;
Then let’s bow down before the Unknown Will;
     Fight on, believing all is well with life;
Seeing within the worst of War’s red rage,
The gleam, the glory of the Golden Age. [page 164]

THE COWARD

’AVE you seen Bill’s mug in the Noos to-day?
’E’s gyned the Victoriar Cross, they say;
Little Bill wot would grizzle and run away,
    If you ’it ’im a swipe on the jawr.
’E’s slaughtered the Kaiser’s men in tons;
’E’s captured one of their quick-fire guns,
And ’e ’adn’t no practice in killin’ ’Uns
    Afore ’e went off to the war.

Little Bill wot I nussed in ’is byby clothes;
Little Bill wot told me ’is childish woes;
’Ow often I’ve tidied ’is pore little nose
    Wiv the ’em of me pinnyfore.
And now all the papers ’is praises ring,
And ’e’s been and ’e’s shaken the ’and of the King,
And I sawr ’im to-day in the ward, pore thing,
    Where they’re patching ’im up once more. [page 165]

And ’e says: “Wot d’ye think of it, Lizer Ann?”
And I says: “Well, I can’t make it out, old man;
You’d ’ook it as soon as a scrap began,
    When you was a bit of a kid;”
And ’e whispers: “’Ere, on the quiet, Liz,
They’re makin’ too much of the ’ole dam biz,
And the papers is printin’ me ugly phiz,
    But... I’m ’anged if I know wot I did.

“Oh, the Captain comes and ’e says: ‘Look ’ere!
They’re far too quiet out there; it’s queer.
They’re up to somethin’,—’oo’ll volunteer
    To crawl in the dark and see?’
Then I felt me ’eart like a ’ammer go,
And up jumps a chap and ’e says: ‘Right O!’
But I chips in straight, and says, ‘Oh, no!
    ’E’s a missis and kids,—take me!’

“And the next I knew I was sneakin’ out,
And the oozy corpses was all about,
And I felt so scared I wanted to shout,
    And my skin fair prickled wiv fear;
And I sez: ‘You coward! You ’ad no right
To take on the job of a man this night,’
Yet still I kept creepin’ till (’orrid sight!)
    The trench of the ’Uns was near. [page 166]

“It was all so dark, it was all so still,
Yet somethin’ pushed me against me will;
’Ow I wanted to turn! Yet I crawled until
    I was seein’ a dim light shine.
Then thinks I: ‘I’ll just go a little bit,
And see wot the doose I can make of it,’
And it seemed to come from the mouth of a pit:
    ‘Christmas!’ sez I, ‘a mine.’

“Then ’ere’s the part wot I can’t explain:
I wanted to make for ’ome again,
But somethin’ was blazin’ inside me brain,
    So I crawled to the trench instead;
Then I saw the bullet ’ead of a ’Un,
And ’e stood by a rapid-firer gun,
And I lifted a rock and I ’it ’im one,
    And ’e dropped like a chunk o’ lead.

“Then all the ’Uns that was underground, 
Comes up with a rush and on with a bound,
And I swings that giddy old Maxim round
    And belts ’em solid and square.
You see I was off me chump wiv fear,
‘If I’m sellin’ me life,’ sez I, ‘it’s dear,’
And the trench was narrow and they was near,
    So I peppered the brutes for fair. [page 167]

“So I ’eld ’em back and I yelled with fright,
And the boys attacked and we ’ad a fight,
And we ‘captured a section o’ trench’ that night
    Which we didn’t expect to get;
And they found me there with me Maxim gun,
And I’d laid out a score if I’d laid out one,
And I fainted away when the thing was done,
    And I ’aven’t got over it yet.”

So that’s the ’istory Bill told me.
Of course it’s all on the strict Q. T.;
It wouldn’t do to get out, you see,
    As ’e hacted against ’is will.
But ’e’s convalescin’ wiv all ’is might,
And ’e ’opes to be fit for another fight;
Say! Ain’t ’e a bit of the real, all right?
    Wot’s the matter with Bill! [page 168]

MISSIS MORIARTY’S BOY

MISSIS MORIARTY called last week, and says she to me, says she:
    “Sure the heart of me’s broken entirely now; it’s the fortunate woman you are;
You’ve still got your Dinnis to cheer up your home, but me Patsy boy, where is he?
    Lyin’ alone, cold as stone, kilt in the weariful wahr.
Sure I’m seein’ him now as I looked on him last, wid his hair all curly and bright,
    And the wonderful, tenderful heart he had, and his eyes as he wint away,
Shinin’ and lookin’ down on me from the pride of his proper height:
    Sure I’ll remember me boy like that if I live till me dyin’ day.”

And just as she spoke them very same words me Dinnis came in at the door,
    Come in from McGonigle’s ould shebeen, came in from drinkin’ his pay;
And Missis Moriarty looked at him, and she didn’t say anny more,
    And she wrapped her head in her ould black shawl, and she quietly wint away. [page 169]
And what was I thinkin’, I ask ye now, as I put me Dinnis to bed?
    Wid him ravin’ and cursin’ one half of the night, as cold by his side I sat;
Was I thinkin’ the poor ould woman she was wid her Patsy slaughtered and dead?
    Was I weepin’ for Missis Moriarty? I’m not so sure about that.

Missis Moriarty goes about wid a shinin’ look on her face,
    Wid her grey hair under her ould black shawl, and the eyes of her mother-mild;
Some say she’s a little bit off her head, but annyway it’s the case,
   Her timper’s so swate that you never would tell she’d be losin’ her only child.
And I think, as I wait up every night for me Dinnis to come home blind,
   And I’m hearin’ his stumblin’ foot on the stair along about half-past three:
Sure there’s many a way of breakin’ a heart,—and I haven’t made up me mind:
   Would I be Missis Moriarty, or Missis Moriarty me? [page 170]

MY FOE

A Belgian priest-soldier speaks:

GURR! You cochon! Stand and fight!
Show your mettle! Snarl and bite!
Spawn of an accursèd race,
Turn and meet me face to face!
Here amid the wreck and rout
Let us grip and have it out!
Here where ruins rock and reel
Let us settle steel to steel!
Look! Our houses, how they spit
Sparks from brands your friends have lit.
See! Our gutters running red,
Bright with blood your friends have shed.
Hark! Amid your drunken brawl
How our maidens shriek and call.
Why have you come here alone,
To this hearth’s blood-spattered stone?
Come to ravish, come to loot,
Come to play the ghoulish brute.
Ah, indeed! We well are met,
Bayonet to bayonet.
God! I never killed a man:
Now I’ll do the best I can. [page 171]
Rip you to the evil heart,
Laugh to see the life-blood start.
Bah! You swine! I hate you so.
Show you mercy? No!... and no!...

There! I’ve done it. See! He lies
Death a-staring from his eyes;
Glazing eyeballs, panting breath,—
How it’s horrible, is Death!
Plucking at his bloody lips
With his trembling finger-tips;
Choking in a dreadful way
As if he would something say
In that uncouth tongue of his...
Oh, how horrible Death is!

How I wish that he would die!
So unnerved, unmanned am I.
See! His twitching face is white!
See! His bubbling blood is bright.
Why do I not shout with glee?
What strange spell is over me?
There he lies; the fight was fair;
Let me toss my cap in air.
Why am I so silent? Why
Do I pray for him to die?
Where is all my vengeful joy?
Ugh! My foe is but a boy. [page 172]

I’d a brother of his age
Perished in the war’s red rage;
Perished in the Ypres hell:
Oh! I loved my brother well.
And though I be hard and grim,
How it makes me think of him!
He had just such flaxen hair
As the lad that’s lying there.
Just such frank blue eyes were his...
God! How horrible war is!

I have reason to be gay:
There is one less foe to slay.
I have reason to be glad:
Yet—my foe is such a lad.
So I watch in dull amaze,
See his dying eyes a-glaze,
See his face grow glorified,
See his hands outstretched and wide
To that bit of ruined wall
Where the flames have ceased to crawl,
Where amid the crumbling bricks
Hangsa blackened crucifix.

Now, oh! now I understand,
Quick I press it in his hand,
Close his feeble finger-tips,
Hold it to his faltering lips. [page 173]
As I watch his welling blood
I would stem it if I could.
God of Pity, let him live!
God of Love, forgive, forgive!

His face looked strangely, as he died,
Like that of One they crucified.
And in the pocket of his coat
I found a letter; thus he wrote:
The things I’ve seen! Oh mother, dear,
I’m wondering—can God be here?
To-night amid the drunken brawl
I saw a cross hung on a wall;
I’ll seek it now, and there alone
Perhaps I may atone, atone...

Ah no! ’Tis I who must atone.
No other saw but God alone,
Yet how can I forget the sight
Of that face so woeful white?
Dead, I kissed him as he lay,
Knelt by him and tried to pray;
Left him lying there at rest,
Crucifix upon his breast.

Not for him the pity be:
Ye who pity, pity me, 
Crawling now the ways I trod,
Blood-guilty in sight of God. [page 174]

MY JOB

pre>I’VE got a little job on ’and, the time is drawin’ nigh,
At seven by the Captain’s watch I’m due to go and do it;
I wants to ’ave it nice and neat, and pleasin’ to the eye,
And I ’opes the God of soldier men’ll see me safely through it.
Because you see it’s somethin’ I ’ave never done before;
And till you ’as experience noo stunts is always tryin’;
The chances is I’ll never ’ave to do it any more:
At seven by the Captain’s watch my little job is… dyin’.

I’ve got a little note to write, I’d best begin it now.
I ain’t much good at writing’ notes, but here goes: “Dearest Mother,
I’ve been in many ’ot old ‘does’; I’ve scraped through safe some’ow,
But now I’m on the very point of tacklin’ another. [page 175]
A little job of hand-grenades; they called for volunteers.
They picked me out: I’m proud of it; it seems a trifle dicky.
If anythin’ should ’appen, well, there ain’t no call for tears,
And so… I ’opes this finds you well.— You werry lovin’ Micky.”

I’ve got a little score to settle wiv them swine out there.
I’ve ’ad so many of me pals done in it’s quite upset me.
I’ve seen so much of bloody death I don’t seem for to care,
If I can only even up, how soon the blighters get me.
I’m sorry for them perishers that corpses in abed;
I only ’opes mine’s short and sweet, no linger-longer-lyin’;
I made a mess of life, but now I’ll try to make instead—
It’s seven sharp—good-bye, old pals!… a decent job in dyin’. [page 176]

THE SONG OF THE PACIFIST

WHAT do they matter, our headlong hates, when we take the toll of our Dead?
Think ye our glory and gain will pay for the torrent of blood we have shed?
By the cheers of our victory will the heart of the mother be comforted?

If by the victory all we mean is a broken and brooding foe;
Is the pomp and power of a glitt’ring hour, and a truce for an age or so:
By the clay-cold hand on the broken blade we have smitten a bootless blow!

If by the triumph we only prove that the sword we sheathe is bright;
That justice and truth and love endure; that Freedom’s throned on the height;
That the feebler folks shall be unafraid; that Might shall never be Right; [page 177]

If this be all: by the blood-drenched plains, by the havoc of fire and fear,
By the rending roar of the War of Wars, by the dead so doubly dear—
Then our victory is a vast defeat, and it mocks us as we cheer.

Victory! there can be but one, hallowed in every land:
When by the graves of our common dead we who were foemen stand,
And in the hush of our common grief hand is tendered to hand.

Triumph! Yes, when out of the dust in the splendour of their release
The spirits of those who fell go forth and they hallow our hearts to peace,
And, brothers in pain, with world-wide voice, we clamour that War shall cease.

Glory! Ay, when from blackest loss shall be born most radiant gain;
When over the gory fields shall rise a star that never shall wane:
Then and then only our dead shall know that they have not fall’n in vain. [page 178]

When our children’s children shall talk of War as a madness that may not be;
When we thank our God for our grief to-day, and blazen from sea to sea
In the name of the dead the banner of Peace... that will be Victory. [page 179]

THE TWINS

THERE were two brothers, John and James,
And when the town went up in flames,
To save the house of James dashed John,
Then turned, and lo! his own was gone.

And when the great World War began,
To volunteer John promptly ran;
And while he learned live bombs to lob,
James stayed at home and—sneaked his job.

John came home with a missing limb;
That didn’t seem to worry him;
But oh! it set his brain awhirl
To find that James had—sneaked his girl!

Time passed. John tried his grief to drown;
To-day James owns one half the town;
His Army Contracts riches yield;
And John? Well, search the Potter’s Field. [page 180]

THE SONG OF THE SOLDIER-BORN

Give me the scorn of the stars and a peak defiant;
Wail of the pines and a wind with the shout of a giant;
Night and a trail unknown, and a heart reliant.

Give me to live and love in the old, bold fashion,
A soldier’s billet at night, and a soldier’s ration,
A heart that leaps to the fight with a soldier’s passion.

For I hold as a simple faith, there’s no denying,
The trade of a soldier’s the only trade worth plying;
The death of a soldier’s the only death worth dying.

So let me go, and leave your safety behind me;
Go the spaces of hazard, where nothing shall bind me;
Go till the world is War, and then you will find me. [page 181]

Then you will call me and claim me, because you will need me;
Cheer me and gird me and into the battle-wrath speed me...
And when it’s over, spurn me, and no longer heed me.

For guile and a purse gold-greased are the arms you carry;
With deeds of paper you fight, and with pens you parry;
You call on the hounds of the law your foes to harry.

You with your: “Art for its own sake,” posing and prinking;
You with your: “Live and be merry,” eating and drinking;
You with your: “Peace at all hazard,” from bright blood shrinking.

Fools! I will tell you now,—though the red rain patters,
And a million of men go down, it’s little it matters...
There’s the Flag up-flung to the stars, though it streams in tatters. [page 182]

There’s the glory gold never can buy to yearn and to cry for;
There’s a hope that’s as old as the sky to suffer and sigh for;
There’s a faith that out-dazzles the sun to martyr and die for.

Ah, no! it’s my dream that War will never be ended;
That men will perish like men, and valour be splendid;
That the Flag by the sword will be served, and honour defended.

That the tale of my fights will never be ancient story;
That thought my eye may be dim and my beard be hoary,
I’ll die as a soldier dies—on the Field of Glory.

So give me a strong right arm for a wrong’s swift righting;
Stave of a song on my lips as my sword is smiting;
Death in my boots, maybe, but fighting, fighting. [page 183]

AFTERNOON TEA

AS I was saying . . . (No, thank you; I never take cream with my tea;
Cows weren’t allowed in the trenches,—got out of the habit, y’see).
As I was saying, our Colonel leaped up like a youngster of ten:
“Come on, lads!” he shouts, “and we’ll show’em,” and he sprang to the head of the men.
Then some bally thing seemed to trip him, and he fell on his face with a slam...
Oh! he died like a true British soldier, and the last word he uttered was “Damn!”
And hang it! I loved the old fellow, and something just burst in my brain,
And I cared no more for the bullets than I would for a shower of rain.
’Twas an awf’ly funny sensation (I say, this is jolly nice tea);
I felt as if something had broken; by gad! I was suddenly free. [page 184]
Free for a glorified moment, beyond regulations and laws,
Free just to wallow in slaughter, as the chap of the stone age was.

So on I went joyously nursing a Berserker rage of my own,
And though all my chaps were behind me, feeling most frightf’ly alone;
With the bullets and shells ding-donging, and the “krock” and the swish of the shrap;
And I found myself humming “Ben Bolt”... (Will you pass me the sugar, old chap?
Two lumps, please.) ... What was I saying? Oh, yes, the jolly old dash;
We simply ripped through the barrage, and on with a roar and a crash.
My fellows, Old Nick couldn’t stop ’em. On, on they went with a yell,
Till they tripped on the Boches’ sand-bags—nothing much left to tell:
A trench so tattered and battered that even a rat couldn’t live,
Some corpses tangled and mangled, wire you could pass through a sieve. [page 185]

The jolly old guns had bilked us, cheated us out of our show,
And my fellows were simply yearning for a red mix-up with the foe.
So I shouted to them to follow, and on we went, roaring again,
Battle-tuned and exultant, on in the leaden rain.
Then all at once a machine gun barks from a bit of a bank,
And our Major roars in a fury: “We’ve got to take it on flank.”
He was running like fire to lead us, when down like a stone he comes,
As full of “type-writer” bullets as a pudding is full of plums.
So I took his job and we got ’em... by gad! we got ’em like rats;
Down in a deep shell-crater we fought like Kilkenny cats.
’Twas pleasant just for a moment to be sheltered and out of range,
With someone you saw to go for,—it made an agreeable change. [page 186]

And the Boches that missed my bullets, my chaps gave a bayonet jolt,
And all the time, I remember, I whistled and hummed “Ben Bolt.”
Well, that little job was over, so hell-for-leather we ran,
On to the second line trenches—that’s where the fun began.
For though we had strafed ’em like fury, there still were some Boches about,
And my fellows, teeth set and eyes glaring, like terriers routed ’em out.
Then I stumbled on one of their dug-outs, and I shouted: “Is anyone there?”
And a voice, “Yes, one; but I’m wounded,” came faint up the narrow stair;
And my man was descending before me, when sudden a cry! a shot!
(I say, this cake is delicious. You make it yourself, do you not?)
My man? Oh! they killed the poor devil; for if there was one there was ten;
So after I’d bombed ’em sufficient I went down at the head of my men,
And four tried to sneak from a bunk-hole, but we cornered the rotters all right;
I’d rather not go into details, ’twas messy that bit of the fight. [page 187]

But all of it’s beastly messy; let’s talk of pleasanter things,
The skirts that the girls are wearing, ridiculous fluffy things,
So short that they show... Oh. hang it! Well, if I must, I must:
We cleaned out the second trench line, bomb and bayonet thrust,
And on we went to the third one, quite calloused to crumping by now;
And some of our fellows who’d passed us were making a deuce of a row;
And my chaps, well, I just couldn’t hold ’em; (it’s strange how it is with gore;
In some ways it’s just like whiskey: if you taste it you must have more.)
Their eyes were like beacons of battle; by gad, sir! they couldn’t be calmed,
So I headed ’em bang for the bomb-belt, racing like billy-be-damned.
Oh! it didn’t take long to arrive there, those who arrived at all;
The machine-guns were certainly chronic, the shindy enough to appal.
Oh, yes, I omitted to tell you, I’d wounds on the chest and the head,
And my shirt was torn to a gun-rag, and my face blood-gummy and red. [page 188]

I’m thinking I looked like a madman; I fancy I felt one too,
Half naked and swinging a rifle... God! what a glorious “do.”
As I sit here in old Piccadilly, sipping my afternoon tea,
I see a blind, bullet-chipped devil, and it’s hard to believe that it’s me:
I see a wild, war-damaged demon, smashing out left and right,
And humming “Ben Bolt” rather loudly, and hugely enjoying the fight.
And as for my men, may God bless ’em! I’ve loved ’em ever since then:
They fought like the shining angels; they’re the pick o’ the land, my men.
And the trench was a reeking shambles, not a Boche to be seen alive—
So I thought—but on rounding a traverse I came on a covey of five;
And four of ’em threw up their flippers, but the fifth chap, a sergeant, was game,
And though I’d a bomb and revolver he came at me just the same,
A sporty thing that, I tell you; I just couldn’t blow him to hell.
So I swung to the point of his jaw-bone, and down like a nine-pin he fell. [page 189]

And then when I’d brought him to reason, he wasn’t half bad, that Hun;
He bandaged my head and my short-rib as well as the Doc. could have done.
So I went with my Boches, as gay as a two-year-old colt,
And it suddenly struck me as rummy—I still was a-humming “Ben Bolt.”
And now, by Jove! how I’ve bored you. You’ve just let me babble away:
Let’s talk of the things that matter—your car orthe newest play. [page 190]

THE MOURNERS

I LOOK into the aching womb of night;
    I look across the mist that masks the dead;
The moon is tired and gives but little light,
          The stars have gone to bed.

The earth is sick and seems to breathe with pain;
    A lost wind whimpers in a mangled tree;
I do not see the foul, corpse-cluttered plain,
          The dead I do not see.

The slain I would not see... and so I lift
    My eyes from out the shambles where they lie;
When lo! a million woman-faces drift
          Like pale leaves through the sky.

The cheeks of some are channelled deep with tears;
    But some are tearless, with wild eyes that stare
Into the shadow of the coming years
          Of the fathomless despair. [page 191]

And some are young, and some are very old;
    And some are rich, some poor beyond belief;
Yet all are strangely like, set in the mould
          Of everlasting grief.

They fill the vast of Heaven, face on face;
    And then I see one weeping with the rest,
Whose eyes beseech me for a moment’s space...
          Oh! eyes I love the best!

Nay, I but dream. The sky is all forlorn,
    And there’s the plain of battle writhing red:
God pity them, the women-folk who mourn!
          How happy are the dead. [page 192]

L’ENVOI

My job is done: my rhymes are ranked and ready,
    My word-battalions marching verse by verse;
Here stanza-companies are none too steady,
    There print-platoons are weak, but might be worse:
And as in marshalled order I review them,
    My type-brigades, unfearful of the fray,
My eyes that seek their faults are seeing through them
    Immortal visions of an epic day.

It seems I’m a giant bowling-alley:
    The hidden heavies round me crash and thud;
A spire snaps like a pipe-stem in the valley,
    The rising sun is like a ball of blood.
Along the road the fantassins are pouring,
    And some are gay as fire, and some steel-stern...
Then back again I see the red tide pouring
    Along the reeking road from Hebuterne. [page 193]

And once again I seek Hill Sixty-seven,
    The Hun lines grey and peaceful in my sight;
When suddenly the rosy air is riven—
    A “coal-box” blots the boyou on my right.
Or else to evil Carnoy I am stealing,
    Past sentinels who hail with bated breath;
Where not a cigarette spark’s dim revealing
    May hint our mission in that zone of death.

I see across the shrapnel-seeded meadows
    The jaggèd rubble-heap of La Boiselle;
Blood-guilty Fricourt brooding in the shadows,
    And Thiepval’s château empty as a shell.
Down Albert’s riven streets the moon is leering;
    The hanging Virgin takes its bitter ray;
And all the road from Hamel I am hearing
    The silver rage of bugles over Bray.

Once more within the sky’s deep sapphire hollow
    I see a swimming Taube, a fairy thing;
I watch the angry shell flame flash and follow
    In feather puffs that flick a tilted wing;
And then it fades, with shrapnel mirror’s flashing;
    The flashes bloom to blossoms lily gold;
The batteries are rancorously crashing,
    And life is just as full as it can hold. [page 194]

Oh! spacious days of glory and of grieving!
    Oh! sounding hours of lustre and of loss;
Let us be glad we lived you, still believing
    The God who gave cannon gave the Cross.
Let us not doubt amid these seething passions,
    The lusts of blood and hate our souls abhor:
The Power that Order our of Chaos fashions
    Smites fiercest in the wrath-red forge of War...
Have faith! Fight on! Amid the battle hell
    Love triumphs, Freedom beacons, all is well. [page 195]

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