The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

"Form Fours"

A Volunteer's Nightmare

If you're Volunteer Artist or Athlete, or if you defend the Home,

You sacrifice "Ease" for "Attention," and march like a metronome;

But of all elementary movements you learn in your Volunteer Corps

The one that is really perplexing is known as the Forming of Fours.

Imagine us numbered off from the right: the Sergeant faces the squad,

And says that the odd files do not move -- I never seem to be odd!

And then his instructions run like this (very simple in black and white) --

"A pace to the rear with the left foot, and one to the right with the right."

Of course if you don't think deeply, you do it without a hitch;

You have only to know your right and left, and remember which is which;

But as soon as you try to be careful, you get in the deuce of a plight,

With "a pace to the right with the left foot, and one to the rear with the right!"

Besides, when you're thoroughly muddled the Sergeant doubles your doubt

By saying that rules reverse themselves, as soon as you're "turned about";

So round you go on your right heel, and practice until you are deft

At "a pace to the front with the right foot, and one to the left with the left."

In my dreams the Sergeant, the Kaiser, and Kipling mix my feet,

Saying "East is left, and Right is Might, and never the twain shall meet!"

In my nightmare squad all files are odd, and their Fours are horribly queer,

With "a pace to the left with the front foot, and one to the right with the rear!"