The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Woes of a Rookie

I ENLISTED in the infantry last summer;

I was greeted at the training camp with joy;

I had hardly gotten settled, when a sergeant

Told me I was now the Company's errand boy.

Now, I knew I'd have to start in at the bottom,

And acquire my army training bit by bit;

But to be assigned to duties quite so humble,

Was humiliating, surely you'll admit.

My first errand was a trip to Field Headquarters.

It was raining and the mud was deep and thick,

I was ordered to seek out the Major General,

And procure a requisition for a brick.

'Twas explained to me, before I left my Company,

That our Captain suffered much with chilly feet,

And that bricks, when rightly heated, would correct this.

What that Major General said, I'll not repeat.

To our surly Regimental Quartermaster,

I was sent to get the Company's Sunday hats,

And my Sergeant said, "to save myself some walking,"

I could "also get the First Lieutenant's spats";

When I told that sour Quartermaster's seageant

What it was I'd like to have for Company A,

Gosh he "bawled me out," said "Your ears should be longer,

And your rations should be changed from beans to hay."

For a thousand feet of skirmish line I hunted

For a half a day, before I saw the joke;

Next they sent me for a left--hand canvas stretcher,

To repair the Mess-hall windows, which were broke.

As the Company Street was slightly rough and bumpy,

They dispatched me for a double-jointed plow;

And one breakfast-time they sent me to the Colonel,

With a pail, to milk the Regimental cow.

Then one day the Sergeant said, "You've been promoted.

You're now morning call-boy for the Regiment,

And each morning, bright and early, you will sprinkle

Drops of water on each face, in every tent."

In the morning I began my sprinkling duties,

And had sprinkled in about one dozen tents,

When a bunch of fellows rushed me to the hydrant,

Where they "soused" me good; since then I've had me some sense.

As I look back at the time I "ran the paddles,"

After having set me down in water wet;

Rushing down between two rows of husky messmates,

With my arms above my head, I feel it yet.

Now, I've graduated from the rookie section,

And the "awkward squad" will miss me in its ranks,

And I'm happy, for a hunch of bloomin' rookies

Have arrived. To those that sent them, Many Thanks.