The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

When Private Mugrums Parley Voos

I CAN count my francs an' santeems--

If I've got a basket near--

An' I speak a wicked "bon jour,"

But the verbs are awful queer,

An' I lose a lot o' pronouns

When I try to talk to you,

For your eyes are so bewitchin'

I forget to parlay voo.

In your pretty little garden,

With the bench beside the wall,

An' the sunshine on the asters,

An' the purple phlox so tall,

I should like to whisper secrets

But my language goes askew--

With the second person plural

For the old familiar "too."

In your pretty little garden

I could always say "juh tame,"

But it ain't so very subtle,

An' it ain't not quite the same

As "You've got some dandy earrings,"

Or "Your eyes are nice an' brown"--

But my adjectives get manly

Right before a lady noun.

Those infinitives perplex me;

I can say you're "tray jolee,"

But beyond that simple statement

All my tenses don't agree.

I can make the Boche "comprenney"

When I meet 'em in a trench,

But the softer things escape me

When I try to yap in French.

In your pretty little garden

Darn the idioms that dance

On your tongue so sweet and rapid,

Ah, they hold me in a trance!

Though I stutter an' I stammer,

In your garden, on the bench,

Yet my heart is writin' poems

When I talk to you in French.