The Great War

from Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time, an electronic edition

The Vindication

The Summer wanes: and, 'Erbert, in the haunts

That have been hallowed by your yearly favour

The "fag" that you affect no longer flaunts

Its unattractive savour.

Your bare but lustrous poll, your lurid ties,

The wond'rous garb you choose for your adorning

At Margate gladden no expectant eyes;

And Southend is in mourning.

The rail you used, in your adjacent park,

Whereon to perch, that girls might glance in gladness,

Stands tenantless (and they, I may remark,

Show little trace of sadness).

Your expert views of 'Ayward, 'Obbs, and 'Itch

Disturb no more the matutinal travel

And "form" -- You scarcely know which horse is which --

No longer you unravel.

You have been, more or less, an ornament,

Too precious for the strenuous endeavour

Of those on getting goals, or wickets, bent;

And not unduly clever.

We held you as a nuisance at your worst,

And at your best a useless sort of blighter,

Never imagining that you might burst,

Some day, into a fighter.

We've heard you call on God to save the King,

And shout the "Marseillaise" -- somewhat shyly --

But, still, your martial ardour was a thing

We did not value highly.

Yet, in the altered circumstances, 'Erb,

We feel that in our world there's something lacking --

The place has grown more sombre, less superb,

Since you have started packing!

We held your thews and sinews rather cheap,

Knowing you'd never been inclined to use them;

And might, had not emotion run so deep,

Have ventured to refuse them:

But -- here's where our apology comes in --

The hour of need was all we lacked to try you!

So, 'Erb, my hero, march along and win:

The God of Wars stand by you!

Westminster Gazette, August 14, 1914

Notes

[It is announced that all the Territorial battalions are already at full strength, and that Lord Kitchener's "second army" is now in course of formation.]