The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

The Baleful Bard

or the Muse Munition-Making

TIME was when squatting in a noisome ditch,

I used to while away monotonous days

By writing many doggerel lyrics, which

Were set to various untuneful lays,

And the rude soldiery who heard them sung

In billets, when we rested from the fight,

Picked up the words from me, and then gave tongue

Waking with discord all the quiet night,

And sang them, thinking it tremendous fun,

Unto the musical and writhing Hun.

And I've been told, and can believe it true,

That once, as they intoned these songs of mine,

The Germans heard and trembled, for they knew

What men were these who came into the line,

And sent a message to our Colonel,

Saying the thing was worse than what the Tanks were;

He answered, begging them to go to Hell.

And thus we took that village on the Ancre

(This line is bad, but I have not the time

Or dictionary to find a proper rhyme.)

And now sequestered in this quiet nook,

I struggle to instruct the wise Cadet

In bombing (not according to the book)

Patrols and how most surely to revet

The crumbling trenches on the local hill,

And oft to the jocund piano's strain,

I mount upon the platform with a will

To sing those ancient songs of mine again,

And place, obedient to my country's call,

A deadlier strafer in their hands than all.

For these young officers shall find the pote

A weapon to avenge the nation's wrongs,

And they with many a discordant note

Shall chant in many a trench my poignant songs;

And the pale enemy (to whom I fear

For the rhyme's sake I must refer as " Hunes")

Shall tremble in their deep dug-outs to hear

Across the night those wild untuneful tunes,

And shall beseech their officers and cry,

" Let us retire at once, or else we die."

But lo, there comes a yet more dreadful day,

When with his pleasant months of Blighty o'er,

The bard shall lift his pack and hie away

To land again upon the Gallic shore,

And set his ribald muse to work anew,

And fresh atrocities shall vex the Huns,

And men shall sing them as they used to do

The while from Bosche to Bosche the whisper runs

Down the whole line from Belgium to Champagne,

" The man who wrote those songs is out again."