The Great War

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

Ode to a French Regiment

On Finding They Had Left Behind More Stores Than We
Had Bargained For

DEAR Allies, whom we were relieving,

When we came to the line from our rest,

We came to you fondly believing

You would take us and give us your best.

You gave us your wine in full measure,

Your rum and your coffee was nice,

And as an additional pleasure

You left us your lice.

Oh, lice full of vigour and beauty,

That rove where the rich blood was spilt,

Do you really believe it your duty

To make your abode in my kilt?

Do you honestly think my suspenders

A fit place to take your repose,

And prey on your country's defenders

Instead of her foes?

Are you really French vermin, I wonder,

Or when the new trenches were won

Did they count in the tale of their plunder

The fleas and the lice of the Hun?

Do no thoughts of my vengeance appal you

When at night to the battle you rise.

Are you patriots, or shall I call you

Mere traitors and spies?

Nay, then I shall slay you, preferring

To think you the breed of the Bosche,

Who leap from your trenches preparing

To feed on the vitals of Tosh,1

When the iron of the tailor is singeing

The pleats of the kilt that was mine,

I like to think you will die singing

The Watch on the Rhine.


1. Name by which I was known in the battalion.