To those inured to war’s alarms
I need not dwell upon the charms
Of raw recruits when sloping arms,
Nor tell why Chadd was hoping
That, if his sloping-powers increased,
They’d give him two days’ leave at least
To join his Father’s birthday feast ...
And so resumed his sloping.
One morning on the training ground,
When fixing bayonets, he found
The fatal day already round,
And, even as he fixed, he
Decided then and there to state
To Sergeant Brown (at any rate)
His longing to congratulate
His sire on being sixty.
“Sergeant,” he said, “we’re
on the eve
Of Father’s birthday; grant me leave”
(And here his bosom gave a heave)
“To offer him my blessing;
And, if a Private’s tender thanks—
Nay, do not blank my blanky blanks!
I could not help but leave the ranks;
Birthdays are more than dressing.”
The Sergeant was a kindly soul,
He loved his men upon the whole,
He’d also had a father’s role
Pressed on him fairly lately.
“Brave Chadd,” he said, “thou speakest sooth!
O happy day! O pious youth!
Great,” he extemporized, “is Truth,
And it shall flourish greatly.”
The Sergeant took him by the hand
And led him to the Captain, and
The Captain tried to understand,
And (more or less) succeeded;
“Correct me if you don’t agree,
But one of you wants what?” said he,
And George Augustus Chadd said, “Me!”
Meaning of course that he did.
The Captain took him by the ear
And gradually brought him near
The Colonel, who was far from clear,
But heard it all politely,
And asked him twice, “You want a what?”
The Captain said that he did not,
And Chadd saluted quite a lot
And put the matter rightly.
The Colonel took him by the hair
And furtively conveyed him where
The General inhaled the air,
Then said, “Unless I greatly err
This Private wishes to prefer
A small petition to you, Sir,”
And so again saluted.
The General inclined his head
Towards the two of them and said,
“Speak slowly, please, or shout instead;
I’m hard of hearing, rather.”
So Chadd, that promising recruit,
Stood to attention, clicked his boot,
And bellowed, with his best salute,
“A happy birthday, Father!”
THE VISITORS’ BOOK
“As man of the world,” said Blake, stretching himself to his full height of five foot three, and speaking with the wisdom of nineteen years, “I say that it can’t be done. In any other company, certainly; at headquarters, possibly; but not in D Company. D Company has a reputation.”
“All I say,” said Rogers, “is that, if you can’t run any mess in the trenches on four francs a day, you’re a rotten mess president.”