I watched one daring beggar looping loops,
Soaring and diving like some bird of prey.
And through it all I felt that splendour shine
Which makes us win.”
The soldier sipped his wine.
“Ah, yes, but it’s the Press that leads the way!”
The boys came back. Bands played and flags were
And Yellow-Pressmen thronged the sunlit street
To cheer the soldiers who’d refrained from dying,
And hear the music of returning feet.
“Of all the thrills and ardours War has brought,
This moment is the finest.” (So they thought.)
Snapping their bayonets on to charge the mob,
Grim Fusiliers broke ranks with glint of steel.
At last the boys had found a cushy job.
* * * * *
I heard the Yellow-Pressmen grunt and squeal;
And with my trusty bombers turned and went
To clear those Junkers out of Parliament.
You told me, in your drunken-boasting mood,
How once you butchered prisoners. That was good!
I’m sure you felt no pity while they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as prisoners should.
How did you do them in? Come, don’t be
You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. “Camerad!” they cry;
Then squeal like stoats when bombs begin to fly.
* * * * *
And you? I know your record. You went sick
When orders looked unwholesome: then, with trick
And lie, you wangled home. And here you are,
Still talking big and boozing in a bar.
Snug at the club two fathers sat,
Gross, goggle-eyed, and full of chat.
One of them said: “My eldest lad
Writes cheery letters from Bagdad.
But Arthur’s getting all the fun
At Arras with his nine-inch gun.”
“Yes,” wheezed the other, “that’s
My boy’s quite broken-hearted, stuck
In England training all this year.
Still, if there’s truth in what we hear,
The Huns intend to ask for more
Before they bolt across the Rhine.”
I watched them toddle through the door—
These impotent old friends of mine.
The house is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
“We’re sure the Kaiser loves the dear old Tanks!”
I’d like to see a Tank come down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or “Home, sweet Home,”—
And there’d be no more jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.