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Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)

The Secret


              1You were askin' 'ow we sticks it,
              2     Sticks this blarsted rain and mud,
              3'Ow it is we keeps on smilin'
              4     When the place runs red wi' blood.
              5Since you're askin', I can tell ye,
              6     And I thinks I tells ye true,
              7But it ain't official, mind ye,
              8     It's a tip twixt me and you.
              9For the General thinks it's tactics,
            10     And the bloomin' plans 'e makes.
            11And the C.O. thinks it's trainin',
            12     And the trouble as he takes.
            13Sergeant-Major says it's drillin',
            14     And 'is straffin' on parade,
            15Doctor swears it's sanitation,
            16     And some patent stinks 'e's made.
            17Padre tells us its religion,
            18     And the Spirit of the Lord;
            19But I ain't got much religion,
            20     And I sticks it still, by Gawd.
            21Quarters kids us it's the rations,
            22     And the dinners as we gets.
            23But I knows what keeps us smilin',
            24     It's the Woodbine Cigarettes.
            25For the daytime seems more dreary,
            26     And the night-time seems to drag
            27To eternity of darkness,
            28     When ye ave'nt got a fag.
            29Then the rain seems some'ow wetter,
            30     And the cold cuts twice as keen,
            31And ye keeps on seein' Boches,
            32     What the Sargint 'asn't seen.
            33If ole Fritz 'as been and got ye,
            34     And ye 'ave to stick the pain,
            35If ye 'aven't got a fag on,
            36     Why it 'urts as bad again.
            37When there ain't no fags to pull at,
            38     Then there's terror in the ranks.
            39That's the secret - (yes, I'll 'ave one)
            40     Just a fag - and many Tanks.

Notes

2] blarsted: blasted.

10] bloomin': mild swear-word.

11] C.O.: Commanding Officer.

12] as: that.

14] straffin': dressing-down, criticism.

21] Quarters: quartermaster, "An officer, ranking as lieutenant, attached to each regiment, with the duties of providing quarters for the soldiers, laying out the camp, and looking after the rations, ammunition and other supplies of the regiment" (OED 2).

24] Woodbine Cigarettes: cheap brand of English cigarettes.

28] fag: cigarette.

31] Boches: Germans.

33] Fritz: nickname for a German soldier, Friedrich.

40] Tanks: thanks.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: "Woodbine Willy" [Rev. G. A. Studdert-Kennedy], Rough Rhymes of a Padre (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919): 36-37. 1919/5/85 Cambridge University Library
First publication date: 1918
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/11/17

Composition date: 1914 - 1918
Rhyme: abcbdefe ...


Other poems by Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy