Rhymes of a Red Cross Man

by
Robert W. Service

The Volunteer


Sez I: My Country calls? Well, let it call.
I grins perlitely and declines wiv thanks.
Go, let 'em plaster every blighted wall,
'Ere's ONE they don't stampede into the ranks.
Them politicians with their greasy ways;
Them empire-grabbers -- fight for 'em? No fear!
I've seen this mess a-comin' from the days
Of Algyserious and Aggydear:
    I've felt me passion rise and swell,
    But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Sez I: My Country? Mine? I likes their cheek.
Me mud-bespattered by the cars they drive,
Wot makes my measly thirty bob a week,
And sweats red blood to keep meself alive!
Fight for the right to slave that they may spend,
Them in their mansions, me 'ere in my slum?
No, let 'em fight wot's something to defend:
But me, I've nothin' -- let the Kaiser come.
    And so I cusses 'ard and well,
    But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Sez I: If they would do the decent thing,
And shield the missis and the little 'uns,
Why, even _I_ might shout "God save the King",
And face the chances of them 'ungry guns.
But we've got three, another on the way;
It's that wot makes me snarl and set me jor:
The wife and nippers, wot of 'em, I say,
If I gets knocked out in this blasted war?
    Gets proper busted by a shell,
    But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Ay, wot the 'ell's the use of all this talk?
To-day some boys in blue was passin' me,
And some of 'em they 'ad no legs to walk,
And some of 'em they 'ad no eyes to see.
And -- well, I couldn't look 'em in the face,
And so I'm goin', goin' to declare
I'm under forty-one and take me place
To face the music with the bunch out there.
    A fool, you say! Maybe you're right.
    I'll 'ave no peace unless I fight.
    I've ceased to think; I only know
    I've gotta go, Bill, gotta go.



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