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Rhymes of a Red Cross Man   By: (1874-1958)

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by Robert W. Service

[British born Canadian Poet 1874 1958.]

Author of "The Spell of the Yukon", "Ballads of a Cheechako", "Rhymes of a Rolling Stone", etc.

[This etext has been transcribed from a New York edition of 1916. Some very minor corrections have been made.]

To the Memory of My Brother, LIEUTENANT ALBERT SERVICE Canadian Infantry Killed in Action, France August, 1916.


Foreword The Call The Fool The Volunteer The Convalescent The Man from Athabaska The Red Retreat The Haggis of Private McPhee The Lark The Odyssey of 'Erbert 'Iggins A Song of Winter Weather Tipperary Days Fleurette Funk Our Hero My Mate Milking Time Young Fellow My Lad A Song of the Sandbags On the Wire Bill's Grave Jean Desprez Going Home Cocotte My Bay'nit Carry On! Over the Parapet The Ballad of Soulful Sam Only a Boche Pilgrims My Prisoner Tri colour A Pot of Tea The Revelation Grand père Son The Black Dudeen The Little Piou piou Bill the Bomber The Whistle of Sandy McGraw The Stretcher Bearer Wounded Faith The Coward Missis Moriarty's Boy My Foe My Job The Song of the Pacifist The Twins The Song of the Soldier born Afternoon Tea The Mourners L'Envoi


I've tinkered at my bits of rhymes In weary, woeful, waiting times; In doleful hours of battle din, Ere yet they brought the wounded in; Through vigils of the fateful night, In lousy barns by candle light; In dug outs, sagging and aflood, On stretchers stiff and bleared with blood; By ragged grove, by ruined road, By hearths accurst where Love abode; By broken altars, blackened shrines I've tinkered at my bits of rhymes.

I've solaced me with scraps of song The desolated ways along: Through sickly fields all shrapnel sown, And meadows reaped by death alone; By blazing cross and splintered spire, By headless Virgin in the mire; By gardens gashed amid their bloom, By gutted grave, by shattered tomb; Beside the dying and the dead, Where rocket green and rocket red, In trembling pools of poising light, With flowers of flame festoon the night. Ah me! by what dark ways of wrong I've cheered my heart with scraps of song.

So here's my sheaf of war won verse, And some is bad, and some is worse. And if at times I curse a bit, You needn't read that part of it; For through it all like horror runs The red resentment of the guns. And you yourself would mutter when You took the things that once were men, And sped them through that zone of hate To where the dripping surgeons wait; And wonder too if in God's sight War ever, ever can be right.

Yet may it not be, crime and war But effort misdirected are? And if there's good in war and crime, There may be in my bits of rhyme, My songs from out the slaughter mill: So take or leave them as you will.

The Call

(France, August first, 1914)

Far and near, high and clear, Hark to the call of War! Over the gorse and the golden dells, Ringing and swinging of clamorous bells, Praying and saying of wild farewells: War! War! War!

High and low, all must go: Hark to the shout of War! Leave to the women the harvest yield; Gird ye, men, for the sinister field; A sabre instead of a scythe to wield: War! Red War!

Rich and poor, lord and boor, Hark to the blast of War! Tinker and tailor and millionaire, Actor in triumph and priest in prayer, Comrades now in the hell out there, Sweep to the fire of War!

Prince and page, sot and sage, Hark to the roar of War! Poet, professor and circus clown, Chimney sweeper and fop o' the town, Into the pot and be melted down: Into the pot of War!

Women all, hear the call, The pitiless call of War! Look your last on your dearest ones, Brothers and husbands, fathers, sons: Swift they go to the ravenous guns, The gluttonous guns of War... Continue reading book >>

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