A Song Of The Sandbags

Robert William Service 1874 – 1958

No, Bill, I'm not a-spooning out no patriotic tosh
  (The cove be'ind the sandbags ain't a death-or-glory cuss).
And though I strafes 'em good and 'ard I doesn't 'ate the Boche,
  I guess they're mostly decent, just the same as most of us.
I guess they loves their 'omes and kids as much as you or me;
  And just the same as you or me they'd rather shake than fight;
And if we'd 'appened to be born at Berlin-on-the-Spree,
  We'd be out there with 'Ans and Fritz, dead sure that we was right.

A-standin' up to the sandbags
  It's funny the thoughts wot come;
Starin' into the darkness,
  'Earin' the bullets 'um;
(Zing! Zip! Ping! Rip!
  'ark 'ow the bullets 'um!)
A-leanin' against the sandbags
  Wiv me rifle under me ear,
Oh, I've 'ad more thoughts on a sentry-go
  Than I used to 'ave in a year.

I wonder, Bill, if 'Ans and Fritz is wonderin' like me
  Wot's at the bottom of it all? Wot all the slaughter's for?
'E thinks 'e's right (of course 'e ain't) but this we both agree,
  If them as made it 'ad to fight, there wouldn't be no war.
If them as lies in feather beds while we kips in the mud;
  If them as makes their fortoons while we fights for 'em like 'ell;
If them as slings their pot of ink just 'ad to sling their blood:
  By Crust! I'm thinkin' there 'ud be another tale to tell.

Shiverin' up to the sandbags,
  With a hicicle 'stead of a spine,
Don't it seem funny the things you think
  'Ere in the firin' line:
(Whee! Whut! Ziz! Zut!
  Lord! 'ow the bullets whine!)
Hunkerin' down when a star-shell
  Cracks in a sputter of light,
You can jaw to yer soul by the sandbags
  Most any old time o' night.

They talks o' England's glory and a-'oldin' of our trade,
  Of Empire and 'igh destiny until we're fair flim-flammed;
But if it's for the likes o' that that bloody war is made,
  Then wot I say is: Empire and 'igh destiny be damned!
There's only one good cause, Bill, for poor blokes like us to fight:
  That's self-defence, for 'earth and 'ome, and them that bears our name;
And that's wot I'm a-doin' by the sandbags 'ere to-night. . . .
  But Fritz out there will tell you 'e's a-doin' of the same.

Starin' over the sandbags,
  Sick of the 'ole damn thing;
Firin' to keep meself awake,
  'Earin' the bullets sing.
(Hiss! Twang! Tsing! Pang!
  Saucy the bullets sing.)
Dreamin' 'ere by the sandbags
  Of a day when war will cease,
When 'Ans and Fritz and Bill and me
  Will clink our mugs in fraternity,
And the Brotherhood of Labour will be
  The Brotherhood of Peace.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

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    "A Song Of The Sandbags" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 23 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/31962/a-song-of-the-sandbags>.

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