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Cicely Fox Smith

(1882-1954 / England)

A Declaration Of War


This is the yarn that M'Larty told by the brazier fire,
Where over the mud-filled trenches the star-shells blaze and expire -
A yarn he swore was a true one; but Mac was an awful liar.

'Way up in the wild North country, a couple of years ago,
I hauled Hank out of a snowdrift - it was maybe thirty 'below' -
And I packed him home to my shanty, and I took and thawed him with snow.'

'He was stiff as a cold-store bullock, I might have left him for dead,
But I packed him along, as I've told you, and melted him out instead,
And I rolled him up in my blankets and put him to sleep in my bed.'

'So he dwelt in my humble shanty while the wintry gales did roar,
While the blizzards howled in the passes and the timber wolves at the door,
And he slept in my bunk at night-time while I stretched out on the floor.'

'He watched me frying my bacon, and he said that the smell was grand,
He watched me bucking the stove-wood, but he never lent me a hand,
And he plaid on my concertina the airs of his native land.'

'And one month grew into two months, and two months grew into three;
And there he was sitting and smiling like a blooming Old Man of the Sea,
Eating my pork and beans up, and necking my whiskey and tea.'

'You say, 'Why didn't I shift him?' – For the life of me I dunno,
I suppose there's something inside me that can't tell a fellow to go
I hauled by the heels from a snowdrift at maybe thirty 'below.''

'But at last when the snows were going, and the blue spring skies were pale,
Out after bear in the valley, I met a chap on the trail,
A chap coming up from the city, who stopped and told me a tale.'

'A tale of murders and hold-ups all over the land and sea,
And when he was through I was laughing, for the joke of it seemed to be
Hank's folks had been acting that way while Hank was rooming with me.'

'So I hiked to the shanty, and never a word I said,
I floated in like a cyclone, I yanked him out of my bed,
And I grabbed the concertina and I smashed it over his head.'

'I shook him up for a minute, I stood him down on the floor,
I grabbed the scruff of his trousers and I ran him along to the door,
And I said, 'This here, if you get me, is a Declaration of War!''

'And I gave him a hoist with my gum-boot, a kind of lift with my toe,
But you can't give a fellow a hiding, as any one sure must know,
You hauled by the heels from a snowdrift at maybe thirty 'below.''

Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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