Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
I'm gatherin' flowers by the wayside to lay on the grave of Bill;
I've sneaked away from the billet, 'cause Jim wouldn't understand;
'E'd call me a silly fat'ead, and larf till it made 'im ill,
To see me 'ere in the cornfield, wiv a big bookay in me 'and.
For Jim and me we are rough uns, but Bill was one o' the best;
We 'listed and learned together to larf at the wust wot comes;
Then Bill copped a packet proper, and took 'is departure West,
So sudden 'e 'adn't a minit to say good-bye to 'is chums.
And they took me to where 'e was planted, a sort of a measly mound,
And, thinks I, 'ow Bill would be tickled, bein' so soft and queer,
If I gathered a bunch o' them wild-flowers, and sort of arranged them round
Like a kind of a bloody headpiece . . . and that's the reason I'm 'ere.
But not for the love of glory I wouldn't 'ave Jim to know.
'E'd call me a slobberin' Cissy, and larf till 'is sides was sore;
I'd 'ave larfed at meself too, it isn't so long ago;
But some'ow it changes a feller, 'avin' a taste o' war.
It 'elps a man to be 'elpful, to know wot 'is pals is worth
(Them golden poppies is blazin' like lamps some fairy 'as lit);
I'm fond o' them big white dysies. . . . Now Jim's o' the salt o' the earth;
But 'e 'as got a tongue wot's a terror, and 'e ain't sentimental a bit.
I likes them blue chaps wot's 'idin' so shylike among the corn.
Won't Bill be glad! We was allus thicker 'n thieves, us three.
Why! 'Oo's that singin' so 'earty? JIM! And as sure as I'm born
'E's there in the giddy cornfields, a-gatherin' flowers like me.
Quick! Drop me posy be'ind me. I watches 'im for a while,
Then I says: "Wot 'o, there, Chummy! Wot price the little bookay?"
And 'e starts like a bloke wot's guilty, and 'e says with a sheepish smile:
"She's a bit of orl right, the widder wot keeps the estaminay."
So 'e goes away in a 'urry, and I wishes 'im best o' luck,
And I picks up me bunch o' wild-flowers, and the light's gettin' sorto dim,
When I makes me way to the boneyard, and . . . I stares like a man wot's stuck,
For wot do I see? Bill's grave-mound strewn with the flowers of Jim.
Of course I won't never tell 'im, bein' a tactical lad;
And Jim parley-voos to the widder: "Trez beans, lamoor; compree?"
Oh, 'e'd die of shame if 'e knew I knew; but say! won't Bill be glad
When 'e stares through the bleedin' clods and sees the blossoms of Jim and me?
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