Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut;
Chained all day to the same old desk, down in the same old rut;
Posting the same old greasy books, catching the same old train:
Oh, how will I manage to stick it all, if I ever get back again?
We've bidden good-bye to life in a cage, we're finished with pushing a pen;
They're pumping us full of bellicose rage, they're showing us how to be men.
We're only beginning to find ourselves; we're wonders of brawn and thew;
But when we go back to our Sissy jobs, -- oh, what are we going to do?
For shoulders curved with the counter stoop will be carried erect and square;
And faces white from the office light will be bronzed by the open air;
And we'll walk with the stride of a new-born pride, with a new-found joy in our eyes,
Scornful men who have diced with death under the naked skies.
And when we get back to the dreary grind, and the bald-headed boss's call,
Don't you think that the dingy window-blind, and the dingier office wall,
Will suddenly melt to a vision of space, of violent, flame-scarred night?
Then . . . oh, the joy of the danger-thrill, and oh, the roar of the fight!
Don't you think as we peddle a card of pins the counter will fade away,
And again we'll be seeing the sand-bag rims, and the barb-wire's misty grey?
As a flat voice asks for a pound of tea, don't you fancy we'll hear instead
The night-wind moan and the soothing drone of the packet that's overhead?
Don't you guess that the things we're seeing now will haunt us through all the years;
Heaven and hell rolled into one, glory and blood and tears;
Life's pattern picked with a scarlet thread, where once we wove with a grey
To remind us all how we played our part in the shock of an epic day?
Oh, we're booked for the Great Adventure now, we're pledged to the Real Romance;
We'll find ourselves or we'll lose ourselves somewhere in giddy old France;
We'll know the zest of the fighter's life; the best that we have we'll give;
We'll hunger and thirst; we'll die . . . but first -- we'll live; by the gods, we'll live!
We'll breathe free air and we'll bivouac under the starry sky;
We'll march with men and we'll fight with men, and we'll see men laugh and die;
We'll know such joy as we never dreamed; we'll fathom the deeps of pain:
But the hardest bit of it all will be -- when we come back home again.
For some of us smirk in a chiffon shop, and some of us teach in a school;
Some of us help with the seat of our pants to polish an office stool;
The merits of somebody's soap or jam some of us seek to explain,
But all of us wonder what we'll do when we have to go back again.
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