Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

The Conversation Book - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

I 'ave a conversation book, I brought it out from 'ome;
It tells the French for knife and fork, an' likewise brush an' comb;
It learns you 'ow to ast the time, the names of all the stars,
An' 'ow to order hoysters, an' 'ow to buy cigars.

But there ain't no shops to shop in, there ain't no grand hotels,
When you spend your days in dug-outs, doin' 'olesale trade in shells;
It's nice to know the proper talk for theatres an' such,
But when it comes to talkin', why it doesn't 'elp you much!

There's all them friendly kind o' things you'd naturally say
When you meet a feller causal-like an' pass the time o' day -
Them little things as breaks the ice an' kind o' clears the air,
Which, when you turn the phrase-book up, why, them things isn't there.

I met a chap the other day a-roosting in a trench,
'E didn't know a word o' ours nor me a word o' French;
An' 'ow it was we managed, well, I cannot understand,
But I never used the phrase-book, though I 'ad it in my 'and.

I winked at 'im to start with; 'e grinned from ear to ear;
An' 'e says 'Tipperary' an' I says 'Sooveneer';
'E 'ad my only Woodbine, I 'ad 'is thin cigar,
Which set the ball a-rollin', an' so - well, there you are!

I showed 'im my wife an' kids - 'e up an' showed me 'is,
Then little funny Frenchy kids with 'air all in a frizz;
'Annette,' 'e says, 'Louise,' 'e says, an' 'is tears begun to fall;
We was comrades when we parted but we'd 'ardly spoke at all.

'E'd 'ave kissed me if I'd let 'im, we 'ad never met before,
An' I've never seen the beggar since, for that's the way of war;
An' though we scarcely spoke a word, I wonder just the same
If 'e'll ever see them kids of 'is - I never ast 'is name!

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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