William Makepeace Thackeray

(1811-1863 / India)

The Yankee Volunteers - Poem by William Makepeace Thackeray

'A surgeon of the United States' army says that on inquiring of
the Captain of his company, he found that NINE-TENTHS of the men
had enlisted on account of some female difficulty.'—Morning Paper.

Ye Yankee Volunteers!
It makes my bosom bleed
When I your story read,
Though oft 'tis told one.
So—in both hemispheres
The women are untrue,
And cruel in the New,
As in the Old one!

What—in this company
Of sixty sons of Mars,
Who march 'neath Stripes and Stars,
With fife and horn,
Nine-tenths of all we see
Along the warlike line
Had but one cause to join
This Hope Forlorn?

Deserters from the realm
Where tyrant Venus reigns,
You slipp'd her wicked chains,
Fled and out-ran her.
And now, with sword and helm,
Together banded are
Beneath the Stripe and Star
Embroider'd banner!

And is it so with all
The warriors ranged in line,
With lace bedizen'd fine
And swords gold-hilted—
Yon lusty corporal,
Yon color-man who gripes
The flag of Stars and Stripes—
Has each been jilted?

Come, each man of this line,
The privates strong and tall,
'The pioneers and all,'
The fifer nimble—
Lieutenant and Ensign,
Captain with epaulets,
And Blacky there, who beats
The clanging cymbal—

O cymbal-beating black,
Tell us, as thou canst feel,
Was it some Lucy Neal
Who caused thy ruin?
O nimble fifing Jack,
And drummer making din
So deftly on the skin,
With thy rat-tattooing—

Confess, ye volunteers,
Lieutenant and Ensign,
And Captain of the line,
As bold as Roman—
Confess, ye grenadiers,
However strong and tall,
The Conqueror of you all
Is Woman, Woman!

No corselet is so proof
But through it from her bow
The shafts that she can throw
Will pierce and rankle.
No champion e'er so tough,
But's in the struggle thrown,
And tripp'd and trodden down
By her slim ankle.

Thus always it was ruled:
And when a woman smiled,
The strong man was a child,
The sage a noodle.
Alcides was befool'd,
And silly Samson shorn,
Long, long ere you were horn,
Poor Yankee Doodle!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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