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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Infant in Arms

Guest Blogger Dept.: Another bit of doggerel by the indefatigable P. G. Wodehouse, which carries the note: “It is suggested that children should be trained in shooting
and scouting from the very earliest age.”


MY CHILD, AWAY with your
     toys and games.
No more on the floor shall roll
The painted indiarubber globe,
To gladden your infant soul.
No more shall your rattle whirr:
     no more
Shall the gay tin trumpet toot:
My child, it is time that you
     learned to drill;
It is time that you learned to shoot.

Time was when Spillikins
     caused you joy,
When you played with a model train,
When Pigs-in-clover was
     deemed enough
To foster your growing brain.
Time was when you rode
     on a rocking-horse,
Or petted the local cat;
Time was when you worried the patient dog –
We are going to change all that.

A strenuous life is the life you’ll lead.
You will rise and dress at dawn
To practice digging a modern trench
Across the croquet lawn.
You’ll work at that till seven-o-clock;
From seven-o-clock to ten
You’ll be with your catapult out on the range.
You may have some breakfast then.

Resuming work at eleven sharp,
You’ll stay on the range till one,
Or give an hour to the heliograph,
If there is sufficient sun.
Deep books on Military Law
From two till five you’ll cram,
And go for a trip from five to six
In a fully armoured pram.

And when the days are dark and cold,
When it either snows or pours,
You’ll shift the scene of your daily toil,
And do your work indoors.
And toy with someone’s “Modern War,”
Or KIPLING’S martial verse,
Or while away the hours of rest
At Kriegspiel with your nurse.

Thus when the day of battle dawns,
And merciless foes invade,
When, sore oppressed, at the nursery door
Your country knocks for aid,
When far and wide through our pleasant land
Sounds Armageddon’s din,
When England once again “expects,” –
Why, that’s where you’ll come in.

You’ll take your air-gun from the shelf,
Your catapult blithely seize,
Gaily you’ll gird your shooter on,
And see that it lacks not peas.
And as the hiss of your pop-gun’s cork
Is merged in the general roar,
You’ll bless the day when you left your play
To practice the art of War.

Punch, 9 September 1903

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