16 DECEMBER 1916, Page 8


T° any body of men or women with a corporate sense a journal or magazine seems to be as necessary a means of self-expres- sion as a public dinner. From camps, trenches, ships, hospitals, what we may call the accidental literature of the war—literature due to the accident of temporary congregation—has flowed forth unceasingly. This literature is not great—if it were great it would not come under the definition we require for this article—but it is extraordinarily instructive, as a multitude of small signs can be, about the spirit in which the war has been fought on our side. It is a great index. Imagine what we should know of the spirit of

the ancient Greek 'soldiers if some minor Aristophanio humour had been employed jestingly in a soldiers' journal during the Persian War or the Sicilian Expedition to lighten the men's sufferings, or poke fun at the officers, or lampoon the conduct of the enemy. Imagine the effect upon the modern historian if he could only know what the Roman subaltern thought of Cato's " Delenda est Carthago." Would some bored Roman subaltern (if he had had a regimental journal) have treated that imperishable dictum of policy and strategy with irreverent gibes ? Would he have con- trasted it in ragging verses with the dictum of Publiue Scipio, called Nasica, that Carthage ought certainly to be left alone ? We shall never know. If the ancient Greeks and Romans had marching songs with a good lilt to help them along, these have irrecoverably sunk into silence.. But our own accidental literature is so abundant that it is more likely to embarrass the historian than to leave him asking for more. We have before us an amusing little hospital magazine called the Egginton Howl, in which we find a letter from Mr. Rudyard Kipling. Mr. Kipling says that he has added the magazine to his collection of Service and Departmental papers, and remarks : "Some day they will make a, wonderful record of stout heartedness." That is probably the best word.

What is the spirit of this record so far as it has gone ? The differ. ence between the British journals and the French journals we have seen is very distinct. The British writers do not trouble to write with dialectical vehemence against the enemy. The French often do. Apart from their native disposition towards logical culmina- tions to all their arguments, the French have a reason, which we have not, for dwelling unceasingly upon the serious meaning of the war for them. They live their lives in Continental contact with the Germans ; they can naturally never forget their lost provinces ; and they have all been conscribed for this war, with their whole careers leading up to it as a possible and terrible necessity. The British have not trod that inexorable path. They still find in " Fritz " a figure of fun rather then an exclusively rapacious brute. They admit the brutality, of course, but they can and do omit it for their purpose. We have nothing like the French Bulletin des Armies de la Republique, which issues serious information, explains matters of service and pay to its readers, and gives them opinions, for example, about the geological specimens they have picked up in digging trenches. Several smaller French journals published just behind the lines are quite as much in earnest. When the French journal unbends it flies to the opposite pole, and is more Rabelaisian than we can indicate here. And of course in writing, as in military action, the French have a dramatic sense of which we are nearly destitute. A British officer has been quoted in the Times as saying of a French charge which he witnessed: " My God, how wonderful I And don't they know it too ! " French gestes, and French gestures— they are alike beyond us. The rapier-play of French wit, cold yet delicate and unerring, is not for our journals, which subsist on more riotous fun. The British journals keep an even middle course, light-hearted, and innocent alike of Voltaire= exercises in wit and Rabelaisian sallies. Their seriousness when it appears is not launched at the enemy, and is not employed in consciously bracing up the readers to a worthy service of their country, but is bestowed upon the British dead in grateful and most affectionate memory. The ironic titles of some British journals at the front tell their own tale—the Strafe, the Whizz-Bang, the Gasper, the Holy Buys' Chronicle, the Dead Horse Gazette. We take these names at random from an article in the Nation. The Somme Times parodies the too familiar journalistic vicissitudes by telling us that IIPIth it are " incorporated " the Wiper's Times, the "New Church" Times, and the Kennel Times. It has a serial story by " Ruby N. Dares," a " Chronicle of Fashions " by " Violet," and some uproarious bosh advertisements, among which not the least to our lilting is the " famous cure for optimism." We are also grateful to the corre- spondent who extols the new cross-breed of carrier birds known as the " Parrotidgin." It is a cross between a parrot and a pigeon and delivers its messages by word of mouth.

Examination papers and a column called " Things we should like to Know " appear fairly regularly in the journalism of sailors and soldiers. Here is a characteristic question from a sailors' paper called the Exmouth Express : " A ship containing members of the V.A.D. having arrived in harbour describe (a) what methods you would employ to become acquainted with such members, and (b) how you would ensure that only a limited number of Ward Room Officers secured this acquaintance, such officers being neither senior nor junior to yourself." That N.C.O. at the front was a no less humorous instructor, though all unconsciously, who, as de• scribed in one of the letters of the late Captain C. Philipp (Smith, Elder, and Co.), imparted patriotic history to some privates in the following manner :— " 'Ave you ever 'eard tell o' the Black Prince i No f—Well, you sr.

ignorant blighters. 'E was a cove what rode about in armour, 'eavy cavalry 'e was, and 'e licked the French. Well, a pal o"is was St. George what as 'is birthday to-morrow : 'e's the cove as I want to tell you about. Never 'card tell of 'im ? Why, look at the back of 'arf a quid. . . Well, this 'ere St. George is the patron saint of cavalry and don't yer forget it. What's that ? What is a patron saint ? Now none of your back answers 'ere, my lad, or you and me will fall out. Carry on I"

The educated and heroic British officer does not find it in his heart, after all, to express himself so very differently in similar circum- stances. The late Donald Hankey, the " Student in Arms," who was no more afraid to speak of religion than of victory to his men, prepared them for the attack on the day of his death with the words : If you're wounded, it's Blighty (home). If you're killed, it's the Resurrection ! "—a more sincere and far nobler battle motto than Nelson's egotistical " A Peerage or Westminster Abbey ! "

From the Manchester Guardian we take some curious specimens of the accidental literature of the song-writer. " Hallelujah, I'm a hobo " is one of the popular songs at the front. It seems that this song was first sung by the unemployed in Canada when they paraded the streets. In its original form it ran something like this, being modelled on a well-known revivalist hymn :—

Oh, why don't you save All the money you earn ? If I'd money to save I'd have money to burn.

Hallelujah, tto. Oh, I love my boss,

He's a good friend of mine, That is why I am starving Out in the bread line.

Hallelujah, &c."

Another favourite is the marching song :- " At the halt on the left form platoon ! At the halt on the left form platoon ! If the odd numbers will not mark two paces, How the hell can the rest form platoon "

"Ev'ry soldier lives on jam " is a parody of the Soldiers' Chorus from Faust, and "We are the Ragtime Army" goes to the tune of " The Church's one foundation." " Old King Cole " is merely the latest version of a very old soldiers' song. The song begins :—

" Old King Cole was a merry old soul, And a merry old soul was he,

Ho called for his pipe and he called for his bowl,

And he called for his privates three.

Now every private had a great thirst,

And a very great thirst had ho -

' Beer, beer; beer, beer, beer,' said the privates, ' Merry, merry boys are we.

For none there are that can compare

With the boys of the new army.' "

Each succeeding verse deals with the next in rank above up to the Colonel. Every subaltern had a great grouse, every Captain had a great cheek, every Major had a great swear:-

" Now every colonel knew hang all, And very hang all knew he," are the introductory lines of the last verse. And the chorus


" What do we do next ? ' said the colonel,

Blank, blank, blank, blank, blank,' said the major, `Please may I have a year's leave ? ' said the captain. We do all the work,' said the subaltern.

' Right about turn, quick march,' said the sergeant. Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer,' said the privates, Merry, merry boys are we. For none there are that can compare With the boys of the new army.' "

A sergeant of the Gordon Highlanders is said to have been the author of the song of ironic comment on patriotism which has for

its refrain :- "Send out the boys' and the girls' brigades ; They'll keep Old England free :

Send out my brother, my sister, my mother, But for Gawd's sake don't send rag ! "

A doctor who writes under the name of " Wamba " is the most regular contributor to the Egginton Howl already mentioned. He is good at bosh ballads. In one he describes how the old Hospitallers of the Order of St. John had a strange experience in the island of Rhodes:— So this most ferocious creature Rambled round the Isle of Rhodes, For his hide was quite impervious To arrows, spears and goads. He ate up all and sundry

At his dwelling in a fen, And he showed a nasty temper

If you visited his den. Till old Villeneuve gave orders To his Knights, who were so bold, Not to tantalise the creature, And they did as they were told. I walked up the street And I knocked at the door, And she said, You're a hobo, I've seen you before.'

Chorus : Hallelujah, I'm a hobo, Hallelujah, amen ! Hallelujah, get your hand down, Revive us again I

" Old Helion de Villeneuve

Was master of the Knights And Helicon de Villeneuve

Had seen all sorts of sights ; But a brand new kind of

dragon Took up quarters in the Isle, Which H. de V. could only call A snake or crocodile ;

He took a hunting party out The visitor to slay,

But the Dragon did the hunting And the party came away.

Now Dieu-Donn6 donned his armour

For his enterprise forlorn, And to wake his foe from slumber Tootled loudly on the horn, Till the Dragon like a sportsman Came and sparred all round the ring (As tbo dragons did in those days). And he bounced like anything: So they circled round each other As a wheel goes round its hub. Till the bow-wows seized the Dragon Where ho used to keep his grub.

So Dieu-Donne slew the Dragon And attained to great renown. Which to his last descendants The bold Knight handed down ; The one we know at Egginton Is not (by lots) the least,

When men go forth to fight and work

Or sit them down to feast.

And him I name my champion, For proof on low or high, Who ride the lists as challengers, To witness that I lie." But Gozon de Dieu-Donn6, A warrior of Provence, Was learned in Anatomie, And as he wandered once In weighty meditation, He saw the dragon pass, And studied all his antics As he gambolled o'er the graas.

A mighty brain wave smote him For he noticed with a start That the Dragon's Little Mary' Was his unprotected part.

Cozen made a wooden Dragon, Big and empty as a drum, With an armour-plated carcase And an india-rubber tum. He put a spring inside it, To make the model bounce With a sea-sick sort of wriggle Like a dragon on the pounce ; Then he trained a pack of fox- hounds

At the undern eath ' to go When he gave the dogs the signal—

With a Veldts, Tally-Ho ! '

The strangest song of all at the front goes to the tune of an inane music-hall song which was popular a few years ago. We take the text as it is given in Mr. E. V. Lucas's Vermilion Box together with his comment :-

" I should guess that this odd triumphant credo, set to an old music,- hall tune and springing up and spreading probably as mysteriously as a folk-song, is not a defiance of the earthly foe, but merely one more manifestation of the courageous levity that this war has drawn forth. The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling For you, but not for me.

For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling They've got the goods for me. 0 Death where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling ? 0 Grave, thy victoree ?

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling For you, but not for me ! '

Isn't that wonderful ? And incredible? It is not exactly religion, and yet it is religion. Fatalism with faith. Assurance with disdain. The very aristocracy of confidence. And only the new British soldier could sing it. "