21 NOVEMBER 1931, Page 31

War-Time Songs

Songs and Slang of the British Soldier : an Anthology and Glossary. Compiled by John Brophy and Eric Partridge. (Scholartis Press. 9s.) THIS anthology reappears in its third edition, revised and very greatly enlarged. The novelist and historian of the future who wants to know what our-troops sang, and in their

more ribald or desperate moods said, must use this book.

Perhaps our men were not as strenuously rabelaisian as it suggests, and as the vast public who admired All Quiet on the Western Front will be ready to believe ; and in any case the solely bawdy palls in time. Nevertheless, this compilation is the work of genuine men of letters, both of them possessed of a nervous and accurate prose style. Particularly good is the discussion of " Music-Hall Songs : 1914-1918." This will take many minds back to those dragging years lit up for them by so much valour and laughter and comradeship as well as funk and wretchedness. We sang sentimental enough stuff, we remember. But our authors are not pedants. They under- stand, and justify us in their understanding :

" ' The Long, Long Trail ' moves more slowly : it has the rhythm of the daily routine of war, the huge, complicated task of which no end was yet in sight save that illumined faintly by home. It is a lovesick song, too, and was sung appropriately by men conscious of their separation from all they loved; and secretly wondering whether the separation might not be eternal."

And of " If You Were the Only Girl in the World " they say, very rightly :

" Tosh !—and sentimental tosh ! But one of the few wisps of beauty in a world grown unnaturally drab and sinister. The pretty tune and the silly words will be treasured by many for long years yet."

All the songs are not here, even yet. Where, for example, are " What do you want to make those eyes at me for ? " and " Some folk said Susanna was mad ! Just fancy ! " and

" I try to be good, but the girls won't let me ! " and The Tiddleypom " ? Can anyone to-day put us on the track of these masterpieces, their tunes or their words ? Probably not. But Messrs. Brophy and Partridge have rescued immense tracts of past time from oblivion and have enlivened their informing book with good humour and sane, just comment.