29 Apr

Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is routinely hailed as the most popular poem in England, and not without cause — it’s a marvelous piece.  But this is, of course, not a latter-day development; the poem has a long history of reception… and also of parody.

Here, then, from the wonderful Wipers Times (a paper published in the trenches, by the men in the trenches, FOR the men in the trenches), is a rather more martially oriented take on the thing…

If you can drink the beer the Belgians sell you,
And pay the price they ask with ne’er a grouse,
If you believe the tales that some will tell you,
And live in mud with ground sheet for a house;
If you can flounder through a C.T. nightly,
That’s three parts full of mud and filth and slime,
Bite back the oaths and keep your jaw shut tightly,
While inwardly you’re cursing all the time;
If you can grin at last when handing over,
And finish well what you had well begun,
And think a muddy ditch a bed of clover,
You’ll be a soldier one day, then, my son.

What Kipling would have thought of this is anyone’s guess, though I imagine the author of a poem like “The Young British Soldier” might have looked upon the above with a smile.


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