[Editor: This poem, by “Stretcher Bearer”, was published in The Western Mail (Perth, WA), 10 January 1935. The poem is apparently about some Australian soldiers on convalescent leave in England during the First World War (1914-1918).]
Convalescent but flighty ten Diggers in Blighty
To a mansion in Kent were invited,
They were told to behave and the assurance they gave
To their host, benign and be-knighted.
Now these soldiers were able to grace any table
In London West-end or at Dover,
Except one of the crew, from the Gascoyne he blew,
A groper, and son of a drover.
When he swore at his best this man from the West,
Used adjectives ruddy and gory,
And nouns with a ma got a vehement jar
When abused by Bill in a story.
His Lordship of Kent, when he heard of his bent,
Gave lectures in language quite phoney
On cursing and swearing, manner and bearing,
In homes decidedly toney.
With an innocent face Bill said to His Grace,
With an air exceedingly puzzled,
But I never use words and am not of the birds
Who at stunts like these should be muzzled.
They arrived at the house, went hunting for grouse,
Shot pheasants and rabbits and hares,
And with dancing and cards and music from bards
They banished all worries and cares.
Bill’s tongue was quite clean if he spoke to a Dean,
A Marquis, a Count, or a Lady,
Till His Lordship, he thought, this fellow’s been taught
What’s right and what’s wrong and what’s shady.
But knowing the bloke all those in on the joke
Knew storms would break sooner or later,
And when the big butler chap spilt soup in his lap
Bill libelled that gentleman’s mater.
Those present were shock’d for a floodgate unlock’d
Ne’er flowed with so alarming a gush,
Bill, sensing the tension, stopped his dissension
Then made for the door with a rush.
A message was sent by His Lordship of Kent
To come back and go on as before,
But poor Bill could not face the guests of his grace
The first time in his life that he swore.
To put Bill at ease, the Duchess of Pease
Called him back and said with emotion,
The Bishop of Plinney, soup down his pinny,
Once caused a wordy commotion.
So now you’re aware in circumstance rare
Bad words can be used without thinking
By the best of us all, if great or just small,
Now sup up your soup and stop winking.
The eyes of the Digger grew bigger ’n’ bigger,
Strike me pink and all that’s untintable
That butler I’ll hire, and the soup from his fire,
To use when I’m feeling unprintable.
— “Stretcher Bearer” (51st),
The Western Mail (Perth, WA), 10 January 1935, p. 3
51st = 51st Australian Infantry Battalion
See: 1) “51st Australian Infantry Battalion”, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
2) “51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment”, Wikipedia
be-knighted = (usually spelt: beknighted) made a knight; worthy of a high level of regard or respect
bent = possessing an interest in a particular activity, field, ideology, or subject; possessing an inclination for a certain type of behaviour (can also mean: crooked, corrupt, or dishonest, e.g. a bent policeman)
bird = a person, particularly someone who is remarkable, odd, or distinct (e.g. “he’s a tough old bird”, “he’s an odd bird”, “he’s a sly old bird”)
Blighty = England; or, in a wider context, Britain
bloke = man, chap, fellow
Digger = an Australian soldier (a slang word which originated during World War One); in later usage, can also refer to a friend or mate
Dover = a port town located on the south-east coast of England, in the county of Kent; it is especially well-known for the White Cliffs of Dover, the chalky white cliffs which stretch for 8 miles (13 km.), facing the English Channel and the Strait of Dover
drover = someone who drives large numbers of domestic animals, usually over long distances (especially used regarding someone driving herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, usually taking them to market or to a buyer)
Gascoyne = an administrative region located on the central coast of Western Australia
See: “Gascoyne”, Wikipedia
groper = sandgroper (slang): someone from Western Australia (a term arising from the vast sandy deserts of Western Australia; also, “sandgroper” is the name of a burrowing insect found in Western Australia, belonging to the Cylindrachetidae family)
His Grace = a title and form of address applied to an archbishop or a duke (who may be directly addressed as “Your Grace”, e.g. “Yes, Your Grace”) (the title and form of address for a duchess is “Her Grace”; also directly addressed as “Your Grace”)
mater = (informal) mother (regarded as British slang, especially British public school slang; usually used in a facetious or humorous pseudo-archaic manner; derived from the Latin “māter”, meaning “mother”)
’n’ = a contraction of “and” (usually used between two related words or as part of a phrase, e.g. fish ’n’ chips, rock ’n’ roll)
ne’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “never”
pinny = (slang) pinafore (a sleeveless and backless dress, designed to be worn over a top or blouse, especially meant for use as an apron or protective garment, to guard against dirt, muck, and stains getting on the clothes worn underneath)
See: “Pinafore”, Wikipedia
shock’d = (vernacular) shocked
strike me pink = an exclamatory phrase, used to express astonishment, shock, or surprise
stunt = a military action, a battle; an event, a function, an occasion, a social affair
sup = to eat or drink; imbibe drink or food by drinking or eating in small amounts (small mouthfuls, sips, or spoonfuls), especially liquid foods (such as soup); drink; have supper, eat an evening meal
toney = having an aristocratic, posh, or “high-toned” manner or style
unlock’d= (vernacular) unlocked
the West = Western Australia
West-end = the West End of Central London; the West End is a broadly-defined area which includes Bond Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Soho, the Strand, and Trafalgar Square; the West End is especially well-known for its theatres
See: 1) “West End of London”, Wikipedia
2) “West End theatre”, Wikipedia
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