The Chat’s Parade [poem, 8 March 1918]

[Editor: A poem about a “chat” (a louse). Published in Aussie: The Australian Soldiers’ Magazine, no. 3, 8 March 1918.]

The Chat’s Parade.

When the soldier, fagged and weary,
In surroundings that are dreary,
Aside lays he his rifle and grenade,
Seeks solace in forgetful slumber,
From shell-crash and battle’s thunder,
’Tis then the “chats” are mustered for parade.

At the double about his back
In a most irregular track
They make for the parade-ground on his spine.
When there they will never keep still,
Undisciplined they stamp at will,
And up and down they march in ragged line.

Round his ribs they do manoeuvre,
Curses issue from the soldier,
There’s divisions by the score, he declares,
Doing artillery formation
Without his approbation,
He wriggles and he twists and loudly swears.

Through long, dark night they carry on,
At the charges they become tres bien,
The soldier to disperse them madly tears
With savage fingers at his skin,
As he prays for the morning glim,
In darkness, though, the victory is theirs.

The morn at last breaks good and clear,
Light is this “Army’s” one great fear,
They retire to warm flannel trenches.
But not too long there they linger,
For the soldier’s thumb and finger,
Routs them out with unregretful wrenches.

But no victory is there won,
For again reinforcements come,
And in darkness of night again attack;
So on the fight goes — on and on,
They are almost like the Hun:
Their foul deeds are performed behind the back.

J. M. Harkins.

Aussie: The Australian Soldiers’ Magazine, no. 3, 8 March 1918, page 12

Editor’s notes:
chat = a louse (World War One slang; lice were a particular problem for soldiers during wartime)

fagged = to work to the point of exhaustion; to become tired or worn-out

Hun = Germans (“Hun” could be used in a singular sense to refer to an individual German, as well as in a collective sense to refer to the German military or to Germans in general) (similar to the usage of “Fritz”)

très bien = (French) very good, very well, all right, fine

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