I TOOK to khaki at a word,
And fashioned dreams of wonder.
I rode the great sea like a bird,
Chock full of blood and thunder.
I saw myself upon the field
Of battle, framed in glory,
Compelling stubborn foes to yield
As captives to my sword and shield—
This is another story.
We sat about in sun and sand,
We broke old Cairo’s images,
Met here and there a swarthy band
In little, friendly scrimmages,
And here it is I start to kid
No Moslem born can hit me.
The Germ then that had long laid hid
Came out of Pharaoh’s pyramid,
And covertly he bit me.
For some few days I wore an air
Of pensive introspection,
And then I curled down anywhere.
They whispered of infection,
And hoist me on two sticks as though
I bore the leper’s label,
And took me where, all in a row
Of tiny beds, two score or so
Were raising second Babel;
But no man talked to any one.
And no bloke knew another.
This soldier raved about his gun,
And that one of his mother.
They were the victims of the Germ,
The imp that Satan pricks in,
First cousin to the Coffin Worm,
Whose uncomputed legions squirm
Some foul, atomic Styx in.
The Germ rides with the plunging shell,
Or on the belts that fret you,
Or in a speck of dust may well
One thousand years to get you;
Well ambushed in a tunic fold
He waits his special mission,
And never lad so big and bold
But turns to water in his hold
And dribbles to perdition.
Where is war’s pomp and circumstance,
The gauds in which we prank it?
Germ ends for us our fine romance,
Wrapped in a dingy blanket.
We set out braggartly in mirth,
World’s bravest men and tallest,
To do the mightiest thing on earth,
And here we’re lying, nothing worth,
Succumbent to the smallest!