The Secret

Original Text: 
"Woodbine Willy" [Rev. G. A. Studdert-Kennedy], Rough Rhymes of a Padre (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919): 36-37. 1919/5/85 Cambridge University Library
1You were askin' 'ow we sticks it,
3'Ow it is we keeps on smilin'
4     When the place runs red wi' blood.
5Since you're askin', I can tell ye,
6     And I thinks I tells ye true,
7But it ain't official, mind ye,
8     It's a tip twixt me and you.
9For the General thinks it's tactics,
13Sergeant-Major says it's drillin',
15Doctor swears it's sanitation,
16     And some patent stinks 'e's made.
17Padre tells us its religion,
18     And the Spirit of the Lord;
19But I ain't got much religion,
20     And I sticks it still, by Gawd.
22     And the dinners as we gets.
23But I knows what keeps us smilin',
25For the daytime seems more dreary,
26     And the night-time seems to drag
27To eternity of darkness,
29Then the rain seems some'ow wetter,
30     And the cold cuts twice as keen,
32     What the Sargint 'asn't seen.
34     And ye 'ave to stick the pain,
35If ye 'aven't got a fag on,
36     Why it 'urts as bad again.
37When there ain't no fags to pull at,
38     Then there's terror in the ranks.
39That's the secret - (yes, I'll 'ave one)


2] blarsted: blasted. Back to Line
10] bloomin': mild swear-word. Back to Line
11] C.O.: Commanding Officer. Back to Line
12] as: that. Back to Line
14] straffin': dressing-down, criticism. Back to Line
21] Quarters: quartermaster, "An officer, ranking as lieutenant, attached to each regiment, with the duties of providing quarters for the soldiers, laying out the camp, and looking after the rations, ammunition and other supplies of the regiment" (OED 2). Back to Line
24] Woodbine Cigarettes: cheap brand of English cigarettes. Back to Line
28] fag: cigarette. Back to Line
31] Boches: Germans. Back to Line
33] Fritz: nickname for a German soldier, Friedrich. Back to Line
40] Tanks: thanks. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: