Playing At Soldiers.

A poem by Thomas Hood

"Who'll serve the King?"


What little urchin is there never
Hath had that early scarlet fever,
Of martial trappings caught?
Trappings well call'd - because they trap
And catch full many a country chap
To go where fields are fought!

What little urchin with a rag
Hath never made a little flag
(Our plate will show the manner),
And wooed each tiny neighbor still,
Tommy or Harry, Dick or Will,
To come beneath the banner!

Just like that ancient shape of mist,
In Hamlet, crying "'List, oh, 'list!"
Come, who will serve the king,
And strike frog-eating Frenchmen dead,
And cut off Bonyparty's head? -
And all that sort of thing.

So used I, when I was a boy,
To march with military toy,
And ape the soldier's life; -
And with a whistle or a hum,
I thought myself a Duke of Drum
At least, or Earl of Fife.

With gun of tin and sword of lath,
Lord! how I walk'd in glory's path
With regimental mates,
By sound of trump and rub-a dubs -
To 'siege the washhouse - charge the tubs -
Or storm the garden gates.

Ah me! my retrospective soul!
As over memory's muster-roll
I cast my eyes anew,
My former comrades all the while
Rise up before me, rank and file,
And form in dim review.

Ay, there they stand, and dress in line,
Lubbock, and Fenn, and David Vine,
And dark "Jamaeky Forde!"
And limping Wood, and "Cockey Hawes,"
Our captain always made, because
He had a real sword!

Long Lawrence, Natty Smart, and Soame,
Who said he had a gun at home,
But that was all a brag;
Ned Ryder, too, that used to sham
A prancing horse, and big Sam Lamb
That would hold up the flag!

Tom Anderson, and "Dunny White,"
Who never right-abouted right,
For he was deaf and dumb;
Jack Pike, Jem Crack, and Sandy Gray,
And Dickey Bird, that wouldn't play
Unless he had the drum.

And Peter Holt, and Charley Jepp,
A chap that never kept the step -
No more did "Surly Hugh;"
Bob Harrington, and "Fighting Jim" -
We often had to halt for him,
To let him tie his shoe.

"Quarrelsome Scott," and Martin Dick,
That kill'd the bantam cock, to stick
The plumes within his hat;
Bill Hook, and little Tommy Grout,
That got so thump'd for calling out
"Eyes right!" to "Squinting Matt."

Dan Simpson, that, with Peter Dodd,
Was always in the awkward squad,
And those two greedy Blakes
That took our money to the fair,
To buy the corps a trumpet there,
And laid it out in cakes.

Where are they now? - an open war
With open mouth declaring for? -
Or fall'n in bloody fray?
Compell'd to tell the truth I am,
Their fights all ended with the sham, -
Their soldiership in play.

Brave Soame sends cheeses out in trucks,
And Martin sells the cock he plucks,
And Jepp now deals in wine;
Harrington bears a lawyer's bag,
And warlike Lamb retains his flag,
But on a tavern sign.

They tell me Cockey Hawes's sword
Is seen upon a broker's board:
And as for "Fighting Jim,"
In Bishopsgate, last Whitsuntide,
His unresisting cheek I spied
Beneath a Quaker brim!

Quarrelsome Scott is in the church,
For Ryder now your eye must search
The marts of silk and lace -
Bird's drums are filled with figs, and mute,
And I - I've got a substitute
To Soldier in my place!

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