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The Volunteer

Robert William Service 1874 – 1958



Sez I: My Country calls? Well, let it call.
  I grins perlitely and declines wiv thanks.
Go, let 'em plaster every blighted wall,
  'Ere's ONE they don't stampede into the ranks.
Them politicians with their greasy ways;
  Them empire-grabbers -- fight for 'em? No fear!
I've seen this mess a-comin' from the days
  Of Algyserious and Aggydear:
  I've felt me passion rise and swell,
  But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Sez I: My Country? Mine? I likes their cheek.
  Me mud-bespattered by the cars they drive,
Wot makes my measly thirty bob a week,
  And sweats red blood to keep meself alive!
Fight for the right to slave that they may spend,
  Them in their mansions, me 'ere in my slum?
No, let 'em fight wot's something to defend:
  But me, I've nothin' -- let the Kaiser come.
  And so I cusses 'ard and well,
  But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Sez I: If they would do the decent thing,
  And shield the missis and the little 'uns,
Why, even _I_ might shout "God save the King",
  And face the chances of them 'ungry guns.
But we've got three, another on the way;
  It's that wot makes me snarl and set me jor:
The wife and nippers, wot of 'em, I say,
  If I gets knocked out in this blasted war?
  Gets proper busted by a shell,
  But . . . wot the 'ell, Bill? Wot the 'ell?

Ay, wot the 'ell's the use of all this talk?
  To-day some boys in blue was passin' me,
And some of 'em they 'ad no legs to walk,
  And some of 'em they 'ad no eyes to see.
And -- well, I couldn't look 'em in the face,
  And so I'm goin', goin' to declare
I'm under forty-one and take me place
  To face the music with the bunch out there.
  A fool, you say! Maybe you're right.
  I'll 'ave no peace unless I fight.
  I've ceased to think; I only know
  I've gotta go, Bill, gotta go.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

All Robert William Service poems | Robert William Service Books

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    "The Volunteer" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 18 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/32679/the-volunteer>.

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