The Young British Soldier

Rudyard Kipling 1865 (Mumbai) – 1936 (London)



When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East
'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,
An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
   Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.
      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
         So-oldier ~OF~ the Queen!
 
Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,
An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
   A soldier what's fit for a soldier.
      Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .
 
First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --
Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --
   An' it's bad for the young British soldier.
      Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .
 
When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --
Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
   An' it crumples the young British soldier.
      Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .
 
But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:
You ~must~ wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,
   An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.
      Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .
 
If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
   That it's beer for the young British soldier.
      Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .
 
Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --
A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,
For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,
   Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.
      'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .
 
If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --
Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er:  that's Hell for them both,
   An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.
      Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .
 
When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,
Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
   And march to your front like a soldier.
      Front, front, front like a soldier . . .
 
When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,
   An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
      Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .
 
When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,
   For noise never startles the soldier.
      Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .
 
If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
   And wait for supports like a soldier.
      Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .
 
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
         So-oldier ~of~ the Queen!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on May 03, 2023

3:07 min read
7,468

Quick analysis:

Scheme aaabBBBC dddbb eeebb fffbb aggbb hhhbb iiibb jjjbb kkkbb lllbb mmmbb nnnbb ooobBBBC
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 3,238
Words 592
Stanzas 13
Stanza Lengths 8, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 8

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist chiefly remembered for his tales and poems of British soldiers in India and his tales for children. more…

All Rudyard Kipling poems | Rudyard Kipling Books

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1 Comment
  • marcusmoon
    I first saw this in a book in a used book store, and like a fool I did not buy the book. It was not written in poem form, but as the lyrics of a song, complete with the music (staves, notes, rests, and all) just like in a hymnal.
    The last line of each stanza forms the basis of the refrain. The repetition of a word in that line ("serve, serve, serve"; "fool, fool, fool"; "go, go, go" etc., makes it into a sort of marching song. 
    LikeReply11 months ago

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