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Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

29. The Next War

YOU young friskies who today

Jump and fight in Father’s hay

With bows and arrows and wooden spears,

Playing at Royal Welch Fusiliers,

Happy though these hours you spend,

Have they warned you how games end?

Boys, from the first time you prod

And thrust with spears of curtain-rod,

From the first time you tear and slash

Your long-bows from the garden ash,

Or fit your shaft with a blue jay feather,

Binding the split tops together,

From that same hour by fate you’re bound

As champions of this stony ground,

Loyal and true in everything,

To serve your Army and your King,

Prepared to starve and sweat and die

Under some fierce foreign sky,

If only to keep safe those joys

That belong to British boys,

To keep young Prussians from the soft

Scented hay of father’s loft,

And stop young Slavs from cutting bows

And bendy spears from Welsh hedgerows.

Another War soon gets begun,

A dirtier, a more glorious one;

Then, boys, you’ll have to play, all in;

It’s the cruellest team will win.

So hold your nose against the stink

And never stop too long to think.

Wars don’t change except in name;

The next one must go just the same,

And new foul tricks unguessed before

Will win and justify this War.

Kaisers and Czars will strut the stage

Once more with pomp and greed and rage;

Courtly ministers will stop

At home and fight to the last drop;

By the million men will die

In some new horrible agony;

And children here will thrust and poke,

Shoot and die, and laugh at the joke,

With bows and arrows and wooden spears,

Playing at Royal Welch Fusiliers.