4

Boots

The twenty-fifth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here and here.  Kipling often wrote in his poems about the British Army and celebrated the courage and endurance of the average British soldier.  However, he never romanticized war, viewing it as a dirty, albeit often necessary, business.  Few poems have better illustrated the endless tedium and ennui of war better than the poem Boots written in 1903 after the Boer War had concluded.  The use of repetition in the poem skillfully conveys an endless and exhausting march.  Ironically, it was set to music and a poem about the tedium of military service became a music hall favorite.

INFANTRY COLUMNS

  We’re foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa —

Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa —

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)

                 There’s no discharge in the war!

  Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an’-twenty mile to-day —

Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before —

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)

                 There’s no discharge in the war!

  Don’t—don’t—don’t—don’t—look at what’s in front of you.

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again);

Men—men—men—men—men go mad with watchin’ em,

                 An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

  Try—try—try—try—to think o’ something different —

Oh—my—God—keep—me from goin’ lunatic!

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)

                 There’s no discharge in the war!

  Count—count—count—count—the bullets in the bandoliers.

If—your—eyes—drop—they will get atop o’ you!

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again) —

                 There’s no discharge in the war!

  We—can—stick—out—’unger, thirst, an’ weariness,

But—not—not—not—not the chronic sight of ’em —

Boot—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again,

                 An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

  ‘Taint—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,

But night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million

Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.

                 There’s no discharge in the war!

  I—’ave—marched—six—weeks in ‘Ell an’ certify

It—is—not—fire—devils, dark, or anything,

But boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again,

                 An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

4 Comments

  1. Don

    One of my favorites.

    I think it should be done at a slower cadence to really catch the monotomy of a long march, but then it would not be popular in a music hall.

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