I was going through a stack of copies of really old newspapers, this one from an October 11, 1918 edition, and came across the following poem. The only reason I got a copy of this page is because I absolutely love the poem below.
Before anyone gets upset over the title, I want to stress that I did not write this poem. In fact, this poem is about 93 years old. It was written decades before I was born. And it’s referring to cigarettes. I’m not sure how they came to be called by this name, but back then they were. Long before it became an ugly slang word.
So having explained that, I hope you enjoy a blast from the past. (I also want to stress that the punctuation in this poem is not mine)
by Corporal Jack Turner
What tobacco really means to a soldier has been voiced in more poetry—good, bad and indifferent, but always heartfelt—than almost any other subject of the war. Here is a poem from the British army which became so popular abroad that it has been reprinted and widely distributed.
When the cold is making ice cream of the marrow of your bones,
When you’re shaking like a jelly and your feet are dead as stones,
When your clothes and boots and blankets, and your rifle and your kit,
Are soaked from Hell to Breakfast, and the dugout where you sit
Is leaking like a basket, and upon the muddy floor
The water lies in filthy pools, six inches deep or more;
Tho life seems cold and mis’rable and all the world is wet,
You’ll always get thro’ somehow if you’ve got a cigarette.
When you’re lying in a listening post ‘way out beyond the wire,
While a blasted Hun, behind a gun, is doing rapid fire;
When the bullets whine above your head, and sputter on the ground,
When your eyes are strained for every move, your ears for every sound—
You’d bet your life a Hun patrol is prowling somewhere near;
A shiver runs along your spine that’s very much like fear;
You’ll stick it to the finish—but, I’ll make a little bet,
You’d feel a whole lot better if you had a cigarette.
When Fritz is starting something and his guns are on the bust
When the parapet goes up in chunks, and settles down in dust,
When the roly-poly “rum-jar” comes a-wobbling thro’ the air,
‘Til it lands upon a dugout—and the dugout isn’t there;
When the air is full of dust, and smoke, and scraps of steel, and noise
And you think you’re booked for golden crowns and other Heavenly joys,
When your nerves are all a-tremble, and your brain is all a fret—
It isn’t half so hopeless if you’ve-got a cigarette.
When you’re waiting for the whistle and your foot is on the step,
You bluff yourself, it’s lots of fun, and all the time you’re hep
To the fact that you may stop one ‘fore you’ve gone a dozen feet,
And you wonder what it feels like, and your thoughts are far from sweet;
Then you think about a little grave, with R. I. P. on top.
And you know you’ve got to go across—altho’ you’d like to stop;
When your backbone’s limp as water, and you’re bathed in icy sweat,
Why, you’ll feel a lot more cheerful if you puff your cigarette.
Then, when you stop a good one, and the stretcher bearers come
And patch you up with strings, and splints, and bandages, and gum;
When you think you’ve got a million wounds and fifty thousand breaks.
And your body’s just a blasted sack packed full of pains and aches;
Then you feel you’ve reached the finish, and you’re sure your number’s up,
And you feel as weak as Belgian beer, and helpless as a pup —
But you know that you’re not down and out, that life’s worth living yet,
When some old war-wise Red Cross guy slips you a cigarette.
We can do without MacConachies, and Bully, and hard tack,
When Fritz’s curtain fire keeps the ration parties back;
We can do without our greatcoats, and our socks, and shirts, and shoes,
We might almost—tho’ I doubt it—get along without our booze;
We can do without “K. R. & 0..” and “Military Law,”
We can beat the ancient Israelites at making bricks, sans straw;
We can do without a lot of things and still win out, you bet,
But I’d hate to think of soldiering without a cigarette.