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I must be getting old. I recently found an Anthology of Kipling's South African war verse  'Boots' which dredged up from the recesses of my memory the English lessons gifted to me by the well loved character English Teacher Dr Spike Jackson.

Boots
Rudyard Kipling
(1865–1936)
(Infantry Columns)


WE’RE foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!

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

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and 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 and 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,

            And 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 and 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—

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

            An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

 

’Tain’t—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!

 

Dr 'Spike' Jackson was an Oxford graduate.  He gained credibility to his students by revealing that in his youth, as an undergraduate, he had moonlighted to earn a few bob by writing 'penny dreadfuls'  and had penned many of the original stories for 'Boys Own' and other early comic books for lads.  

 

Spike was a deservedly well respected chap but smoked a pipe which had helped to give him a 'lishp' and when reciting Kiplings most famous South African war  poem (above) with dramatic passion;

 "Bootsh, bootsh, bootsh, bootsh marching up and down again" the pupils in the desk rows nearest that narrator 'caught the worst' of Spike's flying spit....... Eeeeeewwwwwwwwww

 

Spike did succeed in instilling a respect for grammar, poetry and literature. He would invite the party curiously chosen to be the "Form Beauty" to go off to watch the Cricket at Lords on summer Saturdays.

Christopher Prusakowski (WGS 1967-1974)


www.wgsmemories.org.uk