The Absent-Minded Beggar

…from the quills of the dead white poets

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

When you’ve shouted “Rule Britannia,” when you’ve sung “God save the Queen,”
   When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,
Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine
   For a gentleman in khaki going South?
He’s an absent-minded beggar, and his weaknesses are great –
   But we and Paul must take him as we find him –
He is out on active service, wiping something of a slate –
   And he’s left a lot of little things behind him!
Duke’s son – cook’s son – son of a hundred kings –
   (Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of ‘em doing his country’s work
   (and who’s to look after his things?)
Pass the hat for your credit’s sake, 
                                      and pay – pay – pay!

There are girls he married secret, asking no permission to,
   For he knew he wouldn’t get it if he did.
There is gas and coals and vittles, and the house-rent falling due,
   And it’s more than rather likely there’s a kid.
There are girls he walked with casual. They’ll be sorry now he’s gone,
   For and absent-minded beggar they will find him,
But it ain’t the time for sermons with the winter coming on.
   We must help the girl that Tommy’s left behind him!
Cook’s son – Duke’s son – son of a belted Earl –
   Son of Lambeth publican – it’s all the same today!
Each of them doing the country’s work
   (and who’s to look after the girl?)
Pass the hat for your credit’s sake,
                                      and pay – pay – pay!

They are families by thousands, far too proud to beg or speak,
   And they’ll put their sticks and bedding up the spout,
And they’ll live on half o’ nothing, paid ‘em punctual once a week,Cause the man that earns the wage is ordered out.
He’s an absent-minded beggar, but he heard his country call,
   And his reg’ment didn’t need to send to find him!
He chucked his job and joint it – so the job before us all
   Is to help the home that Tommy’s left behind him!
Duke’s job – cook’s job – gardener, baronet, groom,
   Mew’s or palace or paper-shop, there’s someone gone away!
Each of ‘em doing his country’s work
   (and who’s to look after the room?)
Pass the hat and for your credit’s sake,
                                       and pay – pay – pay!

Let us manage so as later, we can look him in the face,
   And tell him – what he’d very much prefer –
That, while he saved the Empire, his employer saved his place,
   And his mates (that’s you and me) looked out for her.
He’s and absent-minded beggar and he may forget it all,
   But we do not want his kiddies to remind him
That we sent ‘em to the workhouse while their daddy hammered Paul,
   So we’ll help the homes that Tommy left behind him!
Cook’s home  - Duke’s home – home of millionaire,
   (Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of ‘em doing his country’s work
   (and what have you got to spare?)
Pass the hat for your credit’s sake 
                                      and pay – pay – pay!

About Paul Jacko

Jacko was born in Czechoslovakia not long before the communist putsch in February 1948. He studied industrial chemistry there and left in 1969 for Australia, where he became a lawyer and established his own practice. He has now retired and beside hunting, fishing, camping, prospecting and playing golf he amuses himself by writing.
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