Patriotic pieces from the Great War/The Conversation Book


I 'ave a conversation book: I brought it out from 'ome,
It tells the French for knife and fork, an' likewise brush and comb;
It learns you 'ow to ast the time, the names of all the stars,
An' 'ow to order oysters an' 'ow to buy cigars.

But there ain't no shops to shop in, there ain't no grand hotels,
When you spend your days in dugouts doin' 'olesale trade in shells;
It's nice to know the proper talk for theaters an' such—
But when it comes to talkin', why, it doesn't 'elp you much.

There's all them friendy kind o' things you'd naturally say,
When you meet a fellow casual-like an' pass the time o' day—
Them little things as breaks the ice an' kind o' clears the air,
Which, when you turn the phrase book up, why, them things isn't there!

I met a chap the other day a-roostin' in a trench,
'E didn't know a word of ours nor me a word o' French;
An' 'ow it was we managed, well, I cannot understand,
But I never used the phrase book though I 'ad it in my 'and.

I winked at 'im to start with; 'e grinned from ear to ear;
An' 'e says "Tipperary" an' I says "Souvenir,"
'E 'ad my only Woodbine, I 'ad 'is thin cigar,
Which set the ball a'rollin', an' so—well, there you are!

I showed 'im next my wife an' kids, 'e up and showed me 'is.
Them funny little Frenchy kids with 'air all in a fizz;
"Annette," 'e says, "Louise," 'e says, an' 'is tears began to fall;
We was comrades when we parted, but we'd 'ardly spoke at all.

'E'd 'ave kissed me if I'd let 'im; we 'ad never met before,
An' I've never seen the beggar since, for that's the way o' war;
An' tho we scarcely spoke a word, I wonder just the same
If 'e'll ever see them kids of 'is—I never ast 'is name!