Punch, October 17, 1906


[A correspondent recently complained to a contemporary that “the actor in touring companies is badly trained in military matters,” and is not convincing when he is playing the part of a soldier.]

Oh, we take him from the wilds of Maiden Lane;
 Twelve bob a week we give him for a wage;
We try to teach him not to look insane
 When making his appearance on the stage.
He doesn’t often have a lot to do
 (Just enter r. and exit l.u.e.),
    But—the fact there’s no concealing,
    You—well, somehow can’t help feeling
 That he isn’t all a soldier ought to be.

    O-oh, histrion Tommy Atkins,
     I’ve no doubt you do your best;
    But there are a few improvements
     You’ll allow me to suggest.
    Don’t salute when you’re bare-headed:
     It is not the usual plan,
    Scarcely, so to speak, the hall-mark
     Of a military man.

His regiment’s the “Loamshires” or “The Blanks,”
 And the discipline’s not rigid there, I fear;
For nobody says, “Silence in the Ranks!”
 When he greets the hero’s speeches with a cheer.
Real soldiers when on sentry-go, I’m told,
 Are very seldom heard to air their wit;
    But if he says nothing funny,
    Then it’s “Give us back our money!”
 From the patron of the drama in the pit.

    O-oh, histrion Tommy Atkins,
     That is where you come to grief;
    Real soldiers hardly ever
     Deal in “humorous relief.”
    Though I’ve heard the gallery giggle
     When your funniments began,
    Yet, believe me, humour’s foreign
     To the military man.

He’s in the mess-room scene in Act the First
 When the villain tells the hero that he—knows!
When the latter bids the reptile do his worst
 He separates them ere they come to blows.
In the big court-martial scene in Act the Third
 He hangs about (left centre) and salutes,
    But one feels constrained to mention
    That, when standing to attention,
 A warrior rarely gazes at his boots.

    O-oh, histrion Tommy Atkins,
     You’d be splendid, I’ve no doubt,
    As a pantomime gazeka
     Or a “sudden noise without;”
    But you’re rather like a waxwork
     Or a doll that’s stuffed with bran;
    And this makes you unconvincing
     As a military man.




Unsigned lyric as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 131 of Punch.

This is Wodehouse’s third parody lyric for “Private Tommy Atkins.” See “The Future Atkins” for more about the original song and its tune.