22 March 1918

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 bucket, 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 through somehow if you’ve got 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-wobling 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.

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’re 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. and O.,” and “Military Law,”
We can beat the ancient Israelities 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.

Smoking in the First World War

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This entry was posted on March 22nd, 2018.