A breed of humans well identified by a well-known Victorian poet

There happens to be a special breed of men, imbued with a unique sense of duty, of service… I would even say altruism. However, they can be chiefly recognised by the way their associates ( I have purposely chosen this looser word) flock to them to seek assistance of varied kinds or in times of trouble and ignore them largely otherwise, especially in happier times.

 When these happier times come, it will be others who will be the focus of time and attention while our men are out of the reckoning and will be barely acknowledged… at the best. However, these chosen few very well understand what is in store for them, but then again will go on regardless for it is not only something unique they are doing, but is their way of life. For most of them, the only discernible response is a simple nod of the head, a shrug or at most, a wry smile…. 
But then again you may dismiss my contention as the opinion of someone facing an existentialist crisis but there was a Victorian-era poet, erroneously labelled as a voice of imperialism and colonialism, who encapsulated the sentiments I have expressed above in sterling verse. I will not dwell on his identity or go into the issue that he justified the epithets conferred on him, though I believe it is misleading to use modern classifications for the past. However, though our poet wrote on the fairly rigid social stratification of his day – a century and more ago – I think the issues he raised are still quite valid even in our epoch. But you see the poem for yourself…….

 

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
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