The Spies’ March


(“The outbreak is in full swing and our death-rate would sicken Napoleon. . . . 
Dr. M— died last week, and C— on Monday, but some more medicines are 
coming. . . We don’t seem to be able to check it at all . . . . Villages panicking 
badly . . . . In some places not a living soul . . . . But at any rate the experience
gained may come in useful, so I am keeping my notes written up to date in case 
of accidents. . . Death is a queer chap to live with for steady company.” 
        —Extract from a private letter from Manchuria.)    


There are no leaders to lead us to honour, and yet with out leaders we sally,
    Each man reporting for duty alone, out of sight, out of reach, of his fellow.
 There are no bugles to call the battalions, and yet without bugle we rally
     From the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth, to follow the Standard of Yellow!
        Fall in! O fall in! O fall in! 

Not where the squadrons mass,
    Not where the bayonets shine,
 Not where the big shell shout as they pass
    Over the firing-line;
 Not where the wounded are,
    Not where the nations die,
 Killed in the cleanly game of war—
    That is no place for a spy!
 O Princes, Thrones and Powers, your work is less than ours—
    Here is no place for a spy! 

Trained to another use,
    We march with colours furled,
 Only concerned when Death breaks loose
    On a front of half a world.
 Only for General Death
    The Yellow Flag may fly,
 While we take post beneath—
    That is the place for a spy.
 Where Plague has spread his pinions over Nations and Dominions—
     Then will be work for a spy! 

The dropping shots begin,
    The single funerals pass,
 Our skirmishers run in,
    The corpses dot the grass!
 The howling towns stampede,
    The tainted hamlets die.
 Now it is war indeed—
    Now there is room for a spy!
 O Peoples, Kings and Lands, we are waiting your commands—
    What is the work for a spy?
             (Drums)—Fear is upon us, spy!  

“Go where his pickets hide—
    Unmask the shape they take,
 Whether a gnat from the waterside,
    Or a stinging fly in the brake,
 Or filth of the crowded street,
    Or a sick rat limping by,
 Or a smear of spittle dried in the heat—
    That is the work of a spy!
            (Drums)—Death is upon us, spy! 

“What does he next prepare?
    Whence will he move to attack?—
By water, earth or air?—
    How can we head him back?
 Shall we starve him out if we burn
    Or bury his food-supply?
 Slip through his lines and learn—
    That is work for a spy!
            (Drums)—Get to your business, spy!