The Song of the Penny-whistle

by Jules Castier


(after Kipling’s “The Song of the Banjo”)


THEY dursn’t give a child a boomerang
A shot-gun plays no end of devilish pranks
The high-falutin’ toys, they may go hang,
The patent, sickening toys that earn no thanks
I’m blest by every kid that laughs or wails,
I’m ready to be lost and knocked about,
I’m never broke or tired, when all else fails,
You should hear me put an end to Tommy’s shout!

With my ” speedy- wheedy-wheedy-wheedy-whish! ”
You should watch me raise the hair upon your head,
Just as Tommy, glad at howling at his wish,
Gets a licking from his dad, and crawls to bed!

In the nurs’ry’s quiet depth, behind the nurse,
When Tommy’s sick at heart and has the blues,
You can hear me none the less– I’m none the worse
For his thrashing, or his pater’s loud abuse;
You can hear me letting forth from out his heart
The bitterness that chokes a six-year-old,
And the joy and boyish hope that won’t depart,
And the ” No, I shan’t, I shan’t do what I’m told! “

When you’ve had your evening’s talk, your last, last drink,
And you’re passing through the hall of your old club–
When your wife has heard the play, and wants to think,

And you can’t afford a motor (there’s the rub !),–
When you’re fed up with the party, and the ball, —
And you manage to be left alone and quit–
When you’re rushing, or you’re sneaking, through the hall,
Don’t I help you with my call and with my grit?

With my ” Ritty-titty-titty-titty-whee! ”
I’m the magnet for the cab that drives you back,
I’m the magic wand of wealth, I’m the call that gives by stealth
All the luxury of thousands that you lack!

In the far-off field of death where men will roam,
‘Mid the trenches’ zig-zag line, and clinging mud,
When no one dares to think of those at home,
And a shot rings now and then– ‘mid trickling blood
In the cold, or in the blazing, red-hot sun,
In the torture-rack of this worst human hell–
I just rally ’em to work that’s to be done–
I call ’em on by God, I do it well!

With my ” Ready-steady-steady-steady-rush! ”
You can see ’em run, and crawl, and gasp for breath–
Yea, I make ’em look alive make ’em men, to dare, and strive–
I’m the war-march, charging on, right on, to Death!

With my ” whizy-jizy-jizy-jizy-jee! ”
In the greasy, dirty, gaunt, foul-living slum,
I’m the voice of squalid nippers, mixed among the smell of kippers,
And the only voice from heaven in the hum!

In the filthy, lurid court, where man and wife
Leave behind an evil reek of beer and gin,
In the netherworld of bitterness and strife,
I alone am pure and clean, beside the din!
I’m the voice of dirty bairns who want to live.
And I stand for their desire untarnished, whole–
I’m the only thing they love and couldn’t give,
I’m the echo bursting forth from out their soul!

Yea, my ” Hity-tity-tity-tity-hy! ”
Is the purest, whitest call amid the dirt;
I’m the dazzling, shining, flicker that is not yet drowned in liquor,
I’m the song of life unsoiled, unspoiled, unhurt!

When the traffic roars and surges through the town,
‘Mid the bustle and the shouts of swearing men–
With the motor-‘buses rushing up and down,
And the horses battling on right through the den–
When the good old stoutish lady’d like to cross,
And she cringes, and she gasps, and cannot dare,
When she tries, and turns, and trots, all at a loss–
Then my time has come to help for I am there!

With my ” Hooty-tooty-tooty-tooty-too! ”
I stop the howling bedlam for the dame
I’m the trumpet of the Squire that shall pull her from the mire,
I’m the voice that quells disorder, blows, and shame!

Let the full-blown blast of bands resound on high,
With their brass, and with their wood-wind, and their string:
They are changing –they were born –and they must die,
They are faked, and forged, and fed they’re not the thing.
No, whatever be their time, their ringing strain,
Be it rag-time, boiling-hot, or Wagner’s song,
There is something cramped and stiff in their refrain,
There is something– you can feel– it that is wrong!

But my ” Hya-heea-hya-heea-whop! ”
Is the human cry, from cradles unto graves–
From young lips that don’t yet ken, to the hearts of dying men,
I’m the deathless cry of children and of braves!