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Marksman Sam

by Marriott Edgar (1934)
Illustrations by John Hassall

Marksman Sam

There are a few archaic terms in this poem, such as 'tinker's moke' (donkey of an itinerant tinsmith) and 'gormless' (bird-brain stupidity; one of those words with no antonym, such as 'gormful').

Marksman Sam was written in England during the 1930's, between World Wars I and II when just about everyone would have been familiar with the military terms used in the poem.

These include, in the final stanza, D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal), O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire), D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), and C.B. (Confined to Barracks).

For those unfamiliar with London, the Royal Albert Hall (in the poem: "Albert 'All") is a grand concert hall in Knightsbridge. Fortunately, as the poem states, it was not shot at by Marksman Sam. And it would have been difficult to do so, since the Hall was built in 1871 and Marksman Sam's Napoleonic redcoat and musket means the Albert wouldn't have been there 't 'All.

And neither would there have been the awards mentioned above: D.C.M. was established in 1854, O.B.E. in 1917, and D.S.O. in 1886.

Poetic licence, without which the poem wouldn't be nearly so entertaining.

When Sam Small joined the regiment,
'E were no' but a raw recruit,
And they marched 'im away one wint'ry day,
'Is musket course to shoot.

They woke 'im up at the crack o' dawn,
Wi' many a nudge and shake,
'E were dreaming that t' Sergeant 'ad broke 'is neck,
And 'e didn't want to wake.

Lieutenant Bird came on parade,
And chided the lads for mooning,
'E talked in a voice like a pound o' plums,
'Is tonsils needed pruning.

"Move to the right by fours," he said,
Crisp like but most severe,
But Sam didn't know 'is right from 'is left,
So pretended 'e didn't 'ear.

Said Lieutenant, "Sergeant, take this man's name."
The Sergeant took out 'is pencil,
'E were getting ashamed o' taking Sam's name,
And were thinking o' cutting a stencil.

Sam carried a musket, a knapsack and coat,
Spare boots that 'e'd managed to wangle,
A 'atchet, a spade... in fact, as Sam said,
'E'd got everything bar t'kitchen mangle.

"March easy men," Lieutenant cried,
As the musket range grew near,
"March easy me blushing Aunt Fanny," said Sam,
"What a chance with all this 'ere."

When they told 'im to fire at five 'undred yards,
Sam nearly 'ad a fit,
For a six foot wall, or the Albert 'All,
Were all 'e were likely to 'it.

'E'd fitted a cork in 'is musket end,
To keep 'is powder dry,
And 'e didn't remember to take it out,
The first time 'e let fly.

Sam takes careful aim
Sam takes careful aim

'Is gun went off with a kind o' pop,
Where 'is bullet went no-one knew,
But next day they spoke of a tinker's moke,
Being killed by a cork... in Crewe.

At three 'undred yards, Sam shut 'is eyes,
And took a careful aim,
'E failed to score but the marker swore,
And walked away quite lame.

At two 'undred yards, Sam fired so wild,
That the Sergeant feared for 'is skin,
And the lads all cleared int' t' neighbouring field,
And started to dig 'emselves in.

"Ooh, Sergeant! I hear a scraping noise,"
Said Sam, "What can it be?"
The noise that 'e 'eard were lieutenant Bird,
'Oo were climbing the nearest tree.

"Ooh, Sergeant!" said Sam, "I've 'it the bull!
What price my shooting now?"
Said the Sergeant, "A bull? Yer gormless fool,
Yon isn't a bull... it's a cow!"

At fifty yards 'is musket kicked,
And went off with a noise like a blizzard,
And down came a crow looking fair surprised,
With a ram-rod through 'is gizzard.

As 'e loaded 'is musket to fire agen,
Said the Sergeant, "Don't waste shot!
Yer'd best fix bayonets and charge, my lad,
It's the only chance yer've got.

The marker walked away lame
The marker walked away lame
You'd better fix bayonet, says sergeant
"Tha'd better fix bayonet", says Sergeant

Sam kept loading 'is gun while the Sergeant spoke,
Till the bullets peeped out of the muzzle,
When all of a sudden it went off bang!
What made it go were a puzzle.

The bullets flew out in a kind of a spray,
And everything round got peppered,
When they counted 'is score... 'e'd got eight bulls eyes,
Four magpies, two lambs and a shepherd.

And the Sergeant for this got a D.C.M.
And the Colonel an O.B.E.
Lieutenant Bird got the D.S.O.
And Sam got... five days C.B.


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