A Ballad Of Buttonry

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Clothes and the Man I sing. Reformers, note
These of the Subaltern who owned a Coat.

He was what veterans miscall, for short,
By that objectionable term, a wart:[1]

The Coat an item of the 'sealed' attire
Wrung from his helpless but reluctant sire;

Also the tails were long; and, for the pride
Thereof, were buttons on the after-side;

Majestic orbs, whose gilded obverse bore
The bossy symbol of his future corps.

The youth, ere sailing for a distant land,
Did, in the interval, receive command

To join a 'Course,' where men of grave repute
Instruct the young idea how to shoot.

Thither he sped, and on the opening day
Rose, and, empanoplied in brave array,

(Ample of flowing skirt, and with great craft
And pomp of blazoned buttonry abaft)

Won to the mess, and preened his fledgling plumes
Both in the breakfast and the ante-rooms.

Awhile he moved in rapture, and awhile
Thrilled in the old, inevitable style

To that stern joy which youthful warriors feel
In wearing garments worthy of their zeal;

Then came the seneschal upon the scenes,
And knocked his infant pride to smithereens.

For out, alack! the Fathers of the mess
Strictly prohibited that form of dress,

Being by sad experience led to find
Disaster in the buttonry behind,

Which tore and scratched the leather-cushioned chairs,
And cost a perfect fortune in repairs!

It was a crushing blow. That Subaltern
Discovered that he had a lot to learn;

Removed his Coat, and laid it, weeping, in
Its long sarcophagus of beaten tin:

Buried it deep, and drew it thence no more;
Finished his Course, and sought an alien shore.

So runs the tale. I had it from the youth
Himself, and I suppose he told the truth.

(The words alone are mine; I need but hint
That his were too emotional for print.)

And as in India, though the chairs are hard,
His Coat - delicious irony - is barred;

Being designed for cooler zones, and not
For one inadequately known as 'hot';

And, furthermore, as bold Sir Fashion brings
Changes, yea, even to the soldier's things:

He questions if the Coat were worth the price,
Seeing that he will hardly wear it twice.

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