Week 309: Fife Tune, by John Manifold

What appeals to me about this piece by the Australian poet John Manifold (1915-1985) is partly the enchanting lilt of its movement and partly its quality of wistful innocence – meaning no disrespect to our armed forces, but that’s perhaps not the first thing one would look for in a poem about a bunch of squaddies marching past a pretty young girl.

Fife Tune

(6/8) for Sixth Platoon, 308th ITC

One morning in spring
We marched from Devizes
All shapes and all sizes
Like beads on a string,
But yet with a swing
We trod the bluemetal
And full of high fettle
We started to sing.

She ran down the stair
A twelve-year-old darling
And laughing and calling
She tossed her bright hair;
Then silent to stare
At the men flowing past her
There were all she could master
Adoring her there.

It’s seldom I’ll see
A sweeter or prettier;
I doubt we’ll forget her
In two years or three.
And lucky he’ll be
She takes for a lover
While we are far over
The treacherous sea.

John Manifold

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