The Infant in Arms

[It is suggested that children should be trained in shooting  and scouting from the very earliest age.]

MY child, away with your toys and games.

   No more on the floor shall roll

The painted indiarubber globe,

   To gladden your infant soul.

No more shall the rattle whirr: no more

   Shall the gay tin trumpet toot:

My child, it is time that you learned to drill;

   It is time that you learned to shoot.

Time was when Spillikins caused you joy,

   When you played with a model train,

When Pigs-in-clover was deemed enough

   To foster your growing brain.

Time was when you rode on a rocking-horse,

   Or petted the local cat;

Time was when you worried the patient dog –

   We are going to change all that.

A strenuous life is the life you'll lead.

   You will rise and dress at dawn

To practice digging a modern trench

   Across the croquet lawn.

You'll work at that till seven o’clock;

   From seven o’clock to ten

You'll be with your catapult out on the range.

   You may have some breakfast then.

Resuming work at eleven sharp,

   You'll stay on the range till one,

Or give an hour to the heliograph,

   If there is sufficient sun.

Deep books on Military Law

   From two till five you'll cram,

And go for a trip from five to six

   In a fully armoured pram.

And when the days are dark and cold,

   When it either snows or pours,

You'll shift the scene of your daily toil,

   And do your work indoors.

And toy with someone's "Modern War",

   Or KIPLING'S martial verse,

Or while away the hours of rest

   At Kriegspiel with your nurse.

Thus when the day of battle dawns,

   And merciless foes invade,

When, sore oppressed, at the nursery door

   Your country knocks for aid,

When far and wide through our pleasant land

   Sounds Armageddon's din,

When England once again "expects", –

   Why, that's where you'll come in.

You'll take your air-gun from the shelf,

   Your catapult blithely seize,

Gaily you'll gird your shooter on,

   And see that it lacks not peas.

And as the hiss of your pop-gun's cork

   Is merged in the general roar,

You'll bless the day when you left your play

   To practice the art of War.

First published in Punch, September 9, 1903.


  1. -Spillikins or Spellicans has been played all over the world for centuries and is thought to have originated in China. In the UK it is often known as Pick-Up Sticks while in Europe it is generally known as Mikado. It is also called Jackstraws in the USA, Jonchets in France and Chien Tung in China. Spillikins is played by scattering a group of thin sticks out on a table so they are all mixed up in a pile. This is done by holding all the sticks upright in a bunch and letting them fall. Players take turns picking them up, one-by-one, without moving any of the others.

  1. -Pigs-in-clover: a pocket-sized circular maze, containing a number of ball bearings sealed under glass. The object of the puzzle was to manipulate all the balls through the maze to the goal at the centre.