The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, August 1906
To a German Waiter.
(Suggested by Owen Seaman’s Poem on Conscription.)
OH, alien, whom Sir Howard Vincent hates,
Who servest lunch at quite a moderate screw,
According to O. S., within our gates
There stands no man like you.
Our City clerks, the bucks of Lombard Street,
The beaux of Brixton, and the pride of Pinner,
For manliness and courage can’t compete
With you who wait at dinner.
You are a man for whom the arts of war
No secrets hold, as for the common herd;
If some one ordered you to wade in gore,
You’d do it like a bird.
Yours is the skill that has inspired our bards,
At rifle-shooting you are wondrous clever;
A sitting haystack at a dozen yards
You’d rarely miss, if ever.
You loved to be where the (sham) fight was hot;
No fiercer warrior ever went at large.
(And even in your restaurant you’ve not
Forgotten how to charge.)
I watch you as you serve my frugal meal,
And deeply mourn that I’m not more like you;
I’m not a foeman worthy of your steel—
Now, did that ever strike you?
If some one mentioned military drill,
And asked me as a favour to go through it,
Lacking your ingenuity and skill,
I simply couldn’t do it.
. . . . . .
Enough! Each moment that I sit and grieve
Makes my humiliation but the greater;
A double tip I’ll give you when I leave,
Heroic German waiter.
Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.
Owen Seaman’s poem “The Birthright of the Free” appeared in Punch, July 18, 1906, p.38. He satirically attacks the typical London city clerk who, at his seaside resort, scorns the German waiter as subject to the slavery of his government’s conscription, but himself is content (and only able) to hire British soldiers and sailors to fight on his behalf. Here is a PDF scan of the poem.
Sir Howard Vincent (1849–1908), a Conservative M.P., made opposition to alien immigration a campaign issue and raised frequent questions upon the subject in Parliament.