? Madame Eulalie - Daily Express (UK)
Daily Express, Friday, March 15, 1907




(Air: “Tommy Atkins.”)

Oh, we take him from the city and the plough,
 From busy streets and quiet, rustic vales;
We don’t go in for drill a great deal now,
 We pay far more attention to his scales.
It doesn’t matter much if he can’t shoot;
 We train him now on quite another plan.
  If his voice he can produce so
  That folks whisper, “That’s Caruso!”
 He’s the model of a military man.

Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
 You must do your best to mix
The arts of Jean de Reszke
 With the dash of Seymour Hicks;
If with diligence you study
 At your do and re and mi,
You will soon become exactly
 What a soldier ought to be.


You should see him of a morning on parade,
 When his sergeant gives the order: “Comp’ny, sing!”
He puts your long-haired experts in the shade,
 He gets it off his chest with such a swing.
Even Sister Mary Jane (of whose top-note
 You have doubtless heard) becomes an also-ran.
  Tenors, baritones, and basses,
  You will find them in their places,
 Each warbling like a soldier and a man.

Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
 When your lungs with breath are full,
And we see you getting ready,
 We reach out for cotton-wool.
But don’t mind our slight emotion;
 Try and reach the upper G,
And you’ll be the very type of
 What a soldier ought to be.


And if one day the clouds of war should break,
 And upon our shores a foreign army land,
With fear we poor civilians shall not quake;
 We shall know that we are safe while you’re at hand.
The foe in countless myriads may come;
 But weapons worse than bayonets you will wield.
  You will simply stand and sing ’em
  Airs with words by Clifton Bingham,
 Till they rush in horrid panic from the field.

Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
 Pray avoid unwholesome strain.
Free from every kind of hoarseness
 Let your vocal chords remain.
So that in the time of danger
 You may hit the proper key,
And deliver notes as deadly
 As a soldier’s ought to be.



Wodehouse wrote at least half a dozen parody lyrics to “Private Tommy Atkins,” as detailed in the notes to “The New Atkins” in the Daily Chronicle in 1903. Follow that link for sheet music and a recording of the original song.

Jean de Reszke: Polish tenor (1850–1925), one of the greatest opera stars of his day.
Seymour Hicks: British actor/producer/theatre manager (1871–1949), known especially at this time for his work in musical comedy. In 1906 he had opened his own Hicks Theatre with The Beauty of Bath, including two songs with lyrics partly by Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern.
Sister Mary Jane: The Hepworth Film Manufacturing Company produced a short silent comedy film “Sister Mary Jane’s Top Note” in 1907, in which “a singing pupil’s voice wrecks the room.”
cotton-wool: presumably to make ear plugs
Clifton Bingham: British poet and lyricist (1859–1913); known for children’s verse and for sentimental popular ballads like “Love’s Old Sweet Song” (“Just a song at twilight”).

—Neil Midkiff