The Conversation Book, by Cicely Fox Smith



I ‘ave a conversation book, I brought it out from ‘ome;

It tells the French for knife an’ fork, an’ likewise brush an’ comb

It learns you ‘ow to ast the time, the names of all the stars,

An’ ‘ow to order hoysters, an’ ‘ow to buy cigars.


But there ain’t no shops to shop in, there ain’t no grand hotels,

When you spend your days in dug-outs, doin’ ‘olesale trade in shells ;

It’s nice to know the proper talk for theatres an’ such,

But when it comes to talkin’, why, it doesn’t ‘elp you much !


There’s all them friendly kind o’ things you’d naturally say

When you meet a feller casual- like an’ pass the time o’ day

Them little things as breaks the ice an’ kind o’ clears the air,

Which, when you turn the phrase-book up, why, them things isn’t there.


I met a chap the other day a-roosting in a trench,

‘E didn’t know a word of ours nor me a word o’ French ;

An’ ‘ow it was we managed, well, I cannot understand,

But I never used the phrase-book, though I ‘ad it in my ‘and.


I winked at ‘im to start with ; ‘e grinned from ear to ear;

An’ ‘e says “Tipperary” an’ I says “Sooveneer”;

‘E ‘ad my only Woodbine, I ‘ad ‘is thin cigar,

Which set the ball a-rollin’, an’ so well, there you are !


I showed ‘im next my wife an’ kids ‘e up an’ showed me ‘is,

Them little funny Frenchy kids with ‘air all in a frizz;

“Annette,” ‘e says, “Louise,” ‘e says, an’ ‘is tears begun to fall ;

We was comrades when we parted, but we’d ‘ardly spoke at all.


‘E’d ‘ave kissed me if I’d let ‘im, we ‘ad never met before,

An’ I’ve never seen the beggar since, for that’s the way of war;

An’, though we scarcely spoke a word, I wonder just the same

If ‘e’ll ever see them kids of ‘is – I never ast ‘is name !


2,6,1,c Dict how to say it in Fr copy

By Cicely Fox Smith, in her book Fighting Men, published in 1916. Cicely Fox Smith does not get an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, but Wikipedia lists 37 books by her, mostly nautically themed; she also made a collection of sea shanties. Her work was widely published in magazines, and certainly popular in the first half of the twentieth century; there was a danger that her work would be forgotten, until her collected poems were published in two editions in 2012 and 2015. She used the name C Fox Smith until ‘she was well established’, according to Wikipedia; a familiar story.



One thought on “The Conversation Book, by Cicely Fox Smith”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: