The Absent-Minded Beggar

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The Absent-Minded Beggar  (1899) 
by Rudyard Kipling
The Absent-Minded Beggar is an 1899 poem by Rudyard Kipling, famously set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. It was written as part of an appeal by the Daily Mail to raise money for the dependents of soldiers fighting in the South African War (sometimes known as the Boer War), and exhorted its audience to "pass the hat for your credit's sake, and pay— pay— pay!"
— Excerpted from The Absent-Minded Beggar on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.


When you've shouted "Rule Britannia," when you've sung "God save the Queen,"
    When you've finished killing Kruger with your mouth,
Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine
    For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?
He's an absent-minded beggar, and his weaknesses are great—
    But we and Paul must take him as we find him—
He is out on active service, wiping something off a slate—
    And he's left a lot of little things behind him!
Duke's son—cook's son—son of a hundred kings—
    (Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of 'em doing his country's work
    (and who's to look after their things?)
Pass the hat for your credit's sake,
                          and pay—pay—pay!

There are girls he married secret, asking no permission to,
    For he knew he wouldn't get it if he did.
There is gas and coals and vittles, and the house-rent falling due,
    And it's more than rather likely there's a kid.
There are girls he walked with casual. They'll be sorry now he's gone,
    For an absent-minded beggar they will find him,
But it ain't the time for sermons with the winter coming on.
    We must help the girl that Tommy's left behind him!
Cook's son—Duke's son—son of a belted Earl—
    Son of a Lambeth publican—it's all the same to-day!
Each of 'em doing his country's work
    (and who's to look after the girl?)
Pass the hat for your credit's sake,
                          and pay—pay—pay!

There are families by thousands, far too proud to beg or speak,
    And they'll put their sticks and bedding up the spout,
And they'll live on half o' nothing, paid 'em punctual once a week,
    'Cause the man that earns the wage is ordered out.
He's an absent-minded beggar, but he heard his country call,
    And his reg'ment didn't need to send to find him!
He chucked his job and joined it—so the job before us all
    Is to help the home that Tommy's left behind him!
Duke's job—cook's job—gardener, baronet, groom,
    Mews or palace or paper-shop, there's something gone away!
Each of 'em doing his country's work
    (and who's to look after the room?)
Pass the hat for your credit's sake,
                          and pay—pay—pay!

Let us manage so as, later, we can look him in the face,
    And tell him—what he'd very much prefer—
That, while he saved the Empire, his employer saved his place,
    And his mates (that's you and me) looked out for her.
He's an absent-minded beggar and he may forget it all,
    But we do not want his kiddies to remind him
That we sent 'em to the workhouse while their daddy hammered Paul,
    So we'll help the homes that Tommy left behind him!
Cook's home—Duke's home—home of a millionaire,
    (Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of 'em doing his country's work
    (and what have you got to spare?)
Pass the hat for your credit's sake,
                          and pay—pay—pay!

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.