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Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)

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Charley Noble 14 Aug 09 - 09:49 PM
mg 14 Aug 09 - 11:51 PM
Lighter 15 Aug 09 - 10:14 AM
Charley Noble 15 Aug 09 - 01:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Aug 09 - 01:26 PM
Anglo 16 Aug 09 - 01:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Aug 09 - 02:02 PM
Charley Noble 16 Aug 09 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: A CHANT OF ARMY COOKS (WWi)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Aug 09 - 09:49 PM

We've been puzzling over who the anonymous composer, or composers, of this World War 1 ditty was:

A Chant of Army Cooks

WE never were made to be seen on parade
When sweethearts and such line the streets,
When the band starts to blare look for us. We ain't there;
We're mussing around with the eats.
It's fun to step out to the echoing shout
Of a crowd that forgets how you're fed,
While we're soiling our duds hacking eyes out of spuds
You know what Napoleon said.

When the mess sergeant's gay it's the opposite way
With the boys who are standing in line;
When the boys get a square then the sergeant is there
With your death-warrant ready to sign.
If you're long on the grub then you're damned for a dub,
If you're short you're a miser instead.
But however you feel you must get the next meal
You know what Napoleon said.

You think it's a cinch when it comes to the clinch
For the man who is grinding the meat;
In the heat of the fight, why, the cook's out of sight
With plenty of room to retreat.
But a plump of a shell in a kitchen is hell,
When the roof scatters over your head,
And you crawl on your knees to pick up the K.P.'s-
You know what Napoleon said.

If the war ever ends we'll go home to our friends
(In the army we've nary a one)
We'll list to the prattle of this or that battle,
And then when the story is done
We'll say, when they ask, "Now what was your task,
And what is the glory you shed?"
"You see how they thrive, well, we kept 'em alive!
You know what Napoleon said."

Submitted by Private John T. Winterich,

Headquarters Detachment Air Service,
Z. of A.

Notes:

From Great Poems of the World War, edited by W. D. Eaton, Chicago: T.S. Denison & Company, 1922, p. 66.

There are many specialist references within this piece that would indicate it was truly written by an old soldier:

Get a square - On early sailing ships sailors would be served on square wooden plates which were easy to stow away safely. Marine soldiers carried on board ship would pick up the term square meal in this way.

Napoleon is famous for saying "an army marches on its stomach"

KP is often thought of as an abbreviation of Kitchen Patrol or Kitchen Punishment and is an oft used military expression for a punishment duty. In this sense police has its old meaning of watching or cleaning. So picking up the KPs means collecting those on this "extra duty."

The use of the word gay is also old fashioned, meaning blithe or happy and does not hold its modern sexual meaning here.

We've tried our best to track this one through various World War 1 anthologies and web searches but we can't pin a composer down. It seems to us that the composer was working in the Music Hall tradition and that it's the kind of song that might commemorate some long forgotten special event.

We would appreciate any leads.

Jim Saville and Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War 1)
From: mg
Date: 14 Aug 09 - 11:51 PM

I think KP stood for Kitchen Police. mg


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Aug 09 - 10:14 AM

Nominally in the U.S Army Air Service, John T. Winterich spent much of his time overseas on the staff of "The Stars and Stripes," the somewhat irreverent army newspaper published in Paris. "Z. of A." meant "Zone of Advance" (just behind the front lines). After the war, Winterich became an editor of the "New Yorker" and later of the "Saturday Review of Literature."

"A Chant of Army Cooks" was published in the "Stars and Stripes," anonymously, on Feb. 15, 1918, p. 2.

mg is right. "KP" is the common abbreviation of "kitchen police," i.e., cleaning the kitchen, peeling potatoes, etc. It also means a soldier detailed to KP. The poem has a German shell striking near a field kitchen: hardly a special event. (Anything closer than that and I doubt the writer would have been quite so light-hearted about it.)

The verses show the unmistakable influence of the ever-popular Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service.

But not enough, IMHO.


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 Aug 09 - 01:19 PM

I love the internal rhyming, and I agree it is certainly patterned after poems by Kipling and Service (who was also a World War 1 veteran); the poem by the way is not in Service's RHYMES OF A RED CROSS MAN. Nor is it in WAR VERSE edited by Frank Foxcroft.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 01:26 PM

This poem, along with "The Greasy Army Cooks," appears in Gibbons, Herbert Adams, *1893, 1918, "Songs from the Trenches, the Soul of the AEF," Harper & Bros., NY and London.

*The first date is an error, since it does not fit with other statements in the book nor any of the verses. The typescript contains a few mis-typings.

The book is dedicated to the first American soldier to give his life in France, Alan Seeger.

At the end of the two poems named above, Pvt. John T. Winterich is the name that appears. I would presume that he is the composer.

Many good poems in this online book. Similar volumes were printed in England containing verse by participants in WW1.

http://www.archive.org/stream/songsfromtrenche00gibbrich/songsfromtrenche00gibbrich_djvu.txt


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Anglo
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 01:44 PM

Alan Seeger was a published poet, and also Pete Seeger's uncle.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE GREASY ARMY COOKS (WWI)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 02:02 PM

Lyr. Add: The Greasy Army Cooks
Pvt James E. Dimond, Company F (WW1)

An army marches on its stomach,
Napoleon often said.
The old boy knew whereof he spoke,
They claim he had some head.
You may not like our lingo,
You may not like our looks,
And yet you cannot do without
The greasy army cooks.

Now I'm a cook myself, you know,
And sometimes feel quite blue.
Perchance I may have scorched or burnt
The greasy army stew.
Remember, boys! it's not like home!
When you are in the field,
And I might add it's hard work
To get the murphys peeled.

Sometimes the K. P.'s are O. K.
And other times they're not.
Why then we blame the rotten fire
If things are never hot.
Of course you'd like more sugar, too,
And undiluted cream,
But Uncle Sam says, "No, Sirree."
Don't make the eagle scream!

At times the meat is tender,
And then again it's tough.
By heck! that old Wyoming steer
Is not such tasty stuff!
The sap who made the first hardtack
A dentist's friend was he.
I'd like to shoot him in the pants
And laugh aloud with glee.

"Canned Willie," too, I'd like to can
From off our bill of fare,
For Uncle Sam was "full of prunes"
The time he put it there.
Go easy with the sugar, boys,
These words I hate to say;
We left the sweetness all behind,
I guess, in U. S. A.

This war is going to be fought
As much with food as guns.
And we will surely help you, boys,
To beat those crazy Huns.
You may not like our lingo,
You may not like our looks,
And yet we know we'll lick les Boches,
We greasy army cooks.

Error in previous post where this verse was ascribed to Pvt. Winterich.
From Songs from the Trenches,...," reference above.


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 02:05 PM

Q-

I agree that "Winterich" makes a good suspect for the one who composed this ditty. It's more sophisticated than many of the other songs that came out of World War 1.

Lighter-

Thanks for the biographical details about Winterich.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: A Chant of the Cooks (World War I)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM

"Songs From the Trenches" ed. Gibbons was printed in a fairly large edition, thus is not rare. Both cloth and half-leather editions. Being reprinted by Kessinger.


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