Tommy by Rudyard Kipling

In the British military, “Thomas Atkins” was used somewhat like “GI Joe” or “John Doe”. It was a generic placeholder used for a regular soldier. That soon morphed into the slang “Tommy Atkins” and just plain “Tommy.” I wondered how it would read if I cleaned up the colloquial style of language, wondering if the message is clearer for today without it. You can find the original version here. ​You can see the issues haven’t changed much through the years. It’s better but there’s still room for improvement. Here is my interpretation… with apologies to Mr. Kipling.

I went into a public house to get a pint of beer,
The publican he up and says, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls behind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,
I’m out into the street again and to myself says I:
O it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theater as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but hadn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-halls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, and they’re starvation cheap.
And hustling drunken soldiers when they’re going large a bit
Is five times better business than parading in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and Tommy, “how’s your soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of heroes” when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of heroes,” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red heroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barracks, most remarkable like you;
And if sometimes our conduct isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barracks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and “Tommy, fall behind,”
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk of better food for us, and schools, and fires, and all:
We’ll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Savior of his country” when the guns begin to shoot;
And it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, and anything you please;
And Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!