Gentlemen-rankers by Rudyard Kipling

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"The Legion Of The Lost Ones"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Gentlemen-Rankers" is the collective cry of those men who have been "dropping down the ladder rung by rung," men whose folly has left them but one recourse: to enlist as privates in the British army and to occupy a station far below that to which they were born. They have run through everything; they have "done with Hope and Honour," they "went the pace and went it blind." Now there is nothing for them but to dream of the home they "never write to," and to soak themselves in beer to forget the days when they had money and position and the "world was more than kin." The opening line gives the sorry picture:

To the legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned,
To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
Sings a gentleman of England cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.
Yes, a trooper of the forces who has run his own six horses,
And faith he went the pace and went it blind,
And the world was more than kin while he held the ready tin
But to-day the Sergeant's something less than kind.