Tuesday Poem – A Gal of the Streets, G A Studdert Kennedy

Verily I say unto you, the . . . harlots go into the Kingdom
of Heaven before you.
I MET ‘er one night down in Leicester Square,
With paint on ‘er lips and dye on ‘er ‘air,
With ‘er fixed glad eye and ‘er brazen stare,–
              She were a gal on the streets.

I was done with leave-on my way to France,
To the ball of death and the devil’s dance;
I was raving mad-and glad of the chance
              To meet a gal on the streets.

I went with ‘er ‘ome–to the cursed game,
And we talked of men with the talk of shame;
I ‘appened to mention a dead pal’s name,
              She were a gal on the streets.

“Your pal! Do you know ‘im?” she stopped and said
“‘Ow is ‘e? Where is ‘e? I once knowed Ted.”
I stuttered and stammered aht–“‘E’s gorn–dead.”
              She were a gal on the streets.

She stood there and swayed like a drunken man,
And ‘er face went green where ‘er paint began,
Then she muttered, “My Gawd, I carn’t”; and ran–
              She were a gal on the streets.


Rev Geoffrey A Studdert Kennedy, (1883 – 1929), was born in Leeds, in England and served as a padre on the Western Front in World War I.  He was nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie‘ for giving Woodbine cigarettes to injured and dying soldiers.  He became a pacifist during the war and wrote many poems expressing the experiences of ordinary soldiers and others affected by the war, like the one above. 

A Gal of the Streets is from his collection The Unutterable Beauty, a book I’ve had for many years.  Many of his poems are religious (as you might expect from a minister), but it’s the “dialect poems” at the end of the book I’ve always liked best.   The entire text of The Unutterable Beauty is now online, if you’d like to read more.

I wanted to post something to acknowledge Anzac Day.  I chose this poem because it talks about the effects of war on the loved ones left behind, as well as the terrible effects on the soldiers themselves.

You can read the other Tuesday poems by clicking on the quill to the left.


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