I’m currently reading Sheila Kaye-Smith’s excellent 1943 novel, Tambourine, Trumpet, Drum (Thanks, Pat, for suggesting it.)
The novel is in three parts, corresponding to the three wars: Boer War, Great War, World War II.
At the start of August 1914, a young woman teases her sister, who has been playing golf while the rest of the nation waits to learn how Germany has responded to the British ultimatum, by reciting:
I was playing golf the day that the Germans landed:
All our men had run away, all our ships were stranded:
And the thought of England’s shame
Very nearly spoilt my game.
A bit of Googling suggests that this was by Harry Graham, who wrote the Ruthless Rhymes (though some articles attribute it less convincingly to the Earl of Sandwich). Online versions differ, which maybe suggests that the lines were transmitted more as oral folklore than by way of a printed text. One version has a last line that reads ‘Almost put me off my game’, which is better, I think, than Kaye-Smith’s.
Presumably the poem was written during the pre-War period of invasion anxiety, when Erskine Childers was writing The Riddle of the Sands
and P. G. Wodehouse was making fun of such scares in The Swoop.
Can anyone date the poem more exactly?