“Daddy’s Answer” is a fine early Toronto Canadian based war poem that captures a good deal of the intra-family conflicts, social tensions and intergenerational conflicts that undoubtedly occurred in countless Canadian and other war families around the world. Naturally given the time period the poem appeals to imperialistically based patriotism as well but these atypical social conflict points especially for this period of jingoistic early war poetry production impels notice. “Daddy’s Answer” appeared in the Toronto, Ontario newspaper “The Daily Mail and Empire” Volume XLI, Issue No 18, May 4, 1915, page 16. Signed “Gary” the piece’s whole tone manifests the internal decision-making of those recruits derived from the marginalized and even normally excluded recruit pool: established married men with wife and children and fairly old (especially for 1914 when the average male life expectancy in North America was this poet narrator’s age). Such older family men were generally not expected to join up.
I’m just past forty-nine, laddie,
And you ask if I’m going to fight,
I’ve very few teeth of my own, laddie,
Still the doctor would pass my sight.
I’ve been “playing at soldiers” some time,
Aye, for over thirty years,
And twice in that time I hae volunteered,
But have never drawn farewell tears.
There are times when I think I’m a
When I feel that ought to go,
But what about you and your mother
And wee sisters, I want to know?
I’ve a fair good job in Toronto,
And a “lot” that I’m paying up fast,
Where I’d hoped to build me a hoosie
We could ca’ oor ain at the last.
It’s hard when you ask that question,
And I think of all that I know,
And look round on the thousands of young
Able, but unwilling to go.
Their thoughts are not at the front,
But rather you’ll see them scan
Those columns sent out by the “pink
To catch the eye of the “fan.”
There’s others lounge loafing and idle
In old pool rooms and movies new
Will tell you that “England began it,
And gee, let her finish it too.”
My boy, for the sake of you dear ones
Once more I’ll answer the call,
And should I again be rejected
I haven’t yet done my all.
I can still well handle a rifle,
And know how to reach the bull’s eye,
So I’ll try to impart my knowledge
On those not afraid to die.”
Toronto, April 8 [ 1915 ] – Gary