True Soldier – ‘Arms and the Man’ …

Posted on June 24, 2008. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Great Writing, Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, Personalities, Quotes |

George Bernard Shaws ‘Arms and the Man’ has its title from the opening words of Virgil’s Aeneid.

The play was Shaw’s first commercial success. He was called on stage after the curtain, where he received enthusiastic applause. However, amidst the cheers, one audience member booed. Shaw replied, in characteristic fashion: “My dear fellow, I quite agree with you, but what are we two against so many?” …

Here are some of its more memorable lines about Soldiers and Soldiering from a True Pro – The Chocolate Cream Soldier.

All soldiers, dear lady, are  scared of death. It is our duty to live as long as we can.

Remember, nine soldiers out of ten  are born fools.

A narrow shave; but a miss is as good as a mile.

You can always tell an old soldier by the insides of his  holsters and cartridge boxes;  the young ones carry ammunition;  the older ones carry grub.

How is it that you have beaten us just now? Sheer ignorance of the art of war. I never saw anything so unprofessional; throwing a regiment of cavalry on a battery of machine guns with the dead certainty that if they went off, not man or beast would come through. I could not believe my eyes. But when  the sergeant ran up, white as a sheet,  saying we had the wrong ammunition, we laughed at the other side of our mouths. Of course they cut us to ribbons.

And there was this Don Quixote, flourishing like a drum major thinking he had done the cleverest thing possible, whereas he should be court marshaled. Of all the fools let loose on a field of battle, he must be the maddest. He and his regiment simply committed suicide –  only the pistol did not fire.

Not fair for you to have led me on. Perhaps I am quite wrong; no doubt I am. Most likely he had got wind of the cartridge business and knew it was a safe job!

My dear young lady,  now what are the two things that happen to a soldier so often that he begins to think nothing of them? One is hearing people tell all sorts of lies all of the time and the other is having his life saved by all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.

No Sir, I did not ask the reason when you cried on and now I don’t ask the reason when you cry off. I am a professional soldier. I fight when I have to and am very glad when I dont have to. You are an amateur. You think fighting is fun.

I am a man who spoilt all his chances in life through an incurably romantic disposition; who ran away twice from home, who joined the army instead of his fathers business and who, running for dear life, climbed the balcony of a lady’s bed chamber instead  of diving into the nearest cellar.

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