This gem of a poem is one of four by A. Forman (including one he co-authored with C. G. Hooper-Rogers) in Robert Dickinson’s “Servigliano Calling.”
The title of this poem plays on the popular idiom “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” meaning that wishing for or wanting a thing is not the same as getting it.
If Wishes were Horses
The Red Cross came to our prison camp,
To hear complaints and such.
Two thousand voices spoke at one,
Resulting in “plain Dutch.”
But with the help of interpreters;
Pro-Iti’s not the word,
He made some sense of all our din,
And this is what he heard.
Our first complaint was breakfast,
We miss our ham and eggs,
And by the time our lunch is up
We’re knock-kneed round the legs.
And then ten-thirty seems the time
For team fruit-cakes, and buns,
The tea we’ve got, so send the rest
Big, fat, and well baked ones.
For lunch, we’d still enjoy good old “mac”,
The holes all stuffed with veal,
And that with Yorkshire pud as well,
Would make a gorgeous meal.
Or maybe we could vary
The lunches every day,
With Roast Beef, spuds, and apple-tart,
To start scheme on its way.
Roast mutton with red jelly,
For Tuesday’s lunch would do,
And Wednesday, pork chops and peas,
With Lancashire hot-pot stew.
On Fridays and on Saturdays;
Because we’d need a change,
Please give each man a parcel,
And his own lunch he’ll arrange.
Now, as you know, on Sundays,
One should be bright and gay;
So send us each one hundred fags,
To drive our blues away.
And bread, which is our staff-of-life,
Should be ten times its size,
With chunks of malt and currants in,
To make the darned thing rise.
Then of an evening, after meals,
We’d like some dancing girls,
Just wearing—for t’is summer now,
A string or two of pearls.
And just before we close our eyes,
A Guinness stout of two,
Or even Watney’s, Strongs’, or Bass,
We leave the choice to you.
Then what about some reading stuff?
Please raise our ardent hopes,
And send us books that’s useful,
Like M. Dell or Marie Stopes.
But most of all, and best of all,
Some letters from our wives,
Then you will your P.D.G.’s,
Far better, brighter lives.
The Red Cross man, he listened,
As meek as a new born pup,
But when he got outside the gates,
He tore his paper up!
Note: P.D.G.’s are Italian prisoners of war (prigionieri di guerra).