CAROLS OF A CONVICT

From The Tribunal 31st October 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

At a time when much of contemporary poetry is either strident with the feverish tone of militarism, or distraught and piteous over its effects, there is a distinctly bracing quality discernable in the voice of anyone who is happily able to treat the limitations and injustices that fall to the lot of those who attempt to lead a normal life at an abnormal period, in a spirit of brave humour that is as free from levity as it is devoid of cynicism.

The wind that blows through the country of the Comic Muse is not too rarified an air for common mortals to breather, and so it is that weary minds will find there not only relief from mental stress, but a readjustment of distorted values and warped judgements, both desirable and necessary if we would keep ourselves sane.

So one hails with genuine enthusiasm, the appearance of a little book of parodies and verses, just published by Messrs. Headley Bros. under the title “Carols of a Convict,” price 1/3. The author, Allan M. Laing, is a Liverpool man who has served a term of 12 months’ imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs, where without paper or pencil to aid his memory, these impressions of an evidently sane, albeit a whimsical imagination, took on the garments of rhyme and reason.

No man who has served his term, however short, in Wormwood Scrubs, should miss reading this book, for is is literally packed with unerring humour at the expense of every detail of prison routine. One may well be envious of the temperament of a man who could so accept what was meant to be in the nature of a punishment. Most of the contents of the book are parodies of well-known songs; a form which makes them particularly adaptable for popular use. The sense and spirit of the originals have been so inverted and fashioned to the new purpose, that one is almost induced to believe they were written with the intention of being burlesqued, and this is surely the illusion that all good parody is meant to produce.

In these days, when (thanks largely to the art of J. C. Squire) successful parody is coming into its rightful place in literature, there is little need to emphasise the value of its healthful and astringent properties, but if anyone has not benefited by them, they should not neglect to read “Carols of a Convict.”

Mr. Laing is himself a keen enthusiast (and has on several previous occasions delighted his friends with samples of his ability) in this direction. Perhaps his Scottish heritage is mainly responsible for the caustic character of his with; but whatever good fairy bequeathed him this gift of a truly “saving” sense of humour, let us hope that the magic power will remain with him during his second sentence in Birmingham prison, even as in Wormwood Scrubs.

dove..