You Know What I Mean

written by John Milton Hayes

You Know What I Mean

— John Milton Hayes

I’VE noticed this happen, when everything is black,
When I’m down below zero and cannot get back,
When I feel like a sort of a National Debt,
That will go on for ages and never be met,
When my will is all bagged at the knees and dead beat,
It is then, don’t you know, that., I’m certain to meet
With some prodigal lifeless dejected old bean,
Who is worse off than I you know what I mean.
Someone or other who’s entered the race,
With a sense of intention but can’t stay the pace,
He tells all his troubles and heaven knows what,
Talks about Fate and all that sort of rot,
And it makes all my own little troubles look small,
Till I find I’ve no cause to be worried at all,
And it doesn’t seem cricket to grouse when I’ve seen,
That he’s worse off than I you know what I mean.

No matter how hard one may fall down the hill,
There’s always a somebody lower down still,
And it makes you feel well, it seems mean to repeat,
All your own little troubles to people you meet.
One learns in the end, that self pity’s a curse,
And to talk of your cares only makes them seem worse.
It takes courage to stand where it’s easy to lean,
But it makes you feel better you know what I mean.

The chap we all like is the chap who can smile,
Though his heart may be breaking with sorrow the while,
He just keeps them all secretly locked in his breast,
Keep’s the worm to himself, gives the world of his best.
He has losses like we have, yet never gives in,
But goes silently back to his task with a grin.
And the lesson we learn from this priceless old being,
Is to smile all the while with some laughs in between.
Though you’re empty and broke, meet your fate with a joke,
For the sake of the folk who can’t see what you mean
And it may be in turn even they will yet learn,
And they’ll smile all the while when they see what you mean.
Do you get me? Ah well that’s what I mean.

About the poet


John Milton Hayes

John Milton Hayes, better known as J. Milton Hayes, was an English actor and poet, best known for his 1911 dramatic monologue The Green Eye of the Yellow God, much parodied by his contemporary Stanley Holloway and later by The Goon Show. He also wrote and performed many other monologues. Curiously little is known about Hayes, save that he was from the north of England (probably Lancashire) and that he knew Alec Waugh when the two were prisoners of war together in Mainz, Germany in 1918. From the fact that he was accommodated alongside Waugh at Mainz, we may assume that Hayes served as an officer in the First World War. In his book My Brother Evelyn and Other Profiles Waugh describes...

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