My Great-Uncle Jack, apparently trying to pass the time away in camp, copied poems and other writings from the WWI era. Some of what he copied seems to be better-known than others, at least in cyberspace.

One piece that I like is “The Devil Resigns His Job,” which appears to have been written by a Civil War veteran named R.N. Percy in 1918.  One source suggests Percy lived in Battle Creek, Michigan; clearly whoever wrote it, it became a favorite in army camps.

Here is the poem as written. Where there are parentheses, that is where my great-uncle’s transcription takes an alternative route. Whether this was his mistake or he was copying from a flawed source, I do not know:

The Devil Resigns His Job

The Devil sat by a lake of fire (blue),
on a pile of sulphur [sic] kegs (keys).
His head was bowed upon his breast,
his tail between his legs.

A look of shame upon (was on) his face,
the sparks dropped (dripped) from his eyes.
He had sent his resignation
to the throne up in the skies.

‘I’m down and out,’ the Devil said
he said it with a sob;
‘There are others that outclass me
and I want to quit the (my) job.

Hell (H—) isn’t in it with the land
that lies beyond (along) the Rhine.
I’m a has-been and a piker
and therefore I resign.

On(e) ammunition maker
with his blood (Handy) shot and shell,
Knows more about damnation
than all the imps of hell (H—).

(I) Give my job to Kaiser Wilhelm (Bill),
the author of this war;
He understands it better
a million times by far.

I hate to leave the old home,
this spot I love so well,
But I feel that I’m not up-to-date
in the art of running hell (H—).


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.