The Absent-Minded Beggar was the most popular poem and song of the early months of the war, as described in Farwell's The Great Boer War:
'More typical was the reaction of Rudyard Kipling, who embraced the war with fervour. He formed a volunteer company in the village of Rottingdean, near Brighton, and then turned to raising money for the Soldier's Families' Fund. Of the more than two dozen poems the war inspired him to write, "The Absent-Minded Beggar", his plea for the Fund, was the most celebrated at the time. It began:
When you've shouted "Rule Brittania", when you've sung "God Save The Queen",
When you've finished killing Kruger with your mouth,
Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine,
For a gentleman in Kharki ordered south?
He's an absent minded beggar, and his weaknesses are great-
But we and Paul must take him as we find him-
He is out on active service, wiping something off a slate-
And he's left a lot of little things behind him!
Duke's son--cook's son--son of a hundred kings-
(Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of 'em doing his country's work
(and who's to look after their things?)
Pass the hat for your credit's sake, and pay-pay-pay!
First published in the Daily Mail on 31 October 1899, it was an instant success; Mark Twain said that the "clarion-peal" of its lines "Thrilled the world". The celebrated actress Mrs Beerbohm Tree recited the poem daily for fourteen weeks from the stage of the Palace Theatre; each time she reached the lines "pay-pay-pay!" the stage was showered with coins, and she raised 70,000 for the Fund. Lines from the poem were reproduced on cigarette packages, ashtrays, tobacco jars, plates and even pillowcases; Sir Arthur Sullivan set the words to music, and the song swept the country.'