Just from internal evidence, it seems to be an English traditional ballad of the bawdy drinking song variety (like The Good Ship Venus of deserved ill-repute), and all in all I think it's meant ironically.
That's the general feeling I get, too. For some reason this question has become a bit of an obsession.
I hope this helps:1.) Gentleman Soldier“1959:] This jaunty song, common in the army and quoted by Kipling in 'Soldiers Three', has rarely found its way into the conventional song collections. The text, printed in incomplete form in the Folk Song Journal, is amplified from a Somerset version collected by H. E. D. Hammond and not hitherto published. The melody is a military-sounding version of the widespread tune called Drumdelgie in Scotland and Dydd Llun y Boreu in Wales. (EFS114)”http://mysongbook.de/msb/songs/g/gentsold.html#notelink2.) “Oh no my dearest Polly such things can never be for I've a wife already children I have three Two wives are allowed in the army but one's too many for me” http://lyrics.duble.com/P/pogueslyrics/poguesthegentlemansoldierlyrics.htm
It could possibly be related to Soldier,Soldier
Interesting question. I come from a long line of Army families and the only reference to it I can remember is that soldiers were issued with a piece of kit known as a "housewife", which contained needles, sewing thread and spare buttons etc.Not a likely explanation, but possible.
married to the wife and the army, too?
Thanks to everyone for humoring me on this one. I just don't understand why the line is there if two wives really weren't allowed in the army at one time - maybe some sort of recompense for being away from home most of the time.
Maybe it refers to a wife at home and a girl friend in the field?
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