A Song of Anzac
"When I'm sittin' in me dug-out, with me rifle on me knees,
An' a yowlin', 'owlin' chorus comes a-floatin' up the breeze -
Just a bit o' 'Bonnie Mary'
Or 'Long Way to Tipperary' -
Then I know I'm in Australia took an' planted overseas..."
So we sang in days remembered - fateful days of pain and war -
When the young lads went forth singing, ship-bound for an unknown shore.
They were singing, ever singing, careless lads in careworn days,
Sturdy youths, but yet unblooded to red war's unholy ways.
From a land untouched by slaughter
Fared they forth across the water:
Some to Destiny's grim gateway where the scarlet poppy sways.
* * * *
"They were singin' on the troopship, they were singin' in the train;
When they left their land behind them they were shoutin' a refrain.
An' I'll bet they have a chorus
Gay an' glad in greetin' for us
When their bit of scrappin's over an' they sail back home again..."
So we sang to dull the aching that was looming even then
When the boys went out to battle, to come back stern fighting men.
So we strove to keep hope buoyant while they lived untouched by war,
But they came back, not with singing, when those anxious days were o'er
Disillusioned and war-weary,
And, for all their smiles were cheery,
Some came bitter, some came broken, some, they came back nevermore.
And today again they're marching, rugged veterans, grey and grave
These, who joined the carefree chorus, shouting many an olden stave
To the tramping cohorts' motion;
To the rolling of the ocean;
In their singing seeking kinship that high youth must ever crave.
Aye, today again they're marching with old faith and fellowship;
Grave and grey, with memory marching, but no song lifts to the lip.
Year by year the Boys are gathered; year by year the count grows fewer;
But the flame, new-lit on Anzac, goes before them burning pure;
And the Song of Anzac ringing
High above them, sounding, swinging,
Tells that memory of Anzac shall endure while these endure.
* * * *
They are marching with the old days, with the singing in their hearts,
With the memory of mateship that for not one hour departs:
Silent men, with sober faces,
Marking now the vacant places
Yearly growing, yearly showing where life ends and hope re-starts.
That trimphant Song of Anzac that the living Anzac hears -
Hears imperfectly and dimly,
As he tramps on gravely, grimly -
Haunts the old familiar roadway he has trodden thro' the years.
Done are these with youth's vain dreaming who have yet to pay earth's price,
These who harked to young mates singing,
These who saw their young souls winging,
Ever singing, blithely singing, to the gates of Paradise.
Fire of the Southern Cross: A Collection of Poetry for Australian Nationalists
Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com/~natinfo