by Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
There's many a schoolboy's bat and ball that are gathering dust at home,
For he hears a voice in the future call, and he trains for the war to come;
A serious light in his eyes is seen as he comes from the schoolhouse gate;
He keeps his kit and his rifle clean, and he sees that his back is straight.
But straight or crooked, or round, or lame - you may let these words take root;
As the time draws near for the sterner game, all boys should learn to shoot,
From the beardless youth to the grim grey-beard, let Australians ne'er forget,
A lame limb never interfered with a brave man's shooting yet.
Over and over and over again, to you and our friends and me,
The warning of danger has sounded plain - like the thud of a gun at sea.
The rich man turns to his wine once more, and the gay to their worldly joys,
The "statesman" laughs at a hint of war - but something has told the boys.
The schoolboy scouts of the White Man's Land are out on the hills to-day;
They trace the tracks from the sea-beach sand and sea-cliffs grim and grey;
They take the range for a likely shot by every cape and head,
And they spy the lay of each lonely spot where an enemy's foot might tread.
In the cooling breeze of the coastal streams, or out where the townships bake,
They march in fancy, and fight in dreams, and die for Australia's sake.
They hold the fort till relief arrives, when the landing parties storm,
And they take the pride of their fresh young lives in the set of a uniform.
Where never a loaded shell was hurled, nor a rifle fired to kill,
The schoolboy scouts of the Southern World are choosing their Battery Hill.
They run the tapes on the flats and fells by roads that the guns might sweep,
They are fixing in memory obstacles where the firing lines shall creep.
They read and they study the gunnery - they ask till the meaning's plain,
But the craft of the scout is a simple thing to the young Australian brain.
They blaze the track for a forward run, where the scrub is everywhere,
And they mark positions for every gun and every unit there.
They trace the track for a quick retreat - and the track for the other way round,
And they mark the spot in the summer heat where the water is always found.
They note the chances of cliff and tide, and where they can move, and when,
And every point where a man might hide in the days when they'll fight as men.
When silent men with their rifles lie by many a ferny dell;
And turn their heads when a scout goes by, with a cheery growl "All's well";
And scouts shall climb by the fisherman's ways, and watch for a sign of ships,
With stern eyes fixed on the threatening haze where the blue horizon dips.
When men shall camp in the dark and damp by the bough-marked battery,
Between the forts and the open ports where the miners watch the sea;
And talk perhaps of their boy-scout days, as they sit in their shelters rude,
While motors race to the distant bays with ammunition and food.
When the city alight shall wait by night for news from a far-out post,
And men ride down from the farming town to patrol the lonely coast –
Till they hear the thud of a distant gun, or the distant rifles crack,
And Australians spring to their arms as one to drive the invaders back.
There'll be no music or martial noise, save the guns to help you through,
For a plain and shirt-sleeve job, my boys, is the job that we'll have to do.
And many of those who had learned to shoot - and in learning learned to teach –
To the last three men, and the last galoot, shall die on some lonely beach.
But they'll waste their breath in no empty boast, and they'll prove to the world their worth,
When the shearers rush to the Eastern Coast, and the miners rush to Perth.
And the man who fights in a Queenscliff fort, or up by Keppel Bay,
Will know that his mates at Bunbury are doing their share that day.
There was never a land so great and wide, where the foreign fathers came,
That has bred her children so much alike, with their hearts so much the same.
And sons shall fight by the mangrove creeks that lie on the lone East Coast,
Who never shall know (or not for weeks) if the rest of Australia's lost.
And far in the future (I see it well, and born of such days as these),
There lies an Australia invincible, and mistress of all her seas;
With monuments standing on hill and head, where her sons shall point with pride
To the names of Australia's bravest dead, carved under the words "Here died."
About the Author
See our page on Henry Lawson Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.
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