Henry Lawson

17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales

My Army, O, My Army!

My Army, O, my army! The time I dreamed of comes!
I want to see your colours; I want to hear your drums!
I heard them in my boyhood when all men’s hearts seemed cold;
I heard them as a Young Man—and I am growing old!
My army, O, my army! The signs are manifold!
My army, O, my army! My army and my Queen!
I used to sing your battle-songs when I was seventeen!
They came to me from ages, they came from far and near;
They came to me from Paris, they came to me from Here!—
They came when I was marching with the Army of the Rear.

My Queen’s dark eyes were flashing (oh, she was younger then!);
My Queen’s Red Cap was redder than the reddest blood of men!
My Queen marched like an Amazon, with anger manifest—
Her dark hair darkly matted from a knifegash in her breast
(For blood will flow where milk will not—her sisters knew the rest).

My legions ne’er were listed, they had no need to be;
My army ne’er was trained in arms—’twas trained in misery!
It took long years to mould it, but war could never drown
The shuffling of my army’s feet in the hunger-haunted town—
A little child was murdered, and so Tyranny went down.

My army kept no order, my army kept no time;
My army dug no trenches, yet died in dust and slime;
Its troops were fiercely ignorant, as to the manner born;
Its clothes were rags and tatters, or patches worn and torn—
Ah, me! It wore a uniform that I have often worn!

The faces of my army were ghastly as the dead;
My army’s cause was Hunger, my army’s cry was “Bread!”
It called on God and Mary and Christ of Nazareth;
It cried to kings and courtesans that fainted at its breath—
Its women beat their poor, flat breasts where babes had starved to death.
My army! My army—I hear the sound of drums
Above the roar of battles—and, lo! my army comes!
Nor creed of man may stay it—nor war, nor nation’s law—
The pikes go through the firing-lines as pitchforks go through straw—
Like pitchforks through the litter, while empires stand in awe.
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