Henry Lawson

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

The Friends Of Fallen Fortunes

The battlefield behind us,
And night loomed on the track;
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
Were riding at my back.
Save those who lay face upward
Upon the sodden plain,
Not one of all I’d trusted
Was missing from my train.

A draggled train and blood-stained,
With helmets dented in,
With battered, loosened armour,
But with a cheerful grin.
No dark look bent upon me;
I noted to my shame
That Friends of Fallen Fortunes
Are aye the last to blame.
Not one of all I’d trusted,
Who’d followed to their cost,
Save those who lay face upward
On that red field I’d lost;
And here and there a soldier
I’d trusted not at all,
Like an unexpected mourner
At a poor man’s funeral.

And as the horses stumbled,
And the footmen limped along,
They all joined in the chorus
Of a good old Next Time song.
Behind us in the distance,
By hill and lane and wood,
My ever-dwindling rear-guard
Fell back again and stood.

They recked not wounds nor losses,
They all seemed very kind,
From knight who rode beside me
To boor who limped behind;
And some borne in their litters
Through that long agony—
Their death-white, pain-drawn faces
Had no reproach for me.

And so from noon till darkness,
Till morning grim and grey,
The Earl’s son and the Peasant’s
Were brothers that dark day.
I straightened in my saddle,
And proudly glanced me round—
I still was King of Comrades,
Whoever might be crowned!

I straightened in my saddle,
And glanced round proudly then—
Whoe’er might reign a season,
I held the hearts of men!
No power of gold can buy them
While battles shall be fought—
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
Are never to be bought.

Through rain and marsh and hunger,
To what their fate might bring,
The remnants of my legions
Toiled on to join their King.
From north and south the captains
Of scattered bands won through—
Beneath its beaten colours
My beaten army grew.

And in the West before us—
The West was ever thus—
More Friends of Fallen Fortunes
Were gathering food for us;
For refuge and for succour—
For safety, food and rest—
The best of beaten armies
For ever seek the West.
With these men for my captains,
When we marched east again,
Our enemies were scattered
Like dust across the plain.
Our city lay before us,
And as we marched along,
We joined the grand old chorus
Of the glorious Next Time song.
And though they wear no armour,
And bear no blade nor bill,
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
Are riding with me still;
And, many times defeated
By city, field, and sea,
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
March on to Victory.
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