The Firing-Line

A poem by Henry Lawson

They are creeping on through the cornfields yet, and they clamber amongst the rocks,
Ere they rush to stab with the bayonet and smash with the rifle-stocks.
And many are wounded, many are dead, some reel as if drunk with wine,
And fling them down on a blood-stained bed, and sleep in the firing-line.

And they dream, perhaps, of the days shut back, while the shrapnel shrieks and crashes,
And field-guns hammer and rifles crack, and the blood of a comrade splashes.
In horrible shambles they rest a while from murder by right divine;
They curse or jest, and they frown or smile, and they dream in the firing-line.

In the dreadful din of a ghastly fight they are shooting, murdering, men;
In the smothering silence of ghastly peace we murder with tongue and pen.
Where is heard the tap of the typewriter, where the track of reform they mine,
Where they stand to the frame or the linotype, we are all in the firingline.

Weary and parched in the world-old war we are fighting with quivering nerves;
The dead are our fathers who charged before, and the children are our reserves.
In the world-old war, with the world-old wrongs that shall last while the stars still shine,
My comrades and I, who would sing their songs, are all in the firing-line.

There are some of us cowards who hug the ground, and some of us reckless who jest;
And some of us careless who slumber sound, and some of us weary who rest.
There are some of us dreamers, whose beds seem soft, and O heart! O friend of mine!
The brightest and bravest of earth too oft lie drunk in the firing-line.

But the sleeper may wake ere the fort we storm, and the coward be first to dare,
And the weak grow strong, and the drunkard reform, and the dreamer strike hardest there.
God give me strength in my country’s need, though shame and disgrace be mine,
And death be certain, to rise and lead when we charge from the firing-line.

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