The Jolly Dead March

A poem by Henry Lawson

If I ever be worthy or famous,
Which I’m sadly beginning to doubt,
When the angel whose place ’tis to name us
Shall say to my spirit, ‘Pass out!’
I wish for no sniv’lling about me
(My work was the work of the land),
But I hope that my country will shout me
The price of a decent brass band.

Thump! thump! of the drum and ‘Ta-ra-rit,’
Thump! thump! and the music, it’s grand,
If only in dreams, or in spirit,
To ride or march after the band!
And myself and my mourners go straying,
And strolling and drifting along
With a band in the front of us playing
The tune of an old battle song!

I ask for no ‘turn-out’ to bear me;
I ask not for railings or slabs,
And spare me! my country, oh, spare me!
The hearse and the long string of cabs!
I ask not the baton or ‘starts’ of
The bore with the musical ear,
But the music that’s blown from the hearts of
The men who work hard and drink beer.

And let ’em strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’
And let them burst out with ‘Lang Syne’,
Twin voices of sadness and glory,
That have ever been likings of mine.
And give the French war-hymn deep-throated
The Watch of the Germans between,
And let the last mile be devoted
To ‘Britannia’ and ‘Wearing the Green.’

And if, in the end, more’s the pity,
There is fame more than money to spare,
There’s a van-man I know in the city
Who’ll convey me, right side up with care.
True sons of Australia, and noble,
Have gone from the long dusty way,
While the sole mourner fought down his trouble
With his pipe on the shaft of the dray.
But let them strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’ &c.

And my spirit will join the procession,
Will pause, if it may, on the brink,
Nor feel the least shade of depression
When the mourners drop out for a drink;
It may be a hot day in December,
Or a cold day in June it may be,
And the drink will but help them remember
The good points the world missed in me.
And help ’em to love ‘Annie Laurie,’
And help ’em to raise ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ &c.

‘Unhook the West Port’ for an orphan,
An old digger chorus revive,
If you don’t hear a whoop from the coffin,
I am not being buried alive.
But I’ll go with a spirit less bitter
Than mine own on the earth may have been,
And, perhaps, to save trouble, Saint Peter
Will pass me, two comrades between.

And let them strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’
And let ’em burst out with ‘Lang Syne,’
Twin voices of sadness and glory
That have ever been likings of mine.
Let them swell the French war-hymn deep-throated
(And I’ll not buck at ‘God Save the Queen’),
But let the last mile be devoted
To ‘Britannia’ and ‘Wearing the Green.’

Thump! thump! of the drums we inherit,
War-drums of my dreams! Oh it’s grand,
If only in fancy or spirit,
To ride or march after a band!
And we, the World-Battlers, go straying
And loving and laughing along,
With Hope in the lead of us playing
The tune of a life-battle song!

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