The Vanguard

A poem by Henry Lawson

They say, in all kindness, I’m out of the hunt,
Too old and too deaf to be sent to the Front.
A scribbler of stories, a maker of songs,
To the fireside and armchair my valour belongs!
Yet in campaigns all hopeless, in bitterest strife,
I have been at the Front all the days of my life.

Oh, your girl feels a princess, your people are proud,
As you march down the street, ’midst the cheers of the crowd;
And the Nation’s behind you and cloudless your sky,
And you come back to Honour, or gloriously die;
While for each thing that brightens, and each thing that cheers,
I have starved in the trenches these forty long years.

The cities were silent, the people were glum,
No sound of a bugle, no tap of a drum;
Our enemies mighty and Parliaments sour,
Our Land’s lovers few, and no Man of the Hour.
The Girl turned her nose up (maybe ’twas before),
And they voted us Cracked when we marched to the war.

Our army was small and ’twas scattered afar,
And our headquarters down where the Poor People are.
But I knew the great hearts of the Jims and the Bills,
And we signalled by wireless as old as the hills.
There were songs that could reach to our furthermost wing,
And Sorrow and Poverty taught me to sing.

Our War Hymn the war hymn that ever prevails,
Oh, we sang it of old when we marched from Marseilles!
And our army traditions are cherished with pride
In streets and in woods where we triumphed, or died;
Where, rebel or loyal, by farmhouse and town,
The chorus waxed faint as they volleyed us down.

No V.C. comes to us, no rest nor release,
Though hardest of all is this fighting in peace.
Small honour to wife or to daughter or son,
Though noblest of all are the deeds that are done.
But we never are conquered, we never can die,
For we live through the ages, my army and I!

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