On the eve of the Centenary of Gallipoli, it seems both timely and appropriate to publish two poems written by the men who served at Gallipoli. We are grateful to Robert Pike for making these poems known to us.
LEST WE FORGET.
by Nowell Orland
There’s a waterfall I’m leaving
Running down the rocks in foam,
There’s a pool for which I’m grieving
Near the water-ouzel’s home,
And it’s there that I’d be lying
With the heather close at hand,
And the Curlew’s faintly crying
Mid the wastes of Cumberland.
While the midnight watch is winging
Thoughts of other days arise.
I can hear the river singing
Like the Saints in Paradise;
I can see the water winking
Like the merry eyes of Pan,
And the slow half-pounders sinking
By the bridges’ granite span.
Ah! To win them back and clamber
Braced anew with winds I love,
From the rivers’ stainless amber
To the morning mist above,
See through clouds-rifts rent asunder
Like a painted scroll unfurled,
Ridge and hollow rolling under
To the fringes of the world.
Now the weary guard are sleeping,
Now the great propellers churn,
Now the harbour lights are creeping
Into emptiness astern,
While the sentry wakes and watches
Plunging triangles of light
Where the water leaps and catches
At our escort in the night.
Great their happiness who seeing
Still with unbenighted eyes
Kin of theirs who gave them being,
Sun and earth that made them wise,
Die and feel their embers quicken
Year by year in summer time,
When the cotton grasses thicken
On the hills they used to climb.
Shall we also be as they be,
Mingled with our mother clay,
Or return no more it may be?
Who has knowledge, who shall say?
Yet we hope that from the bosom
Of our shaggy father Pan,
When the earth breaks into blossom
Richer from the dust of man,
Though the high Gods smith and slay us,
Though we come not whence we go,
As the host of Menelaus
Came there many years ago;
Yet the self-same wind shall bear us
From the same departing place
Out across the Gulf of Saros
And the peaks of Samothrace;
We shall pass in summer weather,
We shall come at eventide,
When the fells stand up together
And all quiet things abide;
Mixed with cloud and wind and river,
Sun-distilled in dew and rain,
One with Cumberland for ever
We shall go not forth again.
Nowell Oxland, Lieutenant
6th Border Regiment
GREEN HILL CEMETERY
(The son of the Rev W Oxland RN and Caroline Amy Oxland, of 41, Outram Rd, Southsea, Portsmouth. One of the war poets, his poem ‘Outward Bound’ was first published in ‘The Times’ in the year of his death.)
8TH LIGHT HORSE
by Cuthbert Flynn
Lengthening shadows on lonely graves, blistering bones in the sun,
And I work here at a dreary desk, with a pen instead of a gun.
And yet I belonged to the 8th Light Horse, of the 3rd Light Horst Brigade,
You remember us clattering through the streets the workmanlike show we made;
And don’t you remember the waving flags, and the crowd and the storm of cheers,
The women that laughed, and prayed, and wept – the maidens who smiled through tears;
And I rode then, with Peter and Ben, their knees pressed hard to mine,
Pete never came back from bloody Anzac, Ben died at Lonesome Pine.
And the shadows lengthen on Peter’s grave, Ben’s bones bleach in the sun,
And I sit here, With a pen in my ear, while they fall one by one.
I wonder how many are left of the men, of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade,
How many have fallen of those brave chaps, who fought as hard as they played.
It’s not so long since we laughed at the men who plugged along per boot,
But the 8th Light Horse wouldn’t stay behind when the guns began to shoot.
With scarcely a thought for the horses they brought, they went on board with a cheer,
They blazed their track at grim Anzac – and I sit lonely here.
Out of six hundred and fifty men, answered the roll-call a score,
The horses may wait on the lines awhile, their riders will come no more.
Tiny and Lofty, Peter and Mick, all of us comrades true,
We lived and loved, and worked and played, and quarrelled as comrades do.
And I remember how Lofty laughed, and the way Mick brushed his hair;
They all of them fell in that one mad rush – bar me, and I wasn’t there.
I’ll bet they were first in that frenzied burst when the 8th Light Horse went down
In a hail of shell, and a blast from hell, that won them a hero’s crown.
Lofty lies broken on Turkish soil. Mick’s eyes stare at the sun;
And Tiny has gone to his last account, with his fingers clutching his gun.
The skies are blue, and the air is clear, and the sun shines overhead.
But I could choke when I think of the smokes I’ve borrowed from men who are dead.
The dearest mates that a man could have, are numbered among the slain.
The men that turned out to “stables” with me will never do “stables” again.
No more will “reveille” awake Jim M’Nally – he too is gone with them all;
Tis easy to die, do you wonder that I was silent at duty’s call.
But the shadows still lengthen on lonely graves, the bones still bleach in the sun,
And I sit here at a dreary desk, with a pen instead of a gun.
So shed me a tear for the gallant 8th of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade,
Who went to their death with as steady a nerve as they rode out on parade,
And if they discarded a few odd clothes and if they didn’t look pretty well,
They sewed a patch on the back of their shirts, and they charged like the hammers of hell.
They didn’t hang back, on the slopes of Anzac – through a solid wall of lead
They dashed and then they died like men – God rest their gallant deed.
And I wonder whatever they think of me, in their shallow graves in the sand,
That I didn’t charge with them at grim Anzac,
That the tears of a woman held me back,
And the clutch of a baby’s a hand.