The Friends of Fallen Fortunes

Henry Lawson, 1908

      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.