The Iron Wedding Rings
Henry Lawson, 1909
In these days of peace and money, free to all the Commonweal,
There are ancient dames in Buckland wearing wedding rings of steel;
Wedding rings of steel and iron, worn on wrinkled hands and old,
And the wearers would not give them, not for youth nor wealth untold.
In the days of black oppression, when the best abandoned hope,
And all Buckland crouched in terror of the prison and the rope,
Many fair young wives in Buckland prayed beside their lonely beds
For the absent ones who knew not where to lay their outlawed heads.
But a whisper went through Buckland, to the rebels only known,
That the man across the border had a chance to hold his own.
There were men that came in darkness, quiet, grim and travel-worn,
And, by twos, and threes, the young men stole away to join Kinghorn.
Slipping powder-horns and muskets from beneath the floors and thatch,
There were boys who kissed their mothers ere they softly dropped the latch;
There were hunters' wives in backwoods who sat strangely still and white
Till the dawn, because their men-folk went a-hunting in the night.
But the rebels needed money, and so, through the Buckland hills,
Came again, by night, the gloomy men of monosyllables;
And the ladies gave their jewels to be smuggled out and sold,
And the homely wives of Buckland gave their wedding rings of gold.
And a Buckland smith in secret, and in danger, in his shed
Made them rings of baser metals (from the best he had, to lead),
To be gilt and worn to market, or to meetings where they.prayed,
Lest the spies should get an inkling, and the husbands be betrayed.
Then a silence fell on Buckland; there was peace throughout the land,
And a loyalty that puzzled all the captains in command;
There was too much Law and Order for the men who weren't blind,
And the greatest of the king's men wasn't easy in his mind.
They were hunting rebels, certes, and the troops were understood
To be searching for a stronghold like a needle in a wood;
But whene'er the king was prayed for in the meeting-houses, then
It was strange with how much unction ancient sinners cried "Ah-men!"
Till at last, when all was quiet, through the gloomy Buckland hills
Once again there came those furtive men of monosyllables;
And their message was "Take warning what the morrow may reveal,
Death and Freedom may be married with a wedding ring of steel."
In the morning, from the marshes, rose the night-mist, cold and damp,
From the shipping in the harbour and the sleeping royal camp;
From the lanes and from the by-streets and the high streets of the town,
And above the hills of Buckland, where the rebel guns looked down.
And the first one sent a message to the camp to fight or yield,
And the wintry sun looked redly on a bloody battlefield;
Till the man from 'cross the border marched through Buckland once again,
With a charter for the people and ten thousand fighting men.
There are ancient dames in Buckland with old secrets to reveal,
Wearing wedding rings of iron, wearing wedding rings of steel;
And their tears drop on the metal when their thoughts are far away
In the past where their young husbands died on Buckland field that day.
Editor's note: For another poem about Buckland, see "The Man Who Raised Charlestown".