My Army, O, My Army!

Henry Lawson, 1915

      My army, O, my army! The time I dreamed of comes!
      I want to see your colours; I want to hear your drums!
      I heard them in my boyhood when all men's hearts seemed cold;
      I heard them as a Young Man — and I am growing old!
      My army, O, my army! The signs are manifold!

      My army, O, my army! My army and my Queen!
      I used to sing your battle-songs when I was seventeen!
      They came to me from ages, they came from far and near;
      They came to me from Paris, they came to me from Here! —
      They came when I was marching with the Army of the Rear.

      My Queen's dark eyes were flashing (oh, she was younger then!);
      My Queen's Red Cap was redder than the reddest blood of men!
      My Queen marched like an Amazon, with anger manifest —
      Her dark hair darkly matted from a knifegash in her breast
      (For blood will flow where milk will not — her sisters knew the rest).

      My legions ne'er were listed, they had no need to be;
      My army ne'er was trained in arms — 'twas trained in misery!
      It took long years to mould it, but war could never drown
      The shuffling of my army's feet in the hunger-haunted town —
      A little child was murdered, and so Tyranny went down.

      My army kept no order, my army kept no time;
      My army dug no trenches, yet died in dust and slime;
      Its troops were fiercely ignorant, as to the manner born;
      Its clothes were rags and tatters, or patches worn and torn —
      Ah, me! It wore a uniform that I have often worn!

      The faces of my army were ghastly as the dead;
      My army's cause was Hunger, my army's cry was "Bread!"
      It called on God and Mary and Christ of Nazareth;
      It cried to kings and courtesans that fainted at its breath —
      Its women beat their poor, flat breasts where babes had starved to death.

      My army! My army — I hear the sound of drums
      Above the roar of battles — and, lo! my army comes!
      Nor creed of man may stay it — nor war, nor nation's law —
      The pikes go through the firing-lines as pitchforks go through straw —
      Like pitchforks through the litter, while empires stand in awe.