The Unknown Patient

Henry Lawson, 1915

      (Henry Lawson was recently an inmate of the Walker Hospital for Convalescents — "Founded by the late Thomas Walker of Yaralla in the Hope that Within Its Walls Sufferers should be Restored to Health". This is by way a song of gratitude).

      The moonlight breathes on Walker House and softens scrub and hill;
      The native trees are strangely stirred, the pines are very still;
      The nurse's lantern flits and flits, and pain and sorrow cease,
      For all the patients are asleep, and all is Rest and Peace.

      Not class nor creed nor race debars, and even Wealth is free —
      The suffering miser shares alike the Home with Poverty;
      The felon's past is never known when kindness "sends him through" -
      The stone says "many sufferers, but it means "sinners", too.

      Within a corner of the grounds, where patients seldom go,
      Well screened by firs and shrubbery a sandstone ledge runs low,
      And, pencilled by an unknown hand upon the yellow stone,
      Is "God Bless Thomas Walker" - four simple words alone.

      I know not who the writer was, and I may never know,
      It may have been but yesterday, maybe was long ago.
      'Tis near the pathway that divides the women from the men —
      It may have been a tortured Christ or a suffering Magdalen.

      Perhaps some shy and shrinking soul, relieved awhile from care,
      Crept out of sight of "sterner stuff" to pay a tribute there.
      Or maybe an Impenitent, and many such there be.
      For hard men often drop a tear where none but God may see.

      But good or bad, or high or low — or were he anything
      (Or even traitor to his creed, and rebel to his king) —
      I trust the unknown patient went with softened care and pain,
      With health and honesty restored, to fight the world again.

      There is a stately home of Rest where all the scene is fair,
      And in the sun the ripples run along the river there;
      'Twas builded in the noonday dream of one of kindly wealth,
      "In the Hope that Many Sufferers Should be Restored to Health".