Young Kings and Old
Henry Lawson, 1915
The young king fights in the trenches and the Old King fights in the rear
Because he is old and feeble, and not for a thought of fear.
The Young King fights for the Future, and the Old King fights for the Past
The Young King is fighting his first fight and the Old King is fighting his last.
It is ever the same old battle, be the end of it Beer or Blood
Or whether the rifles rattle, or whether a friend flings mud;
Or a foe to the rescue dashes, and the touch of a stranger thrills
Or the Truth or the bayonet flashes; or the Lie or a bullet kills.
The young man strives to determine which are the truths or lies,
And the old man preaches his sermon and he takes to his bed and dies;
And the parson is there, and the nurse is (or the bread is there and the wine)
And the son of the minister curses as he dies in the firing line.
And ever, and ever, and ever, as it was in ages untold,
The women grow still more "clever," and the young know more than the old;
Till the seer on the hill cries "Treason!" and the witch grins out of her hole
And a clarion voice shouts "Reason"! and the Drums of Destruction roll.
The young bard bounds to the office, with eyes and with cheeks a-glow,
And he meets the old on the stairway, with tottering knees and slow.
And ever the Cowards of Conscience, or Envy, or Greed or Trade
Are forcing us back from Antwerp, or forcing us from Belgrade.
But courage! By hut or steeple! and courage for old and young!
No song for the sullen people has ever been left unsung!
And the crudest note that was worthy has never gone by unfelt
I shall die in peace by the Danube, while you shall sing by the Scheldt!