March 9th, 1916. FOR RECITATION. A BIT OF BUNTING. BY A WOUNDED ANZAC.
They have settled the ward for the evening,
And straightened every bed:
We have drunk our bowls of cocoa
And they have covered the lights with red.
We are lying down to the morning –
‘Tis a terrible time to wait, when the day seems 24 hours
And the night seems 48;
For the man to the right is restless,
I can hear him mutter and mourn,
And the boy in the bed beside me
Is breaking his heart for home.
I doze a little in moments,
‘Till I’m back with the heat and the flies
In the snipers line of fire,
With the sunlight in my eyes.
It’s curious lying thinking
When the clock strikes once and again.
How fate has formed us together
In a regiment of pain.
How from far off town and village,
From the peace of the country sward,
We have answered the call of England,
To meet again in a ward.
You have heard of the old pied piper
Who came to the village street,
And played a tune to the children,
A melody strange and sweet;
And with eyes aglow with laughter
And curls that shone in the sun,
They tramped to the sound of the music,
And followed him every one.
We all grow bitter at seasons,
God knows we are battered and worn,
And we feel in our darkest moments
That nothing more can be borne:
But say what you will about it,
There is something in each man’s breast
That would urge him to rise and follow,
Though he hungered for peace and rest;
It is stronger than home and comfort,
It is stronger than love and life,
Than the speechless grief of a mother
Or the clinging arms of a wife;
For whenever the old flag shall summon,
In the midst of his direst pain
He would hear it out of the shadows,
And it would never call in vain.
Do we wonder why we have done it
When the pain is hardest to bear,
And the helpless years to come
Press like a load of care?
Do we wonder why we have done it,
When just at the break of day
We fancy we hear the sobbing
Of the loved ones far away?
Over the mantle yonder,
Between the glass and the wall,
There is waged a piece of bunting –
You can scarcely see at all;
But my eyes go searching for it
Before they cover the lights,
For its brought a message with it,
And I read it every night;
For whether he’s tired and weary,
Or whether he’s hurt and sad,
Or whether he’s old and helpless,
Or whether he is but a lad –
As long as England is England,
And as long as a man has his will,
He would rise from a bed of sickness
To hobble after it still.
They say that the grandest picture
In England, when war is done,
And we’ve dragged our own from the Germans,
And fought and bled and won –
Will not be the row of medals
The blaze on a general’s breast,
Or the little letters of glory
That will follow the hero’s name
But the sight that will rouse the nation
And stir our pulses yet,
The sight that the women of England
Will count as a lasting debt.
Is the empty sleeve of a soldier
Who has braved the surgeon’s knife
And the man who goes on crutches
For the rest of his mortal life.