Tuesday 26 January 2016

The Australian

["The bravest thing God ever made." — A British Officers opinion.]

The skies that arched his land were blue,
     His bush-born winds were warm and sweet,
And yet from earliest hours he knew
     The tides of victory and defeat;
From fierce floods thundering at his birth,
     From red droughts ravening while he played,
He learned to fear no foes on earth —
     "The bravest thing God ever made!"

The bugles of the Motherland
     Rang ceaselessly across the sea,
To call him and his lean brown hand
     To shape Imperial destiny;
He went, by youth’s grave purpose willed,
     The goal unknown, the cost unweighed,
The promise of his blood fulfilled —
     "The bravest thing God ever made!"

We know — it is our deathless pride! —
     The splendour of his first fierce blow;
How, reckless, glorious, undenied,
     He stormed those steel-lined cliffs we know!
And none who saw him scale the height
     Behind his reeking bayonet-blade
Would rob him of his title-right —
     "The bravest thing God ever made!"

Bravest, where half a world of men
     Are brave beyond all earth’s rewards,
So stoutly none shall charge again
     Till the last breaking of the swords:
Wounded or hale, won home from war,
     Or yonder by the Lone Pine laid,
Give him his due for evermore —
     "The bravest thing God ever made!"

W. H. O.

Poem: Punch, 15th December 1915
Image: Painting depicting the Battle of Polygon Wood, September 1917

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