They dragged me out of No Man’s Land.
The earth and sky have ceased to reel;
I’ve felt the sister’s steady hand,
I’ve felt the surgeon’s steadier steel.
I’m beat with bullet, shocked with shell,
A thousand tortures with me toyed;
Yet like our happy marriage bell
I hear your voice across the void.
O, Mary, namesake of the saint
A hundred million men revere,
I hear to-night, afar and faint —
I hear it as you sang it first
Within our little Aussie home;
I hear it in the shrapnel burst
And bombs that drop from out the dome.
Sacredly-sweet it floats again
From out your soul full-throated flung,
When life had not a pang or pain
And we and all the world were young.
You sang because you loved to sing,
The angels sure must hover near,
When sweet your flute-notes rise and ring
Soft-handed sisters touch my own
In passing where I lonely lie,
And close my ears unto the groan
Of dear old comrades soon to die.
And in a church-yard near the wards,
A peasant French girl sings to me
Of homely gardens, lakes and swards,
That I again shall never see.
But while she’s singing to the sun,
One song alone I wish to hear —
The melody that made us one,
They tell me I will never see,
My wife, my babies, or the world;
That I in Stygian dark shall be,
Until the judgements fiat’s hurled.
They tell me vision shall not come
To me until God lifts His light,
Where there shall be no battle drum
And man shall not his fellow smite.
But you shall take me by the hand
And make confusing pathways clear,
While storm-swept souls shall understand —
When I have left the transport’s side,
Back, back again within the West,
When I have clasped my bonny bride
And babies to my broken breast,
Then shall I by the sleepy Swan
Ask it again of you, dear heart,
As when our sweetheart sunbeams shone,
And we were joined no more to part;
So when the world casts off its gyves,
Though sightless I shall happy hear
The hymn of our united lives —
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 8-9
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 9 June 1918, p. 4
Ave Maria = (Latin) “Hail Mary”; “Ave Maria” is a well-known Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, which begins with the line “Hail Mary, full of grace”; “Ave Maria” is also a famous song by the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), as part of his Opus 52 (1825), which he based upon the well-known epic poem “The Lady of the Lake” (1810) by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
gyve = a U-shaped piece of metal secured with a metal pin or bolt across the opening, usually used to shackle the leg of a prisoner or slave
No Man’s Land = an area of land between two armies which is not under the control of either side (land controlled by no man); also, an area of land which lacks a controlling authority; may also refer to an area of ideas, policy, or dominion which is undecided, ambiguous, or which lacks a controlling authority
Stygian = very dark, gloomy; forbidding, hellish, unpleasantly dark; of or pertaining to the river Styx (in Greek mythology, a river which formed the boundary between the land of the living and the underworld)
Swan = the Swan River, Perth
sward = a lawn or meadow; land covered with grass