General Gordon: The Hero of Khartoum [poem by Agnes Neale]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Shadows and Sunbeams (1890).]

General Gordon,

The Hero of Khartoum.

Let the muffled drums be beaten,
Let the funeral bell toll slow,
For a great man, strong and steadfast,
For a hero lying low.

For a brave, a saintly Christian,
True to man, and true to God;
Not a shadow of dishonor
Lies along the path he trod.

Not upon the field of battle,
Not amidst its din and gloom,
Crack of rifle, roar of cannon,
Fell the hero of Khartoum.

Maybe we had mourned less deeply
Had he fallen where foemen fled,
Or in the breach, dark hordes resisting,
Had been numbered with the dead.

Yet, he was not less a hero,
That some traitor’s coward blow,
All unharmed, and unresisting,
Laid the dauntless soldier low.

Was he hero? Witness, China;
Witness, Afric’s burning strand?
Answer all the years of struggle
Wasted in that dreary land.

Was he hero? Were they wasted?
God, who sees the sparrows fly,
Saw His steadfast servant working,
Saw his faith and courage high.

He, whose curse in fire is written
O’er the trade in human blood,
Saw where in the cause of freedom
Freedom’s noblest soldier stood.

Was he hero? Go and question
Those whose lives, downbeat and dumb,
By his hand were raised and rescued
From a city’s foulest slum.

Think of that sad year of waiting,
Think of all the nameless dread,
Ever gathering thicker, darker,
Round that brave devoted head.

Think of that last day, most mournful
Of the whole sad mournful year,
When our hero perished, helpless,
And the longed-for help so near.

Aye, he was, in truth, a hero,
One whose work the world should sway;
Making all men stronger, truer,
Down to time’s remotest day.

Let his deed in light be written
On the scroll of deathless fame;
Let the soldier’s future watchword
Be the sound of Gordon’s name.

Not alone does England mourn him,
We, her children leal and true,
Claim with her the traitor’s victim,
Mourn him as our hero too.

Let the round world join to mourn him
Whom we were too late to save;
Let a nation’s love and sorrow
Wail this requiem o’er his grave:

Farewell, Gordon! saintly, fearless!
Not farewell in doubt or gloom,
But assured, ’tis better with thee,
Farewell, hero of Khartoum!

Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 36-38

Editor’s notes:
Afric = Africa

Gordon = Major-General Charles George Gordon (1833-1885), a British military leader, who successfully led military operations in China in the 1860s (earning him the nickname of “Chinese” Gordon); was Governor-General of the Sudan in the 1870s; and who returned to Khartoum (the Sudanese capital), during the time of a Muslim rebellion, to evacuate large numbers of non-Muslim and pro-government, but stayed on after the evacuation and held the city against the rebels for almost a year, and was killed when the rebels took over the capital (his efforts earned him the widespread accolade of being “the Hero of Khartoum”)

Khartoum = the capital city of the Sudan

leal = faithful and true

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

requiem = a song, chant, dirge, piece of music, or musical service, especially of a mournful nature and slow, used for a funeral, memorial, or commemoration, for the repose (peaceful rest) of the souls of the dead (especially regarding Christian ceremonies for the dead); a lamentation for the dead; a requiem mass for the repose of the souls of the dead

strand = land bordering a body of water, such as a beach or shore adjoining the sea; less commonly, may also refer to a beach or shore adjoining a lake or river (may also refer to a small brook or rivulet)

Old spelling in the original text:
thee (you)
’tis (it is)

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