Reinforcements [poem, 18 July 1916]

[Editor: A poem by M. Forrest, written at the time of the First World War. Published in the West Gippsland Gazette, 18 July 1916.]


Big men from the Hawkesbury, and brown men from the bush,
Clear-eyed men and great-armed men across the forest’s hush,
And in between the purple hills, and down the hard red road,
They come to lift a shoulder to the Empire’s mighty load;
They come to join the colors now, as their grandsires have done,
To strike a blow for England — and a death-stroke at the Hun!

They saw their comrades, battle-worn, come back by sea and track.
They saw the scars of conflict and the empty sleeve hang slack;
They heard the tales of horror and the awful dirge of war,
And still — they took the forward path, as these had done before.
And there was nothing there to daunt the splendid soul that lives
In every unit for the front that proud Australia gives!

They look into their sweetheart’s eyes, they see the coming tear;
They put aside the clinging hands — “We must be men, my dear!”
And bravely lifts her little chin, and steady grow her hands,
Who gives the treasure of her heart to war in far-off lands.
They touch the mother’s time-lined cheek; they know that nevermore
Perchance may they behold those eyes, that watcher at the door;
And yet they saddle up the horse, they wave a quick good-bye,
They only see one goal ahead — the goal “to dare — or die.”

Lean, hard-limbed, men from Queensland way, men swift with oath and blow,
Soft-mannered clerks, and city chaps — ’tis one and all, they go!
Men with a fortune in the land, and men without a sou,
They have but one straight life to give — to help the Empire through.
Men from beyond the back o’ Bourke, and men from Tenterfield,
Men who know all the backblock trails, except the way to “yield!”
Whose signpost is “For victory,” for whom cross-roads run blind,
Men worthy of the women folk Australians leave behind!

Oh! press your weakly cobber’s hand. He wanted to go, too!
He’s sick because he cannot pass to help the Lion through.
Oh! kiss your girl’s sweet lips
farewell. . . . The boar is yours to hunt!
Australia flings another spear — in units for the front!

— M. Forrest in Sydney “Mail.”

West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic.), 18 July 1916, p. 6

Editor’s notes:
empty sleeve = a reference to a wounded soldier, specifically to one who has lost his arm

Hun = Germany; may also refer to German people (or those of German descent), used as a derogatory term

lion = Britain (as the representative emblem of Britain is a lion)

sou = a nickname for a French coin worth 5 centimes, equal to a twentieth of a Franc; the term was often used in slang phraseology to refer to something of low worth or to indicate a lack of money (e.g. “not worth a sou” or “I haven’t got a sou”)

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