[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918).]
The Little Homes
We have heard the cheering, brothers,
We have heard the martial peal;
We have seen the soldiers marching
And the glint of sun on steel.
We have heard the songs, the shouting;
But, while forth the soldier roams,
Who has heard the weeping, brothers,
In the Little Homes?
We have seen the gay processions
And the careless, laughing crowds;
We have seen the banners waving
Out against the peaceful clouds;
Yet, while colors proudly flutter
Over noble spires and domes,
Who has seen the mourning, brothers,
In the Little Homes?
From the Little Homes that nestle
Where the smiling fields sweep wide,
From the Little Homes that huddle
In the city, side by side,
They have called the eager fighters —
Men who went with smiles and cheers;
Pride of wives and pride of mothers —
Pride that conquers fears.
What the Little Homes shall suffer,
What the Little Homes shall pay
Must be more than sturdy fighters,
More than women’s grief to-day.
In the years that follow after,
Be our battles won or lost,
In the Little Homes, my brothers,
They shall pay the cost.
They shall pay the cost of glory,
They shall pay the price of peace,
Years and many long years after
All the sounds of battle cease.
When the sword is sheathed — or broken —
When the battle flag is furled,
Still the Little Homes must suffer
Over all the World.
Have you seen the old grey mothers
Smiling to the ringing cheers?
Have you seen the young wives striving
Bravely to hold back the tears?
Have you seen the young girl marching
By her soldier-lover’s side?
Have you seen our country’s women
All aglow with pride?
Women of the little homesteads,
Women of the city slums,
They are waiting, ever waiting;
And the sound of muffled drums
In some stricken Home is echoed,
Where grey Grief is guest to-day.
And to-morrow? Nay, the others
Still must wait — and pray.
Then, shall we think shame, my brothers,
To give thanks upon our knees
That the land we love should hold them —
Wives and mothers such as these?
Women who still hide their sorrow
As their soldiers march away,
Turning brave and steadfast faces
To the light of day?
Oh, the Little Homes are cheerful —
Little Homes that know no pride
But the pride of sacrificing
Loved ones to the battle tide!
They are many, many brothers,
And their sacrifice is great,
Shrines are they and sacred places,
Where the women wait.
Aye, the Little Homes are holy
At the darkening of day,
When young wives must face their sorrow,
When grey mothers kneel to pray,
Magnifying, in dread visions,
Danger where the soldier roams,
Then God heed the lonely sobbing,
In the Little Homes.
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 127-130
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