The Lost Brigade [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Earthen Floor (1902).]

XXVIII.

The Lost Brigade.

Because of a word that wills the world
Since ever the world begun,
The flag of a Lost Brigade, unfurled,
Waves out at the setting sun.
The shout of a Wild Brigade is heard
And ever the screeds attest
That men have suffered and men have erred
And, over the years, gone West.

Their days were dull in the crowded towns;
It pleasured them ill to cheat,
To save the shillings and hoard the crowns
And lie for their bread and meat.
So they buckled sword, or rolled the swag
As they laughed and said “’tis best
To follow the track and carry the flag
Of the Wild Brigade gone West.”

Their hearts were bruised on a city’s street,
Or thorned by a woman’s face;
The charm of the Open lured their feet —
The charm of the Outer Place.
For weeds and thistles they flaunt between
The rows of the dead, close laid,
But waves roll clean and the grass grows green
O’er the graves of the Lost Brigade.

The roof they knew was the clear, blue arch —
The sun for its centrepiece;
To shade their ways on the onward march
A sheet of the driven fleece.
They laid on their rolling decks again,
And their bed-poles high the spars,
They kept them warm on the open plain
With the blankets of the stars.

They went with curses; they went with lilt
Of many a rousing song;
They went when money or blood was spilt,
They went of their right — gone wrong.
The world had need of a kinder breed
As ever the secrets attest;
But those who died in their wrath and pride
Were blood of the breed — gone West.

They held their fears as the thistle-down —
That flies at an infant’s breath;
They learned to laugh at the thing, “Renown,”
Who leered in the face of Death —
For “Courage” was all the shield they wore,
The shield of the Unafraid,
The Men of the Bitter Bread, who bore
The flag of the Lost Brigade.

They looked betimes on the gun’s sure sight,
And felt if the sword were keen;
And some went down in the quick’ning fight,
God wot, but they killed them clean.
For written clear on the Outer Track,
This word of the legend ran:
“Fight fair, for the honor of Farthest Back,
Fight fair in the Name of Man!”

They wrote with steel and they wrote with lead,
But seldom they wrote with pen;
’Twas cleaner script, though the ink ran red
In the Outer Ways of Men.
The poisoned pen in a coward’s hand,
The stab of the hidden blade,
Were not the ways in the Outer Land,
Of the Legion Unafraid.

And many a grey-haired hope grow dim,
And many a dream was laid
In the dust at last with the dust of him
Who marched with the Lost Brigade;
But many a heart hath treasured store
In many a rounded breast,
Of him who sleeps in the Evermore,
The “Land of the Lost” — out West.

They drank and diced, and their words, perchance,
Were oathed as they rolled them deep;
But the Lord will deal them an open chance
In the draft of Strayed Black Sheep.
And Peter, the fighting saint, who knew
The itch of a hasty blade,
Will hold the gate, till he franks them through,
The boys of the Lost Brigade.

But we know full well those streets of gold —
And the jasper walls so grand
Won’t suit the fellows who sailed and rode,
Or footed it overland;
The men who carried their Cross alone
The Lord of the Hosts will know,
He’ll call them up to the Great White Throne
Where only the Angels go:

And point out West, where the Heavens blaze
Afire with a million suns,
Along the track where the Grand Star Maze
Into the Infinite runs:
They’ll bridle their comets and get them gone
Away from the Great Parade,
And over the planets will thunder on
The souls of the White Brigade.

Over the planets, over the stars,
They’ll pass with a rush of wings,
On till a flaring nebula bars
The Edge of the End of Things;
There they will wander, there they will ride,
Each as it pleases him best,
A Belt of Suns on the hither side
Of the Lost Brigade — gone West.



Source:
E. J. Brady, The Earthen Floor, Grafton (N.S.W.): Grip Newspaper Co., 1902

Also published in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 22 November 1903, p. 10

Editor’s notes:
frank = to authorize, or enable, someone or something to pass or go freely, to give an exemption, especially to stamp mail with an imprint signifying that it may be mailed at no cost; (archaic) free

God wot = an archaic version of the phrase “God knows”

Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to Jesus or God

Lord of the Hosts = God (also rendered as “Lord of Hosts”)

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

Old spelling in the original text:
hath (has)
’tis (it is)
’twas (it was)

[Editor: Changed “Outer Land.” to “Outer Land,” (replaced the full stop with a comma).]

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