The Penalty [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 26 May 1901]

[Editor: A poem by “Dryblower” Murphy. Published in The West Australian Sunday Times, 26 May 1901.]

The Penalty.

By Dryblower.

There are mothers and sisters weeping low in cottage and stately hall,
The widow’s piteous sobs are heard for the dead on the lonely vaal;
And still the vulture wings and wheels with an ever insatiate maw,
Where the rough stone marks the hasty grave on the blood-red fringe of war.

* * *

From the crowded quays of the motherland they hurried them out to fight,
While nations shrank in mute amaze at the glitter of martial might;
The poet sang in fevered verse of a war approved by God,
And the parting sob was drowned in cheers at a petulant statesman’s nod.

They came in their lusty manhood’s spring from the ways of the Empire wide
To mingle their blood with England’s best and die with them side by side,
With the flag of war at her topmast head and a sinking Plimsoll line,
The speedy “trooper” gathered them in from forest and mill and mine.

Across the world with her living freight she hurried towards the West,
Then panted back and gathered again the pick of a nation’s best;
Draining its sturdiest health and strength, sapping its richest blood,
To pour it out on veldt and vaal in a ruddy, unending flood.

From far off Canada’s pine-clad hills the foemen watched them come,
Locked shoulder firm with the boys in brown from the land of the scented gum;
They came for the cause of a nation free, but stayed for a nation’s greed,
Writing in blood with the bayonet’s point the law of the Grasper’s creed.
Leaving the foeman’s homestead trim a ruin amid the smoke,
Exchanging the simple sounds of peace for the carrion vulture’s croak;
Ruin behind, ruin around, misery, want and woe,
And all that a blood-drenched flag shall fly where treasure lies hidden below.
But they who’d share in the honors of war must share in its grief and pain,
And hearts are mourning the wide work o’er for the loved ones sick and slain.

There are mothers and sisters weeping low in cottage and stately hall,
The widow’s piteous sobs are heard for the dead on the lonely vaal;
And still the vulture wings and wheels with an ever insatiate maw,
Where the rough stone marks the hasty grave on the blood-red fringe of war.



Source:
The West Australian Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 26 May 1901, p. 4

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