Henry Lawson

(17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales)

Booth's Drum [1]


They were “ratty” they were hooted by the meanest and the least,
When they woke the Drum of Glory long ago in London East.
They were often mobbed by hoodlums—they were few, but unafraid—
And their Lassies were insulted, but they banged the drum—and prayed.
Prayed in public for the sinners, prayed in private for release,
Till they saved some brawny lumpers—then they banged the drum in peace.
(Saved some prize-fighter and burglars)—and they banged the drum in peace.
Booth’s Drum.
He was hook-nosed, he was “scrawny,”
He was nothing of a Don.
And his business ways seemed Yiddish,
And his speeches “kid”—or kiddish;
And we doubted his “convictions”—
But his drum is going on.

Oh, they drummed it ever onward with old Blood-and-Fire unfurled,
And they drummed it ever outward to the corners of the world.
Till they banged the drum in Greenland and they banged in Ispahan,
And they banged it round to India and China and Japan.
And they banged it through the Islands where each seasoned Son of Rum
Took them for new-fangled Jim Jams when he heard the Army Drum.
(For a bran’ new brand of Horrors, when he saw the Army come.)
So they banged it in the desert, and they banged in the snow—
They’d have banged the Drum to Mecca! with the shadow of a “show.”
(But Mohammed cut their heads off, so they had to let it go.)

Somewhere in the early eighties they had banged the drum to Bourke,
Where the job of fighting Satan was white-hot and dusty work.
Oh, the Local Lass was withered in the heat that bakes and glares,
And we sent her food and firewood but took small heed of her prayers.
We were blasphemous and beery, we were free from Creed or Care,
Till they sent their prettiest Lassies—and they broke our centre there.
So that, moderately sober, we could stand to hear them sing—
And we’d chaff their Testifiers, and throw quids into the ring.
(Never less than bobs or “dollars”—sometimes quids into the ring.)

They have “stormed” our sinful cities—banged for all that they were worth—
From Port Darwin to Port Melbourne, and from Sydney round to Perth.
We’d no need for them (or woman) when we were all right and well,
But they took us out of prison, and they took us out of Hell.
And they helped our fallen sisters who went down for such as we,
And our widows and our orphans in distress and poverty.
And neglected wives and children of the worst of us that be;
And they made us fit for Glory—or another Glorious Spree.
(So I rather think there’s something that is up to you or me.)

Oh! the Blindness of the Future!—Ah, we never reckoned much
That they’d beat the quids we gave them into bayonets and such.
That the coin would be devoted, when our world was looking blue,
To another kind of orphan—wife, or child, or widow too.
But the times have changed a sudden, and the past is very dim;
They Have Found a Real Devil, and They’re Going After Him.
(With a Bible and a Rifle they are going after him.)

For the old Salvation Army, and their Country, and their King,
They are marching to the trenches, shouting, “Comrades! Let us Sing!”
They’ll find foreign “Army” soldiers here and there and everywhere,
Who will speak their tongue and help them. And they’ll surely breathe a prayer
For the Spy—before they shoot him; and another when he’s still.
And they’re going to “fire a volley” in the Land of Kaiser Bill.
But, when all is done and quiet—as before they march away—
They will kneel about their banner, saying “Brethren. Let us pray.”

They have long used army rank-terms, and oh, say what it shall be,
When a few come back the real thing, and when one comes back V.C.!
They will bang the drum at Crow’s Nest, they will bang it on “the Shore,”
They will bang the drum in Kent-street as they never banged before.
And At Last they’ll frighten Satan from the Mansion and the Slum—
He’ll have never heard till that time such a Banging of the Drum.

He was lonely with his thousands,
Lonely in his household too,
For his children had deserted,
And his captains, not a few.
He was old and white and feeble
And his sight was nearly gone,
And he “could not see his people,”
But his drum is rolling on.
Booth’s Drum.

Submitted: Friday, March 26, 2010

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