Frank Dalby Davison

(23 June 1893 - 24 May 1970 / Hawthorn, Victoria)

With Deaths' Prophetic Ear - Poem by Frank Dalby Davison

Lay my rifle here beside me, set my Bible on my breast,
For a moment let the warning bugles cease;
As the century is closing I am going to my rest,
Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant go in peace.
But loud through all the bugles rings a cadence in mine ear,
And on the winds my hopes of peace are strowed.
Those winds that waft the voices that already I can hear
Of the rooi-baatjes singing on the road.

Yes, the red-coats are returning, I can hear the steady tramp,
After twenty years of waiting, lulled to sleep,
Since rank and file at Potchefstroom we hemmed them in their camp,
And cut them up at Bronkerspruit like sheep.
They shelled us at Ingogo, but we galloped into range,
And we shot the British gunners where they showed.
I guessed they would return to us, I knew the chance must change --
Hark! the rooi-baatjes singing on the road!

But now from snow-swept Canada, from India's torrid plains,
From lone Australian outposts, hither led,
Obeying their commando, as they heard the bugle's strains,
The men in brown have joined the men in red.
They come to find the colours at Majuba left and lost,
They come to pay us back the debt they owed;
And I hear new voices lifted, and I see strange colours tossed,
'Mid the rooi-baatjes singing on the road.

The old, old faiths must falter, and the old, old creeds must fail --
I hear it in that distant murmur low --
The old, old order changes, and 'tis vain for us to rail,
The great world does not want us -- we must go.
And veldt, and spruit, and kopje to the stranger will belong,
No more to trek before him we shall load;
Too well, too well, I know it, for I hear it in the song
Of the rooi-baatjes singing on the road.


Comments about With Deaths' Prophetic Ear by Frank Dalby Davison

  • Gold Star - 10,604 Points Frank Avon (4/13/2015 10:01:00 AM)

    OK, somebody clue me in. Who really wrote this poem? Or can we know? Was it John Andes? Or Frank Dalby Davison (an Australian writing about South Africa) ? Or 'an unknown poet, or, at least, one who is known only by the initials, L. J. O. B.'? (Report) Reply

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  • Silver Star - 4,494 Points John Richter (4/13/2015 7:03:00 AM)

    I too was a little baffled by the city names and times... End of Century made me think of our own quasi war of 1799 (French-American) , but after reading his biography and doing a couple of place searches, I believe he is speaking of the Boer war in South Africa,1899. He would only have been 6 or 7 at the time, so it is a little boggling. But overall a very thoughtful poem, even if his memories were created by an older, returning generation... (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,251 Points Luis Estable (4/13/2015 5:14:00 AM)

    A poem that can be seen or read giving it a world of meaning this is. I caught most if it, but I wished I had undestood more. Well, that`s the way it goes sometimes with good or great poetry: we do not get it all, and we return to it again and again with the hope of more comprehention.

    Luis Estable (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 5,723 Points Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (4/1/2014 11:14:00 AM)

    I learned some new Australian words... will have to look them up...sounds like a battle in Canada...I believe this to be a poem about a historic event...very nicely written...War is never pretty... (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 5,723 Points Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (4/1/2014 11:14:00 AM)

    I learned some new Australian words... will have to look them up...sounds like a battle in Canada...I believe this to be a poem about a historic event...very nicely written...War is never pretty... (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: warning, peace, red, change, snow, song, sleep, lost, world, hope, wind



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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