Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

Isandula - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

Ever the story liveth of the fight on the far hillside,
Fraught with the ancient sorrow that is brother born of pride:
Holds thy heart unforgetting the name of a far-off grave,
Wet with thy tears, O England - ay, red with the blood of the brave,
Who found, by a far stream's tide, 'neath the sky of a stranger land,
Death and glory in one at the Hill of the Little Hand.

Dark like a cloud they came, the hosts of the Zulu king, -
Yea, and still as a cloud: silent they drew in a ring
Round the doomed camp white in the sun, and the soldiers scattered and few,
Darkling the impis came on. - and the Englishmen, what could they do?
God! Will it ever be told? It were all too bitter to tell,
Dark wave pouring on wave, and savage yell upon yell,
Fights unseen and unknown none liveth to hand to fame:
Brave men dead by the guns they spiked ere the spear-stroke came:
Eddies drowned in the tide, - swirls in a pitiless flood,
And the remnant swept to the river - the river red with their blood.

Yet, O God of the heroes, thanks and praise unto Thee,
Who givest a gift that is greater than an easy victory,
Since from the stream of slaughter by the lonely mountain roll'd,
Young hands grasped there the laurels that death shall not withhold:
Yea, a crown that is fairer than the victor's crown of fame,
A star in the years that shall be, and an everlasting flame.

Swift they raced for the river - for there was that they bore
They must hold for, strike for, strive for till life shall be no more, -
Only to save the colours - tho' all beside be lost
Still this is left to die for - (O is it worth the cost?
Is it worth a young life's glory - its promise and its pride?
Hear in their deed the answer - hear how for this they died!)

Shoulder by shoulder they spurred - reached the river - and one at the last
Came unhurt to the shore, and haply his peril were past;
Yet - what of safety, of life? There are greater, things to lose,
There are nobler, goodlier guerdons for a hero-heart to choose.
Back to midstream he turned, to the foe and the purple tide,
To stand by the friend he loved so - to die at a comrade's side,
And the dead men round in a ring bore witness how they died.
So by the lonely river, under the lonely sky,
Dwells by the graves of heroes the dream that shall not die:
By the flow of a far stream's wave, 'neath the sky of a stranger land,
Death and glory in one at the Hill of the Little Hand.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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