Sydney Thompson Dobell
Mentana - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell
'Mother, I hear a word
In the air!'
Play on, play on, my son,
The word thou hast heard is some bright sweet bird
That singeth, why and where
As who knows why and whither
The little wind blows
That bloweth hither and thither
But hardly stirs thy hair,
Hardly stirs the gossamers
Or a film of thy golden hair.
'Oh Mother, Mother dear,
Bend down, bend down to me!
Ah Mother, what dost thou hear?'
Hush, hush, my son,
I hear a word in the air.
'Ah Mother, why is thy face so white?
Ah Mother, Mother, why
Are thine eyes alight?
Ah Mother, why is thy face so red?
Mother, Mother, the hair of thine head-'
Silence, boy, we are near them,
Silence, boy, the dead, the dead,
I hear them, I hear them, I hear them!
They come, they come, they are here, they are gone,
And they cried, with a single cry,
The word is said, the night is fled,
Ere we knew it dawn 'tis day,
The graves are wide, the dead are up and away,
On the racing winds they race
To call the living land.
Boy, I am again a wife!
Boy, I saw thy father's face!
Round him rode the self-same band,
That went round him that great day
To Glory's latest Altar-place-
Went around and fell around,
When the red-legged assassin on the hill
With conjurations bloody and base
Jabbered the slanting sunset to his will,
And by such pests did so incriminate
The air with murder, that, when, weary and late,
Upon the well-won field the conqueror stood
Masters of all the eye could see,
The star-cracked and berotted victory
Burst in each glorious hand
And tore the sacred limits of sweet life,
And sluiced the dear heart's blood.
Ah God! if such blood could sink into the ground!
Up, up, my son, up, up, my soldier-son!
On with thy white-cross cap, while I
Bind me around with tri-colour
And let us go.
Whither? Whither they have gone before!
Haste! The dead have fleeter feet than ours.
See, the answering vales already move!
What is that, that like a moving sea
Floods towards the citied lilies of the towers
That soon shall ring
Well done, well done,
Thy little sword and gun,
Thou shalt wave the sword while I will cry
See, as we run the hamlets run,
The little towns are waving in the sun,
Hark the bells thunder, hark the trumpets blow
The mountains hear, the mists divide,
Look, look, on high,
The great tops crowned with joy and pride
Clang to the clanging vales below,
A thousand clarions blaze from side to side
What, must we rest again the little feet?
Cub of the Lion is thy dam too fleet?
Yet thou hast proved thy kind,
For see the misty miles behind,
And lo, before us what was dim is clear.
The city-walls, the city-gate,
The towers, the towers
That from our mountain seemed like flowers,
But hence like Pedestals that wait
The Statue of our Italy divine.
That Italy who, tho' she hath been hewn
In pieces,-as when the demons hew
An angel, whose immortal substance true
To his Eternal Image is not slain,
But from a thòusand falchions rears again
Still undivided by division
His everlasting beauty, whole and one-
When sounds the trump whereat the nations rise
Shall lift her unseamed body to the skies
And in her flesh see (God)-
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