Cicely Fox Smith
The Return Of The Prodigal - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
I rode into Pincher River on an August afternoon -
The pinto's hoofs on the prairie drumming a drowsy tune -
By the shacks and the Chinks' truck-gardens to the Athabasca Saloon.
And a bunch of the boys was standing around by the old Scotch Store,
Standing and spitting and swearing by old Macallister's door,
And the name on their lips was Britain - the word that they spoke was 'War'!
War! . . . Do you think I waited to talk about wrong or right
When I knew my own country was up to the neck in a fight?
I said 'So long' - and I beat it - 'I'm hitting the trail to-night!'
I wasn't long at my packing; I hadn't much time to dress;
And the cash I had at disposal was a ten-spot (more or less),
So I didn't wait for my ticket - I booked by the hoboes' express.
I rode the bumpers at night-time; I beat the ties in the day,
Stealing a ride and humming a ride all of the blooming way,
And . . . I left the First Contingent drilling at Valcartier!
I didn't cross in a liner (I hadn't my passage by me!)
I spotted a Liverpool cargo tramp, smelly and greasy and grimy,
And she wanted hands for the voyage, and the old man guessed he'd try me.
She kicked like a ballet dancer or a range-bred bronco mare;
She rolled till her engines rattled - she wallowed, but what did I care?
It was, 'Go it, my bucking beauty, if only you'll take me there!'
Then . . . came an autumn morning, grey-blue, windy and clear,
And the fields - the little white houses - green, and peaceful, and dear -
And the heart inside o' me saying: 'Take me, Mother, I'm here!'
'Here, for I thought you'd want me; I've brought you all that I own,
A lean long lump of a carcass that's mostly muscle and bone -
Six foot two in my stockings - weigh-in at fourteen stone!'
'Here, and I hope you'll have me - take me for what I'm worth,
A chap that's a bit of a waster, come from the ends of the earth,
To fight with the best that's in him for the dear old land of his birth!'
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