John Sandes

(1863-1938 / Australia)

`with Death's Prophetic Ear' - Poem by John Sandes

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.

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

Poem Submitted: Saturday, January 4, 2003

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