Come Ye Home

Listening (said the old, grey Digger) . . .
With my finger on the trigger
I was listening in the trenches on a dark night long ago,
And a lull came in the fighting,
Save a sudden gun-flash lighting
Some black verge. And I fell thinking of lost mates I used to know.

Listening, waiting, stern watch keeping,
I heard little whispers creeping
In from where, 'mid fair fields tortured, No-man's land loomed out before.
And well I knew good mates were lying
There, grim-faced and death-defying,
 In that filth and noisome litter and the horror that was war.

List'ning so, a mood came o'er me;
And 'twas like a vision bore me
To a deeper, lonelier darkness where the souls of dead men roam;
Where they wander, strife unheading;
And I heard a wistful pleading
Down the lanes where lost men journey: 'Come ye home! Ah, come ye home!'

'Ye who fail, yet triumph failing'
Ye who fall, yet falling soar
Into realms where, brother hailing
Brother, bids farewell to war;
Ye for whom this red hell ended,
With the last great, shuddering breath.
In the mute, uncomprehended,
Dreamful dignity of death;
Back to your own land's sweet breast
Come ye home, lads - home to rest.'

Listening in my old bush shanty
(Said grey Digger) living's scanty
These dark days for won-out soldiers and I'd not the luck of some
But from out the ether coming
I could hear a vast crowd's humming
Hear the singing, then - the Silence. And I knew the Hour had come.

Listening, silent as I waited,
And the picture recreated,
I could see the kneeling thousands by the Shrine's approaches there.
Then, above those heads low-bending,
Like an orison ascending,
Saw a multitude's great yearning rise into the quivering air.

Listening so, again the seeming
Of a vision came; and dreaming
There, I saw from out high Heaven spread above the great Shrine's dome,
From the wide skies overarching
I beheld battalions marching -
Mates of mine! My comrades, singing: Coming home! Coming home!

'We who bore the cost of glory,
We who paid the price of peace,
Now that, from this earth, war's story
Shall, please God, for ever cease,
To this Shrine that you have lifted
For a symbol and a sign
Of men's hearts, come we who drifted
Thro' long years, oh, mates of mine!
To earth, my brothers' grieving blest
Now come we home, lads - home to rest.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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