‘Hello, Soldier!’

The Letters of the Dead

Edward Dyson

A LETTER came from Dick to-day;
    A greeting glad he sends to me.
He tells of one more bloody fray—
Of how with bomb and rifle they
    Have put their mark for all to see
    Across rock-ribbed Gallipoli.

“How are you doing? Hope all’s well,
    I’m in great nick, and like the work.
Though there may be a brimstone smell,
And other pungent hints of Hell,
    Not Satan’s self can make us shirk
    Our task of hitting up the Turk.

“You bet old Slacks is not half bad
    He knows his business in a scrim.
He gets cold steel, or we are glad
To stop him with a bullet, lad.
    Or sling a bomb his hair to trim;
    But, straight, we throw no mud at him.

“He fights and falls, and comes again,
    And knocks our charging lines about.
He’s game at heart, and tough in grain,
And canters through the leaded rain,
    Chock full of mettle—not a doubt
    ’T will do us proud to put him out.

“But that’s our job; to see it through
    We’ve made our minds up, come what may,
This noon we had our work to do.
The shells were dropping two by two;
    We fairly felt their bullets play
    Among our hair for half a day.

“One clipped my ear, a red-hot kiss,
    Another beggar chipped my shin.
They pass you with a vicious hiss
That makes you duck; but, hit or miss,
    It isn’t in the Sultan’s skin
    To shift Australia’s cheerful grin.

“My oath, old man, though we were prone
    We didn’t take it lying down.
I got a dozen on my own—
All dread of killing now is flown;
    It is the game, and, hard and brown,
    We’re wading in for freedom’s crown.

“Big guns are booming as I write,
    A lad is singing ‘Dolly Grey,’
The shells are skipping in the night,
And, square and all, I feeling right
    For, whisper, Ned, the fellows say
    I did a ripping thing to-day.

“Soon homeward tramping with the band,
    All notched a bit, and with the prize
Of glory for our native land,
I’ll see my little sweetheart stand
    And smile, her smile, so sweet and wise—
    With proud tears shining in her eyes.

“Geewhiz! What price your humble when
    Triumphant from the last attack,
We face a Melbourne crowd again,
Tough, happy, battle-proven men,
    And while the cheer-stormed heavens crack
    I bring the tattered colors back!”

.     .     .     .     .

A mist is o’er the written line
    Whence martial ardor seems to flow;
A dull ache holds this heart of mine—
Poor boy, he had a vision fine;
    But grave dust clouds the royal glow;
    He died in action weeks ago!

He was my friend—I may not weep.
    My soul goes out to Him who bled;
I pray for Christ’s compassion deep
On mothers, lovers—all who keep
    The woeful vigil, having read
    The joyous letters of the dead.

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