I HEARD this day, as I may no more,
The world’s heart throb at my workshop door.
The sun was keen, and the day was still;
The township drowsed in, a haze of heat.
A stir far off on the sleepy hill,
The measured beat of their buoyant feet,
And the lilt and thrum
Of a little drum,
The song they sang in a cadence low,
The piping note of a piccolo.
The township woke, and the doors flew wide;
The women trotted their boys beside.
Across the bridge on a single heel
The soldiers came in a golden glow,
With throb of song and the chink of steel,
The gallant crow of the piccolo.
Good and brown they were,
And their arms swung bare.
Their fine young faces revived in me
A boyhood’s vision of chivalry.
The lean, hard regiment tramping down,
Bushies, miners and boys from town.
From ’mid the watchers the road along
One fell in line with the khaki men.
He took the stride, and he caught their song,
And Steve went then, and Meneer, and Ben,
Long Dave McCree,
And the Weavers three,
All whisked away by the “Come! Come! Come!”
The lusty surge of the vaunting drum.
I swore a prayer for each soldier lad.
He was the son that might have had;
The tall, bold boy who was never mine,
All brave with dust that the eyes laughed through,
His shoulders square, and his chin in line,
Was marching too with the gallant few.
Passed the muffled beat
Of their swanking feet,
The swell of drum, the exulting crow,
The wild-bird note of the piccolo.
They dipped away in the listless trees;
A mother wept on her beaded knees
For sons gone out to the long war’s end;
But more than mother or man wept I
Who had no son in the world to send.
The hour lagged by, and drifting high
Came the fitful hum
Of the little drum,
And faint, but still with an ardent flow,
The pibroch, call of the piccolo.