The Animals Noah Forgot

The Army Mules

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

OH the airman’s game is a showman’s game, for all of us watch him go
With his roaring, soaring aeroplanes, and his bombs for the blokes below.
Over the railways and over the dumps, over the Hun and the Turk;
You’ll hear him mutter “What-ho she bumps!” when the Archies get to work.

But not of him is the song I sing, though he follow the eagle’s flight,
And with shrapnel holes in his splintered wing come home to his roost at night.
He may silver his wings on the shining stars, he may look from his clouds on high,
He may follow the flight of the wheeling kite in the blue Egyptian sky.
But he’s only a hero built to plan, turned out by the Service Schools,
And I sing of the rankless, thankless man who hustles the Army Mules.

Now, where he comes from and where he lives is a mystery dark and dim,
And it’s rarely indeed that the General gives a D.S.O. to him
The stolid Infantry digs its way, like a mole in a ruined wall:
The Cavalry lends a tone, they say, to what were else but a brawl:

The Brigadier of the Mounted Fut, like a cavalry colonel swanks
As he goeth abroad like a gilded nut to receive the General’s thanks:
The Ordnance Man is a son-of-a-gun, and his lists are a standing joke;
You order “Choke arti Jerusalem one” for Jerusalem artichoke.
The Medicals shine with a Number Nine, and the men of the great R.E.
Their colonels are Methodist, married, or mad, and some of them all the three.
In all these units the road to fame is taught in the Service Schools,
But a man has got to be born to the game when he tackles the Army Mules.

For if you go where the depots are, as the dawn is breaking grey,
By the waning light of the morning star as the dustcloud clears away
You’ll see a vision among the dust like a man and a mule combined;
It’s the kind of thing you must take on trust, as its outlines aren’t defined:
A thing that wheels like a spinning top, and props like a three-legged stool—
And you find it’s a long-legged Queensland boy convincing an Army Mule.

The rider sticks to the hybrid’s hide as paper sticks to a wall,
For a “Magnoon” Waler is next to ride, with every chance of a fall.
It’s a rough-house game, and a thankless game, and it isn’t the game for a fool,
For an army’s fate and a nation’s fame may turn on an Army Mule.

And if you go to the front-line camp where the sleepless outposts lie,
At the dead of night you can hear the tramp of the Mule Train toiling by:
The rattle and clink of a leading-chain, the creak of the lurching load,
As the patient plodding creatures strain at their task in the shell-torn road.

Through the dark and the dust you may watch them go till the dawn is grey in the sky,
For only the sleepless pickets know when the “All-night corps” goes by.
And far away as the silence falls, when the last of the train has gone,
A weary voice through the darkness calls “Get on there, men, get on!”
It isn’t the hero built to plan, turned out by the modern schools,
It’s only the Army Service man, a-driving his Army Mules.

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