Poem: Come Ye Home by C. J. Dennis

On Sunday, November 11, the Shrine of Remembrance to Victoria's fallen soldiers was dedicated in Melbourne.

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."

First published in The Herald, 12 November 1934

Note: today is Remembrance Day.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 11, 2010 9:01 AM.

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