Western Camps by Roderic Quinn

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Three men stood with their glasses lifted
   Night was around them and flaring lamps: --
"Here's to the tried and true and sifted;
Here's to the flotsam tossed and drifted;
   Here's to the men in the Western Camps.

"Fill and drink (there is little drinking
   Night or day on the lonely track),
Mostly heroes are hourly sinking,
Mostly, vain in the firelight thinking,
   Gather the hearts of gold out back.

"Stars that fall are their lot forever;
   Lights that perish and stars that fall;
Fighting Fate with a brave heart ever --
Drifting leaves on a wayward river --
   Men for ever in spite of all.

"Here's to the gallant souls defeated;
   Here's to the heroes under-trod --
Hope-abandoned and mirage-cheated,
And, yet, by the right of their failure, seated
   Somewhere close to the feet of God.

"Here's to the heart that braves undaunted
   Toil and trouble for home and wife;
Here's to the fallen-spirit taunted;
Here's to the memory, sorrow-haunted;
   Here's to the soul grown sick of life.

"Drink to the man in the firelight sitting;
   Drink to his mistress of long ago;
Well --- 'twere well --- and the time were fitting,
If, in the shades of firelight flitting,
   She should come with her eyes aglow.

"Drink to the purpose, iron, oaken,
   Brought to nought by a woman's guile;
Drink to men with an old love-token
Somewhere -- close to their brave hearts broken;
   Drink to the martyred souls that smile.

"Drink to courage and all fine daring --
   Spirit trampling the flesh beneath;
Drink to the reckless heart uncaring;
Drink to mates at the last pinch sharing
   Their little all in the face of death.

"Last toast this . . . may their hearts discover,
   On every track that the outcast tramps,
A friend in need and at need a lover,
Good roads beneath them and kind stars over,
   And pleasant dreams in their Western Camps.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 March 1905

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 23, 2012 10:58 PM.

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