Voices of the Brave by Randolph Bedford

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Australian Nurse and Soldier; whose voices through the gloom
Of night, black on the ocean, make landfall in my room;
Where the lucent disc of wireless marks the Stations of the Air,
In this northern night so quiet, as the day has been so fair.
And the voices borne by magic, from our brothers in the stress ---
From our sisters' loving services to comfort and to bless ---
Are as nigh unto my senses as if their hands of flesh
Touched my hands across the ocean wastes that rise and fall and thresh.

They have fought and made retreat between the scattered Cyclades,
From Greece and Crete and Delos, through the torn Aegean Seas;
With horror sated, nurse and soldier, wiser than their years,
Their strength, the soul of duty, that has risen above their fears.
Made commonplace is death, that swoops from out the crazy sky ---
Their finest thrill when bombing Huns crash down to earth to die.

They fought the rearguard actions in a wide Thermopylae ---
Heroic flesh opposed to steel, and weakened day by day;
From olive groves and vineyards, over leagues of hell-swept sea,
To Bethlehem, and north to Nazareth and Galilee;
The land where the child Jesus grew; the land wherein He died,
Because He loved the world, and hatred would not be denied;
The Holy Land, whose guard and keep are in the Middle Sea,
Where the men Australia mothered fight to keep Australia free.

Across the seas of half the world the soldiers' voices come;
Their hardy voices fail to hide their hunger for their home;
The Mitchell grass with cattle --- the mulga and the wool;
Our openhanded land that yields in measure more than full.
At Bondi or at Brisbane --- at Studley Park or Perth ---
They're yearning for the sight and touch of good Australian earth.
In that ancient land of sorrow past two thousand years of hate,
Fighting lust that murders beauty; keeping fast the splintered gate,
They force the walls of Sidon, and they claim the halls of Tyre,
But ever with the longing for the cheerful homeland fire.

And ever with the yearning, from the woods of Lebanon,
To see the grey gums in the creek and the thickets of the Don;
Their stride of resolution firm on the Assyrian loam,
Their faces to the enemy --- their thoughts turned back to home.

The years we wasted hoping --- the complaisant years of trust ---
The vanity that dallied while the Hun perfected lust ---
The men who planned on error, and the sloth that took a chance,
That now our soldiers pay for in that desert devils' dance.
And the little nurse who wonders how the station horses fare,
And longs for gallops down the creek in the clean homeland air.

The beast respects the gravid dam: not so the gangster breed
That bombs the nursing mothers and exults in craven deed;
These are the enemies of life; opposed Australians stand
To stem the martyrdom of man in that once-Holy land.
They fight to salvage beauty unto the world of man;
To kill the wolf-packs of the Hun and raze the wolf-pack's den;
No inch to yield of foreign field --- if strength endure the while;
They know a hard-held inch becomes, on homeward roads, a mile.

Oh! My brothers! Labour soldiers in the mine, and forge, and mill,
With yet another turning of the lathe, and of the drill;
Each precious minute salvaged from the avid sink of time
May save another soldier and avert another crime.
No faint heart can be here, if but we steel the soul and will;
No laggard here to help the foe of all the world to kill.

To every good Australian house those brave young voices come,
Their arms and hearts defending us while yet they yearn for home;
And single-hearted toil must be our word sent oversea
To our mates who fight for freedom, west and north of Galilee.

First published in The Courier-Mail, 28 June 1941;
and later in
The Cairns Post, 21 July 1941.

Author: George Randolph Bedford (1868-1941) was born in Camperdown, New South Wales,  and started work as an office boy for a firm of Sydney solicitors. He left there after two years and worked his way across New South Wales, ending up as a reporter for the Broken Hill Argus. He then worked in Adelaide on The Advertiser and in Melbourne on The Age, before starting The Clarion with Lionel Lindsay. He made a fortune speculating on gold mining in Western Australia, traveled to Europe between 1901-04.  He found himself in Queensland in 1915 and successfully stood for the State Parliament in 1923.  He published 7 novels and 2 collections of poetry during his lifetime.  He died in Brisbane in 1941.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 28, 2012 9:00 AM.

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