A Letter to the Front by C.J Dennis

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I suppose you sometimes dream, Bill, in between the scraps out there,
Of the land you left behind you when you sailed to do your share:
Of Collins-street, or Rundle-street, or Pitt, or George, or Hay,
Of the land beyond the Murray, or "along the Castlereagh."
And I guess you dream of old days and the things you used to do,
And you wonder how 'twill strike you when you've seen this business through,
And you try to count your chances when you've finished with the Turk,
And swap the gaudy war game for a spell of plain, drab work.

Well, Bill, you know just how it is these early days of Spring,
When the gilding of the wattle throws a glow on everything.
The olden days, the golden days that you remember well,
In spite o' war and worry, Bill, are with us for a spell.
For the green is on the paddocks, and the sap is in the trees.
And the bush birds in the gullies sing the ole, sweet melodies;
And we're hoping, as we hearken, that when next the Springtime comes
You'll be with us here to listen to that bird-talk in the gums.

It's much the same old Springtime, Bill, you recollect of yore;
Boronia and daffodils and wattle blooms once more
Sling sweetness over city streets, and seem to put to shame
The cult of greed and butchery that got you on this game.
The same old,sweet September days, and much the same old place;
Yet, there's a subtle something, Bill, upon each passing face:
A thing that cannot be defined; a look that you put there
The day you lobbed upon the beach and charged at Sari Bair.

It isn't that we're boasting, lad; we've done with most of that -
The froth, the cheers, the flapping flags, the wildly waving hat.
Such things are childish memories; we blush to have them told;
For we have seen our wounded, Bill, and it has made us old.
Nor with a weary child's regret, not with a braggard's pride,
But with a grown youth's calm resolve we've laid our toys aside.
And it wus you that taught us, Bill, upon that fateful day,
That we at last had grown too old for everlasting play.

And, as a grown man dreams at times of boyhood days gone by,
So shall we, when the mood is here, for carefree childhood sigh.
But, as a clean youth looks out on life, clear-visioned and serene,
So may we gaze, and ever strive to make our manhood clean.
When all the strife is over, Bill, there yet is work to do;
And in the bloodless fights to come we shall be needing you.
We will be needing you the more for what you've seen and done,
For you were born a Builder, lad, and we have just begun.

There's been a deal of talk, old mate, of what we owe to you,
of what you've braved and done for us, and what we mean to do.
We've hailed you as a hero, Bill, and talked Of just reward,
When you have done the job you're at, and laid aside the sword.
I guess it makes you think a bit, and weigh this gaudy praise;
For even heroes have to eat, and - there are other days:
The days to come when we no more need stalwart sons to fight,
When the wild excitement's over, and the Leeuwin looms in sight.

Then there's another fight to fight, and you will find it tough
To doff the khaki for a suit of plain civilian stuff.
When all the cheering dies away and hero-worship wanes,
You'll have to face the old drab life and fight for other gains;
For still your land will need you, as she needs each sturdy son.
To fight the fight that never knows the firing of a gun -
The quiet fight, the steady fight, when you shall prove your worth,
And milk a cow on Yarra Flats or drive a quill in Perth.

The gold is on the wattle, Bill; the sap is on the trees,
And the bush-birds in the gullies sing the old, sweet melodies;
There's a good, green land awaiting you when you come home again
To swing a pick at Broken Hill or ride Yarrowie Plain.
The streets are gay with daffodils, but, haggard in the sun.
A wounded soldier passes; and we know old days are done.
For down, deep down inside our hearts, is something you put there
The day you landed on the beach and charged at Sari Bair.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 September 1915;
and later in
The Moods of Ginger Mick by C.J. Dennis, 1916.

Note: This poem was later published in The Moods of Ginger Mick with the same title but a different emphasis - basically this version shows the letter as being written by
Ginger Mick, whereas the book version has it written to Ginger Mick by Bill (the Sentimental Bloke).  In addition an entirely new first verse has been added in the book version.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 23, 2013 4:22 AM.

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