Sunday Poetry – ANZAC Day

It was ANZAC Day on Friday so this anonymous poem is appropriate to remember all those buried, not just at Gallipoli, but anywhere far from home. It’s called The Graves at Gallipoli. I wonder when it was written. There’s an echo of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est but that Latin tag would have been well-known so it may not necessarily be a reference to Owen. This poet, too, seems to use the reference seriously rather than ironically as Owen does.

The herdman wandering by the lonely rills
Marks where they lie on the scarred mountain’s flanks,
Remembering that wild morning when the hills
Shook to the roar of guns and those wild ranks
Surged upward from the sea.

None tends them. Flowers will come again in spring,
And the torn hills and those poor mounds be green.
Some bird that sings in English woods may sing
To English lads beneath – the wind will keep
Its ancient lullaby.

Some flower that blooms beside the Southern foam
May blossom where our dead Australians lie,
And comfort them with whispers of their home;
and they will dream, beneath the alien sky,
Of the Pacific sea.

‘Thrice happy they who fell beneath the walls,
Under their father’s eyes’, the Trojan said,
‘Not we who die in exile where who falls
Must lie in foreign earth.’ Alas! our dead
Lie buried far away.

Yet where the brave man lies who fell in fight
For his dear country, there his country is.
And we will mourn them proudly as of right –
For meaner deaths be weeping and loud cries:
They died pro patria!

Oh, sweet and seemly so to die, indeed,
In the high flush of youth and strength and pride.
These are our martyrs, and their blood the seed
Of nobler futures. ‘Twas for us they died.
Keep we their memory green.

This be their epitaph. ‘Traveller, south or west,
Go, say at home we heard the trumpet call,
And answered. Now beside the sea we rest.
Our end was happy if out country thrives:
Much was demanded. Lo! our store was small – 
That which we had we gave – it was our lives.’

4 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – ANZAC Day

  1. I am always glad when ANZAC day is over because of the many sad stories that abound. It is good recognition of the soldiers occurs and this poem is another example. It is interesting how much has been written about WWI. War is so awful.

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  2. It is sad & I admit I'm sometimes a little uncomfortable at the way some people capitalize on the ANZAC myth but I do think it's important to remember the horrors of war – not that it seems to stop wars happening.

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  3. That bit in the middle about the Trojan War is curious – not a war fought for a good reason – perhaps there is something more ambivalent going on here than one assumes at first reading. Though the danger is to not undermine the sacrifice, of course. I'd not read this poem before, so thank you. That bit about our flowers growing over there – very, very moving.

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  4. It's a lovely anthology full of poetry that's pretty much unknown. Only published in a newspaper or written in a scrapbook. A lot of work went in to the editing of this anthology.

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