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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

A Mountain Fight

page 2

A Mountain Fight.

The shadows fall on the lonely dead,
Where the murderous guns held spree,
And splattered the stones of Moab red,
In sight of the blue Dead Sea.
The hills are mute in the aftermath
Of a long and bitter fray,
And the shattering voice of battle-wrath
Has died with the fatal day.

* * * *

The moon rolled over the naked range,
On the night we ambled forth.
Fair was the tranquil vale, and strange
All trails that led to the north.
The Jordan wound like a monster snake
Away to the left below;
And flickering faint in our dusty wake
Were the lights of Jericho.

We followed the trail up scars and seams
On a flood-worn, broken floor;
The sky looked down, as a night-sky gleams
Through a roofless corridor.
We climbed where the crags weave sombre shades
On the ledges lone and high;
Where the rocks are sharp as bayonet blades
Held sheer at the limpid sky.

Our guns moved close in the trailing rear,
And many a curse was thrown
At the brazen hills we purchased dear
With blood and muscle and bone.
We stunbled on till the dawn awoke,
And cradled the moon to rest;
Till a golden bar of sunlight broke
On a tapering mountain crest.

The light of an amber sun was blent
With the mists of morning then,
And the hoofs of the surging regiment
Rang dear in a wid'ning glen;
But sudden and sharp, on either flank,
The rattle of rifles told
How ate had played us a murder prank
In the heart of Dead Man's Hold.

As a shaft leaps forth from an archer's bow,
Through a withering rain of lead,
We sprang from the shock of a sudden blow,
And raced for the rods ahead.
The foeman hurried us on as hard
As a blast of autumn wind;
And the guns with the straggling after guard
Kept rumbling on behind.

We turned at last where a mountain wall
Arose in our broken course —
No more would a speechless horseman fall,
Hard hit, from his startled horse.
We left the saddle and screened the guns,
And our rifle boles replied
To the soulless Turks and the master Huns
Who approached on either side.

They swarmed like ants, till the vale seemed black
With a seething human flood,
That the shrapnel failed in holding back
With its toll of life and blood
They tumbled over the men that fell
From the frantic, foremost line,
And gave us a taste of earthly hell,
In the hills of Palestine.

The mass bore down, as a greedy tide
Sweeps over an ocean beach,
While the bombardiers toiled side by side
At the hot, recoiling breech
But the saving shells gave out too soon,
And the batt'ry ceased to rave,
As many a man was seen to swoon,
And sprawl on his stony grave.

We sought the saddle, and bounded then,
Like a team of startled stags;
We left behind us the crowded glen
And clambered among the crags.
But ere the Turk, in his hasty greed,
Was able to hold us all,
We gave him a taste of hell indeed,
From the leaning mountain wall.

We hung to the high ground all that day;
And all through the night we kept
The cowering foe from the guns away,
While never a horseman slept.
When the anxious hours began to drag,
And the fight seemed left to chance,
They set their guns on the Red Cross flag,
And shattered our ambulance.

A fresh dawn broke on a day of dread,
Our bandoliers were light;
We hadn't enough of rifle lead
To commence another fight.
But the beat of hoofs rang sharp and clear
Ere the noon-sun crowned the day,
And we knew relief was forging near—
That the Turk had crept away.

They found us perched on the mountain wall
Where the twisted dead were strown;
The perishing wounded ceased to call,
And the dying ceased to groan.
We staggered away like listless ghosts
To the heart of Dead Man's Hold,
While the fresh relief took up their posts,
And the guns began to scold.

* * * *

The shadows fall on the lonely dead,
Where the murderous guns held spree,
And spattered the hills of Moab red,
In sight of the blue Dead Sea.
And memory robs my eyes of sleep,
For half of my comrades sprawl
Where half of my heart lies buried deep,
In the stones of a mountain wall.