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

The Conquering Pilgrimage

page 8

The Conquering Pilgrimage.

The strands of resistance are broken asunder,
And faint are the echoes of battery thunder.

The rifleman sprawls by his weather-stained load,
While seldom a hoof strikes the wheel-bitten road.

No more does the Turk to our challenge reply;
No more do his planes fleck the dome of the sky,

For every available man has been out
Collecting the spoil from the enemy rout.

We rode in the wake of a loitering breeze,
While riding above us, the moon
Star-spangled the leaves of the whispering trees,
And silvered the shadows a-swoon.
Since vanished the sun never the voice of a gun
Had shattered the calm with a shell;
And down the white road where the distance was blurred,
The regular falling of hoofs could be heard
Assuring us all would be well.

We came to a halt at Sarona, and lay
'Neath branches of cyprus and pine;
We stept till the light of a blossoming day
Stirred strife in the wakening line;
Then sudden there rose from the calm of repose
The thunder of long-plotted ire;
And heedless of life, or the blood that was spilt,
Mad, flame-throated guns, with their muzzles a-tilt,
Were drowning the enemy fire.

The sun swung aloft and the battle-storm ceased,
And every drab battry a-wheel
Moved out of its pit as the line was released
With grenades and glittering steel.
Then followed we on where the footmen were gone
A-speed on the heels of the foe,
And soon we were sweeping along in the lead
With "Abdul" outpaced and so beaten, indeed,
He sank 'neath the weight of his woe.

No conquering pilgrims had ever been known
So buoyant and free in the field,
For everyone warbled a song of his own,
Till passion was wholly concealed.
Some rode with their eyes to the reddening skies.
Some watched where the sky-line was clear,
Some rode with the screen over Sharon's bare plain,
Some ambled a-flank, while yet others again
Pressed, hard in the smothering rear.

On, onward we rode through the heat of the day,
And seldom our going was slow;
We met with resistance, but swept it away
With less than the threat of a blow.
But close on our right was an army in flight,
And we were outpacing it soon;
Nor ceased we to ride when the light of the day
Waxed lurid, and solemnly smouldered away
Before the pale light of the moon.

Odd moments we halted, but never to sleep,
And gladly we welcomed the sun;
We witnessed our bountiful squadrons a-sweep,
Unharried by missile or gun.
Then hill after hill boldly challenged our skill,
But naught could diminish our speed;
And doggedly forward we pressed against time,
With gullies below us and hillocks to climb,
While ever we rode in the lead.

At last! through a gap in the mountains, a plain
Beleagured by hills we could see;
Then pleasure took hold of oursenses again,
And thrilled us with rollicking glee.
An order came back, and we swept down the track
That leads to the vale of Jezreel
The squadrons extended with sudden accord,
And over the plain to the southward they poured
Like rivers of shimmering steel.

The regiments raced for Jenin, where the foe
Was planning a rapid retreat—
So swift was our coming, and sudden the blow,
The "Jackos" admitted defeat.
A motly array from the ruck of the fray,
Tney massed in captivity square;
And wholly subdued by the charge we had made,
They solemnly marched in the captives' parade,
Much worn, and in need of repair.

The musterers toiled with their famishing herds,
But "Abdul" was travelling slow;
Cool reason was lost in a medley of words,
And anger expired with a blow.
The valley was cleared ere the "swaddies" appeared,
And soon we were trekking again;
But some turned away on a bloodier track
That leads through Besan to the town of Semak,
Where many a comrade was slain.

We sought the white highway to Nazareth then,
And climbed through the hills in the night,
As into the shadows of valley and glen
The moon shed its silvery light.
Chaste-seeming and still, in the folds of a hill
The city was slumbering sound—
Though Huns had baptized her with treacherous fire,
She wakened not then when the hoof and the tyre
Threw shattering turmoil around.

We rested awhile on the olive-clad slopes
Of old Kefr Kenna, and soon
The sun made us busy and kindled us hopes,
And urged us ahead ere the noon.
We made for the lake in the echoing wake
Of regiments surging ahead,
And just at the close of a wonderful day
Below us the town of Tiberias lay,
With gold on its battlements shed.

We rose as the dawn was commencing to break,
And then, with our hands on the rein,
We followed the shore-line of Gallilee lake
And sought the bare ranges again:
We left an expanse of blue water a-dance
To follow a tortuous road;
And like a huge serpent the column writhed forth,
Its head ever seeking the smouldering north
Where coffin-pyres sullenly glowed.

We gained a fair tableland dotted with trees,
Wnere lanciful shadows made war;
We swept under Redgums that sang in the breeze
Brave songs of the forests afar.
We blessed the green grove, for the land that we love
Seemed near with the fragrance of old,
But hidden quick firers scattering lead
Forewarned us of strife on the Jordan ahead,
Where guns were commencing to scold.

The darkness came down like a blanket of fear
And held us in check for the night,
But early our rifles were echoing clear,
And morning saw "Abdul" in flight.
Some comrades were lost where the Jordan was crossed,
But closely we followed the foe,
And soon we had captured the troublesome band
That vainly had striven to make a firm stand
And deal us a weakening blow.

Shod hoofs on the boulders crashed sudden and loud
As o'er the bleak uplands we swept;
Old Hermon loomed high with his peaks in a cloud
That frowned and alternately wept.
Oh, bold was our has e o'er the Syrian waste
So barren of promise and brown;
And just ere the night had enveloped the land
We silenced Kunetra's Circassian band,
And welcomed the dark coming down.

Hot-foot through the forenoon we sped with our blades
A-tilt and a-gleam in the sun;
We heard the low thunder of moving brigades,
And sometimes the thud of a gun.
Away on the flank, surging rank upon rank,
The lancers rode buoyantly out;
And o'e- the wide tableland arid and hot
A turbaned Division came up at the trot
In time for the ultimate rout.

The goal lay before us, a pearl for a Queen!
Nigh hid in a setting of trees.
Before us the world was a carpet of green
With branches a-sway in the breeze.
Our joy was complete, for the turmoil and heat
Were wholly forgotten the while,
And seemingly heedless of war and its woes,
The turrets and domes of Damascus arose
Sun-bathed in a splendour of guile.

The strands of resistance are broken asunder,
And faint are the echoes of battery thunder.
While captives are sadly removing the dead
Damascus is dreaming of days that are fled;
Who failed to defend her in moments of woe,
Are slain, or alive in the hands of their foe.
But grim Armageddon's expended its might
So seek we the days of unbounded delight;
For useless shall be the dread missile and mine,
When God quells the storm of the firing line.