So the time seems come at last,
And the drums go rolling past,
And above them in the sunlight Labour’s banners float and flow;
They are marching with the sun,
But I look in vain for one
Of the men who fought for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
They were men who did the work
Out at Blackall, Hay, and Bourke –
They were men who fought the battle that the world shall never know;
And they vanished one by one
When their bitter task was done –
Men who worked and wrote for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
Some are scattered, some are dead,
By the shanty and the shed,
In the lignum and the mulga, by the river running low;
And I often wish in vain
I could call them back again –
Mates of mine who fought for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
From the country of their birth
Some have sailed and proved their worth;
Some have died on distant deserts, some have perished in the snow.
Some are gloomy, bitter men,
And I meet them now and then –
Men who’d give their lives for Labour more than fifteen years ago.
Oh, the drums come back to me,
And they beat for victory,
But my heart is scarcely quickened, and I never feel the glow;
For I’ve learnt the world since then,
And the hopelessness of men,
And the fire it burnt too fiercely more than fifteen years ago.
Lucky you who still are young,
When the rebel war-hymn’s sung,
And the sons of slaves are marching with their faces all aglow,
When the revolution comes
And the blood is on the drums –
Oh! I wish the storm had found me more than fifteen years ago!
Bear the olden banner still!
Let the nations fight who will!
‘Tis the flag of generations – the flag that all the peoples know;
And they’ll bear it, brave and red,
Over ancient rebel dead,
In the future to the finish as a thousand years ago!