This is something in the Australian psyche that drives us to idolise the loser, the person who sticks a finger to the world, and carries on to the end knowing that life sucks and then you die.
Australians have always been someone’s canon fodder, someone’s rejects. We celebrate lost battles (ANZAC Day), murderous criminals (Ned Kelly) and politicians with a witty turn of phrase rather than good governance (Gough Whitlam). Today is one of those days that we love. ANZAC Day. The day when we celebrate a glorious defeat in World War I.
Sadly, little seems to have changed since Edwin Greenslade Murphy (who penned under the name Dryblower) wrote this poem to his son during “The Great War”.
I have given you unto the Empire; You will follow its battle flag; You will hear the sound of slaughter In valley, on plain and crag. I have taken you out of the playground, From many a merry mate. To send you, a stripling soldier, Out to the field of fate. But when the good work is over, And your share of the strife is done I shall be proud of the lad I lent, I shall be proud to say that I sent. My son, My son. They have come in their thousands lusty; But the gaps still cry for more; They have come from the bushland lonely, From the scrub and the sounding shore; They have come from the desert dreaming, From out of the rolling range, From the verdant placid pastures, From the hills that never change. From out of the alleys squalid, Where the days are drear and dun; With pride I have heard their footsteps ring, And so I have sent, to serve my King; My son, My son. They have gone in the teeming troopship; They have fought the fight, and fell; They have felt on their fearless faces Draughts from the deeps of hell; Thinned by the hidden horror. Drowned, in the shot-swept blue, They have closed up the gaps of glory, Steadied and thundered through! And into that mounded country Where the deadly work was done, Where the bloodstained trenches blur and blend With no wav'ring weak'ning sigh I send My son, My son. Did I fall in a father's duty. Did I keep him with mine and me, How would he face the question In the darkened days to be? Could he walk in such public places? Could he do what all good men do When the patriot women shunned him When it came to his time to woo? If he took not to-day his bayonet, His khaki brave and gun, I would see his brothers in shame abide, I would see them pass on the other side My son, My son. God of our destined duty, Of our Country, Flag, and King, Keep him in courage lofty When the hell-made missiles swing. And if he must prove an Abel, Killed by another Cain, Give him, O Lord, at parting No portion of Calvary's pain. Let us write over his slumbers The glorious words, "Well done!" For whether our Flag shall wilt or wave, Let us remember He also gave His Son, His Son. —DRYBLOWER.