The last Parade

With never a sound of trumpet
With never a flag displayed,
The last of the old campaigners
Lined up for their last parade.

Weary they were and battered
Shoeless, and knocked about;
From under their ragged forelocks
Their hungry eyes looked out.

And they watched as the old commander
Read out to the cheering men,
The nation's thanks and the orders
To carry them home again.

And the last of the old campaigners
Sinewy, lean and spare
He spoke for his hungry comrades:
"Have we not done our share?"

"Starving and tired and thirsty,
We limped on the blazing plain;
After a long night's picket
You saddled us again.

"We froze on the widswept kopjes
When the frost lay snowy white.
Never a halt in the daytime,
Never a rest at night!

"We knew when the rifles rattled
From the hillside bare and brown,
And over our weary shoulders
We felt warm blood running down.

"As we turned for the stretching gallop,
Crushed to the earth with weight:
But we carried our riders through it
Carried them perhaps too late.

"Steel we were steel to stand it
We that have lasted through,
We that are old campaigners
Pitiful, poor and few.

"Over the sea you brought us,
Over the leagues of foam:
Now we have served you fairly
Will you not take us home?

"Home to the Hunter River,
To the flats where the lucerne grows;
Home where the Murrumbidgee
Runs white with melted snows.

This is a small thing surely!
Will you not give command
That the last of the old campaingers
Go back to their native land?"

They looked at the grim commander,
But never a sign he made.
"Dismiss!" and the old campaingners
Moved off from their last parade.

And that was our thanks for service
As battered, weary and sore
They were led out and shot in the desert
Their services wanted no more.

So when we think of a Government's justice
What's right and what's wrong with our law
Maybe, maybe one day, we will judge their cause
Those gallant brave horses of war.

-- AB "Banjo" Paterson

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