And it felt as though the burden
Of all England gave us might,
Laid on each, who asked no guerdon
But against those odds to fight.
Let the lucky get high stations
And the honour which he won,
Mac desires no decorations
But the gallant service done.
For the rankers bear the losses
And the brunt of every toil,
While they earn for others “crosses”
And the splendour and the spoil.
BOOT AND SADDLE.
BY F. HARALD WILLIAMS.
A TRUE INCIDENT IN THE MATABELE CAMPAIGN (1893).
was the rat-hole,
Which we had to draw ere day,
Heedless whether this or that hole—
If we only found a way;
Up among the iron furrows
Of the rocks, where hid in burrows
Safe the rats in shelter lay.
No misgiving, not a fear—
Nor was I the last astraddle
Nor the hindmost in the rear
When the bugle sounded clear—
“Boot and saddle!”
Right away went men and horses,
Both as eager for the fun;
Through the drifts and dried-up courses,
Where like mad the waters run
After storms or through the winters,
Mashing all they meet to splinters—
Ready, hand and sword and gun.
Every eye was keen to mark,
And the tongue alone seemed idle
Every ear alert to hark
As we scanned each crevice dark—
Bit and bridle!
Here and there the startled chirrup
Of strange creatures, as we go,
Standing sometimes in the stirrup,
Just to get a bigger show;
Till we gain our point, the entry—
There the pass, no sign of sentry,
Not a sound above, below!
Clear the coast, the savage gave
Never hint to south or norward;
Was he napping in his cave,
With that quiet like the grave?—
Further in; the rats were sleeping; We would grimly smoke them out, With a dose of lead for keeping And a fence of flame about; They might wake perhaps from shelter, At our bullets’ ghastly pelter, To the brief and bloody rout!— But, next moment, we were wrapt Down to saddle girth and leather In the fire of foes unmapt; We were turned, and fairly trapt—
On they poured in thousands, hurling
Steel that stabbed and belching ball
From a host of rifles, curling
Serpent-wise around us all.
Front and flank and rear, they tumbled
Nearer, darker, as we fumbled—
Till we heard the Captain’s call,
“Each man for himself, and back!”
So we rushed those rocky mazes,
With that torrent grim and black
Dealing ruin in our track—
Death and blazes!