WRITTEN EXTEMPORE ON READING THE DEFEAT OF GENERAL BULLER’S ARMY AT COLENSO

Over the hill and lea,
Over the trackless sea,
What is the news in the youth of to-day?
Is it the smile of mirth
Fresh from the mint of worth,
Guiding our hopes amid doubt and dismay?

Is it the wailing cry,
Pointing where heroes lie,
Covered with glory, surrounded with fame?
Or shall we dare to say,
Fresh from defeat to-day,
England, thy leaders hath put thee to shame.

When in the Christmas week
Joy to the heart should speak,
What is Lloyd’s News from Natal to the sea?
What ’mid the lack of sense,
Glaring incompetence,
Brave men have fallen like fruit from the tree.

Yet it is fixed as doom,
Bravery holds its room
On through the ranks of our army complete,
Give them the word to go,
Even where Hell may glow
Onward their motto, no fear of retreat.

O, that an arm may rise
Carrying blank surprise
Into thy pen, though terrific the fight.
Releasing the bold to us,
Better than gold to us,
Hero and countryman, General White.

Cullybackey
16th December 1899

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