Come listen for a moment,
All ye, whose peaceful life
In even flow is ne'er disturbed
By scenes of blood and strife;
Who sit around your hearth fires,
Secure from war's alarms;
This humble lay sets forth to-day
A British deed of arms.
Left on the wild, lone border
A small but fearless band,
Guarding the watery entrance
To savage Zululand;
On the warm midday breezes,
Like thunder's distant sound,
Came the long roll of cannon
Far o'er the hostile ground,
And we wondered that our column
So soon the foe had found.
Then came two flying horsemen
Riding with loosened rein,
And the powdery dust like a whirlwind rose
As they scoured across the plain;
A few more rapid hoof strokes,
And we heard the news they bore—
"In yonder glen nigh half our men
Lie weltering in their gore.
"Our men, too soon surrounded,
Were slaughtered as they stood,
Facing their slayers to the last,
Dying as soldiers should.
How we escaped we know not,
From that fierce whirlwind's frown,
But on this post a conquering host
E'en now is marching down."
We set to work undaunted
To raise a barricade,
With mealie bags and scattered stores
A breastwork soon was made;
And scarcely was it finished,
When burst upon our sight,
Dark as the lowering storm-cloud
Sweeps the blue vaulted height,
Moving along the fair hill-side,
In vast black lines extending wide.
Rank upon rank of warriors tried,
In panoply of savage pride
Advancing to the fight.
Yes, on they came in thousands—
One hundred strong we stand,
Against the very pick and flower
Of warrior Zululand:
And how may we resist them,
Or hope to hold our own,
Flushed as they be with victory—
The greatest e'er they've known?
And eyes with lust of carnage,
Like coals through the darkness gleamed,
And bayonets crashed with stabbing spear,
Thick the red torrent streamed:
Drowning the roar of battle—
Drowning the deafening clang—
Each demon yell like a blast of hell,
Fiercer and higher rang.
Again and again we met them
Through the long fearful night,
We fought as ne'er we fought before
And ne'er again may fight,
To 'venge our slaughtered comrades,
To guard our solemn trust,
And to reclaim our country's name
Trampled in savage dust.
Piled high against our breastwork,
And scattered o'er the plain,
Four hundred of their warrior strength
Lay stark amid the slain
Lay where their fierce hot life-blood
The greedy earth had wet
Still terrible, in threatening scowl,
Each grim dead face was set.
And twelve from out our number
Their brave career had run,
Their final muster-roll had passed,
And their last duty done;
So carefully we laid them
Deep in the green earth's breast,
An alien sod above them trod;
Peace with their ashes rest!
Yes, for old England's honour
And for her perilled might,
We strove with vast and whelming odds,
From eve till morning light;
And thus with front unflinching,
One hundred strong we stood,
And held the post 'gainst a maddened host
Drunken with British blood.
Her sons in gallant story,
Shall sound old England's fame,
And by fresh deeds of glory
Shall keep alive her name;
And when, above her triumphs,
The golden curtains lift
Be treasured long, in page and song,
The memory of Rorke's Drift.