The Enemy Within the Gate by Anne Almer

Hot sunlight streaming across the sands,
Alone at her window a woman stands.
The people crowd on the beach below,
And wave her flags as the soldiers go;
(But who had a cheer for her son, on his way
To the death he died, ere the dawn of day?)
With a “Good-bye!” here, and a “Bless you” there,
To the men who are riding so debonair,
And “Remember, Bill, bring the Kaiser back,
And we’ll find him some work on a back bush track!”
“You bet, we’ll try; if we don’t succeed
Send some other fellows to do the deed!”
And a “Three cheers, lads, ‘tis to honour you go,
And we look to your safe return, you know!”
(But no honour lay in the path he trod,
Who to-morrow will lie beneath the sod.)
And a grip of a hand, and a pat of a horse,
And, “Our prayers will follow you men, of course!”
And alone at her window the woman stands,
She is holding a rose in her trembling hands:
And the perfume of roses is scenting the air,
White roses she strewed on the white bed there.
As she watches the soldiers riding by,
The rose at her bosom is moved by her sigh;
Had her son been one of that gallant band,
Perchance to die in an alien land,
She had wept and sighed, but an honoured name
He had left behind, not a name of shame.
She bleeds for that soul gone forth in the night,
And she prays, “O Thou, who are Light, shed light
On that tragic journey he took alone,
Uncalled. O Christ, who for sin did’st atone,
Who knowest the secret struggles of men,
Have pity on one who has failed. Amen!”
For the foe her son fought was too strong for his strength;
But he fought, ay, he fought, day and night, till at length
Worn out by the conflict, confused and distressed—
The future loomed horror, and death promised rest.
His foe was no German whose name we abhor,
Who acts but the maxim, “In love and in war
All’s fair.” But an enemy garbed as a friend,
Who cheers and who brightens, to damn in the end!
But the woman who stands at the window sees,
While the soldiers ride by, and flags wave in the breeze,
There are women who weep, unashamed of their tears,
Unashamed of folk knowing their pride and their fears;
But, her eyelashes dry, she looks out o’er the sands,
Then suddenly turns to the rose in her hands:
As stainless and white was his hearts, when a boy,
He rode by her window, all frolic and joy.

The Light Horse have passed, with the crowd in their wake.
Grey and gold is the sea, and as still as a lake,
With no sound but the lap, as it licks at the sand,
And, as still as the water, so still is the land:
But stiller than all is that form on the bed,
Where a woman kneels weeping, alone with her dead.

From: Almer, Anne, “The Enemy Within the Gate” in The Register, Saturday, 31 October 1914, p. 5.
(https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/59270859#)

Date: 1915

By: Anne Almer (fl. 1896-1915)

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