Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rorke's Drift By Arthur WALTERS.

Rorke's Drift

By Arthur WALTERS.

In the hush that was the dawning of a sultry tropic morning
Came suggestion of a rumble far away
We could not say from where, was it here or was it there?
To trace the sound was really hard to say.

As the mist rose from the grasses over hills and mountain passes
The rumble came more clearly to the ear.
As it echoed through the hills down the gullies and the rills,
The suspense filled mortal man with fear.

The rumble came on stronger, sometimes fading sometimes longer,
Looming nearer as each moment passed us by.
Chilling reason now was dawning, urgent bugles tuned a warning
And vultures circled slowly in the sky.

Now the din akin to thunder, made us scan the hills in wonder
The menace froze us solid to the core.
So with ammunition ready, we held our rifles steady,
A thin red line of soldiers braced for war.

We turned wagons on their backs, piled-up rows of mealie sacks,
Sturdy boxes... And all that lay to hand.
Now the heat was so intense, as we built up our defence,
T'was not our choice but we must make a stand.

Then suddenly against the sky, across the ridge, as thick as rye,
We saw a host and heard the stamping feet.
The mountainside became a mass of waving spears like ebon grass,
T'was do-or-die for us... With no retreat.

Four Thousand war-cries thundered as they came against our hundred,
Pouring down the hillsides and the slopes,
A solid wall, of shields, as they raced across the fields,
And encircling 'horns' were closing on our hopes.

We braced ourselves against the shock, our rifles ready at the 'cock'
The mighty Zulu impi now so near.
Our sergeant seeming very calm stood out front with lifted arm,
The sight of him dispelled a little fear.

He firmly ordered, Fire me boys them spears are sharp not toys!
And with those words we sent a hail of lead.
Mid bayonet thrust and cordite fumes, the stabbing spears and ostrich plumes,
The struggles raged around the mounting dead.

With savage conflict through the night our ranks were closed and sorely tight,
They pressed us to the buildings at our rear.
The battle now in Hellish glow from leaping flames set by the foe,
Our weapons red with heat, and hands to sear.

Inside we made a desperate stand, from room to room fought hand-to-hand,
With rifle butt we parried bloodied spear.
Companions falling all around, the Zulus slowly gave their ground.
Until at last the mission house was clear.

We chased them through the smoky pall, o'er the fence and mealie wall,
The rising sun proclaimed the break of day.
Wearily we turned aside to count the gallant men who died.
This carnage was a bitter price to pay.

Men in red coats, pallors white, once proud warriors, black as night,
Mingled where they'd fallen in their gore.
And around the gutted Mission station lay the bravest of the Zulu nation,
To never rise again for evermore...