Songs of the Road/1902-1909
They recruited William Evans
From the ploughtail and the spade;
Ten years' service in the Devons
Left him smart as they are made.
Thirty or a trifle older,
Rather over six foot high,
Trim of waist and broad of shoulder,
Yellow-haired and blue of eye;
Short of speech and very solid,
Fixed in purpose as a rock,
Slow, deliberate, and stolid,
Of the real West-country stock.
He had never been to college,
Got his teaching in the corps,
You can pick up useful knowledge
'Twixt Saltash and Singapore.
Old Field-Cornet Piet van Celling
Lived just northward of the Vaal,
And he called his white-washed dwelling,
Blesbock Farm, Rhenoster Kraal.
In his politics unbending,
Stern of speech and grim of face,
He pursued the never-ending
Quarrel with the English race.
Grizzled hair and face of copper,
Hard as nails from work and sport,
Just the model of a Dopper
Of the fierce old fighting sort.
With a shaggy bearded quota
On commando at his order,
He went off with Louis Botha
Trekking for the British border.
When Natal was first invaded
He was fighting night and day,
Then he scouted and he raided,
With De Wet and Delaney.
Till he had a brush with Plumer,
Got a bullet in his arm,
And returned in sullen humour
To the shelter of his farm.
Now it happened that the Devons,
Moving up in that direction,
Sent their Colour-Sergeant Evans
Foraging with half a section.
By a friendly Dutchman guided,
A Van Eloff or De Vilier,
They were promptly trapped and hided,
In a manner too familiar.
When the sudden scrap was ended,
And they sorted out the bag,
Sergeant Evans lay extended
Mauseritis in his leg.
So the Kaffirs bore him, cursing,
From the scene of his disaster,
And they left him to the nursing
Of the daughters of their master.
Now the second daughter, Sadie—
But the subject why pursue?
Wounded youth and tender lady,
Ancient tale but ever new.
On the stoep they spent the gloaming,
Watched the shadows on the veldt,
Or she led her cripple roaming
To the eucalyptus belt.
He would lie and play with Jacko,
The baboon from Bushman's Kraal,
Smoked Magaliesberg tobacco
While she lisped to him in Taal.
Till he felt that he had rather
He had died amid the slaughter,
If the harshness of the father
Were not softened in the daughter.
So he asked an English question,
And she answered him in Dutch,
But her smile was a suggestion,
And he treated it as such.
Now among Rhenoster kopjes
Somewhat northward of the Vaal,
You may see four little chappies,
Three can walk and one can crawl.
And the blue of Transvaal heavens
Is reflected in their eyes,
Each a little William Evans,
Smaller model—pocket size.
Each a little Burgher Piet
Of the hardy Boer race,
Two great peoples seem to meet
In the tiny sunburned face.
And they often greatly wonder
Why old granddad and Papa,
Should have been so far asunder,
Till united by mamma.
And when asked, 'Are you a Boer.
Or a little Englishman?'
Each will answer, short and sure,
'I am a South African.'
But the father answers, chaffing,
'Africans but British too.'
And the children echo, laughing,
'Half of mother—half of you.'
It may seem a crude example,
In an isolated case,
But the story is a sample
Of the welding of the race.
So from bloodshed and from sorrow,
From the pains of yesterday,
Comes the nation of to-morrow
Broadly based and built to stay.
Loyal spirits strong in union,
Joined by kindred faith and blood;
Brothers in the wide communion
Of our sea-girt brotherhood.