ANZAC Poems by Leon Gellert

THE ATTACK AT DAWN

At every cost,’ they said, ‘it must be done.’

They told us in the early afternoon.

We sit and wait the coming of the sun

We sit in groups, — grey groups that watch the moon.

We stretch our legs and murmur half in sleep

And touch the tips of bayonets and yarn.

Our hands are cold. They strangely grope and creep,

Tugging at ends of straps. We wait the dawn!

 

Some men come stumbling past in single file.

And scrape the trench’s side and scatter sand.

They trip and curse and go. Perhaps we smile.

We wait the dawn! … The dawn is close at hand!

A gentle rustling runs along the line.

‘At every cost,’ they said, ‘it must be done.’

A hundred eyes are staring for the sign.

It’s coming! Look! … Our God’s own laughing sun!


THE LAST TO LEAVE

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, “What of these?’ and “What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened – all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.


Leon Gellert (1892-1977), soldier, poet and journalist, was born on 17 May 1892 in Adelaide.220px-Leon_Gellert

As a lance sergeant with the 10th Battalion, he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Wounded by shrapnel, he was suffering from both septicaemia and dysentery when evacuated to Malta in July and then on to London. He was diagnosed with epilepsy, repatriated and discharged medically unfit on 30 June 1916.

In November he re-enlisted in Adelaide, only to be discharged almost immediately. 

He died on 22 August 1977.

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