Jan. 25, 1900

The Register

Thursday, January 25, 1900

The Boer Rifleman’s Song.

An unknown poet, or, at least, one who is known only by the initials, "L. J. O. B." has written what some call the best poem that the war in South Africa has inspired. It was printed in the "Telephone," a weekly paper published in Capetown, Africa, on Sept. 25th. The word "rooibaatje" refers to the red coated British soldiers: -

Lay my rifle here beside me, set my Bible on my breast.
For a moment let the wailing bugles cease;
As the century is closing, I am going to my rest,
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant go in peace.

But loud through all the bugles rings a cadence in mine ear,
And on the winds my hopes of peace are strowed;
The winds that waft the voices that already I can hear –
Of the rooi-baatje singing on the road.

Yes, the red-coats are returning; I can hear the steady tramp,
After twenty years of waiting, lulled to sleep,
Since rank and file at Potchefstroom we hemmed them in their camp,
And cut them up at Bronkerspruit like sheep

They shelled us at Ingogo, but we galloped into range,
And we shot the British gunners where they showed;
I guessed they would return to us-I knew the chance must change -,
Hark! The rooi-baatje singing on the road!

But now from snow-swept Canada, from India’s torrid plains,
From lone Australian outposts, hither led
Obeying their commando, as they heard the bugle strains,
The men in brown have joined the men in red.

They come to find the colors at Majuba left and lost;
They come to pay us back the debt they owed;
And I hear new voices lifted, and I see strange colors tossed,
Mid the rooi-baatje singing on the road.

The old, old faiths must falter; the old, old creeds must fail –
I hear it in that distant murmur low –
The old, old order changes, and ‘tis vain for us to rail.
The great world does not want us – we must go.

And veldt, and spruit, and kopje to the stranger will belong.
No more to trek before him we shall load;
Too well, too well I know it, for I hear it in the song
Of the rooi-baatje singing on the road.