The March of Ivan

Henry Lawson 1867 (Grenfell) – 1922 (Sydney)

Are you coming, Ivan, coming?—Ah, the ways are long and slow,
In the vast land that we know not—and we never sought to know.
We are watching through the daybreak, when the anxious night is done,
For the dots upon the skyline—black against the rising sun;
We are watching through the morning haze, and waiting through the night,
For the long, dark, distant columns that proclaim the Muscovite!
Are you coming, Ivan, coming? (Oh! the world is growing gray
With the terror of the future and the madness of to-day!)
Are you marching, Ivan—forward? (Oh! the world is dark’ning fast,
For the crimes of greater nations ’gainst the small ones in the past.)
Yours, in part, to make atonement, so remember what you are!
Ivan! Sing!—“The Slav is coming! On for Russia and the Czar!”

Ivan’s Song

“Yes, I’m coming, Ivan, coming—I am marching out again
On the weary roads of Russia, past the forest, marsh and plain;
Past the field and past the village, in the shine and in the rain—
By the cart-rut and the grass-track and the jolting cattle-train.
(And, maybe, some gleam of glory penetrates my sluggish brain)
I am marching out for Russia, and for Europe and for you—
But, maybe, I’m mainly marching just because they told me to.

“I have marched to many frontiers, in the pregnant days gone by,
When they told us where to march to, but they did not tell us why.
And they showed us whom to fight with, and they told us where to die.
I have seen our grey battalions to their Heaven—or Hades—hurled—
’Twas enough it was for Russia!—what cared we about the world?

“Did one moan of Ivan’s mother penetrate to other lands?
Did one prayer of Ivan’s father—with his old and knotted hands?
Did one sob from Ivan’s sweetheart, or one cry from Ivan’s wife?
Or a wail from Ivan’s children, for the loss of Ivan’s life?
Marching with the Wolf of Hunger—marching with the Bear of Strength!
We have marched for many winters—but the end is near at length!

“’Tis a long, long march from Plevna, when the Bear went to his den.
It is far from the Crimea; Oh! you did not want us then!
From the shambles of Port Arthur, ’twas a weary way and slow—
And our track was always dotted with the black dots on the snow.
By black dots and crimson splashes you may trace poor Ivan’s track—
And I think that Ivan’s banner should be red, and white and black.

“Ne’er was Present-blinded tyrant who learnt wisdom from the Past,
And there’s one forgot the errand that brought Ivan this way last!
‘To the frontier, and no further’ seemed our motto and our vow,
Since we marched from burning Moscow—but we’re marching further now!
Neighbour’s burning house—or city!—they are easy to forget;
But we lit a light for Europe that shall be rekindled yet!

“Never song of Ivan’s valour, or of ‘Russia’s Flag Unfurled!’
Or the Iron Cross of Russia, penetrates the Outer World.
Ye! who civilise and peddle, ye who hesitate and lag,
Never heard the Russian March and never saw the Russian flag!
You have called on us to save you, never saying why, or how,
But the samovar is boiling! and you’ll hear and see us now.

“From our garrets and our cellars—from the little all we had—
Where the winter brings the sleigh-bells to the streets of Petrograd;
From our huts and from our hutches—from wherever we may be—
From our goat’s-flesh and our mare’s milk and our black unsweetened tea,
From the silence of Siberia, and the strange, snow-deadened streets—
From the blazing banks of Jordan, where we dip our winding-sheets.
From our black bread and our vodka—asking naught, and undismayed—
From our never-empty cradles!—we are coming to your aid.

“Oh, we leave no bands behind us, blaring tunes of Tyranny,
And we wave no swords above us, yelling songs of Liberty;
And no blatant voice of ruler, as we tramp through dry and wet,
Blares: ‘Remember You are Russians!’—we’re not likely to forget.
There are some who have forgotten—merely men, like you and me—
And one object of our marching is to jog their memory.

“You shall hear us, you shall see us—save the dead and deaf and blind—
While the armour of our winter hardens thick and fast behind.
We are marching, we are coming, and we are not on the sea—
You shall see us on the furthest frontier of our enemy!
And while you fix up your frontiers, and remember what you are,
We shall march with Peace for Europe!—back to Russia and the Czar.”

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 14, 2023

3:57 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic octameter
Characters 4,435
Words 791
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 12, 7, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 8, 6, 6

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson 17 June 1867 - 2 September 1922 was an Australian writer and poet Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period more…

All Henry Lawson poems | Henry Lawson Books

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