The Story of Marr

Henry Lawson, 1909

      Now Marr was come back from the Holy Land
      With his soul absolved from sin —
      And he robbed a fat abbot to pay his band,
      And to keep his left hand in;
      He took a wife from the wives around,
      And he raided and robbed afar —
      And the curse of Rome came over the foam
      And after the scalp of Marr.

      A Sea King landed in Seabolt Bay
      One day when the skies were blue —
      The King and his army were far away
      And Sir William's men were few.
      Sir William, he gazed on the fearful odds
      And the land he held so dear,
      And he muttered, sore driven,
      "I would to Heaven
      That Marr and his thieves were here!"

      The Sea King gathered his men to raid,
      They out-numbered us three to one;
      There was never a sign of hope or aid,
      And we deemed that our day was done.
      We saw red visions of blazing roofs,
      Dragged women and corpses then,
      When a stripling shrill from the top of the hill
      Cried, "Marr, and a hundred men!"

      And Marr rode down to the stout old knight —
      He had ridden fast and far;
      He'd heard of the sinister sail in sight
      Where the northward headlands are.
      Sir William gave hand to the outstretched one,
      Though it gave his soul a jar:
      "We'll hang thee after the fight is done,
      But I'm glad to see thee, Marr."

      "You may hang and be damned for a glass of wine,
      But the first thing to do is fight.
      I'll charge their front with these thieves of mine,
      You charge by the rocks on the right.
      Let each man ride with his practised band,
      And the hinds make show on the hill.
      I'll rob as I please in my own good land,
      But I'll swear no sea-thief will."

      He paused for a space: " 'Tis an evil case,
      And a desperate chance," said Marr;
      "Now the gates of Hell they are open wide,
      And the gates of Heaven ajar!
      Honest or not, there are souls I wot
      Shall fly ere the hour is done.
      Let each man pray who a god hath got,
      For I'm cursed if I've got one!"

      We glanced once more on the doubtful odds,
      Then knelt on the fallen leaves;
      And our men prayed to the Christian gods,
      And Marr's to the gods of thieves.
      And then we charged. For the next half hour
      It was curse and struggle and bleed;
      And thief, or Pagan, or Christian knight
      Had little to do with creed.

      Some fight for country, or "honour" or "right",
      And the boldest fight for pelf;
      'Twas a wonderful sight how a thief could fight
      For the land that he robbed himself.
      We drove them back, and we burned some ships,
      And we slew them by the score.
      And a man of Marr's with a world of scars
      Took the Sea King on the shore.

      There was revel and light in the hall that night
      Ere the weary went to sleep;
      And a cursed outlaw and a Christian knight
      And a heathen king drank deep.
      Sir William was shamed when the morning came;
      He mourned for his bad old age,
      And he loudly swore that he would drink no more,
      And he'd go on a pilgrimage.

      Sir William he sent the Sea King home
      To sail and harry again,
      And Marr was freed of the curse of Rome
      To raid the North with his men.
      Sir William is fighting in Palestine
      With a hot and a thirsty band —
      (The Sea King promised before he sailed
      That he'd go to the Holy Land).