At Ladysmith

In English meadows were we foaled,
    In lands of peace afar,
Yet ever were our true hearts bold
    To face the flames of war;
Ah, wherefore send your friends away,
Who ask but one poor wisp of hay.

Tho’ never reared for Afric sun
    And grassless dusty plain,
We bore your scouts, we toiled at gun,
    And ne’er refused the rein.
We ask but one poor wisp of hay,
Ah, wherefore drive us pined away.

For you it was we crossed the seas,
    And, where the strife and din
Waxed fiercest, felt our riders’ knees
    And bore them safely in.
We only ask a wisp of hay,
Ah! drive us not to starve away.

Was it for this your bugle call
    Has bade our hearts rejoice?
For this, in battle as in stall,
    We heard the captain’s voice?
We ask but one poor wisp of hay,
In mercy turn us no away.

Is it in vain that night and morn
    We came a docile band,
To claim our water and our corn,
    And feel our master’s hand?
Far better, friends, outright to slay,
Than thus refuse a wisp of hay!

Note.—One of the saddest sights of the siege at Ladysmith, and one of the things that seemed to go most to the hearts of our troopers, was this: Day after day their starving chargers came crowding up to the tents to whinny piteously for food, which was perforce denied them.  Their numbers grew less, but as they grew less the difficulty of driving back from the lines those gaunt famished horses became greater. 

(Ballads of the War, p. 147)