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Half-Ballade of Waterval

(Non-commissioned Officers in Charge of Prisoners)

WHEN by the labour of my ’ands
I’ve ’elped to pack a transport tight
With prisoners for foreign lands,
I ain’t transported with delight.
I know it’s only just an’ right,
But yet it somehow sickens me,
For I ’ave learned at Waterval (1)
The meanin’ of captivity.
 
Be’ind the pegged barb—wire strands,
Beneath the tall electric light,
We used to walk in bare—’ead bands,
Explainin’ ’ow we lost our fight;
An’ that is what they’ll do to—night
Upon the steamer out at sea,
If I ’ave learned at Waterval
The meanin’ of captivity.
 
They’ll never know the shame that brands—
Black shame no livin’ down makes white—
The mockin’ from the sentry—stands,
The women’s laugh, the gaoler’s spite.
We are too bloomin’—much polite,
But that is ’ow I’d ’ave us be . . .
Since I ’ave learned at Waterval
The meanin’ of captivity.
 
They’ll get those draggin’ days all right,
Spent as a foreigner commands,
An’ ’orrors of the locked—up night,
With ’Ell’s own thinkin’ on their ’ands.
I’d give the gold o’ twenty Rands
(If it was mine) to set ’em free
For I ’ave learned at Waterval
The meanin’ of captivity!

(1) Where the majority of English prisoners were kept by the Boers.

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