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The Diggers' Dirge

"Requiescat in pace." -- Amen.
J. M.
Geelong, 5th December, 1854.

Toll the bell softly ! toll toll for the digger,
Solemnly ! solemnly ! toll for the dead !
Rash men, yet brave ones, cut down in life's vigour,
Gently recline them in earth's lowly bed;
Slaughtered by scores, the hearts blood ran luridly;
Tingeing the moonbeams that shone on the plain;
Peaceful souls bayoneted, horridly ! horridly !
Seeking their friends 'midst the heap of the slain.

Toll the bell slowly ! but mournfully ! mournfully
Toll the bell softly ! the knell's for the brave;
Toll for the weaponless, innocent, loyal man,
Sabred and shot as a fugitive slave.
Whizzing the fatal ball sped on its ruthless way,
Gleaming the keen sword leaped out from its sheath,
Dreadful the groans at the wounded, who, dying lay
Mangled in death by the trooper steeds' feet.

Toll the bell loudly! the LORD hears its doleful cry,
Wailing for JUSTICE before HIS high throne;
In fulness of time will his forked lightnings fearful fly;
Vengeance is HIS, pray for those who have gone !
Pray for the heart broken mother whose sorrow
Pierceth the clouds, 'tis her son's death she weeps.
Pray for the young wife, a bitter to-morrow
Frowns on her life, though unconscious she sleeps.

Pray ! see the burning tents 'lumine the dark wood;
Pray ! by that wild glare sad deeds will be traced;
Pray ! that again may be ne'er shed such life blood;
Pray that all wrong doing soon be erased.
Toll the bell softly ! toll, toll for the digger;
Solemnly ! solemnly ! toll for the dead !
Rash men, yet brave ones, cut down in life's vigour;
Gently recline them in earth's lowly bed.


From Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer 6 December 1854.

Published three days after the Eureka Massacre this poem (or song) describes in great detail the slaughter of wounded diggers in the after surrender rampage by the rum fuelled soldiers and police at the Eureka Stockade on Sunday at dawn on 3 December 1854.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory