The ‘Army’ in this evocative poem is the Salvation Army. I suspect Henry Lawson, like many hardened drinkers, had a soft spot for the Sallies and probably bought the occasional War Cry or ‘kicked the tin’.
When the kindly hours of darkness, save for light of moon and star,
Hide the picture on the signboard over Doughty’s Horse Bazaar;
When the last rose-tint is fading on the distant mulga scrub,
Then the Army prays for Watty at the entrance of his pub.
Now, I often sit at Watty’s when the night is very near,
With a head that’s full of jingles and the fumes of bottled beer,
For I always have a fancy that, if I am over there
When the Army prays for Watty, I’m included in the prayer.
Watty lounges in his arm-chair, in its old accustomed place,
With a fatherly expression on his round and passive face;
And his arms are clasped before him in a calm, contented way,
And he nods his head and dozes when he hears the Army pray.
And I wonder does he ponder on the distant years and dim,
Or his chances over yonder, when the Army prays for him?
Has he not a fear connected with the warm place down below,
Where, according to good Christians, all the publicans should go?
But his features give no token of a feeling in his breast,
Save of peace that is unbroken and a conscience well at rest;
And we guzzle as we guzzled long before the Army came,
And the loafers wait for ‘shouters’ and—they get there just the same.
It would take a lot of praying—lots of thumping on the drum—
To prepare our sinful, straying, erring souls for Kingdom Come;
But I love my fellow-sinners, and I hope, upon the whole,
That the Army gets a hearing when it prays for Watty’s soul.