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Santa Claus [Comes to Camp] by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. This illustration is based on a 1917 painting by American Western artist Charles Russell.
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Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864-1941) was Australia's favorite poet for much of his life. He captured details about the way real people in Australia lived, the farmers, the vagabonds, the horsemen, and many more. The song "Waltzing Matilda" and the movie The Man from Snowy River are both based on Paterson poems. In this poem, an overzealous watchman thwarts Santa's attempt to bring cheer to a military camp on Christmas eve.

    Santa Claus [Comes to Camp]
    by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

    “Halt! Who goes there?” the sentry’s call
    Rose on the midnight air
    Above the noises of the camp,
    The roll of wheels, the horses’ tramp.
    The challenge echoed over all—
    “Halt! Who goes there?”
    A quaint old figure clothed in white,
    He bore a staff of pine,
    And ivy-wreath was on his head.
    “Advance, O friend,” the sentry said,
    “Advance, for this is Christmas Night,
    And give the countersign.”
    “No sign or countersign have I.
    Through many lands I roam
    The whole world over far and wide.
    To exiles all at Christmastide
    From those who love them tenderly
    I bring a thought of home.
    “From English brook and Scottish burn,
    From cold Canadian snows,
    From those far lands ye hold most dear
    I bring you all a greeting here,
    A frond of a New Zealand fern,
    A bloom of English rose.
    “From faithful wife and loving lass
    I bring a wish divine,
    For Christmas blessings on your head.”
    “I wish you well,” the sentry said,
    “But here, alas! you may not pass
    Without the countersign.”
    He vanished— and the sentry’s tramp
    Re-echoed down the line.
    It was not till the morning light
    The soldiers knew that in the night
    Old Santa Claus had come to camp
    Without the countersign.


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