Henry Lawson

Above Crow’s Nest

A blanket low and leaden, Though rent across the west, Whose darkness seems to deaden The brightest and the best; A sunset white and staring On cloud-wrecks far away And haggard house-walls glaring A farewell to the day. A light on tower and steeple, Where sun no longer shines My people, Oh my people! Rise up and read the signs! Low looms the nearer high-line (No sign of star or moon), The horseman on the skyline Rode hard this afternoon! (Is he and who shall know it? The spectre of a scout? The spirit of a poet, Whose truths were met with doubt? Who sought and who succeeded In marking danger’s track Whose warnings were unheeded Till all the sky was black?) It is a shameful story For our young, generous home Without the rise and glory We’d go as Greece and Rome. Without the sacrifices That make a nation’s name, The elder nation’s vices And luxuries we claim. Grown vain without a conquest, And sure without a fort, And maddened in the one quest For pleasure or for sport. Self-blinded to our starkness We’d fling the time away To fight, half-armed, in darkness Who should be armed to-day. This song is for the city, The city in its pride The coming time shall pity And shield the countryside. Shall we live in the present Till fearful war-clouds loom, And till the sullen peasant Shall leave us to our doom? Cloud-fortresses titanic Along the western sky The tired, bowed mechanic And pallid clerk flit by. Lit by a light unhealthy The ghastly after-glare The veiled and goggled wealthy Drive fast they know not where. Night’s sullen spirit rouses, The darkening gables lour From ugly four-roomed houses Verandah’d windows glower; The last long day-stare dies on The scrub-ridged western side, And round the near horizon The spectral horsemen ride.

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