For Australia

Above Crow’s Nest


Henry Lawson

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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