At Dawn and Dusk

The Martyr

Victor James Daley

NOT only on cross and gibbet,
    By sword, and fire, and flood,
Have perished the world’s sad martyrs
    Whose names are writ in blood.

A woman lay in a hovel,
    Mean, dismal, gasping for breath;
One friend alone was beside her—
    The name of him was—Death.

For the sake of her orphan children,
    For money to buy them food,
She had slaved in the dismal hovel
    And wasted her womanhood.

Winter and Spring and Summer
    Came each with a load of cares;
And Autumn to her brought only
    A harvest of gray hairs.

Far out in the blessèd country,
    Beyond the smoky town,
The winds of God were blowing
    Evermore up and down;

The trees were waving signals
    Of joy from the bush beyond;
The gum its blue-green banner,
    The fern its dark green frond;

Flower called to flower in whispers
    By sweet caressing names,
And young gum shoots sprang upward
    Like woodland altar-flames;

And, deep in the distant ranges,
    The magpie’s fluting song
Roused musical, mocking echoes
    In the woods of Dandenong;

And riders were galloping gaily
    With loose-held flowing reins,
Through dim and shadowy gullies,
    Across broad, treeless plains;

And winds through the Heads came wafting
    A breath of life from the sea,
And over the blue horizon
    The ships sailed silently;

And out of the sea at morning
    The sun rose, golden bright,
And in crimson, and gold, and purple
    Sank in the sea at night;

But in dreams alone she saw them,
    Her hours of toil between;
For life to her was only
    A heartless dead machine.

Her heart was in the graveyard
    Where lay her children three,
Nor work nor prayer could save them,
    Nor tears of agony.

On the lips of her last and dearest
    Pressing a farewell kiss,
She cried aloud in her anguish—
    “Can God make amends for this?

Dull, desperate, ceaseless slaving
    Bereft her of power to pray,
And Man was careless and cruel,
    And God was far away.

But who shall measure His mercies!
    His ways are in the deep;
And, after a life of sorrow,
    He gave her His gift of sleep.

Rest comes at last to the weary,
    And freedom to the slave;
Her tired and worn-out body
    Sleeps well in its pauper grave.

But His angel bore her soul up
    To that Bright Land and Fair,
Where Sorrow enters never,
    Nor any cloud of Care.

They came to a lovely valley,
    Agleam with asphodel,
And the soul of the woman speaking
    Said—“Here I fain would dwell!”

The Angel answered gently:
    “O Soul most pure and dear,
O Soul most tried and truest,
    They dwelling is not here!

“Behold thy place appointed—
    Long kept, long waiting—come!—
Where bloom on the hills of heaven
    The roses of Martyrdom!’

At Dawn and Dusk - Contents

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