Above Crow's Nest [Sydney]

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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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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"Above Crow's Nest [Sydney]" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 7 Jul 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/17719/above-crow's-nest-[sydney]>.

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