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[Note: Poets' Corner gratefully acknowledges Dr. Edward Marx of Kyoto University. Dr Marx is the leading authority on Hope, and is the editor for these works, which are used here with his permission.]
from Last Poems (1905):
- I, who of lighter love wrote many a verse,
- Made public never words inspired by thee,
- Lest strangers' lips should carelessly rehearse
- Things that were sacred and too dear to me.
- Thy soul was noble; through these fifteen years
- Mine eyes familiar, found no fleck nor flaw,
- Stern to thyself, thy comrades' faults and fears
- Proved generosity thine only law.
- Small joy was I to thee; before we met
- Sorrow had left thee all too sad to save.
- Useless my love--as vain as this regret
- That pours my hopeless life across thy grave.
- Oh, Masters, you who rule the world,
- Will you not wait with me awhile,
- When swords are sheathed and sails are furled,
- And all the fields with harvest smile?
- I would not waste your time for long,
- I ask you but, when you are tired,
- To read how by the weak, the strong
- Are weighed and worshipped and desired.
- When weary of the Mart, the Loom,
- The Withering-house, the Rifle-Blocks,
- The Barrack-square, the Engine-room,
- The pick-axe, ringing on the rocks,--
- When tents are pitched and work is done,
- While restful twilight broods above,
- By fresh-lit lamp, or dying sun,
- See in my songs how women love.
- We shared your lonely watch by night,
- We knew you faithful at the helm,
- Our thoughts went with you through the fight,
- That saved a soul,--or wrecked a realm.
- Ah, how our hearts leapt forth to you,
- In pride and joy, when you prevailed,
- And when you died, serene and true:
- ---We wept in silence when you failed!
- Oh, brain, that did not gain the gold!
- Or, arm, that could not wield the sword,
- Here is the love, that is not sold,
- Here are the hearts to hail you lord!
- You played and lost the game? What then?
- The rules are harsh and hard we know,
- You, still, Oh, brothers, are the men
- Whom we in secret reverence so.
- Your work was waste? Maybe your share
- Lay in the hour you laughed and kissed;
- Who knows but what your son shall wear
- The laurels that his father missed?
- Ay, you who win, and you who lose,
- Whether you triumph, --or despair,--
- When your returning footsteps chose
- The homeward track, our love is there.
- For, since the world is ordered thus,
- To you the fame, the stress, the sword,
- We can but wait, until to us
- You give yourselves, for our reward.
- To Whaler's deck and Coral beach,
- To lonely Ranch and Frontier-Fort,
- Beyond the narrow bounds of speech
- I lay the cable of my thought.
- I fain would send my thanks to you,
- (Though who am I, to give you praise?)
- Since what you are, and work you do,
- Are lessons for our easier ways.
- 'Neath alien stars your camp-fires glow,
- I know you not, --your tents are far.
- My hope is but in song to show,
- How honored and how dear you are.
- She was fair as a Passion-flower,
- (But little of love he knew.)
- Her lucent eyes were like amber wine,
- And her eyelids stained with blue.
- He called them the Gates of Fair Desire,
- And the Lakes where Beauty lay,
- But I looked into them once, and saw
- The eyes of Beasts of Prey.
- She had her way; a lover the more,
- And I had a friend the less.
- For long there was nothing to do but wait
- And suffer his happiness.
- But now I shall choose the sharpest Kriss
- And nestle it in her breast,
- For dead, he is drifting down to sea
- And his own hand wrought his rest.
- Deep in the jungle vast and dim,
- That knew not a white man's feet,
- I smelt the odour of sun-warmed fur,
- Musky, savage, and sweet.
- Far it was from the huts of men
- And the grass where Sambur feed;
- I threw a stone at a Kadapu tree
- That bled as a man might bleed.
- Scent of fur and colour of blood:--
- And the long dead instincts rose,
- I followed the lure of my season's mate,--
- And flew, bare-fanged, at my foes.
- * * *
- Pale days: and a league of laws
- Made by the whims of men.
- Would I were back with my furry cubs
- In the dusk of a jungle den.
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