They leave us -- artists, singers, all -- When London calls aloud, Commanding to her Festival The gifted crowd. She sits beside the ship-choked Thames, Sad, weary, cruel, grand; Her crown imperial gleams with gems From many a land. From overseas, and far away, Come crowded ships and ships -- Grim-faced she gazes on them; yea, With scornful lips. The garden of the earth is wide; Its rarest blooms she picks To deck her board, this haggard-eyed Imperatrix. Sad, sad is she, and yearns for mirth; With voice of golden guile She lures men from the ends of earth To make her smile. The student of wild human ways In wild new lands; the sage With new great thoughts; the bard whose lays Bring youth to age; The painter young whose pictures shine With colours magical; The singer with the voice divine -- She lures them all. But all their new is old to her Who bore the Anakim; She gives them gold or Charon's fare As suits her whim. Crowned Ogress -- old, and sad, and wise -- She sits with painted face And hard, imperious, cruel eyes In her high place. To him who for her pleasure lives, And makes her wish his goal, A rich Tarpeian gift she gives -- That slays his soul. The story-teller from the Isles Upon the Empire's rim, With smiles she welcomes -- and her smiles Are death to him. For Her, whose pleasure is her law, In vain the shy heart bleeds -- The Genius with the Iron jaw Alone succeeds. And when the Poet's lays grow bland, And urbanised, and prim -- She stretches forth a jewelled hand And strangles him. She sits beside the ship-choked Thames With Sphinx-like lips apart -- Mistress of many diadems -- Death in her heart!
First published in The Bulletin, 8 December 1900, p15