Poem: Above Crow's Nest (Sydney) by 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.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 October 1906

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