Poem: My Epitaph by Randolph Bedford

| No TrackBacks
When I do think of many a friend ---
   The world to me a shambles is:
Where Butcher Death doth make an end,
   Alike of smile, and sneer, and kiss.
He lifts his pole-axe o'er the tall,
And bloody end he gives to all.

Two months ago he killed a mate
   Away in far Nyassaland;
Three months agone the Axe of Fate
   Laid low, upon the Torres sand,
A man whose life was all too brief --
A trusty pilot of the Reef.

One passed his checks at Hobart Town;
   One threw the seven in Papua;
One slung his alley in to drown;
   One sinned and burst by Burnett Bar;
Pluck palpitatlon was one's fate;
One turned it up in Foveaux Strait.

And, taking now a stitch in time,
   And Chronos by the Foreloek (such
Old metaphors do make for rhyme,
   And don't obscure the meaning much),
Of all my friends whom death must seize
I've written the obituaries.

Some are in prose, and some in verse;
   On all their virtues I enlarge;
With song I cover up the hearse,
   With lyrics deck the funeral barge.
A centenarian (what is truth?),
I weep because of my lost youth!

The friend who drinks in glee to-night!
   I'm ready with his earthly end;
My muse with bombazine bedight
   (I'll show you how to plant a friend)!
Ere yet the breath has left his clay
His funeral ode shall see the day.

But when I've finished all my pals:
   When dead are all the men I knew:
When worms --- Death's grisly seneschals ---
   Have hid them all from fleshly view;
I'll vainly search on land or sea
For one to write an ode on ME!

And as I could not quietly
   Stay in my grave unless 'twere done;
I state now, without hope or fee,
   How good it was ere Time was run;
Careless of blame or praise or laugh
I write here mine own epitaph.

       Died 31st Dec., 1968.

When all his virtues I record,
   The manly act -- the pregnant word --
And think how good he was and wise,
   The salt tears well into mine eyes.

Tall, golden-haired, and debonair ---
   (A duke from penny novelettes)
The Bow Bells Decorative Heir --
   (The one who always paid his debts).

His blue eye challenged, to outshine,
   The sun, his golden hair flowed down
His shoulders -- generous and fine
   Of Nature's King the Native Crown.

Quiet his mind, and calm as death;
   No impulse swayed his equal days;
He ever drew the equal breath;
   And walked in clear, unclouded ways.

A writer he --- a poet great --
   (His metres, envy said, were rude);
Great novelist --- tho' 'twas his fate
   By critics to be labelled crude.

A statesman he (or would have been),
   Master of Witanagemotes;
A salved Australia you'd have seen,
   But --- he polled insufficient votes!

But for that trifling circumstance,
   A greater, grander Hampden, he;
But smaller men achieved the chance,
   Lost by that mere discrepancy.

Hampden and Shakspeare rolled in one,
   He might have been ! ('twas not to be be!)
Oh great heart hidden from the sun
   With gold broad-barring all the sea!

He might have been --- well, anything!
   Napoleon, Dante --- aol that lot!
He might have Caesar been, or King!
   Alas, alack! But he was not.

He might have been an Orangeman!
   Rejoice an early death his fate
Saved from disgrace by that last ban --
   His young life ends at ninety-eight.

He might have been a councillor!!!
   Kind death has driven away our fears;
He's saved from being a mayoral bore --
   The thought gives gladness to our tears.

He loved to walk the earth around,
   Sauntering the world, and up and down
The forests that the deep seas bound,
   And wearied quickly of the town.

Rest deep then, Randolph! Rest for long!
   Tho' rest to thee will be a pain;
And when the boys, with jest or song,
   Come to thy grave, then rise again.

When tremulous, the earth's green breast
   Grows with the clamant life of Spring,
In your best Sunday bones rise, drest,
   And roam the bush, and have your fling.

Where bony youth and grisly wench
   Foot it in Bacchanal, and pass
Each other by the narrow trench
   That is their home below the grass!

         *   *   *   *   *

All of my friends may me forget!
   What need have I of friendship now?
When this my dirge is writ, and set
   To wait the chilling of my brow?
When life becomes but lees and draff
   I'm ready for my epitaph!

First published in The Bulletin, 28 May 1908

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.middlemiss.org/cgi-bin/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1320

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 22, 2011 11:09 AM.

Reprint: English as She is Spoke by Randolph Bedford was the previous entry in this blog.

2011 Davitt Award Winners is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en