The Army of the Mind by Roderic Quinn

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There rolled a rumour round about the world;
And as it rolled, stormlike, its import gained,
Foretelling bloody tales of flags unfurled,
Of battle-winds and clouds that redly rained.

The sleepless spirits of the nations stood
Upon the outer walls to watch the foe:
How breaks the dawn? "In smoke and skies of blood."
What hope for man? "No hope but endless woe."

The black disease of fear ranged tower and town,
And hope took sick and languished where it spread;
Souls lost their faith-holds and went tumbling down
To Godless depths; for even God seemed dead.

The builders building up the glowing dome --
The dome it took ten thousand years to make,
Ceased work and waited for the shock to come,
The battle-thunder and the chaos-quake.

Men dreamt old Self had risen from the dust,
Re-donned his skins and clutched his club and knife,
And brought again the reign of blood and lust,
The ancient code of midnight stealth and strife.

The hearts of men grew startled as a word,
And sane eyes filled with fierce, insensate light;
For foot to foot, and gleaming sword to sword,
The nations stood for one world-pending fight.

The rumour grew: men cursed the evil star
That wrought malicious influence at their birth;
Their fear-assaulted minds were gripped by war,
War, war, and naught but war upon the earth.

Desire lay slain: lost ardours left the heart
A place of ashes, dreary and agloom;
Farewells were said, and lovers drew apart
And, surged by terror, fixed their eyes on doom.

The Painter's work was done; the Poets song
At end; the hour's eclipse made all things dim:
A cloud of doom, a fear of future wrong
Dulled ear and eye and heart, lamed brain and limb.

Long time the rumour gnawed the hearts of men;
Long time they stooped abjectly 'neath its power;
When hark! what breaks upon the watchers' ken?
What say the watchers on the Eastern tower?

"'Tis smoke, 'tis dust, 'tis glory, it is morn!
Morn's army hither comes, a golden host --
Their rise and fall the rise and fall of corn
Wind-swept, or as the sea-roll on a coast.

Not yon the light of cannon in the sky;
'Tis but a mirror-flash that tells afar
All time's achievement cannot, shall not die;
We march from peace to peace -- not peace to war.

This is the glowing army of the mind,
Long sought for by war-weary souls and wise;
With lifted swords and bugles on the wind
They march to battle with battalioned lies.

They seek the sated Dragon of the Smoke,
The black heart-wrecker from fell regions brought,
A splendour not of steel marks each sword-stroke,
For every sword is but a lifted thought."

Thus march they on, and thus their numbers grow,
Just here and there set back by fire and blood;
But time is theirs, and where their legions flow
They stay and flourish, and their work is good.

First published in The Bulletin, 5 January 1901; and later in the same magazine on 5 April 1906.

Author: Roderic Quinn (1867-1949) was born in Sydney, and met the future poets Christopher Brennan and E.J. Brady during his school years.  Considered by many during his lifetime to be a poet of talent, he described himself as "a pleasant minor poet". 

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 5, 2011 7:43 AM.

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