By scanty rivers crossed,
Where none but weedy growths abound,
The campfires of the Lost.
To fan the blaze, the twigs and cones
From dying Hopes we tear;
And wolfish Angers gnaw the bones
Of dead Ideals there.
And effigies of sacred things,
Or bric-à-brac of Fame,
Anon a stern-lipped watcher flings
Remorseless to the flame.
To drown your glory in the dark
O, children of the Light!
The frail, the crushed, the fell, the stark
Deploy their hosts to-night.
Grim scouts o'erleap your city's walls,
Cast potions in your wells,
With leprous patches taint your halls,
And mine your citadels.
Your timid treasures await
The onset of our need;
The myriad tramp his lonely hate
Is whetting with his greed.
Your serfs now mocking greet your cries
Of "honor," "law," and "trust";
Your lily women recognise
The prowling lips of Lust.
Your veil of Art, by free winds tossed,
Is rending as you look--
Your Art, which claimed to love the Lost,
And jeered them, and forsook.
Your brutal Science yields a corps
Of derelicts, to train
With formulas of lethal lore
Our nascent rebel brain.
The scavengers of Learning there,
And outcaste lords of rhyme
Compose us anthems of despair,
And polygots of crime.
And godless phalanxes assist
Our priesthood celebrate
A diablic eucharist
With chalices of hate.
Your system's ripened fruits appear
In vampire and in sot;
The tiger women wait you here,
You soiled and left to rot.
See there a squeezed-out sponge of trade,
Or gambler's child, or wife!
And there a haggard sempstress, speyed
By Competition's knife!
Within your walls anon there shines
A wrecker's signal-light;
And falcon-featured Catilines
Sneak to and fro to-night.
Ah! city-dwellers, fearful wrong
Entails a fearful cost;
And ye who dare may see who throng
Those balefires of the Lost.
First published in The Bulletin, 29 August 1896 and again in the same magazine on 23-30 December 1980.
Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography