The Campfires of the Lost by Bernard O'Dowd

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Who will may see, on plains around
   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

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 29, 2011 7:22 AM.

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