When London Calls by Victor J. Daley

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They leave us -- artists, singers, all --
   When London calls aloud,
Commanding to her Festival
   The gifted crowd.

She sits beside the ship-choked Thames,
   Sad, weary, cruel, grand;
Her crown imperial gleams with gems
   From many a land.

From overseas, and far away,
   Come crowded ships and ships --
Grim-faced she gazes on them; yes,
   With scornful lips.

The garden of the earth is wide;
   Its rarest blooms she picks
To deck her board, this haggard-eyed

Sad, sad is she, and yearns for mirth:
   With voice of golden guile
She lures men from the ends of earth
   To make her smile.

The student of wild human ways
   In wild new lands; the sage
With new great thoughts; the bard whose lays
   Bring youth to age;

The painter young whose pictures shine
   With colours magical,
The singer with the voice divine --
   She lures them all.

But all their new is old to her
   Who bore the Anakim;
She gives them gold or Charon's fare
   As suits her whim.

Crowned Ogress -- old, and sad, and wise --
   She sits with painted face
And hard, imperious, cruel eyes
   In her high place.

To him who for her pleasure lives,
   And makes her wish his goal,
A rich Tarpeian gift she gives --
   That slays his soul.

The story-teller from the Isles
   Upon the Empire's rim,
With smiles she welcomes - and her smiles
   Are death to him.

For Her, whose pleasure is her law,
   In vain the shy heart bleeds --
The Genius with the Iron Jaw
   Alone succeeds.

And when the Poet's lays grow bland,
   And urbanised, and prim --
She stretches forth a jewelled hand
   And strangles him.

She sits beside the ship-choked Thames,
   With Sphinx-like lips apart --
Mistress of many diadetus --
   Death in her heart.

First published in The Bulletin, 8 December 1900;
and later in
Wine and Roses by Victor J. Daley, 1911;
The Lone Hand, January 1912;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse edited by Phillip Neilsen, 1986;
The Sting in the Wattle: Australian Satirical Verse edited by Phillip Neilsen, 1993;
London Was Full of Rooms edited by Tully Barnett, Rick Hosking, S.C. Harrex, Nena Bierbaum, and Graham Tulloch, 1998; and
Southerly, Vol. 71 No. 1 2011.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 8, 2012 7:32 AM.

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