I look across the lighted room,
Across the glory and the bloom,
The ballroom's pride;
Beyond, the garden slopes away,
Beyond the garden lies the bay
Where great ships ride.
A mingled perfume comes to me,
With scent of rotes, breath of sea --
A woman's gown
Swirls softly by me in the light --
It hardly seems as if the night
Had touched the town;
Millions of lamps are sparkling out,
The music sobs, a distant shout
Comes to the ear;
The dark waves catch the city's gleam,
And like the phantoms of a dream
The boats appear.
And you, away on misty plains,
Hear, instead of music's strains,
The cattle low;
And, stretched at length by dying fires,
Do you guess how my heart desires
The long ago?
Or, dully tired, worn, and tried
By the hot day's long dreary ride,
Seek only rest;
Not pondering on an easier past,
Nor of the time your head lay last
Upon my breast?
Oh! thoughts that flee across the waste
Of scrub and plain, why would you haste
To woo him back?
The path it rough his feet must tread,
For me the lilies bloom instead
Adown the track --
The lily buds of luxury --
The rough for him, the smooth for me.
Oh! broken troth;
Oh! hands that used to touch my hair
When life before seemed only fair,
Smooth for us both.
And then--the gilding fell away.
What use had I for common clay?
And so --" Good-bye!"
The gold had gone, the love must go --
Have I not always learnt it so?
Can wisdom lie?
"A girl must train her heart," they said,
God help her! she were better dead
Than living so.
I sold my lips to other lips
Not fit to touch his fingertips.
I sank so low,
I broke the only loyal heart;
My friends, steel-banded, bade us part
For good of all --
Dear heaven! Hardly bought, such peace --
I bowed, and gave him his release,
Nor saw my fall.
I thought that I had done full well,
Condemning one proud soul to hell,
And hid my tears.
Oh! had they known, advising me,
My unborn powers of misery
Thro' coming years,
They sorely would instead have taught
That gilded chains are dearly bought,
That love must live,
If not to good, to grief and shame.
And yet I was the most to blame,
And I forgive.
The slender band my band must hold
Feels heavy, tho' it is of gold,
Placed fondly on;
And I, so young to be a wife,
May still live fifty years of life
While you are gone!
First published in The Queenslander, 2 January 1897