Above Crow's Nest (Sydney)

Henry Lawson, 1906

      A blanket low and leaden,
      Though rent across the west,
      Whose darkness seems to deaden
      The brightest and the best;
      A sunset white and staring
      On cloud-wrecks far away —
      And haggard house-walls glaring
      A farewell to the day.

      A light on tower and steeple,
      Where sun no longer shines —
      My people, Oh my people!
      Rise up and read the signs!
      Low looms the nearer high-line
      (No sign of star or moon),
      The horseman on the skyline
      Rode hard this afternoon!

      (Is he — and who shall know it? —
      The spectre of a scout?
      The spirit of a poet,
      Whose truths were met with doubt?
      Who sought and who succeeded
      In marking danger's track —
      Whose warnings were unheeded
      Till all the sky was black?)

      It is a shameful story
      For our young, generous home —
      Without the rise and glory
      We'd go as Greece and Rome.
      Without the sacrifices
      That make a nation's name,
      The elder nation's vices
      And luxuries we claim.

      Grown vain without a conquest,
      And sure without a fort,
      And maddened in the one quest
      For pleasure or for sport.
      Self-blinded to our starkness
      We'd fling the time away
      To fight, half-armed, in darkness
      Who should be armed to-day.

      This song is for the city,
      The city in its pride —
      The coming time shall pity
      And shield the countryside.
      Shall we live in the present
      Till fearful war-clouds loom,
      And till the sullen peasant
      Shall leave us to our doom?

      Cloud-fortresses titanic
      Along the western sky —
      The tired, bowed mechanic
      And pallid clerk flit by.
      Lit by a light unhealthy —
      The ghastly after-glare —
      The veiled and goggled wealthy
      Drive fast — they know not where.

      Night's sullen spirit rouses,
      The darkening gables lour
      From ugly four-roomed houses
      Verandah'd windows glower;
      The last long day-stare dies on
      The scrub-ridged western side,
      And round the near horizon
      The spectral horsemen ride.

      The Bulletin, 25 October 1906