The Afterglow

Henry Lawson, 1904

      Oh, for the fire that used to glow
             In those my days of old!
      I never thought a man could grow
             So callous and so cold.
      Ah, for the heart that used to ache
             For those in sorrow's ways;
      I often wish my heart could break
             As it did in those dead days.

      Along my track of storm and stress,
             And it is plain to trace,
      I look back from the loneliness
             And the depth of my disgrace.
      'Twas fate and only fate I know,
             But all mistakes are plain,
      'Tis sadder than the afterglow,
             More dreary than the rain.

      But still there lies a patch of sun
             That ne'er will come again,
      Those golden days when I was one
             Of Nature's gentlemen.
      And if there is a memory
             Could break me down at last,
      It sure would be the thought of this,
             The sunshine in the past.

      But 'spite of sunshine on the track —
             And well the sun might shine —
      My heart grows hard when I look back
             From these dark days of mine.
      A nobler child was never born
             In all the Southern land —
      The slave of selfish ignorance
             That could not understand.

      Oh, I had lived for many years
             In a world of my ideal,
      With no false laughter, no false tears,
             And it seemed very real.
      But I was wakened from my dreams,
             And learnt with hardening eyes
      A world of selfish treachery,
             Of paltry shame and lies.

      I left the truest friends on earth
             Who did not need my aid,
      And worked for those who were not worth
             The sacrifice I made.
      And while I blindly strove to raise
             The coward and the clown,
      They sneaked behind by shady ways
             And tore my palace down.

      But let those faithless friends of mine
             Who'd think of me with scorn,
      Remember that for many years
             A heavy load I've borne.
      And my true friends when all is done,
             And my sad soul is gone,
      Will think of battles I have won
             When I lead rivals on.

      And though from spite and worldly things
             I well should be exempt,
      For little men and paltry men
             I scarce can feel contempt.
      They followed me with flattery
             In the days when I was brave —
      But for those who have been true to me
             I'll strike back from the grave!