Henry Lawson

(17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales)

A Slight Misunderstanding at the Jasper Gate


Oh, do you hear the argument, far up above the skies?
The voice of old Saint Peter, in expostulation rise?
Growing shrill, and ever shriller, at the thing that’s being done;
More in sorrow than in anger, like our old Jack Robertson.
Old Saint Peter’s had his troubles—heaps of troubles, great and small,
Since he kept the gates of Heaven—but this last one covers all!
It is not a crowing rooster—that’s a sight and sound he’s useter,
Simulated by some impish spirit that he knows full well;
It is simply Drake, of Devon, who is breaking out of Heaven,
With a crew of pirate brethren, to come down once more to Hell!
Oh, do you hear the distant sound, that seems to come and go,
As thunder does in summer time, when faraway and low?
Or the “croon” beneath the church bells, when they’re pealing from the tower—
And the church bells are the battle-call in this dark, anxious hour.
Do you feel the distant throbbing; Do you feel it go and come;
Like a war hymn on horizons, or a centuries-mellowed drum!
Hear it sobbing, hear it throbbing, like some not unhappy sobbing—
By the peaceful Devon landscape and the fair Devonian home!
By the land those spirits meet in—and it’s Drake’s Drum, spirit-beaten,
By perhaps the Rose of Torridge—and it’s calling Drake to come?

Oh, do you feel a cooling hand upon your fevered brow?
That dulls your ears to Hell’s Own Din—or that worse Silence, now?
In the starlight in the Channel, while Destruction lurks below,
Or that Nether-Hell, the Stoke-hole, where you cannot see or know?
Do you feel a soothing presence, keeping sanity in one
Going mad, in Satan’s Nightmare, where the gun-crew works the gun?
It is Raleigh!—Admiral-Poet, who had dreams though few may know it—
Who had dreams of England’s greatness, otherwise than by the sea.
Sorrowful but all-forgiving, bringing courage to the living—
Raleigh’s Spirit, not from London, but his Vanished Colony.

Oh, do you feel a stony calm that you had never known?
With comrades in the firing-line, or “Sentry Go” alone.
When it’s Hellfire all around you, and it’s freezing slush below,
Or you pace in rain and darkness, with Old Death, and “Sentry Go”—
Feel a cold determination that makes all but Now a blank;
That’s half foreign to your nature, and half foreign to your rank?
It is Wellington, where French is, who has broken Heaven’s trenches,
With his purple-blooded captains (who used purple language then)
Come to strengthen with his spirit all the coolness you inherit—
He who took the scum of Europe, and who trained them to be Men.

Submitted: Friday, March 26, 2010

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