Kenneth Slessor (27 March 1901 – 30 June 1971 / Orange, New South Wales)
THOSE friends of Lao-Tzu, those wise old men
Dozing all day in lemon-silken robes,
With tomes of beaten jade spread knee to knee,
And pipe-stem, shining cold with silver, poised
In steaming play, and still a finger free
To dog the path of some forgotten pen;
Almost their bee-sweet ancient words incline
My mind to those old pagan ways, beloved
By mandarins and mages, now but dust
In drowsy pyramids. What creed is this,
Save that which those philosophers discussed
In gold pavilions, over musky wine?
'Repenting always of forgotten wrongs
Will never bring thy heart to rest, for thought
Repairs no whit of evil; rather cast
Thy meditations in that utter void
To which all human deeds resolve at last . . . .'
So runs the burden of their thousand songs.
Here, in this dark Star-Chamber of the soul,
You stand arraigned, O slayer of my heart . . .
But I am tired of hoarding up the grist
Of anger, and remember Lao-Tzu.
Revenge is empty to the Taoist,
And tears of penitence a futile toll!
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