When London Calls - Poem by Victor Daley
They leave us - artists, singers, all
When London calls aloud,
Commanding to her Festival
The gifted crowd.
She sits beside the ship-choked Thames,
Sad, weary, cruel, grand;
Her crown imperial gleams with gems
From many a land.
From overseas, and far away,
Come crowded ships and ships
Grim-faced she gazes on them; yea,
With scornful lips.
The garden of the earth is wide;
Its rarest blooms she picks
To deck her board, this haggard-eyed
Sad, sad is she, and yearns for mirth;
With voice of golden guile
She lures men from the ends of earth
To make her smile.
The student of wild human ways
In wild new lands; the sage
With new great thoughts; the bard whose lays
Bring youth to age;
The painter young whose pictures shine
With colours magical;
The singer with the voice divine
She lures them all.
But all their new is old to her
Who bore the Anakim;
She gives them gold or Charon's fare
As suits her whim.
Crowned Ogress - old, and sad, and wise
She sits with painted face
And hard, imperious, cruel eyes
In her high place.
To him who for her pleasure lives,
And makes her wish his goal,
A rich Tarpeian gift she gives
That slays his soul.
The story-teller from the Isles
Upon the Empire's rim,
With smiles she welcomes - and her smiles
Are death to him.
For Her, whose pleasure is her law,
In vain the shy heart bleeds
The Genius with the Iron jaw
And when the Poet's lays grow bland,
And urbanised, and prim -
She stretches forth a jewelled hand
And strangles him.
She sits beside the ship-choked Thames
With Sphinx-like lips apart
Mistress of many diadems
Death in her heart!
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