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Kowhai Gold

[Bartlett Adamson]

page 62

The world is charted out from Pole to Pole,
Measured and docketed and filed away;
And old Adventure, portly grown and grey,
Sits in his office. But his fiery soul
Yearns for the magic seas that used to roll,
The dragon terrors that were once to slay,
The perilous journeys past the rim of day
In joyous quest of some forbidden goal.

Yet there remains to him one land untrod,
One venture beckoning still, one keen surmise
To fan the wanderlust and fire his eyes,
To spur his pulses and to rouse his breath,
One vision still to stir his rover-blood:
The panorama from the peaks of Death.

Within this pulsing artery called space,
Filled with the living liquid of the sky,
A million million stars go flaring by,
Whirled in some seeming-sempiternal chase.
And on one star we stand, an insect race,
And gaze across the voids, and vainly try
To solve the secret of the sun, or pry
Beyond the boundaries of time and place.

So, the living liquid of our blood,
The microbes on some atom-asteroid
page 63 May live, unconscious of the swirling flood,
And wonder at the sun that lights their day,
Across an unimaginable void,
A million-millionth of an inch away.

He dreamed of glory through his boyhood years:
Thousands of lancers in the morning light
Charging behind him with tumultuous might—
A thundering cataract of cavaliers.
He dreamed of glory. Silver swords and spears;
Banners of gold and purple, and the bright
Meadows of waving hats to left and right;
His tall plumes tossing in a gale of cheers.

He dreamed of glory; but he dreams no more.
Glory has made him her ambassador,
And there, erect among the rotten-ripe
Corpses that snuggle in their beds of blood,
He stands unconquerable, knee-deep in mud,
And fumbles for a match to light his pipe.

The ladies walk the garden pair and pair,
Loiter and nod to this and that great rose,
And softly say how beauteously it grows,
And move away, content and unaware
page 64 What deeds of death awoke those blossoms there;
What lives are squandered where the gardener goes;
What insect-towns he sacks and overthrows,
Caring for naught if that his flowers be fair.

So War goes gardening; and men are torn,
And towns are sacked and nations overthrown;
While pair and pair, in parks of paradise,
The goddesses go sauntering through the morn,
And praise the roses that old War has grown:
Roses of courage and self-sacrifice.