It is night-time when the saddest and the darkest memories haunt,
When outside the printing office the most glaring posters flaunt,
When the love-wrong is accomplished. And I think of things and mark
That the blackest lies are written, told, and printed after dark.
’Tis the time of “late editions”. It is night when, as of old,
Foulest things are done for hatred, for ambition, love and gold.
Racing from the senseless city down the dull suburban streets,
Come again the ragged newsboys yelping with their paltry sheets,
Lying posters meaning nothing, double columns meaning less,
Twisted facts and reckless falsehoods, dodges of the Daily Press.
In the town the roar and rattle of the great machines once more,
Greedy for the extra penny, while the “Public” howls for war.
War because of one poor blunder made in panic far away,
While a thousand men were lying on the battlefield to-day:
Dead heaped on the helpless dying, blinded eyes and brains that swim,
Parched or choked with their own life-blood, battered head and broken limb.
Wounds too ghastly to be pictured. Things to seem like men no more,
Crying out to Christ for water, and oblivion, that is war.
And the poets of the nation, singing-birds or carrion-birds,
Bluff with cheap alliteration and the boom of empty words,
Catch the crowd with cheating phrases, as a jingo laureate flings
Recklessly his high defiance in the “grinning teeth of Things”.
They pretend to lead who follow this day’s crowd with lying tact;
Let them fling their high defiance in the stony face of Fact.
And so Russia, maimed and baited, seeing nought but storm to come,
Sailed upon a desperate venture, cursed by treachery at home;
Seeing danger in each shadow, thinking doubtless now and then
Of the swift fate of her warship with its seven hundred men;
And she struck out in the darkness at the ally of her foe,
Struck out blindly as a wounded dying bear might strike a blow.
Ah, we well might howl for vengeance, we who killed for killing’s sake,
Murdered helpless men in daylight, in cold blood by no mistake,
We who burnt the homes of women when the nights were cold and damp;
We who murdered little children in the concentration camp!
(When the farmers downed the lion for a season in his pride,
Say, did Russia take advantage then, while England’s hands were tied?)
Wipe away the blood that binds you!, struggle to your feet again,
Shake them from your shoulders, Ivan, Ivan nearly mad with pain.
You must fight it single-handed on the deck or in the trench.
Look not to the boorish German! Look not to the fickle French!
Rather look to blinded England when her sight is clear again.
(And remember in the future there is chivalry in Spain.)
Scoff at Russia on the ocean and her helplessness forget,
But on land the braggart Mongol has not done with Ivan yet;
He’s a fierce and cruel tyrant (we are not as others are);
But his slaves would die by thousands for their country and the Czar,
While a single broken column drags a battery through the mire,
And a single battered cruiser has a gun that she can fire.
Nemesis by Henry Lawson