William Henry Ogilvie

(21 August 1869 – 30 January 1963 / Kelso, Scotland)

Drought


My road is fenced with the bleached, white bones
And strewn with the blind, white sand,
Beside me a suffering, dumb world moans
On the breast of a lonely land.
On the rim of the world the lightnings play,
The heat-waves quiver and dance,
And the breath of the wind is a sword to slay
And the sunbeams each a lance.

I have withered the grass where my hot hoofs tread,
I have whitened the sapless trees,
I have driven the faint-heart rains ahead
To hide in their soft green seas.

I have bound the plains with an iron band,
I have stricken the slow streams dumb!
To the charge of my vanguards who shall stand?
Who stay when my cohorts come?

The dust-storms follow and wrap me round;
The hot winds ride as a guard;
Before me the fret of the swamps is bound
And the way of the wild-fowl barred.

I drop the whips on the loose-flanked steers;
I burnt their necks with the bow;
And the green-hide rips and the iron sears
Where the staggering, lean beasts go.

I lure the swagman out of the road
To the gleam of a phantom lake;
I have laid him down, I have taken his load,
And he sleeps till the dead men wake.

My hurrying hoofs in the night go by,
And the great flocks bleat their fear
And follow the curve of the creeks burnt dry
And the plains scorched brown and sere.

The worn men start from their sleepless rest
With faces haggard and drawn;
They cursed the red Sun into the west
And they curse him out of the dawn.

They have carried their outposts far, far out,
But - blade of my sword for a sign! -
I am the Master, the dread King Drought,
And the great West Land is mine!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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