Bernard O'Dowd

(11 April 1866 – 1 September 1953 / Beaufort)

Proletaria


THE SUNNY rounds of Earth contain
An obverse to its Day,
Our fertile Vagrancy’s domain,
Wan Proletaria.

From pole to pole of Poverty
We stumble through the years,
With hazy-lanterned Memory
And Hope that never nears.

Wherever Plenty’s crop invites
Our pitiful brigades,
Lurk cannoneers of Vested Rights,
Juristic ambuscades;

And here hangs Rent, that squalid cage
Within which Mammon thrusts,
Bound with the fetter of a wage,
The helots of his lusts.

With palsied Doubt as guide, we wind
Among the lanes of Need,
Where meagre Hungers scouting find
But slavered baits of Greed.

The wet-lipped Lamias of Caste,
Awaiting our advance,
Our choicest squadrons’ fealty blast
With magic smile and glance:

Delilah-limbed temptations flit
Among our drowsy rows,
And on our willing captains fit
The badges of our foes.

What wonder sometimes if in stealth
Our starker outposts wait,
And, in the prowling eyes of Wealth,
Dash vitriol of Hate;

Or if our Samsons, ere too late,
Their treasons should make good
By whelming in the temple’s fate
Their viper owners’ brood!

Our polyandrous dam has borne
To Satan and to God
The hordes of Night, the clans of Morn,
That through our valleys plod.

Ah, motherhood of misery
For Christ-child as for pest!
The greater her fertility
The drier grows her breast!

Too many linger on the track;
A few outstrip the time:
Some, God has tattooed yellow, black,
And some disguised with crime.

Art’s living archives here abound,
Carraras of Despair,
And those weird masks of Sight and Sound
The Tragic Muses wear.

Tho’ blind and dull, ’tis we supply
The Painter’s dazzling dreams;
The rolling flood of Poetry
From our dumb chaos streams.

Nay, when your world is over-tired,
And Genius comatose,
Our race, by Nemesis inspired,
Old Order overthrows:

With earthquake-life we thrill your land,
Refill the cruse of Art,
Revitalize spent Wisdom, and—
Resume our weary part.

The palace of successful Guilt
Is mortared with our shame;
On hecatombs of Us are built
The soaring towers of Fame.

We are the gnomes of Titan works
Whose throbbings never cease;
Our unregarded signet lurks
On every masterpiece.

The floating isles, that shuttling tie
All peoples into one
By adept steermen’s sorcery
Of magnet, steam, and sun;

Religion’s dolmens, Sphinxes, spires,
Her Biblic armouries;
The helot lightning of the wires
That mesh your lands and seas;

The viaducts ’tween Near and Far,
Whereon, o’er range and mead,
Bacchantic Trade’s triumphant car
And iron tigers speed;

The modern steely crops that rise
Where technic Jasons sow:
—All these but feebly symbolize
The largesse we bestow.

And our reward? In this wan land,
In clientage of Greed,
Despised, polluted, maimed and banned,
To wander and—to breed

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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