HARK! Young Democracy from sleep
Our careless sentries raps:
A backwash from the Future’s deep
Our Evil’s foreland laps.
Unknown, these Titans of our Night
Their New Creation make:
Unseen, they toil and love and fight
That glamoured Man may wake.
Knights-errant of the human race,
The Quixotes of to-day,
For man as man they claim a place,
Prepare the tedious way.
They seek no dim-eyed mob’s applause,
Deem base the titled name,
And spurn, for glory of their Cause,
The tawdry nymphs of Fame.
No masks of ignorance or sin
Hide from them you or me:
We’re Man—no colour shames our skin,
No race or caste have we.
The prognathous Neanderthal,
To them, conceals the Bruce;
They see Dan Aesop in the thrall;
From swagmen Christ deduce.
Tho’ butt for lecher’s ribaldry
And scarred by woman’s scorn,
In baby-burdened girl they see
With them, to racial siredom glides
The savage we deprave;
That eunuch brilliant Narses hides:
A Spartacus, that slave.
They Jesus find in manger waif;
In horse-boys Shakespearehood:
And earthquake-Luthers nestling safe
In German miner’s brood.
The God that pulses everywhere
They know fills Satan’s veins;
No felon but they see Him there
Behind His mirror’s stains.
’Tis theirs Earth’s charnel rooms to clear,
And ruthless sweep away
The Lares and Penates dear
To man in his decay.
Their restless energy supplies
Munitions that will wreck
The keeps whence feudal enemies
Our free banditti check.
Their unrelenting wars they wage,
These Furies of the Right,
Where myriad Falsehood’s legions rage,
Artilleried by Might;
Where Fashion’s stupid iron clamps
Young Innovation’s head,
And Law the stalwart Present cramps
In Past’s Procrustes-bed;
Where Pride of learning, substance, blood,
Or prowess in the strife,
Exacts from teeming lowlihood
The lion’s share of life;
Where Gluttony would to the brutes
Degrade his loose-lipped gangs;
Where Tyranny his venom shoots
From one or million fangs;
Where Cruelty, in Wisdom’s mask,
Piths fame from writhing beasts;
Where blest is racial Murder’s task
By Christ’s apostate priests.
In Punic or in Persian fray
With Love’s and Conscience’ foes,
Unadvertising Romans they,
And Spartans free from pose.
Abused as mad or traitors by
The trolls they would eject;
Cold-shouldered by wan Apathy;
Of motives mean suspect;
Outcast from social gaieties;
Denied life’s lilied grace;
They mount their hidden Calvaries
To save the human race.
The bowers of Art a few may know;
A few wait highly placed:
Most bear the hods of common woe,
And some you call disgraced.
But whether in the mob or school,
In church or poverty,
They teach and live the Golden Rule
Of Young Democracy:—
‘That culture, joy and goodliness
Be th’ equal right of all:
That Greed no more shall those oppress
Who by the wayside fall:
‘That each shall share what all men sow:
That colour, caste’s a lie:
That man is God, however low—
Is man, however high.’
Bernard O'Dowd's Other Poems
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