Dust and Shade [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Earthen Floor (1902).]


Dust and Shade.

Pour out that wine! ’tis Lethe’s cup,
And let the wild war-song go up;
To-night we’ll drink to godlike men
Whose words shall chain the ages — then.
To-night we’ll drink that other sphere,
Whose domèd temples dim appear
Beyond the mists — beyond the shades —
Beyond the shot-rent barricades.

Hark! how the world-storm shrieks without;
Hear! fierce and long the myriad shout
In hall, and square, in mart, and street,
Where worms rob, lie, drink, brawl and eat —
Prey on themselves — See! how the thief scowls.
The wanton lures, the bald rake prowls.
See! Innocence to death is trod —
And Love is Lust, and Mammon — God.

Shut out that street! it’s yellow glare,
It’s mud, it’s woe, it’s grey despair.
Close well the door! let sight and sound
In wild uncurbéd joys be drown’d.
This wine is red; redder than blood —
Their blood. The rich grape’s purple flood
Is ours. The fruits of earth, the flowers,
The corn, the oil are ours — all ours.

And theirs? But what of them? Above
The Good God watches, and his love
(So the priests say) is strong and great.
Then if they hunger — let them wait!
On with the feast! My latest girl
Is opal-eyed; her teeth are pearl,
She’s Love’s own daughter, and her lips
Are red as the red wine she sips.

On with the feast! We are alone.
This drink is strong. The guests have flown;
’Tis late! How now? My love, no doubt,
Is drunk. What’s this — the lights are out!
Ah! found at last. Awake! Awake!
Have I not sold all for thy sake!
Have I not. . . My God!! Her breath
Is charnel; and her name is — Death.

E. J. Brady, The Earthen Floor, Grafton (N.S.W.): Grip Newspaper Co., 1902

Editor’s notes:
Lethe = in Greek mythology, Lethe was the river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades; Lethe can also refer to an alcoholic drink, or a condition of forgetfulness or oblivion

Mammon = riches, money; greed for money; money or wealth as a false object of worship (as in the phrase “to worship at the feet of Mammon”, or similar); wealth as an evil influence; Mammon was also personified as a devil, or demon, of wealth and greed

mart = market

rent = split, tear apart, cleave, past tense of “rend” (to tear or break in a violent manner)

shot = lead balls used in antique rifles; pellets of lead contained within a shotgun cartridge; iron or lead projectiles fired from cannons, whether as a single large cannon ball (round shot), or as multiple small pieces, such as canister shot, spherical case shot (shrapnel), or grapeshot (may also refer to: the past tense of the act of shooting (discharging of) a firearm, crossbow, bow, etc.; the act of being hit with a bullet)

shot-rent = torn apart, or split in two, by cannon shot (projectiles fired from cannons)

without = (archaic) outside

Old spelling in the original text:
’tis (it is)

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