Knights of Chance [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


Knights of Chance.

Men do not live in cities. Between the narrow ways
They walk as meek-faced merchants, dissembling all their days.
Ours are the open places; ours are the Plain and Sky;
The clean, deep-hearted Ranges, the Hills — which cannot lie!

Men do but dwell in cities. Yea, and the hollow paves
Mock at their cunning makers, mock at their master-slaves,
Breathing a tainted carbon, starved in a gilded room,
Moving the round eternal, walled in a high-housed tomb.

Sick unto death have we been; pining in wan distress,
Even as whited shadows, in crowded loneliness.
Sick of the garish highways, crushed by the houses tall,
Sad of the fevered faces; sad, heart-sad of it all.

So, for the brave wide waters! So, for the kicking screw!
So, for the north wind racing over the white-capped blue!
So, for the shouting breakers, the track of the Overland,
The speech of our strong-thewed Brother, the laugh that we understand.

We shall be no man’s servants; service to truant trolls
Owe we, and pay we ever, pay with our poor-priced souls.
Green is the land about us, all by the roadside fair,
Smoke of our camp-fires rising — pillars of promise there.

We shall be lords and masters, we shall be Knights of Chance,
Barons of Bold Adventure, Kings of the stout freelance,
Ours are the unwalled waters, ours are the West-lands wide,
Rovers and rovers ever, Sons of the Outer-side.

So were our sires before us — they of the ready hand
Sailing to seas uncharted; faring in No-Man’s-Land.
West to the open sunset! North to the open sea! —
So were our sires before us, so shall our children be!

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

Editor’s notes:
screw = a screw-propeller on a ship

thew = well-developed muscle or sinew; power, strength, or vitality of the muscles

wan = having a sickly or pale appearance; a poorly appearance suggestive of unhappiness or grief; a lack of energy or feeling (e.g. a smile or laugh, displaying little effort, energy, or enthusiasm); lacking good health or vitality (may also refer to something which is dim or faint, e.g. light, stars, sun)

yea = yes; indeed; truly; an affirmation (especially an affirmative vote), an indication of assent

[Editor: Changed “lonelinesss” to “loneliness”.]

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