The Bridge of Sighs [poem by Kenneth Mackay]

[Editor: This poem by Kenneth Mackay was published in Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes (1887).]

The Bridge of Sighs.

Along the bridge the people pass;
The river, like dark gloomy Styx,
A stream in which each sex and class
Who cross must mix.

Sin brushes with her tainted skirt
The snowy robe that virtue wears;
Both gilded wealth and squalid dirt
The roadway bears.

And there beside a pillar sits
A woman wan, with hungry eyes;
Across whose brow the moonlight flits,
And, pitying, flies.

With one poor pallid wasted arm,
Her bosom warm its loving nest,
She guards her infant child from harm
Against her breast.

About her feet the roses lie
That she has offered all day long;
The plaintive cry, “Sweet flowers do buy!”
Her sad, sad song.

But few alas have time to think,
And fewer still who think will care
To draw this poor waif from the brink
Of black despair.

The sullen stream still onward flows;
But neither wealth nor virtue deign
To help this woman no one knows,
And ease her pain.

* * * * * *

Too late, alas! no pitying hand
From that great crowd is stretched to save;
She seeks at last some kinder land
Beneath the wave.

Kenneth Mackay, Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes, Sydney: Edwards, Dunlop & Co., 1887, pages 74-75

Editor’s notes:
Styx = the river Styx (in Greek mythology, a river which formed the boundary between the land of the living and the underworld)

waif = an item found but not claimed by its owner (such as something washed up by the sea); a stray person or animal, especially an abandoned, homeless, or orphaned child

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)

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