[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]
The Whirligig of Time
A ballade of the whirligig, built up with bricks of verse !
Sing hey the gladsome whirligig, the bassinet, the hearse !
The rhymesters once knocked flat with scorn become the foremost bards,
While those who topped Fame’s Matterhorn are broken pots and shards.
We who to-day go first saloon last year were stowaways ;
Next year they’ll rise and “shoot the moon,” who lead the social blaze.
We sit to-day in Parliament who last year were in gaol;
We hear the heathen’s far lament — the local poor may wail.
No matter what our fortune is, a million or a dime,
We gamble with the same old foe that grinning thing called Time.
Our schedules vast to-day we file for half-pence in the pound ;
New debts to-morrow will we pile — when credit fresh we’ve found.
We moderns dread maternity, that once all women loved ;
We monkey with Eternity with fingers neatly gloved ;
We hire us fools to preach to us, behind whose backs we laugh ;
We gag all those who’d teach to us no gospel half-and-half.
We pat our vices lovingly, and call them virtues grand —
Should e’er man speak reprovingly, we yell “Go on the land !”
We are a most amusing lot — we’re mostly daubed with slime,
And down the stream we speed between the muddy banks of Time.
On thrones and such we keep a lot of puppet gods and kings ;
Then lo ! there comes a reaper-lot — and O ! their reaping stings !
With flashing scythes they hew them down, the kings and gods we made ;
Forgetting we once threw them down, we curse the mowing blade !
A paltry thing’s our memory, a paltry thing’s our mind —
The grinding of life’s emery has shorn the precious rind !
What’s crowned to-day to-morrow dies, per scaffold or the block ;
We gasp and then our sorrow dies — fresh play-things are in stock !
We’re pleased and then we tire of them, we mourn them in a rhyme,
And set the verse to music ground out by the wheels of Time.
We give and take in marriages (we strive to make it “take”) ;
In costly cabs and carriages rides virtue with the rake.
We prate about our holiness when both hands reek of sin —
No vestige of a soul in us automatons a-grin.
We leer and lie right cheerfully when, on the cushioned seats,
We eye those hanging fearfully behind on straps and cleats ;
We drive in style perhaps to-day, to-morrow we may be
Where are the beggar chaps to-day clinging uneasily !
But all of us, both great and small — clean-billed or dark with crime —
Must go and moulder eerily among the bones of Time.
Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 62-64
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