[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]
Among The Thieves
There’s a section of the city which has barred its doors to pity —
Which exists by rule of Chitty and by Act of Parliament ;
There the lawyer and the agent hold their revel and their pageant,
And conspire to rob the lay gent and to owe the office rent !
There the dens are all of plaster, and are cold as alabaster —
There the walls foretell disaster with their atmosphere of fraud ;
Aye, the air is sour with malice, and no flower lifts up its chalice
In that region chill and callous, where the shark has his abode.
Iron doors creak on their hinges ; clerks deplore their empty bingies,
And the humble pauper cringes unregarded in the street ;
Men with sharp and hawk-like faces haste with swift and cat-like paces,
Even as the vulture traces from afar its smellful meat !
One inhales the breath of doom there — evil deeds for ever loom there,
Rotting down among the gloom there where the lawyers cogitate :
Steps of stone lead up to lairs, where they heed no anguished prayers —
Where the very stools and chairs seem instinct with greed and hate !
Harsh typewriters sharply clicking, with a grim persistent ticking,
Indicate where crows are picking luscious bones of pleasant Law ;
Scraps of ancient litigation rot in view of all the nation,
And provoke the approbation of the yawning legal maw.
Anxious clients state their cases, and anon with pallid faces
Scan the bill of costs that chases every shilling to its lair ;
Friendless women seeking Justice — in the law their hope and trust is —
Find the same as bitter dust is, and go home and tear their hair.
Lo ! the night-wind howls about them, and the breezes spurn and flout them —
Secrets talk within, without them ; Costs arise at dead of night ;
And the ghosts of guilt and plunder perch upon the stools when thunder
Splits the weeping skies asunder with a flash of scornful light.
Every deed-box opens dimly, documents step from them grimly,
And with tape-tied briefs they primly dance the Devil’s dance of theft ;
Wills and probates all dishevel — law-books leave their shelves and revel —
O ! they prance around the Devil, romping gaily right and left !
Oft the souls of dead attorneys make their stealthy midnight journeys
To their lair and hold wild tourneys round the Leader of the Bar ;
Lo, they clutch their hands together in a merry Devil’s tether,
And the law-books bound in leather think what jolly chaps they are !
While the weary world is sleeping, Coke and Littleton are leaping —
Sober Chitty time is keeping for the jubilating Law ;
Aye, the lawyer’s soul makes merry in that hybrid cemetery —
Most obsequious equerry clasping Satan’s master claw !
When the dawn creeps greyly over when the lass turns to her lover —
Lo, the caveats cease to hover round the great K.C. in black ;
Then the riot breaks asunder, and the souls go ’way down under,
With a muffled sound like thunder, leaving sulphur in their track.
Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 49-52
[Editor: Corrected “eemetery” to “cemetery”.]
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