In the Street
The night, the rain, who could forget? —
The grey streets glimmering in the wet:
Wreckers and ruined wreckage met:
There was no dearth
Of all the unlovely things that yet
Must plague the earth.
Gloom, and the street’s unhallowed joys:
The sly-eyed girls, the jeering boys:
Faint-carolling amid the noise
A woman worn —
A broken life: a heart, a voice,
Trembling and torn.
She did not sing of hillside steep,
Of reapers stooping low to reap:
No love-lorn shepherd with his sheep
Made moan or call:
A mother kissed her child asleep,
And that was all.
Slowly into our hearts there crept
I know not what: it flamed! it leapt!
Was it God’s love that in us slept? ..
I saw the mark
Of tears upon her, as she stept
Into the dark.
Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, Sydney: The Bookfellow, 1919, page 59
Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson, Ballad and Lyrical Poems, Sydney: The Bookfellow in Australia, 1923, page 71
John Shaw Neilson (edited by R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Company, 1934, page 53
dearth = lack, scarcity
stept = archaic spelling of “stepped” (past tense of “step”: to move forward with one foot; to move forward one pace)