“When The Doctor Will Not Come” [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

“When The Doctor Will Not Come”

In the dark I see him ride,
Down the track two arms-lengths wide,
Loping sadly, loping slowly thro’ the constant-falling rain.
Branches strike the hard grey face,
Staring fixedly at space —
Riding grimly from the township to the rough bush-home again !
Riding back ! ah, riding back !
Thro’ the tree-trunks wet and black ;
Riding home without the doctor, at the slip-rails standing dumb.
P’raps there’s Hell wherein hearts fry,
But there’s Torment in the sigh
Of the horseman riding homeward when the Doctor will not Come !

Said he’d go for ten notes down,
Said he would not leave the town
’Less the cash was in his pocket, ’less the pay was in advance.
Said the night was too damn bad,
In his gown and slippers clad —
Said he’d had enough of cases where the pay was left to chance.
Said it business-like and cold,
Stipulating for his gold,
Ere he’d stir to save an empress he would have his total sum !
Maybe Cains for ever fry,
But there’s Murder in the eye
Of the man who leaves the township when the Doctor will not Come !

Riding back to Her again,
Passing sadly thro’ the rain,
Horse dead-beat and stumbling slowly down the inky forest-way.
Riding home ! ah, riding home !
Like a living metronome
Swing the horse and heart together thro’ the branches dark and grey !
Riding leaden-limbed and drear,
Filled with horror’s misty fear
Lest he find her cold and painless — lest he find her stark and numb !
Maybe God Himself is dead,
Or He’d lift his ancient head,
And He’d maybe show compassion when the Doctor will not Come !

But He sits upon His throne
Like a figure carved in stone,
While His work is calling, calling, in the bushland far below !
But He sits there, stark and still,
And His heart-chords never thrill,
Or He’d leave his barrack Heaven, and He’d take
His rusty hoe !
He would get to work again,
Pacing thro’ the pouring rain
To the sick-beds in the gum-lands where the hearts in torment drum,
Oh, He’d make a good old job
Of straightening up His globe
If the Lord looked in and tended when the Doctor will not Come !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 38-40

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