They leave us – artists, singers, all –
When London calls aloud,
Commanding to her Festival
The gifted crowd.
She sits beside the ship-choked Thames,
Sad, weary, cruel, grand;
Her crown imperial gleams with gems
From many a land.
From overseas, and far away,
Come crowded ships and ships –
Grim-faced she gazes on them; yea,
With scornful lips.
The garden of the earth is wide;
Its rarest blooms she picks
To deck her board, this haggard-eyed
Sad, sad is she, and yearns for mirth;
With voice of golden guile
She lures men from the ends of earth
To make her smile.
The student of wild human ways
In wild new lands; the sage
With new great thoughts; the bard whose lays
Bring youth to age;
The painter young whose pictures shine
With colours magical;
The singer with the voice divine –
She lures them all.
But all their new is old to her
Who bore the Anakim;
She gives them gold or Charon’s fare
As suits her whim.
Crowned Ogress – old, and sad, and wise –
She sits with painted face
And hard, imperious, cruel eyes
In her high place.
To him who for her pleasure lives,
And makes her wish his goal,
A rich Tarpeian gift she gives –
That slays his soul.
The story-teller from the Isles
Upon the Empire’s rim,
With smiles she welcomes – and her smiles
Are death to him.
For Her, whose pleasure is her law,
In vain the shy heart bleeds –
The Genius with the Iron jaw
And when the Poet’s lays grow bland,
And urbanised, and prim –
She stretches forth a jewelled hand
And strangles him.
She sits beside the ship-choked Thames
With Sphinx-like lips apart –
Mistress of many diadems –
Death in her heart!
© Victor Daley