The Folk

Original Text: 
The Verse of Christopher Brennan, ed. A. R. Chisholm and J. J. Quinn (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1960): 46-48. PR 6003 R352A17 Robarts Library
1It is the coming of the night:
2they gather to their homes; they light
3the scanty flame, and draw the chair
4closer, and warmth enchants their care.
5Another day is dead and they
6have lived it not: such price they pay
7daily, to fend the hunger-dread,
8that death may find them in safe bed.
9Pale wretches! yet this hour at least
10they spend, when yon dark hive releas'd,
11in dreams that soar beyond the night
12and cheer the heart to front the light:
13for lo: each steadfast window-fire:
14would you not say, tho' stars may tire
15and the heavens age, man yet maintains
16his watchfires o'er the homeless plains:
17close worlds of love and hope that glow
18more golden-soft, for that they know
19that one undying fire in all
20burns, and the march harks to one call.
21--Nay, the poor hearts of dust are proud:
22O wonderful! our might allow'd
23of God: and lo! His empire come:
24and night is vast above them, dumb.
25They hunger? give them men to slay:
26they lack for light and air? then room
27is free, yonder, and chance of play
28where the hill-scarring cannons boom.
29The house is rotting? flags will mask,
30and trophies best, where damps intrude:
31lift lights and song, and none will ask
32(being fools) if this be to their good.
33And they who fall will vex us not,
34and those who stay shall feed full meal
35of glory: while their pride is hot
36no need to whistle them to heel.
37These be your gods, O Israel!
38--And who am I to blame their law?--
39Nay, an they will not learn, 'tis well
40that fools should chew the husks and straw.
41--Not this, not this my word to you!
42O you, to whom our hope is bound
43and love, whoever brood anew,
44each age, on the dread lot you found,
45Seeing you, in the dark of time
46forever that dumb battlefield,
47piteous, ignored, trampled, sublime,
48where God and Night struggle nor yield
49till there be won that glorious birth
50that weds them, slain, embraced, and fused
51in man, the arisen soul of Earth
52--how many a time have ye refused!
53Was this your faith to them whose trust
54urged within your flesh, your bone,
55compulsive, moulding--which ye must
56obey, or madden, all unknown--
57to them that in the rearward dark
58bow'd them above the clod and fed
59the brooding earth with dream, with stark
60sweat, and with sorrow of their dead;
61and laid them in her lap, content
62to pass, if so her sacred morn
63might show some time the grave-clothes rent
64around the Saviour, Easter-born!
65and that high sorrow of the stars,
66long-sunder'd, suff'ring, shall it help
67nothing against the hate that mars?
68and this, your street-long bloodhound-yelp,
69shall this be all the note our earth
70sends outward to the night, to greet
71her sisters, bound in mutual dearth?
72Is Eden nought but the loud street?
Publication Notes: 
Christopher Brennan, Burden of Tyre: Fifteen Poems (Sydney: Harry F. Chaplin, 1953). Digital facsimile by the University of Sydney Library, 1997. See
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire; Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: