The Worked-Out Mine

A poem by Edward Dyson

On summer nights when moonbeams flow
And glisten o’er the high, white tips,
And winds make lamentation low,
As through the ribs of shattered ships,
And steal about the broken brace
Where pendant timbers swing and moan,
And flitting bats give aimless chase,
Who dares to seek the mine alone?

The shrinking bush with sable rims
A skeleton forlorn and bowed,
With pipe-clay white about its limbs
And at its feet a tattered shroud;
And ghostly figures lurk and groan,
Shrill whispers sound from ghostly lips,
And ghostly footsteps start the stone
That clatters sharply down the tips.

The engine-house is dark and still,
The life that raged within has fled;
Like open graves the boilers chill
That once with glowing fires were red;
Above the shaft in measured space
A rotted rope swings to and fro,
Whilst o’er the plat and on the brace
The silent shadows come and go.

And there below, in chambers dread
Where darkness like a fungus clings,
Are lingering still the old mine’s dead
Bend o’er and hear their whisperings!
Up from the blackness sobs and sighs
Are flung with moans and muttered fears,
A low lament that never dies,
And ceaseless sound of falling tears.

My ears intent have heard their grief
The fitful tones of Carter’s tongue,
The strong man crushed beneath the reef,
The groans of Panton, Praer and Young,
And ‘Trucker Bill’ of Number Five,
Along the ruined workings roll;
For deep in every shoot and drive
This mine secretes a shackled soul.

Ah! woeful mine, where wives have wept,
And mothers prayed in anxious pain,
And long, distracting vigil kept,
You yawn for victims now in vain!
Still to that god, whose shrine you were,
Is homage done in wild device;
Men hate you as the sepulchre
That stores their bloody sacrifice.

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