The Afterglow

A poem by Henry Lawson

Oh, for the fire that used to glow
In those my days of old!
I never thought a man could grow
So callous and so cold.
Ah, for the heart that used to ache
For those in sorrow’s ways;
I often wish my heart could break
As it did in those dead days.

Along my track of storm and stress,
And it is plain to trace,
I look back from the loneliness
And the depth of my disgrace.
’Twas fate and only fate I know,
But all mistakes are plain,
’Tis sadder than the afterglow,
More dreary than the rain.

But still there lies a patch of sun
That ne’er will come again,
Those golden days when I was one
Of Nature’s gentlemen.
And if there is a memory
Could break me down at last,
It sure would be the thought of this,
The sunshine in the past.

But ’spite of sunshine on the track,
And well the sun might shine,
My heart grows hard when I look back
From these dark days of mine.
A nobler child was never born
In all the Southern land,
The slave of selfish ignorance
That could not understand.

Oh, I had lived for many years
In a world of my ideal,
With no false laughter, no false tears,
And it seemed very real.
But I was wakened from my dreams,
And learnt with hardening eyes
A world of selfish treachery,
Of paltry shame and lies.

I left the truest friends on earth
Who did not need my aid,
And worked for those who were not worth
The sacrifice I made.
And while I blindly strove to raise
The coward and the clown,
They sneaked behind by shady ways
And tore my palace down.

But let those faithless friends of mine
Who’d think of me with scorn,
Remember that for many years
A heavy load I’ve borne.
And my true friends when all is done,
And my sad soul is gone,
Will think of battles I have won
When I lead rivals on.

And though from spite and worldly things
I well should be exempt,
For little men and paltry men
I scarce can feel contempt.
They followed me with flattery
In the days when I was brave,
But for those who have been true to me
I’ll strike back from the grave!

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