A Telephone Message

A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley


Hello! Hello!
Are you there? Are you there?
Ah! That you? Well,--
This is just to tell you
That there's trouble in the air...
In the air.
Trouble in the air!
Got that? ... Right!
Then--take a word of warning,
And ... Beware!

What trouble?
Every trouble,--everywhere,
Every wildest kind of nightmare
That has ridden you is there,
In the air.
And it's coming like a whirlwind,
Like a wild beast mad with hunger,
To rend and wrench and tear,--
To tear the world in pieces maybe,
Unless it gets its share.
Can't you see the signs and portents?
Can't you feel them in the air?
Can't you see,--you unbeliever?
Can't you see?--or don't you care,--
That the Past is gone for ever,
Past your uttermost endeavour,--
That To-day is on the scrap-heap,
And the Future--anywhere?

Ah--that's beyond me!--
But it lies with those who dare
To think of big To-morrows,
And intend to have their share.

All the things you've held and trusted
Are played-out, decayed, and rusted;
Now, in fiery circumstance,
They will all be readjusted.
If you cling to those old things,
Hoping still to hold the strings,
And, for your ungodly gains,
Life to bind with golden chains;--
Man! you're mightily mistaken!
From such dreams you'd best awaken
To the sense of what is coming,
When you hear the low, dull booming
Of the far-off tocsin drums.
--Such a day of vast upsettings,
Dire outcastings and downsettings!--
You have held the reins too long,--
Have you time to heal the wrong?

What's wrong? What's amiss?
Man alive! If you don't know that--
There's nothing more to be said!
--You ask what's amiss when your destinies
Hang by a thread in the great abyss?
What's amiss? What's amiss?--
Well, my friend, just this,--
There's a bill to pay and it's due to-day,
And before it's paid you may all be dead.
Wake up! Wake up!--or, all too late,
You will find yourselves exterminate.

What's wrong?
Listen here!--
Do you catch a sound like drumming?--
Far-away and distant drumming?
You hear it? What?
The wires humming?
No, my friend, it is not!
It's the tune the prentice-hands are thrumming,--
The tune of the dire red time that's coming,--
The far-away, pregnant, ghostly booming
Of the great red drums' dread drumming.
For they're coming, coming, coming,--
With their dread and doomful drumming,
Unless you...

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