The Grey Company

Jessie Mackay

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O THE GREY, grey company
Of the pallid dawn!
O the ghostly faces
Ashen-like and drawn!
The Lord’s lone sentinels
Dotted down the years—
The little grey company
Before the pioneers!

Dreaming of Utopias
Ere the time was ripe,
They awoke to scorning,
To jeering and to strife.
Dreaming of millenniums
In a world of wars,
They awoke to shudder
At a flaming Mars.

Never was a Luther
But a Huss was first—
A fountain unregarded
In the primal thirst.
Never was a Newton
Crowned and honoured well,
But first a lone Galileo
Wasted in a cell.

In each other’s faces
Looked the pioneers;—
Drank the wine of courage
All their battle years.
For their weary sowing
Through the world wide,
Green they saw the harvest
Ere the day they died.

But the grey, grey company
Stood every man alone
In the chilly dawnlight:
Scarcely had they known
Ere the day they perished
That their beacon star
Was not glint of marshlight
In the shadows far.

The brave white witnesses
To the truth within
Took the dart of folly,
Took the jeer of sin.
Crying, ‘Follow, follow
Back to Eden-gate!’
They trod the Polar desert,—
Met the desert fate.

Be laurel to the victor,
And roses to the fair;
And asphodel Elysian
Let the hero wear:
But lay the maiden lilies
Upon their narrow biers—
The lone grey company
Before the pioneers!

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