When London calls

Victor James Daley

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They leave us - artists, singers, all -
When London calls aloud,
Commanding to her Festival
The gifted crowd.

She sits beside the ship-choked Thames,
Sad, weary, cruel, grand;
Her crown imperial gleams with gems
From many a land.

From overseas, and far away,
Come crowded ships and ships -
Grim-faced she gazes on them; yea,
With scornful lips.

The garden of the earth is wide;
Its rarest blooms she picks
To deck her board, this haggard-eyed
Imperatrix.

Sad, sad is she, and yearns for mirth;
With voice of golden guile
She lures men from the ends of earth
To make her smile.

The student of wild human ways
In wild new lands; the sage
With new great thoughts; the bard whose lays
Bring youth to age;

The painter young whose pictures shine
With colours magical;
The singer with the voice divine -
She lures them all.

But all their new is old to her
Who bore the Anakim;
She gives them gold or Charon's fare
As suits her whim.

Crowned Ogress - old, and sad, and wise -
She sits with painted face
And hard, imperious, cruel eyes
In her high place.

To him who for her pleasure lives,
And makes her wish his goal,
A rich Tarpeian gift she gives -
That slays his soul.

The story-teller from the Isles
Upon the Empire's rim,
With smiles she welcomes - and her smiles
Are death to him.

For Her, whose pleasure is her law,
In vain the shy heart bleeds -
The Genius with the Iron jaw
Alone succeeds.

And when the Poet's lays grow bland,
And urbanised, and prim -
She stretches forth a jewelled hand
And strangles him.

She sits beside the ship-choked Thames
With Sphinx-like lips apart -
Mistress of many diadems -
Death in her heart!

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