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- Poems of Purpose - 1/12 -

Transcribed from the 1919 Gay and Hancock edition by David Price, email


Contents: A Good Sport A Son Speaks The Younger Born Happiness Seeking for Happiness The Island of Endless Play The River of Sleep The Things that Count Limitless What They Saw The Convention Protest A Bachelor to a Married Flirt The Superwoman Certitude Compassion Love Three Souls When Love is Lost Occupation The Valley of Fear What would it be? America War Mothers A Holiday The Undertone Gypsying Song of the Road The Faith we Need The Price he Paid Divorced The Revealing Angels The Well-born Sisters of Mine Answer The Graduates The Silent Tragedy The Trinity The Unwed Mother to the Wife Father and Son Husks Meditations The Traveller What Have You Done?


I was a little lad, and the older boys called to me from the pier: They called to me: 'Be a sport: be a sport! Leap in and swim!' I leaped in and swam, though I had never been taught a stroke. Then I was made a hero, and they all shouted: 'Well done! Well done, Brave boy, you are a sport, a good sport!' And I was very glad.

But now I wish I had learned to swim the right way, Or had never learned at all. Now I regret that day, For it led to my fall.

I was a youth, and I heard the older men talking of the road to wealth; They talked of bulls and bears, of buying on margins, And they said, 'Be a sport, my boy, plunge in and win or lose it all! It is the only way to fortune.' So I plunged in and won; and the older men patted me on the back, And they said, 'You are a sport, my boy, a good sport!' And I was very glad.

But now I wish I had lost all I ventured on that day - Yes, wish I had lost it all. For it was the wrong way, And pushed me to my fall.

I was a young man, and the gay world called me to come; Gay women and gay men called to me, crying: 'Be a sport; be a good sport! Fill our glasses and let us fill yours. We are young but once; let us dance and sing, And drive the dull hours of night until they stand at bay Against the shining bayonets of day.' So I filled my glass, and I filled their glasses, over and over again, And I sang and danced and drank, and drank and danced and sang, And I heard them cry, 'He is a sport, a good sport!' As they held their glasses out to be filled again. And I was very glad.

Oh the madness of youth and song and dance and wine, Of woman's eyes and lips, when the night dies in the arms of dawn! And now I wish I had not gone that way. Now I wish I had not heard them say, 'He is a sport, a good sport!' For I am old who should be young. The splendid vigour of my youth I flung Under the feet of a mad, unthinking throng. My strength went out with wine and dance and song; Unto the winds of earth I tossed like chaff, With idle jest and laugh, The pride of splendid manhood, all its wealth Of unused power and health - Its dream of looking into some pure girl's eyes And finding there its earthly paradise - Its hope of virile children free from blight - Its thoughts of climbing to some noble height Of great achievement--all these gifts divine I cast away for song and dance and wine. Oh, I have been a sport, a good sport; But I am very sad.


Mother, sit down, for I have much to say Anent this widespread ever-growing theme Of woman and her virtues and her rights.

I left you for the large, loud world of men, When I had lived one little score of years. I judged all women by you, and my heart Was filled with high esteem and reverence For your angelic sex; and for the wives, The sisters, daughters, mothers of my friends I held but holy thoughts. To fallen stars (Of whom you told me in our last sweet talk, Warning me of the dangers in my path) I gave wide pity as you bade me to, Saying their sins harked back to my base sex.

Now listen, mother mine: Ten years have passed Since that clean-minded and pure-bodied youth, Thinking to write his name upon the stars, Went from your presence. He returns to you Fallen from his altitude of thought, Hiding deep scars of sins upon his soul, His fair illusions shattered and destroyed. And would you know the story of his fall?

He sat beside a good man's honoured wife At her own table. She was beautiful As woods in early autumn. Full of soft And subtle witcheries of voice and look - His senior, both in knowledge and in years.

The boyish admiration of his glance Was white as April sunlight when it falls Upon a blooming tree, until she leaned So close her rounded body sent quick thrills Along his nerves. He thought it accident, And moved a little; soon she leaned again. The half-hid beauties of her heaving breast Rising and falling under scented lace, The teasing tendrils of her fragrant hair, With intermittent touches on his cheek, Changed the boy's interest to a man's desire. She saw that first young madness in his eyes And smiled and fanned the flame. That was his fall; And as some mangled fly may crawl away And leave his wings behind him in the web, So were his wings of faith in womanhood Left in the meshes of her sensuous net.

The youth, forced into sudden manhood, went Seeking the lost ideal of his dreams. He met, in churches and in drawing-rooms, Women who wore the mask of innocence And basked in public favour, yet who seemed To find their pleasure playing with men's hearts, As children play with loaded guns. He heard (Until the tale fell dull upon his ears) The unsolicited complaints of wives And mothers all unsatisfied with life, While crowned with every blessing earth can give Longing for God knows what to bring content, And openly or with appealing look Asking for sympathy. (The first blind step That leads from wifely honour down to shame, Is ofttimes hid with flowers of sympathy.)

Poems of Purpose - 1/12

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