Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
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Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
 
56. The Grey Company
 
By Jessie Mackay
 
 
O THE GREY, grey company
  Of the pallid dawn!
O the ghostly faces
  Ashen-like and drawn!
The Lord’s lone sentinels        5
  Dotted down the years—
The little grey company
  Before the pioneers!
 
Dreaming of Utopias
  Ere the time was ripe,        10
They awoke to scorning,
  To jeering and to strife.
Dreaming of millenniums
  In a world of wars,
They awoke to shudder        15
  At a flaming Mars.
 
Never was a Luther
  But a Huss was first—
A fountain unregarded
  In the primal thirst.        20
Never was a Newton
  Crowned and honoured well,
But first a lone Galileo
  Wasted in a cell.
 
In each other’s faces        25
  Looked the pioneers;—
Drank the wine of courage
  All their battle years.
For their weary sowing
  Through the world wide,        30
Green they saw the harvest
  Ere the day they died.
 
But the grey, grey company
  Stood every man alone
In the chilly dawnlight:        35
  Scarcely had they known
Ere the day they perished
  That their beacon star
Was not glint of marshlight
  In the shadows far.        40
 
The brave white witnesses
  To the truth within
Took the dart of folly,
  Took the jeer of sin.
Crying, ‘Follow, follow        45
  Back to Eden-gate!’
They trod the Polar desert,—
  Met the desert fate.
 
Be laurel to the victor,
  And roses to the fair;        50
And asphodel Elysian
  Let the hero wear:
But lay the maiden lilies
  Upon their narrow biers—
The lone grey company        55
  Before the pioneers!
 

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