The Empty Glass
by Henry Lawson, 1906
There are three lank bards in a borrowed room —
Ah! The number is one too few —
They have deemed their home and the bars unfit
For the thing that they have to do.
Three glasses they fill with the Land’s own wine,
And the bread of life they pass.
Their glasses they take, which they slowly raise —
And they drink to an empty glass.
(There’s a greater glare in the street to-night,
And a louder rush and roar,
There’s a mad crowd yelling the winner’s name,
And howling the cricket score:
Oh! The bright moonlight on the angels white,
And the tombs and the monuments grand —
And down by the water at Waverley
There’s a little lone mound of sand.)
Oh, the drinkers would deem them drunk or mad,
And the barmaid stare and frown —
Each lays a hand on the empty glass
Ere they turn it upside down.
There’s a name they know, in a hand they know,
Was scratched with a diamond there —
And they place it in sight — turn on more light —
And they fill their glasses fair.
There’s a widow that weeps by the Hornsby line,
And she stood by him long and true —
But the widow should think by the Hornsby line
That others have loved him too,
‘Twas a peaceful end, and his work was done,
When called with the year away;
And the greatest lady in all the land
Is working for her to-day.
If the widow should fear for her children’s fate,
Or brood on a future lot,
In a frivolous land with her widowed state
In a short twelve months forgot.
She can lay her down for a peaceful rest
And forget her grief in sleep,
For his brothers have taken an oath to-night,
An oath that their hearts can keep.
They have taken an oath to his memory,
A pledge they cannot recall,
To stand by the woman that stood by him,
Through poverty, illness and all.
They are young men yet, or the prime of life,
And as each lays down his trust,
May the world be kind to the left behind,
And their native land be just.
(Silence of death in town to-night,
And the streets seem strangely clear —
Have the pitiful slaves of the gambling curse
Fled home for a strange new fear?
Oh, the soft moonlight on the angels white,
Where the beautiful marbles stand —
And down by the rollers at Waverley
There’s a mound of the golden sand.)
Henry Lawson, 1906, Australian poet
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward