Poems by Percy Smythe


Our Fallen

The wild thyme grows on steep Gallipoli,
Soft breezes fan the plains of Palestine,
The sun glares hot on Egypt's sandy sea,
In France the poppied fields with scarlet shine.
Our Children marched away
In martial glamour,
Past is that passioned day,
And stilled its clamour.
They fought for Freedom's cause,
Guarding the morrow.
Dear bought was the victory,
Hearts droop in sorrow...
Our freedom they have won,
But, oh, the price!
Paid with our children's blood -
Sad sacrifice!
0 Thou who knowest dread war's futility,
Teach all mankind to love their fellow man,
Give tolerance for hate and jealousy.
That war might not the world embroil again.
Let the sad lesson burn
Deep in each mind,
Give men broad sympathy
For all mankind.
May the war's chastening scourge
Be for our good,
Make of the nations all
One brotherhood.
If thus the nations can
Love's wisdom gain,
Then was our children's blood
Not shed in vain.
Calm shines the sun on steep Gallipoli
O'er Egypt's sands, and plains of Palestine.
White crosses mark our dear dead children's graves.
In France the poppied fields with scarlet shine.


Sweet Pretty Creature

Sweet pretty cre-a-ture
I'd like to be at your
Wedding some day,
If your condescension
Permits my pretension.
The role I'd like to play
Is not that of wedding guest,
No, no, what I would like best,
If there is room
For a trifle like me,
Is simply to be
The bridegroom.

Silly romantic man,
Cross the Atlantic can
You come with me?
If speedy fruition
Must crown your ambition,
The man you'll need to be
Is not just a love-lorn guy,
Oh no, no, no: if my
Life you would share
In sweet felicity,
You will just have to be
A millionaire



Ah yes, you may avert your eyes in scorn;
Or edge your stinging words with bitter hate;
Cast me away like some curst reprobate,
Or rend afresh the heart you've bruised and torn,
Cold gem of matchless hardness that you are,
Whose austere worth scorns even to be kind.
Against pure friendship lock your stone-walled mind,
And guard your heart with poisoned scimitar.
Ah, dear proud soul, one thing you cannot do -
Kill the deep passion I endure for you.



The flautist played, and music, sweet and low,
With soft caresses old-time memories woke,
And long past scenes from bonds of lethe broke.
And I beheld red poppies all aglow
Like fiery mantle drape the dearth below;
I heard a heaven-rending sound that broke
The still of dawn, while sable clouds of smoke
Plunged dark and reeking round of scene of woe.

Men cower trembling in a shattered trench,
Unnerved with noise and blood and foul smoke-gust,
While shrieking shreds of steel through soft flesh tear,
Brains frenzied reel; stark hands in death-throes clench.
The whole creation's blasted into dust.
Hell's fury falls on shuddering Pozieres.



She used to sit upon a broken stile
With locks of auburn glinting in the sun,
When yet this tale of love was scarce begun.
Her grey eyes, how they sparkled! And her smile
Had all a maiden's freshness, free of guile,
And sweet as fountains where the waters run
And sing and dance and shimmer in the sun,
Like seas of opal round a golden isle.

Now shingled is her crop of auburn hair,
And slightly marked her brow with careworn seams.
At times she plaintive sighs, and frets the while,
Till Babe and I have coaxed her out of care.
Sweet joy! Again the jewelled sunshine gleams
From shimmering fountains in her radiant smile.


Night of Waiting

(Percy's 2 year old daughter Betty was in hospital)

He said she may not live to see the light
Of dawn steal forth into another day;
For now the fevered crisis must be passed.

Now white and still! Ah God, why do we love,
To have love riven on a cross of pain!
Love slowly builds its Heaven-ascending tower,
Uplifting souls far from the dross of earth,
And merging them in fellowship divine -
Till falls the hazard fate of Circumstance.
Let me be hard - a stoic hedonist,
Cold as Adonis to the calls of love,
Immune to suffering's plea for gentle pity,
Absorbed in spending life, and scarcely touched
When Death the plunderer seizes one I love.
It cannot be: love will not let me go,
But thralls my soul with bands of burning steel.

The doctor said she may not live till morn.
How cold and still, spent with the weary toil
Against encroaching sickness, does she lie,
As when a surging billow on the sand
Has spent its strength, and halts a moment, still,
Ere feebly falling backward to the deep!
Her waxen face lies wanly spirit-like
In its angelic sweetness, and her eyes,
Now opened, are as jeweled wells of love.
A smile that scarcely moves the pallid lips
Seems like a mystic message-ray of light
Sent back to greet me from the gate of Heaven.

Ah, Heavenly God, hold back the wheel of time,
That this dear smile may light eternity!
Let me but hold the love within my gaze
While rolls the cosmos onward to its doom:
This would be life, and Heaven, and all, to me!

Slowly the grim hours pass. The smile is gone.
The eyes are closed; the lips are leaden grey.
Oh, must she die? God, let me go with her
Down the abyss of eternity -
Whether it be to realms of endless joy
Or the long peace of never-ending sleep,
Yet still she lives: oh, speed the lingering hours
That leave the light of dawn submerged in darkness!

Stay, haggard hope: come not to sear my woe,
Scorching to life the dull wound of despair.
Hope counts the weary minutes one by one,
And turns each minute into aeons of Hell;
But, were it surely known that she would die -
Then let the sluggard night sleep on for ever!

The cold white stars grow dim; the darkness melts;
And gently comes the silver grey of dawn,
Touching the dark earth's bosom with its kiss.
Soft sleep enfolds her fast. Ah God Ah God
The morn is dumb with joy: my loved one lives.



The Flame Tree

The winter wind has swept her branches bare;
The last brave leaf has fallen, brown and dead;
Yet sturdily she lifts her valiant head,
Undaunted by the bleak and restless air -
Figure of fortitude, a virgin fair,
Stripped of her leafy gown, but lo , instead,
A wealth of flame-flowers, glowing deep and red,
Bid a warm challenge to the churlish air.

The lashing gales that stripped her garb away
Cannot subdue the cheery fire-red flowers -
Beacon of hope when Summer's warmth has fled.
So, when Life's winter-time holds fearful sway,
Be brave, my heart; withstand the storm-wind's powers;
And, like the wind-stript flame-tree, blossom red.


The Gots

What is our language coming to?
Our grammar's gone to pot,
For everywhere you hear men use
The interloping ".got".
"I've got a pain." "I've got no time."
"I've got to go". What rot!
Plague take the ass who introduced
The pleonastic "got".
This habit ought to be expunged
With scourges full of knots,
To purge our poor plagued mother tongue
Of what-not swarms of "gots".
They'll drive me dotty, potty, "gotty" -
They curl my blood in clots.
What ails me? Swat the plaguey lot!
Goot Gott! I've got the "gots".


Little Betty

(Percy's wife and young daughter Betty were overseas)

Beyond the sea there lives a little girl
With blushing cheeks more fair than May-morn rose
And sunny smile which light of gladness shows,
Sweet lips like petals that fresh buds unfurl,
And flaxen hair that glows with wayward curl,
Her merry face the queen of elfland knows,
And, flitting by her bedside, oft bestows
An elfin kiss while sleeps the little girl.

And when in fancy blooms afresh this flower -
Dear gem of childhood, oh, so far away! -
Fond thoughts are lost in mists of memory,
And fond love burns to reach the happy hour
That breaks the dawn of glad reunion's day,
And brings her home from far beyond the sea.



Warm living red - ah, what a varied glow
Of deep emotion in this colour burns!
What potent image of the stirring flow
Of feelings in impassioned hearts that know
The strains of Life's fantasies and nocturnes.
Light crimson! Hue of youth's untrammeled day,
When light feet dance the endless hours away,
When bold ambition fears no mean arrest,
When hopes run high and purpose holds no ruth,
When red, red love burns warm in raptured breast -
Light crimson, symbol of eternal youth!

Bright scarlet - what a deeper tale it tells
Of warm blood coursing through maturer veins;
Of smouldering desire that strong impels
To reckless deeds; of love that, dauntless, swells -
A fount of grievous joy and blissful pains;
Law-fated love that battles to be free,
And austere love that flies love's ecstasy;
Baulked purpose struggling onward to its goal;
Hope rising red from welter of despair;
Red wine; red sins that taint a wayward soul;
Fires of remorse that burn in fevered prayer.

But dark red is the hue of faded blooms
Whose withering petals curl and shrink and fall;
Like long-held hopes that sink into the glooms
Of Life's dark eventide, when nearer looms
The canopy of Death's descending pall.
Behold, dark red, the hopeless aftermath.
Where ends unbridled passion's reckless path.
But, ah, it tells the gladness of great minds
That struggle through to noble victory.
Hell's forces vanquished; suffering love that finds
Its Heaven of joy a blood-red Calvary.



A Golden Glance

You looked at me to-day - and life seems fair:
The sunlight shines in a golden skein,
Pouring its gladness forth; no more in vain.
The preening birds their melodies prepare,
Your glance unveiled earth's hidden beauties rare,
And in my wondering heart - ambrosial gain!
Warm memories of calm content remain,
Like the sweet incense of an evening prayer.
You looked at me to-day, and life is fair;
Now vanished is the gloom of yesterday
In a golden morn. For, when I saw you there,
Sweet were the warm uplifting powers that lay
Within your modest glance. What rapture wild
Should I have known, if only you had smiled!



Blessed Forgetfulness

Backward I look. It's like a waving dream
With colours melting in a misty haze,
Like tempests lulled in languid peace they seem,
Those far-gone, fearful days.

Backward I look, the Hell of thunder-roar,
When men were torn and crushed in hideous Death,
Sinks, from the clamouring horror long since o'er,
To a fitful breath.

Backward I look, shuddering to think that man
Smote man in warfare's reeking flame. And yet -
Soothed by the soft grey hand of time, I can



The age of childhood slips away,
And dawns the day of youth and maidenhood.
0 may long years of life serene
Move on like stars from this your natal day,
And may you always find life bright and good,
Ay, always better than it yet has been,
My dearest, sweet Thirteen.


My Garden

Artarmon Town's a garden gay
Where blossoms line each winding way;
"Tis where I live and work and play
With Dorothy.

Our garden plot has lots of room
For flowers that breathe their sweet perfume;
The roses simply love to bloom
For Dorothy.

The blossoms smile in shine or shower,
And love lives in our perfumed bower;
But 0, by far the sweetest flower
Is Dorothy.

But heigho, time is gliding on;
Dull Winter comes, the blooms are gone;
Then ah, what joy to look upon
My Dorothy.

Were I old Adam, how I'd grieve
When Eden's bowers I had to leave;
But just the same I'd sin, if Eve
Were Dorothy.

When Time bestows his final shove,
And sends us to the realms above,
I'll hope for joy and flowers and love,
And Dorothy.


The Temple of Baal - Jenolan

Down under a hill of calcium rock
With contours smoothed by mantling mountain gums,
A multitude of tunnels water-worn
Pursue a tortuous course, now spiraling high,
Now downward lunge with dizzy flights of steps,
Now creep beneath a dark low-hanging roof
Or skirt the walls of lofty vaulted domes,
Till sense and feeling reel in contemplation
Of this strange wonder-world beneath the earth.
This temple was not carved by human hands;
Its frosted sculptures own no human art;
Its frozen draperies, its jeweled cells, Its radiant blazonries, its thrones, its god,
Stood formed and fashioned, proudly still and silent,
Ere human form had crept upon the earth.

Here is a jeweled hall that far transcends
The gaudy pageantry of eastern kings.
No tawdry diamonds glitter with hard light,
But with the softer glow of calcite crystals
The spangled draperies twinkle goldenly;
And waves of alabaster, sheened like pearl,
Flow sweeping down in motionless cascades
Like foaming floods still-frozen in their courses;
Here is no glare of oriental colour,
But softly varying tones of brown and grey,
Sienna red and russet and dark umber,
And ochrous tints, and cream, and pearly white.
No armed phalanxes here of glittering spears,
But from the vaulted roof long stalactites
Sweep downward, glistening with a wax-like sheen,
Ranging in size from grand cathedral columns
To delicate pencils of translucent stone.
And from the ground rise up in solid splendour,
Combining grace with mounting massiveness,
The stalagmites that heavenward ascend
An inch while ages burn their years away;
And round the walls and round the towering dome,
From crevices, cornice, rock, and dim recess
Fall waxen draperies, hung in life-like folds,
Their white woof barred with bands of russet red.
Behold yon downward sweep of lustrous pearl
In luminous folds that seem to move and pause
And tremble, like a poised angels' wing.
And all around are clustering helictites,
The "mysteries" of this hall of mystery.
Here gems of lawless form that curl and twine,
Baffling conjecture with their quaint designs.

From these dark walls time immemorial hangs
In crystal shrouds and shimmering blazonries
That have outlived the lapse of untold years.
High on a rock within the vaulted dome,
Spread round with flowing robes of alabaster
The old god stands in calm, serene repose,
And downward looks with mute, disdainful mien
Upon the throng of worshippers below.
They call him Baal, yet this tall crystal god
Stood in this temple countless aeons before
The Babylonians build their golden temples,
Or Egypt's sons arose in the morn of time.

In this great hall I heard a maiden sing;
Her voice re-echoed from the towering dome,
And voice and echoes mingled fused, and blended,
Resounding 'mid the crystalline formations
In raptured melody that seemed to waken
The brooding spirit of the age-old halls.
The air was vibrant with a mystic spell;
My senses were enmeshed in fantasy,
For lo, methought those glistening stalactites
And all the array of still and silent forms
Joined vibrant voices in the maiden's song.

In this unhurried realm of fistful age
These forms that time has sculptured at his leisure,
These halls carved out through aeons of slow erosion,
Stand mute still, and maybe awed with wonder,
While our poor lives rush headlong towards the grave,
How sweet it were to quit the restless turmoil
And wed one's soul to this unhurried throng,
Forget the thousand heartaches and the cares
And merge into the streams of alabaster,
And with the lingering ages dream along
Into the caverned halls of yesterday.


A Cat for Sale

For sale a funny little cat
Who cannot even catch a rat,
Or kill one when it has been caught -
A cat, in fact, that's good for nought.
He sleeps all day, then meows for food,
Though when he's in a friendly mood
He'll curl up in your lap and purr,
And even let you stroke his fur.
But when he thinks there's something wrong
He utters protests loud and long;
Words can't describe precisely how
He squalls with such a mournful meow.
If dogs appear he takes to flight;
He never gets into a fight,
Except with other cats at night,
And then the din of caterwauling
All night long becomes appalling,
Drives all thought of sleep away
Until, worn out, at break of day,
You hear him meowing at the door.
His fur is clogged with bits of gore,
His skin is scratched, his ears are torn;
He looks so war-scarred and forlorn,
You can't be cross with him; instead
You let him curl up on your bed,
And lick the scratches and the sores
Collected in nocturnal wars.

Now he's for sale - this useless cat.
The price? I hadn't thought of that.
Come hither, cat. Hark at him snarling!
Well, now that I must fix his worth -
Alas, not a case for mirth -
I fear there won't be found on earth
Sufficient wealth to buy the darling!


Silly Old Sheep

As I was chasing a little old sheep
I met a young girl called Little Bo Peep.
"How dare you be so cruel" said she
"That sheep you are chasing belongs to me!
It was given to me by little Boy Blue,
And I think it's perfectly horrid of you
To be so cruel!" "Miss Peep," I said,
"Or may I call you 'Bo' instead?
I'd like to explain the reason why
A lad so respectable as I
Should chase such a thing as a silly old sheep.
Last night as I was trying to go to sleep,
And as it was getting extremely late,
I counted sheep running out through a gate,
One after another they trotted through,
Till up came this one that belongs to you."
And she said "Twasn't right for sheep
To run out of gates to put humans to sleep."
And then she said "I'll be seeing you soon".
And she ran up a hill and jumped over a moon.
"And there at the dead of the night was I,
Chasing your sheep all over the sky,
Down the valley and over the hill,
Till here I am, a-chasing them still."
I think my tale seemed rather wild,
And little Miss Peep looked up and smiled,
"Well, now I know the reason why
My sheep was lost all night, while I
Sought everywhere in vain. And so
I'm not going to let you call me Bo"
At this my heart went rat a tat tat,
"Miss Peep, if you are as cruel as that,
I'll never again be able to sleep,
And all night long I'll be chasing your sheep
And so I am sure you will alter your mind
Because to your sheep you are gentle and kind.
And though I am awfully bold and bad,
To call you 'Bo' would make me so glad
That I'd learn to be good, while crazy I'd go
If you'd let me call you 'my darling Bo'!"
The dear child trembled and blushed where she stood
"I shouldn't miss chancing to make people good".
She answered, "but yet I am rather hazy
On whether right to let you go crazy."
I said "Don't fear that I'll crazy go,
For I'm crazy already my darling Bo!"
So please - but I just couldn't finish my say,
For Bo's golden curls had got in the way.
As homeward I came with little Bo Peep,
She had quite forgotten her silly old sheep.
And now, when to sleep I cannot go,
I just go on happily dreaming of Bo.


Eyes of Grey

I looked for friendship in your eyes of grey:
For love, the flame of youth, is not for me;
Let us be friends - this was my only plea.
Friendship! The dross that gauds Life's glamorous day
Glitters a moment, like the wind-blown spray
That vanishes within the forming sea;
While friendship stands, as by a fast decree,
Firm as the rocks that tower above the bay.

Your glance to me brought memories of a friend
Beloved in youth. That likeness made me dare
To look for friendship in your eyes of grey,
Hoping your pride or diffidence to bend.
Vain thought. Cold eyes of grey - You did not care.
You gave me scarce a glance, and turned away.



Do you remember, Annabel, the sky of flaming gold
That eve when you and I along Pittwater's foreshore strolled?
And how the calm of twilight lured us on to thoughts of love,
While the buzzing of mosquitoes drifted through the air above?
How the graceful boats at anchor slept upon the silver tide,
And the ebbing water left a stretch of mud a furlong wide?
And how we watched the opal glowing of phosphorescent lights
And scratched our itching arms and legs, to ease the mozzy bites?
How fairy-golden stars illumed the vault of spangled blue,
And the sudden glare of motor head-lights cut the night in two?
Do you remember how the trees rose dimly overhead
And bramble thorns ensnared our inadvertent tread?
Your maidenly affection warmed my heart (though rather shocking)
Were your remarks on finding there were ladders in your stocking!)
How glad we were when o'er the hill-tops rose the golden moon.
We even loved the owl that croaked a melancholy tune.
We loved the little crickets as thy chirped their merry bars,
With interludes of honking from the horns of passing cars.
Dear love, it was a blissful time just night and you and I,
With the great mysterious bush all round, and the moon-god in the sky.
That night, that walk, that golden moon I simply can't forget,
For a hundred thousand sand-fly bites are burning on me yet.


Three Ventursome Maidens

When the solemn time was past midnight,
Out from the glare of electric light
In search of the thrill of a new delight,
Went three young maids.

Lured by the breakers' sombre roar.
The night was as black behind and before
As the ace of spades.

But Helen was daring, and Betty was game,
And to be over cautious Pat thought it a shame,
So down to the surf-wet sand they came,
All holding hands

They blithely hailed the glimmering stars,
In spite of the surf they sang some bars
Of the shanties sung by jolly sea-tars,
And danced on the sands.

The sea with mysterious shadows teemed,
Through which the white surf dimly gleamed,
And oh, how delightfully wicked is seemed
To be out so late!

And soon they came where the dark cliffs tall
Rose up from the sea in a sombre wall
And the dark of the night came down like a fall
From the halls of fate.

They talked in voices hushed and low
Scarce heard mid the swirling waters' flow;
While the midnight eeriness seemed to grow
Even more and more.

They talked of robbers and burglars bold,
Of travellers slain for the sake of their gold,
And of corpses lying stiff and cold
On the dark seas shore.

They were talking of lives by cut-throats doomed
When suddenly out of the darkness boomed
A challenge to halt, and before them loomed
A terrorising form.

Their hearts beat wild with sudden dread
And they gasped and gurgled and turned and fled,
While the voice of the local policeman said
"It's time you girls were home in bed."
And over the surf-wet sand they sped,
Nor stopped until they were safe in bed,
And each of them buried a tremulous head
‘Neath the blankets warm.


Winter Night

Dear Annabelle, I love you so,
For you through fire and flood I'd go.
I'd bake where the hot siroccos blow
Or freeze in the chills of the Arctic snow.
Or risk my life in the raging sea
If such dire things were necessary.
But if, in the cold of a winter night
I leave the warmth of the cozy bright
Glow of the fire in my bachelor grate,
And venture out, be it early or late,
The damp night air in my pathway lingers.
Seizes my throat with its clawing fingers,
Breathes in my lungs its pestilent breath
And tries to show me the way to death.
What wonder, then
If I turn back again
And seek the warmth of my bachelor flat
Where puss lies snoozing on the mat
Before the electric radiator,
And nothing comes to terminate her
Peaceful repose, while though not discordant
Is the howling of the wind around the eaves,
And its moaning through the agitated leaves,
With a wailing, snarling sound, grim and mordant
Like the cry of a hungry wolf waiting;
While in my home I hide -
Waiting and grimly meditating
The ending of his gloomy note
While fastening his fangs in my tender throat
The moment I venture outside.
And so, dear love, I fondly trust
You will not mind if I say I must
Our moonlit walk once more postpone,
And spend the night in my flat alone
Talking to you on the telephone.


Sleep Song

When at night you try in vain
To court the gentle dove of sleep,
And find it all in vain to count
A thousand silly bleating sheep,
Your restless mind stirred up in agitation,
And worries crowding your imagination,
Well, since it is a very pressing question,
Of resting weary faculties in slumber,
Don't go on counting number after number,
But try the simple plan of self-suggestion.
The lines that follow, learn
And in your memory keep
To serve the needed turn,
And just repeat them in your mind,
Softly and languidly, when you find
It hard to go to sleep.

Although I'm lying wide awake,
I really do not mind,
I like to be a-waking-dreaming
Like a soaring eagle seeming,
Yet I feel a languor creep
My senses through and soon I find
I'm beginning to go to sleep.
Imagination wanders far and wide,
Strange images now through my fancy glide.
My thoughts go roaming o'er the restless sea
("Roll on, thou dark and deep blue ocean, roll ")
And cradle in its deep immensity,
And feel soft languor, soothing to the soul.
And there I find a flock of wandering sheep
Who've come to sea in search of lost Bo Peep,
Or was it lost Bo Peep that found her sheep?
I really think I must be going to sleep.
My mind is sinking in a soft confusion;
I see strange things in colourful illusion;
And gentle, lazy languor through me seep,
Until I think I am one of the wandering sheep,
And feel assured that now, I am going to sleep.
I find it is no use to make
Resolves I simply cannot keep,
Because I am going to sleep.
To sleep, the sleep; I like to be
Awake, asleep: although I try
To keep awake, I am going to sleep.
With my heavy head pillowed on a sheep.
Sleep, sleep; the waters flow
Around and down we go,
Down, down where the waters roll
On till they reach their limitless goal,
Their goal where sea and heaven meet,
And melt in the mists of slumber sweet,
And now I am soaring through the sky,
Swinging round the stars so high
As they whirl around in endless sweep,
And all the time I am going to sleep.
I am rolling along 'mid the wandering stars
With their languorous music in drowsy bars
I am floating along on a rolling tide
Of dreams in waters deep and wide;
I am falling asleep on a wandering sheep
And the man in the moon is called Little Bo Peep,
And he says "Go to sleep; you are yawning to go
To the shore where the boomering lullabies grow
In the bays where the warm sea-waters flow
In the drowsy realm of sleep."



In a lonesome bay where I often go
A girl came to surf in the ocean's flow
And was carried out by an undertow.

From the terrifying waves did I assist her.
She looked so sweet who could resist her?
So while I held her in my arms I kissed her.

She smiled at me as we rested on the shore.
I thought what romance there might have been,
If I were not sixty-four and she a mere thirteen.


Australian Nudes

Here is an item of news
Which perhaps may amuse

The retreat of her undies
In the calm solitudes
Of a wild hoofed glen
Where maidens and men
Sought a primitive life
Removed from the strife
Of the civilized world,
And their banner unfurled
Of a new liberty
From the gross tyranny
Of civilized clothing.
Nor thought it a low thing,
Or vulgar, or bad
To mingle unclad -
This retreat, I must say
Was invaded to-day
By uniformed men,
Who brought from the glen
All the nudists they caught,
And to court they were brought.
And the magistrate said,
"You maidens and men,
The clothes you have shed
You must put on again."
Thus the grip of the law
With its far-reaching claw,
Which in all things intrudes,
Won the day for the prudes;
Now the nudes thought it best
To obey this behest
And so they got dressed.



The Antagonists

They do not snarl like tigers
Or glare with baleful eye,
They show no outward sign of rage,
They make no savage cry.

They crouch in solemn silence,
Keyed to a pitch intense;
And the movement of a limb
Betrays their conscious sense.

But in their hearts the keyed-up pitch
Of rivalry runs high,
While every nerve is tense, alert
To let no chance slip by.

The silent fight for life or death
Goes on in dreadful calm,
Relentless as the march of fate,
Untouched by softening calm.

When conies the sudden flash of wrath,
Power matching deadly power?
They crouch and watch, and watch and wait,
Hour after nerve-taut hour.

And when will shrieks and blows arise,
Dire test of brain and brawn?
Not yet; with cunning in his eyes,
One stirs in sudden enterprise,
And forward moves a pawn.