voices from the past

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Failure

by George Essex Evans (1863 - 1909)

Australian writer

The boy went out from the ranges grim,
And the breath of the mountains went with him;
With a song in his heart and a smile on his face,
And a light in his eyes for a foremost place:
And the good green earth, and the salt sea spray,
And the soft blue skies, they were his that day;
And, like Eden, ringed with a golden fire —
Afar rose the Land of His Heart’s Desire.
The boy went down to the city’s strife,
And his face was lost in the surge of life;
But a Power that he did not understand
Had nerved his brain and his fighting hand.
And he strove and failed, and he rose and won —
And he failed again ere the fight was done;
But he battled on when the days were dire
To win to the Land of His Heart’s Desire.

And there, in the heart of the stress and din,
’Mid want and labour and wealth and sin,
The strong man struggled with shining eyes,
And forced a passage, and grasped the prize.
And he cried to the Power who had lent the fire:
“Lo! Fame is the Land of My Heart’s Desire!
Give the cup to me with a beaded brim.”
And the Power that he knew not gave it him.

But the air is keen on the Cliffs of Fame,
And the shafts that fly have a deadly aim!
With a foothold scarce, and a sleepless dread
For the gulfs below and the heights o’erhead,
He cried to the Power who had steeled his hand:
“I am outcast yet from my Fairyland!
For Fame is a land where no strength may tire,
But Love is the Land of My Heart’s Desire!”

Then there came to the man all his dream of Love,
With the brow of snow and the eyes of a dove,
With the glint of the sun on her wavy hair,
And her soul as pure as her face was fair.
Like a living lily to him she came,
Till his eyes were wet and his soul was flame,
And she called to him, with an outstretched hand,
And they entered into the Promised Land.

But there came a day when he asked his soul,
“Is this the land, and is this the goal?”
In his heart there lay what his lips denied —
The pang of a hunger unsatisfied.
“For Fame,” he said, “and for Love I wrought;
They are not the things that I should have sought:
’Tis to boundless power that my dreams aspire —
And Wealth is the Land of My Heart’s Desire!”

Then the Power that he did not understand
Gave him ships and houses and gold and land,
And the man’s power grew with each passing year;
But his thoughts were vexed with a sleepless fear,
And his hair grew gray with the iron strain
Of the dread of loss and the lust of gain,
And he bowed his head on his hands and said.
“All things are mine, but my heart is dead!”

And he thought of the boy from the ranges grim
With the breath of the mountains over him,
With a song in his heart and a smile on his face,
And a light in his eyes for a foremost place,
And the good green earth and the salt sea spray,
And the soft blue skies that were his that day,
When, like Eden, ringed with a golden fire,
Afar rose the Land of His Heart’s Desire.

Then clear on his startled ear there fell
A voice like the sound of a silver bell:
“To each is the work that he best can do,
But you turned from the work when it called to you.
And you sought instead for the vulgar praise,
For the lips of love, and for prosperous days.
And with all that the world can give you here,
You have lost the thing that you hold most dear.
For who hears the word that the Gods inspire—
In his work finds the Land of His Heart’s Desire.”

About the Author

See our page on George Essex Evans. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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