― 164 ―

The Dream of Harum-Scarum

note 'Twas near the chime of supper time, the night was calm and cool,
As five and-twenty legislators bounded out of school.
And they sought the snug refreshment-room as tadpoles seek a pool.

And as they passed the jovial glass their tongues all glibly ran,
Stones of the Democratic Arch, they gloried in its span,
But the “Keystone" sat remote from all, a melancholy man.

He wore a meek and crumpled look, his voice was but a wheeze,
An air of care was on his brow, for his mind was ill at ease;
So he leaned his head on his hand and read the papers on his knees.

  ― 165 ―
Sheaf after sheaf he turned them o'er, nor ever glanced aside,
He read the cost of wild-cat schemes and the price of humbled pride;
He saw the ghosts of buried hopes, and wondered why they died.

Then leaping to his feet upright, some moody turns he took,
He sought the Labour Members' room to find a quiet nook;
And, lo! he saw a swarthy man, who pored upon a book.

"Jimmy, my boy, what is't you read? Some tale of bygone ages?
Or is it some new scheme to get less work for bigger wages?”
But Jimmy gave an upward glance: “'Tis Hansard's classic pages.”

Six hasty strides the “Keystone" took, as smit by Jimmy's glance,
Then slowly he came back to talk political romance;
And sitting down by Jimmy's side, he spoke about finance.

  ― 166 ―
He told how Fat Men walk the earth with stores of wealth untold,
All eager to invest it in a policy that's bold;
And how to prop the Sacred Arch he'd spent the Fat Man's gold.

"Ah, well,” quoth he, “I know for truth their wealth must be extreme;
It ought to keep on flowing in a vast perennial stream.
But, Jim, methought last night I killed the Fat Man in a dream.

“I did not use a knife or gun to strike him stiff and cold,
I hit him with a policy that was both new and bold;
I guessed that that would lay him flat, and I could spend his gold.

"Two sudden blows with the Income Tax and one with a Heavy Loan,
One extra squeeze with the Day-Work stroke and then the deed was done;
There was nothing lying at my feet but lifeless flesh and bone.

  ― 167 ―
"Methought a crowd then gathered round, from town and bush they came,
Ten thousand thousand unemployed, all crying out with blame;
I took the Fat Man by the hand and called upon his name.

"And, lo! from forth the famished crowd, from starving child and wife,
There came a bitter, mournful cry that filled my ears with strife:
'Thou foolish man, take up thy dead and bring it back to life!’

"I took the Fat Man's body up and bore it to a stream,
I bathed his brow with Common Sense! my fright was so extreme;
But Jim, my boy, remember this was nothing but a dream.

"For months I lived in agony, from weary chime to chime,
The Arch, that stood so solid once was shaking all the time;
The very rock on which it stood seemed changing into slime.

  ― 168 ―
"My only hope was now a loan, and I resolved to try,
I called upon the Fat Man with a wild despairing cry;
But the Fat Man lay a heap of clay, and the stream of gold was dry.

"Then down I cast me on my face, and first began to weep,
For I felt my billet then was one I could not hope to keep;
And I cursed the howling unemployed with curses loud and deep.

"And now that wretched, horrid dream, pursues me while awake,
Again, again, with frenzied brain, the Fat Man's life I take;
And the constant wobbling of the Arch makes e'en the 'Keystone' shake.

"And still no peace from the hungry throng will night or day allow;
The unemployed pursue my soul. They stand before me now!”
The frightened Jim looked up, and saw huge drops upon his brow.

  ― 169 ―
That very night, while gentle sleep Jim's tired eyes caressed,
The “Keystone" tumbled from the Arch, then down fell all the rest;
And Harum-Scarum lay beneath with the ruins on his chest.