A Ballad of Bitterness




How shall he sing of Christmas fun,
Or Christmas holiday,
A youth beneath an Eastern sun,
Six thousand miles away?

No holidays are his to take,
No theatres to see;
His Christmas songs the Presses make
That drive the C.M.G.

Beneath the palms, the dusty palms,
That shade his office roof,
He takes the telephone's alarms,
And wades through piles of 'proof'.

Along the course, the dusty course,
(Fresh from his morning tub)
He steers the 'bucking' waler' horse
Or hunts the jackal cub.

From nine to five his scissors gleam
Mid fifty-seven papers—
He tries by 'piling on the steam'
To drive away the 'vapours'

Yet—spite of office din and noise
Intrusive thoughts will come
And life, perhaps, has higher joys
Than scissors, proofs or gum.

Unhitched from paper leading strings
A vagrant thought will rove,
To where the Brompton smoke fog clings
O'er 'Twenty five, The Grove'.

It spoils the taste of his cheroots,
With telegraphic quickness
As, through his weary head, there shoots
A pang of—well, homesickness!

He wonders if you'll understand
How much this child can miss you;
And what he'd give to take your hand,—
And what he'd give to kiss you.

He wonders if, in years to come,
He'll save enough to go,
And take a first class ticket home,
Aboard the P and O.

He dreams of half a hundred things
Above the table's baize;
Of redhot months, with leaden wings,
And fever stricken days.

Of weary nights when, half the year,
The punkah creaked and swung
And, shrilling in his sleepless ear,
The foul mosquito sung.

But now the year begins to die
And Christmas is at hand—
What gift to greet you worthily
Can reach you from his hand?

He has no Christmas card to send—
No scented billet doux,
And so he forwards, dearest friend,
His heart's best love to you.

And if, on old ball programmes writ,
The speech looks poor and mean,
Believe him—half the truth of it
Lies deeper than is seen

He asks—'In midst of Christmas fun
And all your new year joy
Think of him 'neath an Eastern sun
Your always loving
Boy.'