'Six months ago we took a vow
That never in a thousand years
Would we allow Silene to burn
Again, nor let our eyes discern
That beast, the object of our fears.
That oath we took we've also kept
And grimly have maintained our vow;
And, sickly as our hearts have stood,
Not all our hands with blood stained could
Persuade us to repeal it now.
Dearly, dearly have we paid;
Our hands are bloody, cheeks tear-stained,
And something stalks us like a shade,
For now within our spirits gaunt
Not only does the creature haunt
But grossest guilt exacts its reign.
I thee adjure, Roman man,
To speak if my words ring not true.
Methinks it far the better plan
To make one die instead of all,
If any man should die at all;
The loss of one to save the few.
The blood of children rests on us;
We've chosen- chosen!- crimson hands;
Now every man that draws the straw
Must go and face that gaping maw
And let his blood soak in the sands.
Yes, every man that draws the short,
Whether he be chief or serf,
Must hence to that cave grimly go
With falt'ring steps of fear, and slow,
Knowing full well what we know-
That soon his bones will bleach the earth.
And whittled down has been our folk
In number, and in spirit too.
A pall hangs over old Silene;
Our womenfolk no longer preen;
No child should see what ours have seen,
Nor wake each morn to dread and rue.
Each week anew we play the game,
Take part in the unseemly draw,
To feed to that which hath no name
The one who draws the shortest straw
And send him hence alone to face
The baleful foe-thing of our race.
Who feeds on our flesh, alive and raw.
Like hallowed Hellas in years past,
We live a cruel democracy;
Here all are equals, all the same,
Not one exempt from this dread game
That we continue to our shame,
Not of honour but necessity.
The lowliest in this lost town
May draw the short and go to die,
Or yet the chief- that is, I-
May be found by th'identical fate
And march off to instatiate
The lusty creature's stomach sly.
And herein lies my greatest woe;
Of woes the worst, well nigh too great
For me. I lay yon on the ground
Starkly stricken, for fate had found
For me- that wretched, wily Fate!-
Apportioned for me, closed me round;
From me has torn like Hades' hound
What of all things on earth I know
And love the best- my daughter-
And grimly thence has made her go.
And so, O man, to thee I say-
For none may conquer me today!-
That Rome will from Silene withdraw
Until you draw the shortest straw
And go yourself down that grim way!'
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Seven (22 April) – Narooma to Bodalla via Potato Point - I woke early before dawn on Sunday morning having slept like a log in the big comfortable bed at Marg Latimer’s home. The good food and wine and company (a...
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