Song of the Engine

The Week Saturday 23 March 1878, p. 11.
In the shake and rush of the engine,
In the full, deep breath of his chest,
In the swift, clear clank of the gleaming crank,
In his soul that is never at rest,
In the spring and ring of the bending rail.
As he thunders and hurries along,
A strong world's melody fashions itself.
And this smoke demon calls it his song.

" Hurrah ! for my path I devour in my wrath
As I rush to the cities of men
With a load I lay down like a slave at their feet,
Then turn and come backward again.
Hurrah for the rush of the yielding air
That gives way to my wild fierce springs
As I keep to the rail, while my heart seems to burst
In a wild mad craving for wings.

I tear through caverns of sudden dark,
Like that in which first I lay,
Ere the canning of man had alit on a plan
To drag me up to the day.
I rush with a shriek, which is all I can speak,
A wild protest against fear ;
But I come to the light with a snort of delight,
And my black breath far in the rear.

I crash along bridges that span the hills,
And catch at a glimpse below
The roof-thatch'd cot and the low white wall
Lying white in the sun's last glow.
Or it maybe the gleam of some dull, broad stream.
Creeping slowly onward beneath,
While within its breast for a moment I catch
The shadow and film of my breath.

I rush by village, and cottage, and farm,
I thunder sadden and quick
Upon handfuls of men who leap out of my way.
And lean on their shovel and pick.
There is one brown fellow among them who sings
The terrible sweep of my limb ;
The fool ! dare he mimic this music of mine,
And such pitiful music in him ?

I flare through the night when the stars are bright.
With the lights of the city for mark ;
With bound upon bound I shake the ground.
As I feel for the rail in the dark ;
And I know that the stars whisper each to each,
As downward they flicker and peer,
'What is this that these fellows have hit on below.
That seems like a meteor from here ?'

For my great eye glistens and gleams in the front,
As if to give light to my tread.
While behind, like the fires of a Vulcan flung out,
Three others gleam thirsty and red.
And the flame licking round the fierce life in my heart
Let loose for a moment upsprings.
And darts through the whirls of my breath overhead.
Till it makes me a demon with wings."

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