The Watchers (Favenc)

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All things were old in that grim, gray land,
   All things were withered and sere;
There was no one left, save a grisly band
Who fought for their lives with a slackened hand,
   For life had ceased to be dear.

Under the curse of a pitiless sun,
   And the drought of rainless years,
They had fallen and slumbered one by one,
Thankful alone that their task was done,
   There was no more toil nor tears.

'Neath a stunted tree, on the rocky crest
   Of a ridge of barren stone,
They gazed on the arid plain to west,
Where nothing was left for an insect's quest;
   And the three stood there alone.

Alone, save for an unseen two,
   Who watched the others there;
Gaunt as the desert land to view,
Unwatered by rain, unslaked by dew,
   They sat there, a ghastly pair.

For one was old, who had never been born,
   Although mortal look he bore;
His wings were draggled, the pinions torn,
He carried a scythe that was notched and worn,
   And he turned an hour-glass o'er.

But the other had a more ghastly form,
   That no man could live and see;
His fleshless bones had never been warm,
He lived in carnage, disease, and storm,
   And a constant grin wore he.

"Old Comrade mine," quoth Time at last,
   "How long shall they live and moan?"
Croaked Death: "When the sands have slowly past
Thrice through thy hour-glass my dart I'll cast;"
   And he sharpened it on a stone.

Time scooped up a handful of desert sand.
   "I love this well," cried he.
"When my glass needs filling I seek this land" —
And he poured it out of his wasted hand —
   "Oh! the desert sand for me."

Afar in the east a cloud appeared.
   With the thunder's muttered sound;
Darker it grew as the group it neared;
It would come too late, the doomed men feared.
   Time turned his hour-glass round.

And ever they watched it as it grew,
   And dreamt of rain cold as ice;
While the air grew cool 'neath the storm-sprite's tread,
And the sky was murk with a hue of lead —
   Time turned his hour-glass twice.

Death chuckled and held his dart up first,
   Time turned his hour-glass round;
The storm clouds eddied, and raged, and burst,
But never could slake a dead man's thirst —
   Three dead men lay on the ground.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.