I have seen lace-makers in Madeira,
young girls laughing as with fingers nimble
they lightly embroidered the shroud of their short-lived sight.
Laugh, girls, laugh, for you may as well,
you who forget that every thimble
‘s a funeral bell.
I have seen gold-miners in Africa
thousands of feet under, and have heard them singing
crude monotonous songs in Zulu and Sesuto.
Sing, boys, sing while the heart is young,
for the earth has phthisical echoes, bringing
dust to the lung
I have seen road-menders in Piccadilly,
muscular youths exchanging casual jokes
as the rattling shattering road-drill battered the blocks.
Jest, lads, jest till the dread year comes
when the drill, not you, shall crack the jokes,
splitting the ear-drums.
But wherever I have gone I have seen young people
for whom the nodal present is an empty pit,
the past but a vast worm-casting, and the future
a blank-a terrible non-future, giving
to the unborn no sense-losing, no writ