All the world loves a lover; from his lips their song is sung.
Youth is the time of greenness; but age should gild a man’s tongue.

What then shall be said of us fellows that have no shame,
And without youth or wisdom take the Beloved’s name?

Surely a scurvy crew—magsmen doing Lovers’ Lane
With tinsel-tongued talk of love and palm-itch for coin gain.

A pickaxe for each and a stretch of road for gravelling!
(Though why do others the disservice of smooth travelling?)

But do not let God know lest he weeps and a miracle is seen
Of steel taking root and a stretch of road turning green.

For although our hearts are black with every nameable sin,
The Master in his mercy opened his door and took us in.

The streamlet eager for the abyss is the sun’s delight,
And in still waters appears the lily’s gold wrapped in white.


After the first stanza celebrates the green world of youth and the golden wisdom of age there is a sudden switch. A ‘magsman’ is Australian slang for a confidence trickster or raconteur. The only remedy for this worthless lot (most of us) is some hard physical yacka (work) even though it is useless to make smooth roads for others.

Then a touch of irony, don’t tell God what a useless lot we are or He will have pity on us and our stony rubbish will sprout life.

And what is more we are told with a fine touch of lyrical beauty, both running and still water are able to produce the wonder of loveliness, the sparkled reflection of the heavenly sun and the emergence of the lotus of enlightenment. The sacred lotus here becomes the white lily, symbolic of purity, used in funerals and weddings in the West, white with a golden stamen. 

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