And they heard the tent-poles clatter,
And the fly in twain was torn –
‘Tis the soiled rag of a tatter
Of the tent where I was born.
And what matters it, I wonder?
Brick or stone or calico? –
Or a bush you were born under,
When it happened long ago?
And my beds were camp beds and tramp beds and damp beds,
And my beds were dry beds on drought-stricken ground,
Hard beds and soft beds, and wide beds and narrow –
For my beds were strange beds the wide world round.
And the old hag seemed to ponder
(‘Twas my mother told me so),
And she said that I would wander
Where but few would think to go.
“He will fly the haunts of tailors,
He will cross the ocean wide,
For his fathers, they were sailors
All on his good father’s side.”
Behind me, before me, Oh! my roads are stormy
The thunder of skies and the sea’s sullen sound,
The coaster or liner, the English or foreign,
The state-room or steerage the wide world round.
And the old hag she seemed troubled
As she bent above the bed,
“He will dream things and he’ll see things
To come true when he is dead.
He will see things all too plainly,
And his fellows will deride,
For his mothers they were gipsies
All on his good mother’s side.”
And my dreams are strange dreams, are day dreams, are grey dreams,
And my dreams are wild dreams, and old dreams and new;
They haunt me and daunt me with fears of the morrow –
My brothers they doubt me – but my dreams come true.
And so I was born of fathers
From where ice-bound harbours are
Men whose strong limbs never rested
And whose blue eyes saw afar.
Till, for gold, one left the ocean,
Seeking over plain and hill;
And so I was born of mothers
Whose deep minds were never still.
I rest not, ’tis best not, the world is a wide one
And, caged for an hour, I pace to and fro;
I see things and dree things and plan while I’m sleeping,
I wander for ever and dream as I go.
I have stood by Table Mountain
On the Lion at Capetown,
And I watched the sunset fading
From the roads that I marked down,
And I looked out with my brothers
From the heights behind Bombay,
Gazing north and west and eastward,
Over roads I’ll tread some day.
For my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways,
And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low;
I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not,
And restless and lost on a road that I know.