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ONLY
by
William Aitken (1893)
[This story tells of a little known, and seldom spoken of, but ever present danger on the railways to railway workmen. It would be interesting to know how often this sort of tragedy occurs today.

Only a flower-studded valley, and a brooklet that rippled along,
Never so lovely a valley, and never so crystal a stream;
Comely and fair is the maiden, hale her companion and strong,
Life and its cares are forgotten by two happy hearts in a dream.

Only a summer sun setting, his form growing silently less,
Peering like some giant watchman, through the great bars of crimson and gold;
Only a soft whisper “Will you?” and a scarcely articulate “Yes,”
Only the same , same old story, that but once in a lifetime is told.

Only a year and a wedding, cloudless and blue is their sky,
Love makes the present all sunshine, hope wreathes the future in flowers;
She in her sweetness and beauty, a calm glow of trust in her eye,
He, in his vigour and manhood, the richest and noblest of dowers.

Up, and away in the morning, to his toil on the far-stretching line,
Chairs, bolts, and keys by the thousand, to tighten, to slack, and renew;
Ballast and sleepers, and metals, on winding banks, cut, and incline,
Ceaselessly working and watching, doing, and ever to do.

Climbs the great sun, in his glory, the last he is ever to see,
Busy with pick and with shovel, he toils, never dreaming of wrong;
Cracking a joke with his fellows, laughing, light-hearted and free,
Never so willing a worker, nor one half so able and strong.

Only a youth ever happy, in the glorious holiday time,
With the glow of his youth on his fair face, shining out in its fulness and power;
Freed for a space from the great town, with its poverty haunts, and its crime,
Only a thoughtless action, in a thoughtless, unguarded hour.

Only an empty bottle thrown out of a hurrying train,
Broken and smashed on the four-foot, as the great train goes thundering by;
Only a blow on the forehead, and a wound that goes into the brain,
Only a poor surface worker left alone on the slope, to die.

Only a murmur of voices, and the thing is forgotten and gone,
Only a happy home darkened, with a sorrow too heavy for tears;
Only a heart crushed and broken, left to tread the dark valley alone,
Only a grave on the hillside, ‘mong the graves of a hundred years.
 
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