Drew the Wrong Lever
by Alexander Anderson
Submitted by Jack Turner and taken from a book entitled “Good Words” first published in 1880.
This was what, the pointsman said,
With both hands at his throbbing head:
I drew the wrong lever standing here
And the danger signals stood at clear;
But before I could draw it back again
On came the fast express, and then –
Then came a roar and a crash that shook
This cabin-floor, but I could not look
At the wreck, for I knew the dead would peer
With strange dull eyes at their murderer here!
“Drew the wrong lever?” “Yes I say,
Go, tell the wife, and take me away”
That was what the pointsman said,
With both hands at his throbbing head.
O ye of this nineteenth century time,
Who hold low dividends as a crime,
Listen. So long as a twelve hours strain
Rests like a load of lead on the brain,
With its ringing of bells and rolling of wheels,
Drawing of levers until one feels
The hands grow numb with a nerveless touch,
And the handles shake and slip in the clutch,
So long will ye have pointsman to say –
“Drew the wrong lever, take me away”.