Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JIM DALLEY, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON

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JIM DALLEY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: So you knew dalley that used to drive
Last Line: Dalley lay over the levers dead.
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Accidents; Death; Labor & Laborers; Railroads; Dead, The; Work; Workers; Railways; Trains

"SO you knew Dalley that used to drive
That spanking old engine—fifty-five;"
Knew him? why, Dalley was my mate,
He died beside me upon the plate.

Let me see, it is over two years ago
Since Thorley's cutting was block'd with snow,
What a night was that, and how heavy our shift
To get in with our train through the storm and drift.

But Jim and I did it; we always had luck
To get through, though the rest of our fellows stuck,
Came in with their train about half-a-day late
To learn of the sudden death of my mate.

Brave rough Jim! I can see him to-day
As if he never had pass'd away;
Hear the very sound of his voice as he said,
"Are the junction signals set at red?"

We were out that night on the goods that ran through,
Running sharp, for our speed was what steam could do,
But from time to time, as we look'd behind,
Like a great white sheet came the snow on the wind.

We had just two shunts; the last for the mail—
She was late, for already upon the rail
The snow lay thick, but she thunder'd past
Like a great, red, smoky ghost in the blast.

"Now," said Jim, "we have nothing to fear
If we catch the rest of the signals clear."
So he flung on the steam, and with one loud roar,
We went plunging into the storm once more.

The snow fell on either side, and the wire
Moan'd, as if harping on some desire,
While above, as the furnace threw up its light,
Was a whirling cover of black and white.

The signals glimmer'd a faint green spark,
Far up as if somewhere within the dark,
The engine wheels had a ghostly sound,
As they struck and scatter'd the snow around.

The trains on the up line seem'd to glow
With a misty halo of drift and snow,
While a wave from their drivers as they flew
Was like a wave from a ghost to our view.

But still we tore on with no wish to fail,
Though the great wheels clank'd and slipp'd on the rail;
But I kept up the steam while Jim look'd out
Into the dark with a fear and a doubt.

By this we had left behind Mossley Bank,
And had reach'd the summit at Riverley Jank,
"Down hill after this," I sung over to Jim;
But he stood in his place, never stirring a limb.

At length on his stepping backward a pace
The light of the tube lamp fell on his face,
It was white as if with unspoken fear,
As he turn'd and said, "Bob, come over here."

"Why, what is the matter?" I said, as I stood
Beside him, but Jim was again in the mood
Of staring ahead; at last he awoke,
And laying his hand on my shoulder spoke.

"All the night, Bob, from the time we lay through
For the mail, this sight has been in my view,
And right ahead in the snow I can see
My wife with her youngest upon her knee.

"I see her sitting as if on the wait
For me, and before her a fireless grate,
She is weeping and wringing her hands as in pain;
My God! I wish we were home with our train."

I tried to cheer him, and spoke of his fear
As a whim from which he would soon get clear,
But again he was standing upright in his place,
With the same pale, weary look on his face.

I felt myself shudder as if with a chill,
Or a nameless dread of some coming ill,
But I kept myself up to be ready to catch
The signals my mate was not fit to watch.

What a weary drive through the storm that rung
Before and behind us as onward we swung,
But at last in the distance we caught a gleam,
"Home at last," said Jim, and flung off the steam.

We ran through the points and drew up in the lye,
My mate still gazing ahead, while I,
Glad to think he soon would get rid of his fright,
Leapt off to uncouple our train for the night.

"Now then, old fellow, go on," I cried;
Coming back from the tender—no voice replied,
And looking upward I saw that he leant
Forward against the window half bent.

One moment and I was upon the plate
With my hand on the shoulder of my mate,
"Jim?" No answer. I lifted his head—
Dalley lay over the levers dead.

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