SHAW NEILSON: SELECTED POEMS book cover   Shaw Neilson: Selected Poems
John Shaw Neilson
edited by Robert Gray


Cover details: Sofala Landscape, John Santry

Dustjacket synopsis:
"This new selection from Shaw Neilson represents a complete re-evaluation of his work. Along with the famous Symbolist or 'mystical' poems, editor Robert Gray has emphasised the strong element of realism he finds in Neilson's poetry. He has also included a choice of Neilson's humorous and light verse, most of it published here for the first time. Most importantly, the editor has sought to remove all traces of a sentimentality that still encumbers Neilson's reputation, and to bring together his strongest work. (Neilson himself was well aware that this needed to he done, but could not accomplish it, handicapped as he was by poor sight, poverty and isolation.) Published with a critical essay, which looks at Neilson's biography and which offers fresh insights into his work, this selection makes clear why so many consider Neilson to he Australia's most inspired poet."

First Paragraph from the Introduction:

Shaw Neilson's story is so extraordinary - for a poet's, at least - that the broad shape of his life has become a legend among those interested in Australian writing. Despite seemingly impossible conditions of deprivation and hardship, he produced work which many feel, as A. G. Stephens his first editor did, makes him the 'chief of Australian poets'.

I agree with Neilson's high standing, but I want to suggest in this introduction, and through my selection, that his poetry has usually been praised with a misleading emphasis. It is first necessary, though, to reconsider Neilson's life, since the more details we know of this, the more is added to the appeal of the man and to the interest of his work.

Both Neilson's parents were Scottish, his father brought here at nine years of age from the Borders, his mother native-born to a McKinnon family from the Isle of Skye. The father, John Neilson, emigrated with his mother and step-father (who was surnamed Shaw), never went to school, and was working as a rural labourer when he married. John Shaw Neilson, the first of six children, was born at Penola in South Australia on 22 February 1872.

The Neilsons, despite unrelenting hard work, remained poverty-stricken. They moved from South Australia to various selections in the Wimmera and Mallee regions of Victoria, but were continuously defeated by the land. At Minimay, where Shaw Neilson was raised from the age of nine, the country proved too swampy for wheat growing, and the sheep were eaten by dingoes. Later, at Sea Lake, in the Central Mallee, there were dust storms as often as three times a week, and rabbits came in their hundreds of thousands, filling up the burrows until no more could crawl in, and eating the crop as soon as it appeared. In following years there was a sustained drought, and an economic depression.



Sheedy Was Dying

The Land Where I Was Born
The Lover Sings
My Lady Chides
The Hour is Lost
Old Granny Sulhvan
Under a Kurrajong
In the Street
The Case of Adam

The Soldier is Home
The Sundowner

A Bush Scene
Love is a Fire
His Father's Coat
Break of Day
At a Lowan's Nest
To the Summer Girl

You, and Yellow Air
The Girl with the Black Hair
When the Tired Women Die
Barmaid at Binney's
The Smoker Parrot

Surely God was a Lover

Love's Coming

The Petticoat Plays
0 Player of the Flute
Is It You, Sadie?
The Dismayed Singer
The Emperor

0, Lady of the Dazzling Flowers
Song Be Delicate

Heard at Mulcahy's

Song for a Sinner
To the Thick Darkness
The Loving Tree
The Cool, Cool Country
Goodbye to Bitterness
The Cat and the Fiddle

To a Schoolgirl
The Hour of the Parting

The Orange Tree

The Eleventh Moon

Schoolgirls Hastening

'Tis the White Plum Tree
The Evening is the Morning

from The Gentle Water Bird

The Old Wives Sat at the Table
To a Runaway Sound
The Moon was Seven Days Down
For a Sweet Sound
The Giver of Milk

Love in Absence

Stony Town
Patricia on a Holiday
The Ballad of Remembrance
The Poor, Poor Country
The Smoker Parrots
To a Rude Philistine
Eva Has Cone
Speech to a Rhymer
The Lizard
The Bird of Courage
Concerning Little Waitresses

The Long Weekend
Beauty Imposes (1)
Beauty Imposes (2)
To an Early-Flowering Almond
The Winter Sundown
The Story of a Mulberry
So Sweet a Mouth Had She
The Poor Can Feed ihe Birds
You Cannot Go Down to the Spring

To the Untuneful Dark
The Uneven Player
To the Father of Many
To the Red Lory
The Cool Sailor
The Birds Go By
Rob Me No More
The Diver

Song for a Honeymoon

Say Summer Shall Not Die
To a Blonde Typist
The Theme Eternal
The Crane is My Neighbour
Native Companions Dancing

Sunday Evening
Keeping So Thin

The Vassal

The Walker on the Sand
The Ways of the Wildflower
The Long Lad on the Violin
Tell Summer That 1 Died
The Dispute with the Drummer

Say This For Love

From the Angus & Robertson paperback edition, 1993.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: April 22, 2002.