The Mecca of Bohemian men Was Archibald's untidy den. Firm-footed near the portals there Uprose, as now, a spacious stair That carried nearer to the sky Their inky hopes in days forebye. This ladder to Parnassus, they Expectant climbed - as still one may. Oft-times upon its steps appeared The wiry brush of Daley's beard, Of Henry Lawson's drooped moustache Would upward glide and downward dash. Betimes - a gem his pocket in - Meandered upward Ronald Quinn, Or Bayldon bore a sonnet new, Or Broomfield occupied the view Insistent, in a manner vain, On making passes with his cane. These might encounter on the way The "Banjo" glum, or Hugh McCrae Or Souter with a leering cat Or Bedford in a Queensland hat; And other penmen debonair Familiar with that famous stair. The Red Tressed Maiden, all aglow, And Clancy of the Overflow And Dad and Dave, in company With Ginger Mick and Jock MacFee, From time to time, in singles, pairs, By hand or post went up those stairs! Awaiting by McMahon's door For silver, little, less, or more, Met jesting genius to abuse The landlords and the lending Jews. Anon with cash in hand such drear Considerations - drowned in beer - Would pass as pass the clouds of morn; And from their ready wits, reborn As from a fount in Arcady, Would flow fair dreams of Days-to-Be, When, in this Southland, shore to shore, Art was enthroned for evermore. That noble vision yet I hold More precious is than all the gold That men have dug from southern earth. In loyal hearts it had its birth; In loyal minds it will become A trumpet-note, a calling drum To lead this nation onward, and To glorify and grace the land. And through that fellowship may ne'er, As then it was, re-climb the Stair Its voices echo down the years - The voices of the pioneers!
First published in The Bulletin, 1 February 1950