Reprint: Honour Her: Queensland's Poetess: Our Unofficial Laureate

Upon an iron balcony above the city streets,
All day the pale sick woman lies; across her idle feet
A striped rug from Arabia, and in her slender hands
The magic book that tells her tales of undiscovered lands.

It takes courage to make of one's disability a spring-board by which to leap into the realm of pure romance. This stoic grit is what Mrs. Mabel Forrest has been showing these last two years and more, weaving her fantasies while she lies like another Heine, on her couch, and dyeing the stuffs of her imagination with her own heart-blood.

Only a little groan escapes her lips -"Upon an iron balcony above the city streets, all day the pale sick woman lies." The noise of the street below drowns that brief cry of the heart of a true poet living in our midst. Her own brave music drowns it.

But the people of Brisbane must not allow this gallant poetess of Queensland, our unofficial laureate, to toil on and on without some act of recognition simply because she refuses to be beaten by ill-health, and still sings on of love and beauty with such buoyancy of genius that we should never suspect the heavy and continuous handicaps which she carries with the blitheness of another R.LS. lt was said long ago, with a tinge of sorrow rather than of bitterness, "A prophet hath no honour in his own country"-until he is dead. But we have become a little wiser from the mistakes of the past. We refuse to deny honour to genius because it is contemporary and alive. Only a few months ago Australians from every part of the Commonwealth sent their salutations to Mary Gilmore on her 68th birthday.

Mabel Forrest is like her fellow poets, James Brunton Stephens and George Essex Evans, Queensland born. She knows the bush with all the intimacy and sureness of a native. She has in many a poem thrown the glamour of her poetry over creek and scrub. She not only knows but can weave into a sweet symphony the names of the bush flowers and the bush birds. For this reason all lovers of the open air in sunny Queensland are indebted to the poetess who has found in Nature's highways and by-ways so much fragrance, colour, and grace. Mabel Forrest turns her very handicaps into song. Yet sometimes she grows wistlul and weary-what wonder? Lavishly, has she scattered the largess of beauty around our lives. Surely it is only a sincere proof of our gratitude to cheer her in her physical weakness with a substantial token of goodwill.

The appeal on behalf of Mrs. Forrest has been made on behalf of a small committee in Brisbane, and has been signed by Zina Cumbrae-Stewart (president of the National Council of Women), as chairwoman, and Merna Gillies (president, Town and Country Women's Club), as hon. secretary.

First published in The Courier Mail, 25 November 1933.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for these pieces.]

Biography of Mabel Forrest: Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 15, 2009 10:41 AM.

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