Poem: An Afternoon Rhyme by Henry Halloran

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They say that we've no ballads got
   Anent this glorious nation,
Nothing of gold, or wool, or rot,
   Or Land Administration;
Nothing that Free Selection shows
   Above all other dreaming,
In making men the deadliest foes
   In "mail" and "dummy" scheming.

Well! these are hardly worth a song,
   They masque, in grand designing
The principles of "right" and "wrong"
   And constant undermining.
But surely we may find a theme,
   To fill a native ditty,
To float down Time's eternal stream,
   In honour of our city.

Of schemes I've heard of half a score
  That led to wealthy marriage;
That led -- but I must say no more --
   They flaunt it in their carriage.
I would not say a word of these,
   They are not bright and rosy,   
But e'en at the Antipodes
   May seem a little nosey.

Is there not some redeeming name
   O'er which the Muse may sorrow,    
And wish for it undying fame
   To gild Australia's morrow?
Bright artist of the pensive brow,
   Who toil'd in Rome's old city,
And toiling died, yet claims e'en now     
   Our deepest love and pity.    

I'll try some day a song of thee,
   Fair Adelaide, who ever
Breathed hopes that sought eternity
   For Art's sublime endeavour:
Who hungered not, and thirsted not,    
   For gold or adulation;
But sought that pure and perfect lot
   That dignifies a nation.      

Of Harpur I would say a word --  
   Sweet Dora's lyric lover --  
Whose song was one of wounded bird,   
   Of swan, or plaintive plover:
For now adown the fall of years,
   It sounds to hearts unheeding,   
His countrymen can shed no tears,   
   Tho' Pity self were pleading.  

Of Kendall, too, I might, perhaps,
   Say something when Time hurries  
To perfect peace the wayward lapse  
   Of Life that shades and worries.   
And e'en of Charley Tompson say --
   An earlier bard than any --
A something of her minstrel's lay,  
   Forgotten by the many.      

Nay, e'en of "Stolen Moments" Truth
   Might send some words of praising;
Of "Murmurs," which the pride of youth    
   Breathed forth with zeal amazing.   
Tho' not from Shelley-Swinburne mine,
   Nor Poe-cum-Browning meted,   
They held, in many a pregnant line,    
   What might be fairly treated.        

But politics make irons hot
   For each poetic sinner;    
An inquisition's deftly got   
   To grill him for a dinner.      
And so e'en strangers in the land,    
   Who work for leagues and booty,   
Will raise the scorner's fulsome hand   
   In criticisms sooty.  

But yet the rose must be the rose,
   The brier but the brier;             
Despite of friends, despite of foes,         
   Despite of ape and liar.
Despite of flatterers run mad,       
   Of harlequins and whipsters;
No genuine fame may ere be had
   By acrobats and tipsters.          

Adown a pleasant valley runs
   A silver brook, and sighing     
Sings in the light of quenchless suns,   
   In tones that are undying,         
Of her -- that artist pure and fair --
   Who, for her country's glory,    
Surrendered life without despair,  
   And long shall live in story.

First published
in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 5 May 1883

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