The Australian by Arthur H. Adams

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Once more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
Parturient of another type.

While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future's verge;

They watch him, as they huddle pent,
Striding a spacious continent,

Above the level deserts marge
Looming in his aloofness large.

No flower with fragile sweetness graced --
A lank weed wrestling with the waste.

Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,  
The sweetness withered out of him.

Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.

A little weary from his birth;
His laugh the spectre of a mirth.

Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.

Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?

Joy his such niggard dole to give,
He laughs, a child, glad just to live.

So drab and neutral in his day
He gleans a splendour in the grey.

And from his life's monotony
He lifts a subtle melody.

When earth so poor a banquet makes
His pleasures at a gulp he takes.

The feast is his to the last crumb;
Drink while he can, the drought will come.

His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.

Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside.

He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of th eyears.

Rearing his cities in the sand,
He builds where even God has banned.

With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns.

His gyves of steel the great plain wears;
With roads the distances he snares.

A child given a world for toy,
To build a nation, or destroy.

His childish features frozen stern,
A nation's task he has to learn.

From feeble tribes to federate
One splendid, peace-encompassed State.

What if there be no goal to reach?
The road lies open, dawns beseech!

Enough that he lay down his load
A little further on the road.

So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries!

First published in The Bulletin, 17 June 1899;
and later in
Maoriland: and Other Verses by Arthur H. Adams, 1899;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Poet's Discovery: Nineteenth Century Australia in Verse edited by Richard Douglas Jordan and Peter Pierce, 1990;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 17, 2011 8:49 AM.

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