The Two Brothers by Douglas B. W. Sladen

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In an old manse mid purple heather,
Vigorous with the bracing weather
   Of breezy Scottish hills,
Two bright children grew up together
For triumphs or for ills.   

Bred in the parish-school to knowledge,
Bent in their ripening years to college
   In the old classic towers,
Their wild blood forced them to acknowledge
   That there are inner powers

Which bow not to the calculations
Of those who tend our education,
   But mould us at their wills,
Our several predestinations
   In due time to fulfil.

Both left those towers without emotion,
Both tendered their young life's devotion
   To the time-honoured hope
And refuge of high-hearts --- the ocean
   With its prodigious scope;

And there they parted, one to mingle   
With clenched hilt and tight-drawn surcingle
   In the fierce surge of war,
Far from the Highland fireside's ingle,
   From his boy-brother far.

And after to lay down the sabre,
And through unheard of risk and labour
   To wield a soldier's pen;
To make grim war his next-door neighbour,
   And live with dying men,

Until all Europe rang the praises
Of him who chronicled the phases,
   Events, and daily stride
Of warfare in such glowing phrases,
   And for his work defied

The lurking perils of night-watches,
And a great fight's shell-mangled batches,
   Like combatants themselves:
That we might have exact depatches
   To range on our bookshelves.

The other on the sea went roaming,
Until some chance controlled his coming
   To Queensland's sunny shore,
Unconscious that the Powers were dooming
   That he should leave no more.

And here the same fierce blood, which hurried
His brother swift and undeterred
   To where the war was waged,
Left him no rest till he was buried,
   As in his veins it raged.

Now you could hear his stockwhip rattle,
Mustering roving herds of cattle
   Out on a western run;
Now he was fighting a stark battle
   Under a northern sun

With quartz reefs for their golden treasures,
Enshrining his wild pains and pleasures
   In strong pathetic verse,
And giving in his rugged measures
   A picture rich and terse

Of miners and their wild existence,
Of bush life in the untamed distance,
   Of shanty-revelry,
And of stern struggles for subsistence
   When creek and run were dry.

Ten years had passed since last the tidings
Of his migrations and abidings
   Had reached his far-off friends,
When, following the inner guidings
   Which shape us to our ends,

Or by some chance, the elder brother
His footsteps turned to where the other
   Had breathed out his bright life,
Without the hand of child or mother
   To soothe in the last strife.

He knew not where to seek, nor even
Whether a kind and gracious Heaven
   Had held a shielding hand
Over that head, and it were given
   To him in this far land

To clasp his long-lost brother to him;
Nor could he learn till those who knew him,
   The lost one, in old times,
Came shyly one by one unto him
   With wild yarns and stray rhymes

Of the bush-poet --- brother drovers
And mining-mates and some few rovers,
   And Jacks of ev'ry trade,
Like the dead brother, all staunch lovers
   Of him, who 'neath the shade

Of the God's-acre trees was lying,
Where nightly the hill-winds come sighing
   Over Toowoomba's heights.
Where friendly hands received him dying,
   And tended his faint lights

So tenderly. And some wild rover,
Stockman or mining-mate or drover,
   Brought out one day a book
Well-thumbed, with torn green-paper cover,
   And bade the brother look

Onto the pages ornamented,
In type unevenly indented,
   And lines that were not flush,
With stirring rough-hewn poems printed
   As "Voices from the Bush."

Adieu, staunch mates who fondly cherished
The memory that else had perished
   Of him with his wild rhymes,
Who faithfully maintained and nourished
   His fame till better times!   

Adieu, great, tender, soldier brother
Come from so far to seek the other
   Who here breathed out his life
Too soon, without a child or mother
   To soothe in the last strife.

And thou adieu, bright, genial poet,
Given at last, couldst thou but know it,
   Thy tardy well-earned fame,
And with the bay, could we but show it
   To thee, twined round thy name.

First published in The Queenslander, 22 September 1883;
and later in
A Poetry of Exiles and Other Poems by Douglas Sladen, 1884.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 22, 2011 7:26 AM.

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