The Women of the West by George Essex Evans

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They left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,
The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,
The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best:
For love they faced the wilderness-the Women of the West.

The roar, and rush, and fever of the city died away,
And the old-time joys and faces-they were gone for many a day;
In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock chains,
O'er the everlasting sameness of the never-ending plains.

In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately-taken run,
In the tent beside the bankment of a railway just begun,
In the huts on new selections-in the camps of man's unrest,
On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.

The red sun robs their beauty, and, in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;
And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say
The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away.

The wide Bush holds the secrets of their longings and desires,
When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar-fires,
And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast--
Perchance He hears and understands the Women of the West.

For them no trumpet sounds the call, no poet plies his arts--  
They only hear the beating of their gallant, loving hearts.
But they have sung with silent lives the song all songs above
The holiness of sacrifice, the dignity of love.

Well have we held our fathers' creed. No call has passed us by.
We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent our sons to die.
And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet o'er all the rest
The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.  

First published
in The Argus, 7 September 1901;
and later in
The Queenslander, 21 September 1901;
The Brisbane Courier, 14 September 1901;
The North Queensland Register, 23 September 1901;
The Secret Key and Other Verses by George Essex Evans, 1906;
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1907;
School Paper for Classes V and VI, July 1909;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The School Paper for Grades VII and VIII, May 1922;
The Daily Mail, 10 August 1924;
A Book of Queensland Verse edited by J.J. Stable, and A.E.M. Kirwood, 1924;
Selections from the Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;
The School Paper: Grades VII and VIII, December 1927;
The Victorian Reading-Books: Eighth Book, 1928;
The Queenslander, 5 October 1938;
The Victorian Reading-Books: Eighth Book, 1940;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Along the Western Road: Bush Stories and Ballads, 1981;
This Australia, Spring 1982;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
A Treasury of Bush Verse edited by G. A. Wilkes, 1991;
The Penguin Book of 19th Century Australian Literature edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
The Romance of the Stockman: The Lore, Legend and Literature of Australia's Outback Heroes, 1993;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1996;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004; and
The Book of Australian Popular Rhymed Verse: A Classic Collection of Entertaining and Recitable Poems and Verse: From Henry Lawson to Barry Humphries edited by Jim Haynes, 2008.

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 September 7, 2011 8:43 AM.

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