South of Gabo by E. J. Brady

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The young gales hatch below the Snares;
   As fledglings wild, uncouth,
A fierce Antarctic dam prepares
   Their flight of fear and ruth.

From icy nests on crags forlorn,
   And bergs and glaciers bold,
They flutter forth, for aye to mourn
   Their birthplace lorn and cold.

Full-pinioned, at the Tasman Sea,
   They leave along the crests,
In shrieking, loud, witch revelry,
   White feathers from their breasts.

They scream around the lonely isles
   Like sad-voiced restless things
That sweep perforce the darkened miles
   With strong, far-spreading wings.

From Wilson's up to cloud-capped Howe
   Their giant playground lies,
When on each spray-drenched harbor brow
   The "Stand-off" signal flies.

Then South of Gabo watch and ware
   The shipmen as they go;
For o'er the hummocks, whitely bare,
   The cutting sand-drifts blow;

And cruel rock-knives, hidden, wait
   With edges sharp as steel,
Along a coast of Evil Fate,
   Each doomed shore-driven keel.

Here lie the dead ships one by one;
   Out here the surges croon
The Federal to her rest-place gone,
   The sunken Ly-ee-moon.

Long kelp and seaweed, through the curl
   Of combers all agleam,
The floating hair of some drowned girl
   In waving tresses seem.

Here, graved beneath the golden sands
   And iridescent shell,
Lost sailors out of distant lands,
   Unsought, are sleeping well.

But South of Gabo, when those strong
   And wayward winds are done,
'Tis all a deep, harmonious song
   Of Sea and Land and Sun.

The little cutters spread their wings,
   From Eden to Cape Schanck.
The coaster's rusty framework rings
   The hymn of rod and crank.

The ketches, leaving in their wake
   An odor of benzine,
With quick explosions noisy take
   Their way across the green.

With wattle-bark and fish and maize,
   From five to twenty tons,
The midget fleet goes down the bays,
   And seaward, daring, runs.

With seasoned crews, of twos and threes,
   To handle wheel and sheet,
Steal up and down the changing seas,
   The fathers of our fleet.

Hard-fisted, lean Australians these
   Who know the fickle bars,
The soundings and the mysteries
   Of clouds and tides and stars.

When South of Gabo roars the brood
   Of all the gales of Hell,
They --- long before --- for shelter stood
   And anchored safe and well.

But here and there along the coast,
   Sea-worn and salt with foam,
Old wreckage gives the brood to boast
   Of ships that came not home.

Oh, South of Gabo --- where the Heel
   Of All Australia stands,
Their hearts are like the tested steel,
   And iron are their hands.

And South of Gabo --- where no ease
   Of Capricorn they ken,
Is bred by rougher shores and seas,
   A stronger race of men.

From South of Gabo yet may track
   By sea-trail sternly forth,
The men who'll hurl Invasion back,
   Defeated, from the North.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 October 1909;
and later in
Bells and Hobbles by E.J. Brady, 1911

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 October 21, 2011 7:06 AM.

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