The Orange Tree by John Shaw Neilson

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The young girl stood beside me.  I
   Saw not what her young eyes could see:
- A light, she said, not of the sky
   Lives somewhere in the Orange Tree.

- Is it, I said, of east or west?
   The heartbeat of a luminous boy
Who with his faltering flute confessed
   Only the edges of his joy?

Was he, I said, borne to the blue
   In a mad escapade of Spring
Ere he could make a fond adieu
   To his love in the blossoming?

- Listen! the young girl said.  There calls
   No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
  This evening on the Orange Tree.

- Does he, I said, so fear the Spring
   Ere the white sap too far can climb?
See in the full gold evening
   All happenings of the olden time?

Is he so goaded by the green?
   Does the compulsion of the dew
Make him unknowable but keen
   Asking with beauty of the blue?

- Listen! the young girl said.  For all
   Your hapless talk you fail to see
There is a light, a step, a call
   This evening on the Orange Tree.

- Is it, I said, a waste of love
   Imperishably old in pain,
Moving as an affrighted dove
   Under the sunlight or the rain?

Is it a fluttering heart that gave
   Too willingly and was reviled?
Is it the stammering at a grave,
   The last word of a little child?

- Silence! the young girl said.  Oh, why,
   Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
   Am listening like the Orange Tree.

First published in The Bookfellow, 15 February 1921;
and later in
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R.H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927;
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934;
A Book of Australian Verse edited by Judith Wright, 1956;
The Boomerang Book of Australian Poetry edited by Enid Moodie Heddle, 1956;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by John Thompson, Kenneth Slessor and R.G. Howarth, 1958;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
Australian Poems in Perspective: A Collecton of Poems and Critical Commentaries edited by P.K. Elkin, 1978;
Golden Apples of the Sun: Twentieth Century Australian Poetry edited by Chris Wallace-Crabb, 1980;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
The World's Contracted Thus edited by J.A. McKenzie and J.K. McKenzie, 1983;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Mark O'Connor, 1988;
The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991;
The Faber Book of Modern Australian Verse edited by Vincent Buckley, 1991;
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993;
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;
Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia edited by Les Murray, 2005;
80 Great Poems From Chaucer to Now edited by Geoff Page, 2006;
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008;
Sixty Classic Australian Poems edited by Geoff Page, 2009;
The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 2009;
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009; 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 February 15, 2012 7:09 AM.

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