October 2012 Archives

Sea-Shell by Marjorie Quinn

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I found you on the sandy shore,
   Fluted and delicate and thin,
And knew that lately you had been
   Lapped by the tide that, rushing in,
Drew out again to ocean-well
Leaving you desolate, sea-shell!

I found you there so sweetly wrought,
   So fine, so exquisitely made,
Resting upon the grains of sand
   Where late the tumbling waves had played;
The rosy colour blushing through
Your skin, as it in life might do.

I found you by your lord bereft,
   Lonely upon the furrowed sand;
How, shall I take you for my own
   And hold you close within my hand?
The tide turns and he comes apace --
I fling you back to his embrace!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 1936

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.   

The Power of Science by J. Brunton Stephens

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"All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
   Whatever stirs this mortal frame,"
Are but the legacies of apes,
            With interest on the same.
How oft in studious hours do I
   Recall those moments, gone too soon,
When midway in the hall I stood,
            Beside the Dichobune.
Through the Museum-windows played
   The light on fossil, cast, and chart;
And she was there, my Gwendoline,
            The mammal of my heart.
She leaned against the Glyptodon,
   The monster of the sculptured tooth;
She looked a fossil specimen
            Herself, to tell the truth.

She leaned against the Glyptodon;
   She fixed her glasses on her nose;
One Pallas-foot drawn back displayed
            The azure of her hose.
Few virtues had she of her own--
   She borrowed them from time and space;
Her age was eocene, although
            Post-tertiary her place.
The Irish Elk that near us stood,
   (Megaceros Hibernicus),
Scarce dwarfed her; while I bowed beneath
            Her stately overplus.
I prized her pre-diluvian height,
   Her palaeozoic date of birth,
For these to scientific eye
            Had scientific worth.
She had some crotchets of her own,
   My sweet viviparous Gwendoline;
She loved me best when I would sing
            Her ape-descent and mine.
I railed a wild pansophic lay ;
   (The public fled the diurnal tones); --
I struck a chord that suited well
            That entourage of bones.
I sang the very dawn of life,
   Cleared at a bound the infinite chasm
That sunders inorganic dust
            From sly-born protoplasm.
I smote the stiffest chords of song,
   I showed her in a glorious burst
How universal unity
            Was dual from the first.
How primal germs contained in one
   The beau-ideal and the belle ;
And how the "mystery of life"
            Is just a perfect cell.
I showed how sense itself began
   In senseless gropings after sense; --  
(She seemed to find it so herself,
            Her gaze was so intense).
And how the very need of light
   Conceived, and visual organs bore;
Until an optic want evolved
            The spectacles she wore.
How headless molluscs making head
   Against the fashions of their line,
On pulpy maxims turned their backs,
            And specialised a spine.
How landward longings seized on fish,
   Fretted the type within their eggs,
And in amphibian issue differ-
            entiated legs.
I hopped the quaint marsupials,
   And into mammal races ran,
And in a daring fugue I rushed
            From Lemurs up to Man.
How tails were lost--but when I reached
   This saddest part of all my lay,
She dropped the corners of her mouth,
            And turned her face away.
And proud to see my lofty love  
   So sweetly, wince, so coyly shrink,
I woke a moving threnody--
            I sang the missing link.
And when I spake of vanished kin,
   Of Simian races dead and gone,
The wave of sorrow from her eyes
            Half-drowned the Glyptodon.
I turned to other, brighter themes,
   And glancing at our different scales,
I showed how lady beetles are
            Robuster than the males.
I sang the Hymenoptera;
   How insect-brides are sought and got;
How stridulation of the male
            First hinted what was what.
And when--perchance too fervently--
   I smote upon the chord of sex,
I saw the tardy spark of love
            Blaze up behind her specs.
She listened with a heightened grace,
   She blushed a blush like ruby wine,
Then bent her stately head, and clinked
            Her spectacles on mine.
A mighty impulse rattled through
   Her well-articulated frame;
And into one delighted ear
            She breathed my Christian name.
And whispered that my song had given
   Her secret thought substantial shape,
For she had long considered me
            The offshoot of an ape.
She raised me from the enchanted floor,
   And, as my lips her shoulder met,
Between two asthmas of embrace
            She called me marmosette.
I strove to calm her down; she grew
   Owner and serener;
And so I won my Gwendoline,
            My vertebrate congener.
First published in The Queenslander, 30 October 1875;
and later in
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1885; and
The Poetical Works of Brunton Stephens by J. Brunton Stephens, 1902.

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of BiographyAustralian Poetry LibraryOld Qld Poetry

See also.

Her True Lover: A Stock Rider's Song by Alice Ham

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We were mates, sir, Bob and I, and we loved each other true;
But I found we liked the same lassie, and what could I do?

Milly's hair was brown and curly, her eyes were like the sea,
If her face was burned like the berries, what was that to me?

She was pretty to see o' mornings a-helping on the farm,
Her voice as blithe as a skylark's, and her thoughts as free from harm;

Or out in the rosy evenings, stripping maize with the rest,
The hat pushed back from her merry face, and flowers on her breast!
Bob was a quiet chap, never merry and frank like me;
I saw that something was wrong, so silent and sad was he.

And one day he spoke out, all trembling, and very white,
"Why do you go to the farm, Jack, almost every night?"

"Why, to see old Pollard and Milly, and have a chat with them all,"
He groaned, "Don't say more about it--I can't stand it; that's all."

"But which does Milly like best?" I thought, but I could not see,
She was kind to us both and smiled as much for Bob as for me.

So things just took their course, as they always have to do,
When a day brought the end about--swift, and cruel, and true.

We were drafting near the road; the cattle were wild that day,
When Pollard and Milly came riding home by the market way.

They checked their horses then, by the bend at the willow tree,
And watched the drafting awhile; 'twas a lively sight to see.

Lord Loftus was mad with rage--the wildest bull in the place;
Bob was on foot, when he broke the rail, and gave him bellowing chase!
Then Milly shrieked aloud, "Oh! save him! Oh! Bob, my dear!"
That was enough. I dashed forward--"I'll save him, never fear!"

I sprang in the creature's path, I faced him, I can't tell how;
For then came a flash and a darkness. That's why I'm a cripple now.

So I potter about the run. Unhappy? No, Sir, no fear!
I'm a cheerful fellow, you see--and Milly has married her dear!    

First published in The Queenslander, 29 October 1892

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Remorse by Henry Parkes

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Oh! teach me to forget the home,
   The blessed home that once was mine;
Ere thou, vain trifler! bid'st me come,
   A slave, the worst of slaves, to thine.

Nor this as guilt's perverseness blame;
   Although my bitter choice be still
To reap the harvest of my shame,
   A self abandoned thing of ill!

To live in sin, untasked to smile
   On all its hateful misery,
Is better sure than contract vile
   To serve a heartless wretch like thee.

I would not it should seem that one,
   So low, so lost as I am now,
Could rest mid ruin's dark work done,
   Nor feel the serpent on my brow!

Go, breathe thy words in empty air:
   Believe not woman's shuddering soul,
Still goaded on by crime's despair,
   E'er sought in vice a happy goal!

First published in The Australasian Chronicle, 28 October 1841;
and later in
Stolen Moments: A Short Series of Poems by Henry Parkes, 1842.

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

See also.

Au Revoir by Edith Beckett

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Red, red wine is the western sky,  
   Dripped from the chaliced moon;
Thistly meadows on hilltops lie,
   Fallen in silver swoon.
Ever the scarlet sun dips down,
   Foot by foot from the misted town.

Dewtime comes with its spangled gems  
   Showered in gleaming crowds;
Night prepares all her diadems,
   Culled 'neath the twilight clouds.
Ever the sun dips down, dips down --
   "Good-night, friend," says the misted town.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 October 1934 

Author: nothing is known about the author of this poem.

Author reference site: Austlit

Bush Birds by Lola Gornall

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It seems the happiest of all
To hear the bush birds sing and call;
To see their shadows soft and fleeting,
Dapple the grass as they go sweeping
From tree to tree with flashing wings
Are they searching for the spring
With Nature's eyes and Nature's speech
That neither book not sage can teach?

I hear them when the autumn rain
Dashes against my window-pane;
When shutters creak and chimneys roar,
And the bleak wind whistles past the door,
And the blue smoke curls in misty air
Through the blue gums standing gaunt and bare;
And always their cry is "Sweet, Sweet, Sweet,"
Though the spring lies deaf in dark defeat.

Naught can daunt them, naught distress,  
Neither cold nor sunlessness;
They sweep and circle, poise and chase,
Fly the storm winds in the face;
And, when the clouds have wept and flown,      
Measure the sun's song with their own
Trusting hearts and breasts that pair
From here and there and everywhere.

More magical than poet's verse
The little songs that they rehearse,
Who have but for their sole defence
The bravery of innocence
That finds, between the sky and the ground,
Simple needs for the daily round,
Strong in the faith to which they cling
That after winter comes the spring.

First published
in The Canberra Times, 26 October 1929

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Unfortunate King of Annam! by W.T. Goodge

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They say he's taken many lives
   Of daughters and of mothers,
And that he's murdered thirty wives
   And killed and eaten others!
These stories may, of course, be true
   But still there's no denying
That women are (give him his due!)
   At times extremely trying!

First published
in The Bulletin, 25 October 1906

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Love Outlasteth All by Harry "Breaker" Morant

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Could I borrow the laverock's lilting note,
Of the silvery song from the blackbird's throat,
Then would I warble the whole day long,
Telling, in floods of passionate song,
How worlds might tremble, or skies might fall,
But Love, true Love, outlasteth all.

Or, with picturesque words, in phrases neat,
With ringing rhymes, and in sonnets sweet,
Had I the skill of the schoolman's craft
My song the murmurous breeze should waft,
And tell to her whom my heart loves best,
How Love outlasteth all the rest.

First published in The Bulletin, 24 October 1891, and again in the same magazine on 29 April 1931;
and later in
The Poetry of 'Breaker' Morant: from "The Bulletin" 1891-1903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant, 1980.
Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Horses by L. H. Allen

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The hoar-frost smokes up from the plainland bare,
And, shot with veins of sunrise gold, it breaks
In shift and glitter of pure light that flakes
The icy breeze with fire of colours rare.

The furrowed plots, where drove the autumn share,
Lie still and white, like foamy-crested lakes
Caught at a frozen curve. The grey stream quakes,
With rippled glassing of the misty air.

A tree-clump, in a hollow, breathing still
Its last thin vapour, drips a soaking dew,
On steaming horses dulled in patient droop.
But when the shafts the leafy tops o'erspill,
Life trembles restless on each tightening thew,
And they are bronze, an ageless, fire-born group.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 October 1926

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Something Wrong by Ruth M. Bedford

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Morning sparkle on sea and shore,
   Skies that wait for the rising moon,
Park-lights glowing, and how much more --
   All are set to a plaintive tune.
Something whispers "She is not here;"
   Something sighs "She is still away;"   
And I am missing my dearest dear
               Night and day.

Sea we gloried in, blue and gold,
   Lonely cliffs that we wandered on,  
All lie now like a story told --
   Where's the soul of their beauty gone?
Something's wrong with the world, I fear,
   One thing only can set it right;
And I am missing my dearest dear  
               Day and night.  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 1927

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Varied Phases of Beer by Harold Mercer

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It was a bet 'twixt Brown and Jones.
   Brown blatantly made claim
That he could order twenty beers
   And never speak the name.

It was included in the bet
   That never twice should he
Use any phrase. Conditions set,
   We started on the spree.

Commencing, Brown bespoke "A pot,"
   And, next, "The same," he said:
Then "Ditto"; and, to get a fourth,
   "This time a bit more head."

Then Jones protested, stating we
   From bar to bar should run:
"The same" and "ditto" was not fair.
   We scored the four as one.

Thence, passing on to other bars,
   Brown ordered, first, "A mug,"
And then "A pint," "Some amber juice,"
   "Your nearest to a jug."

"Just something long and cool and wet,"
   "A trifle from the cask,"
"A schooner," and, to get the ninth,
   "A quart is all I ask."

And then he sought "A Tommy Dodd,"
   "A little with a dash
Of gingerbeer," "A simple glass,"
   "Your best for threepence, cash."

"Some yellow stuff," "A length of froth."
   "A hop-juice," "Drunkard's tea,"
And striking then a pub we knew:
   "The usual thing for me."

"A mead of stagger," then he craved;
   And with "A pony one,"
He smiled triumphantly at Jones,
   Claiming the deed as done.

Though Smith depreciated it --
   He said the name of beer
Had not at all been touched by Brown --
   The others raised a cheer.

And though old Brown inclined to doubt
   The deed as finished yet,
We promptly settled down to drink
   The ten rounds of the bet.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 October 1915

Author: Harold Bayley was born in Kelvin Grove, Queensland, in 1882 and took the name Harold Mercer after his mother divorced in 1893.  He was a chess prodigy as a child and began writing poetry at the age of 15.  He took up acting but left that role when he married in 1905.  Heavily involved in the union movement in Australia he helped set up 28 new unions.  He was appointed to the Sydney Morning Herald on the basis of his knowledge of labour affairs.  Mercer served in the AIF in France, was invalided out and returned to Australia where he worked in journalism and magazine publishing.  He died in Bondi, New South Wales, in 1952.

Author reference sites:

A Plea For Australia by Louisa Lawson

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Come out from among them, ye sons of Australia!
   Come out and denounce them with tongue and with pen.
Tear off from each traitor her honoured regalia,
   Give back to Australia her birthright again!

The golden tiara that flashed o'er the mountain,
   The girdle of opals like fires on the sea,
Were stolen and scattered like drops from a fountain.
   Shall ye, her protectors, say thus shall it be?

To robe her in sackcloth, to crown her with ashes,
   Cast lots for her raiment and sully her fame?
Rob, wrong and belie her, until with wet lashes
   She bows her fair forehead in sorrow and shame?

She who is so queenly --- our tender girl-mother ---
   Beloved of heroes. By white virgins blest.
From pole unto pole find ye never another
   Like her --- of Earth's daughters, the fairest and best.

Come out from among them, true sons of Australia!
   Come out from among them, and show yourselves men
With courage undaunted, and fearing not failure;
   Give back to Australia her prestige again!

First published in The Barrier Truth, 20 October 1905;
and later in
The Lonely Crossing and Other Poems by Louisa Lawson, 1905; and
Louisa Lawson: Collected Poems with Selected Critical Commentaries edited by L.M. Rutherford, M.E. Roughley and Nigel Spence, 1996.

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

See also.

October by Zora Cross

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Warm-eyed amid her orange-colored hair,
   October dresses hill and field in gold,
   Showering the hoary rocks and gullies old
With cataracts of lilies everywhere.
From out the ground the orchards shyly dare
   To try their wings above the mother-mould;
   And in mild wildness growing garden-bold,
Small yellow primroses sip the saffron air.

Spring's carried out her winter-dead once more,
   To the flower-music of a million bells.
Brown earth breathes out the scent of her first kiss.
Ah, just this morn from my own mountain door
   I saw bare railway cuttings changed to dells,
Drenched in white cascades of wild clematis.

First published in The Bulletin, 19 October 1922

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of BiographyOld Qld Poetry

See also.

A Racing Rubaiyat by Max A.

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Wake! for the Horse, which slumbered for an hour,
Resumes with blossomng Spring his ancient power:
   Come where the Ringman sings his Vesper Song,
And pour within his Bag your Golden Dower.

Before the moaning for the Guineas died,
I heard a Whisper on the Lawn, that cried,
   "What matter one Boil-over? Who can tell
What wondrous Winnings we may yet divide?"

Hoofs pound along the Strip of Herbage green:
Your Moke leads up the Straight, and all's serene;
   Then some Outsider Pips him on the Post,
And leaves you mourning for the Might-have-been.

Nothing is sadder when the Day is done,
No gloomier Phantom in the Springtime Sun,
   No Memory more haunting, no worse Blow
Than this -- the Tenner which you nearly won.

The Tip which you received with Winks and Nods,
Thinking yourself the Darling of the Gods,
   Fails dismally at Starting, and you weep,
"Oh, what a Fool was I to Lay the Odds!"

In truth, I think there never seemed so Dead
A Cert as Collarit when outward led;
   But vain is Punting when the Favourite tries
To run the race Tail first instead of Head.

Now, with no Good Gold Money left to spare,
In Garments of Repentance shall we fare
   To sit with Judkins in some holy Seat,
Where Bets are never made? Not yet, I Swear!

Though quickly from our grasp the Good Gilt flies,
Some day we know the Tipster will be wise;
   Caulfield is not yet over by a heap;
And Flemington will live when Caulfield dies.

A Booky's Ticket underneath the Bough,
A Race, a Roar, a Number Up, a Row
   Of Voices yelling -- "Pay the Winner" -- ah,
Then Flemington were Paradise enow!

So, though Torn Tickets to the Dust descend,
Mocking the Tip of some misguided Friend,
   The Punter's Problem still we face, and hope
To find some sweet Solution ere the end.

First published
in Melbourne Punch, 18 October 1906

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The End of the Song by Emily Coungeau

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When the winds are whispering low and sweet,  
Do you ever listen to what they say?
The tender cadence is blent with grief,
Soft as the sigh of a falling leaf,
As ever the murmurs slow repeat,
"You, too, oh mortals, must pass away."    

To the variant moods of the errant breeze,
The burgeoning leaflets softly blow,  
Their green veins thrill at the lightest touch
Or the great Wood Spirit they love so much;
And the song of Life is the song of these,   
"The fairest leaves are the first to go."

Deep in the forest and by the streams,
Haunting us with its fragrant breath,
Is Wattle, whose delicate fingers must
Weave a silken carpet that turns to dust,   
With her yellow hair, while she always dreams  
Of the tryst to be kept with her lover, Death.

Life's Shadow Play with its silhouettes,
Its tragedy, farce, and its gay romance,   
There, tense emotion, or languid grace,
Love, pain, and passion, all find a place,
If our lines had echoed no vain regrets
The music had drowned the dissonance.    

Golden laughter may chase the tear,
Eyes so solemn can yet be gay,
Lips that meet in an ecstacy,
Souls be tuned to the richest key,
But the sweetest notes are the last we hear,
For the end of the Song must come, some day.  

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 17 October 1925

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Seagulls by Roderic Quinn

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All day long when the sunlight gladdens
   Rock and headland, and beach and shoal,
White as the fierce salt surf that whitens
   Crested breakers that shoreward roll.

Hither, thither, with brave breasts buoyant,
   Loiter the gulls from near and far,
Now aloft on their spreading pinions,
   Now wings folded on beach and bar.

Salt airs breathing and lungs expanded.
   Thus I watch then till day grows dim;
Nigh and distant, the great sea, psalming,
   Lifts triumphant a ceaseless hymn.

Back from the shore when the shadows lengthen,
   Far, far homing before the night.
Sunset tinting their wings with color.
   West, west ever, they take their flight.

Far, far westward the gulls go speeding.
   League and league through the dying day,
Till, low specks on the western skyline,
   Faint and fainter, they fade away.

Birds, brave birds, when your flight is ended
   (Darkness veiling the rose-red west),
Stars above you, and night surrounding.
   Where, O where do you take your rest?

Where I know not; but this I witness
   (Dawnlight flooding the landscape fair),
Eastward flying, your snow-white legions
   Course their way through the dewy air.

Back again to the white sea-surges,
   Back again ere the world awake --
Brave beasts buoyant and wings extended
   East, east ever your course ye take.

First published in The Bulletin, 16 October 1919

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

See also.

The Sisters by Myra M. Campbell

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Together, in a garden that I know,
   Stand two young gumtrees -- tall and straight and slight,
While draped about their slender limbs of snow
   Are two wistaria vines -- one mauve one white.

Like scented ringlets tossed upon the breeze
   Their flagrant blossoms sway in careless grace,
Lending an added beauty to the trees --
   Casting a sweet aroma o'er the place.

Like sisters, stand these saplings, side by side,
   All decked for dancing 'neath the moon tonight --
Or maybe one's a bridesmaid, one a bride --
   The one in mauve -- the other veiled in white!  

With mingled locks and arms that interwine,
   They seem to stoop and whisper secrets sweet;
While soft winds murmur o'er each branch and vine,
   And perfumed petals flutter to our feet!  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 1932

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

A Different Meaning by C.J. Dennis

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A word as applied to tactics has a different meaning from the same word if used in a personal sense. - Alfred Deakin.

It is truly as lucid as lucid can be;
   It is plain as the nose on your face
Though the tactics may be a disgrace, don't you see,
   The tactician is not a disgrace.
He may wobble and swerve and crayfish and curve -
   It is all of it part of the game -
But you mustn't say "Wobbler," for, prithee, observe
   That the meaning is not quite the same.

One might carry this argument ever so far -
   There is not the least good in denying
That though a man's talk may be lies you must baulk
   At describing the talker as "lying."
His work may be slow, but it's nonsense, you know.
   To declare that the man's a "slow worker."
And it he should shirk in the House all his work
   'Twould be foolish to call him a "shirker."

In quoting such things one could fill up a ream;
   It is so to the end of the chatter.
A man who adapts his adversary's scheme,
   He need never be called an "adapter."
And if he should fuse, it is not the least use
   To describe him as being a "Fuser."
Such a use of the word is distinctly absurd,
   And would earn but contempt for the user.

For a statesman's a statesman right on to the end,
   Never mind what his actions resemble;
He may bargain and palter and stumble and falter
   And wheedle and scheme and dissemble.
But, observe, these are acts, and though probably facts
   That would earn for the mere politician
A horrible name, it is not quite the same
   When applied to a master tactician.

And so, you electors, when chewing the ended
   Of reflection, attend to this study.
And observe, though a member may meddle with mud
   He in not, of necessity, muddy.
Though he turns like a weathercock ten ways at once,
   Till you never know which way he's leaning,
To call him a weathercock proves you a dunce,
   For it has quite a different meaning.

First published
in The Bulletin, 14 October 1909

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Over the Hills by Christine Comber

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Over the hills and far away
   There lies my heart's desire --
Cities washed with morning's gray,
Ships asleep in a foreign bay,
Adventure's breath in old Cathay,
   Or Rome, or Rhodes, or Tyre.

What matter if the golden chase
   End in a mound of clay?
Be it for love, or wealth, or grace.
Or Time's flung wine-glass in my face,   
So be I know what the blue hills trace
   On my heart from far away.  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1934

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Heart Ache by Mabel Forrest

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Soft winds, and little memories of flowers
And silken skirts drawn over polished floors,
And waft of fans and maze of meodies
Golden and low; of smiling, parted lips
And eyes that seem to ask, and turn away;
Feather of shadows on green, slumberous lawns;
Quiver of roses waiting for the rain;
Nasturtiums streaked with orange fingering;
Clouds pale as phantoms, fleeing from the moon,
And silver stars that sprinkle midnight moods;
Ripples, that almost reached me, of bird song
Revealed by leaves that rustle without touch;
Notes in the distance of a trumpet's call;
The sound of waters dripping to a pool
From unseen fountains in an unseen wood.

Only one thing is real and all my own --
That I can feel, alive within my breast....
The pictures fade, the music falls asleep,
The tapping heels have fled the waxed floors --
Only my heart-ache seems to fill the world!

First published
in The Bulletin, 12 October 1916

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Cui Bono by Robert Adams

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Were we but sure, there were no hereafter!
   Certain and sure, that never again,
Now skies could echo our sighs and our laughter,
   Heedless alike of our pleasure or pain.

Were we but sure, that never a morrow,
   Could dawn on the silence and darkness of death;
How many a sufferer -- saddened with sorrow --
   Would sigh forth for ever, life's fluttering breath.

Could we be certain of never awaking
   From life's last peaceable pulseless sleep,
How many a swimmer whose strength is breaking
   Would quietly sink down Eternity's deep.

For who would struggle, worn out and weary,
   With the dregs of a life which has nought to give
Save troubles and trials and days grown dreary
   If he ceased to live, when he ceased to live?

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 October 1879

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Demon Snow-Shoes by Barcroft Boake

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The snow lies deep on hill and dale,
In rocky gulch and grassy vale,
The tiny, trickling, tumbling falls
Are frozen 'twixt their rocky walls
That grey and brown look silent down
Upon Kiandra's shrouded town.

The Eucumbene itself lies dead,
Fast frozen in its narrow bed,
And distant sounds ring out quite near,
The crystal air is froze so clear,
While to and fro the people go
In silent swiftness o'er the snow.

And, like a mighty gallows-frame,
The derrick in the New Chum Claim
Hangs over, where, despite the cold,
Strong miners seek the hidden gold,
And stiff and blue, half-frozen through,
The fickle dame of fortune woo.

Far out, along a snow-capped range
There rose a sound which echoed strange,
Where snow-emburdened branches hang,
And flashing icicles, there rang
A gay refrain, as towards the plain
Sped swiftly downward Carl the Dane.

His long, lithe snow-shoes sped along
In easy rhythm to his song;
Now slowly circling round the hill,
Now speeding downward with a will;
The crystals crash and blaze and flash
As o'er the frozen crust they dash.

Among the hills the first he shone
Of all who buckled snow-shoe on,
For though the mountain lads were fleet,
But one bold rival dare compete,
To veer and steer devoid of fear,
Beside this strong-limbed mountaineer.

'Twas Davy Eccleston who dared
To cast the challenge, "if Carl cared
On shoes to try their natural pace,
Then let him enter for the race,
Which might be run by anyone ---
A would-be champion." Carl said "Done."

But not alone in point of speed
They sought to gain an equal meed,
For, in the narrow lists of love,
Dave Eccleston had cast the glove,
Though both had prayed, the blushing maid
As yet no preference betrayed,

But played them off, as women will,
One 'gainst the other one, until
A day when she was sorely pressed
To loving neither youth confessed,
But did exclaiin --- the wily dame,
"Who wins this race, I'll bear his name."

These words were running in Carl's head
As o'er the frozen crust he sped,
But suddenly became aware
That not alone he travelled there,
He sudden spied, with swinging stride,
A stranger speeding by his side;

The breezes o'er each shoulder toss'd
His beard, bediamonded with frost,
His eyes flashed strangely, bushy-brow'd,
His breath hung round him like a shroud,
He never spoke, nor silence broke,
But by the Dane sped stroke for stroke.

"Old man! I neither know your name,
Nor what you are, nor whence you came;
But this, if I but had your shoes
The championship I ne'er could lose.
To call them mine, those shoes divine,
I'll gladly pay should you incline."

The stranger merely bowed his head --
"The shoes are yours," he grimly said;
"I change with you, though at a loss,
And in return I ask that cross
Which. while she sung, your mother hung:
Around your neck when you were young."

Carl hesitated when he heard
The price, but not for long demurred,
And gave the cross; the shoes were laced
Upon his feet in trembling haste,
So long and light, smooth-polished, bright,
His heart beat gladly at the sight.

Now, on the morning of the race,
Expectancy on every face,
They come the programme to fulfil
Upon the slope of Township hill;
With silent feet the people meet,
While youths and maidens laughing greet.

High-piled the flashing snowdrifts lie,
And laugh to scorn the sun's dull eye,
That, glistening feebly, seems to say --
"When summer comes you'll melt away:
When I grow strong you'll change your song;
I think so, though I may be wrong."

The pistol flashed, and off they went
Like lightning on the steep descent.
Resistlessly down-swooping swift
0'er the smooth face of polished drift
The racers strain with might and main,
But in the lead flies Carl the Dane.

Behind him, Davy did his best,
With hopeless eye and lip compressed:
Beat by a snow-shoe length at most
They flash and pass the winning-post.
The maiden said "I'll gladly wed
The youth who in this race has led."

But where was he? still speeding fast,
Over the frozen stream he pass'd,
They watched his flying form until
They lost it over Sawyer's Hill,
Nor saw it more, the people swore
The like they'd never seen before.

The way he scaled that steep ascent
Was quite against all precedent,
While others said he could but chose
To do it on those demon shoes;
They talked in vain, for Carl the Dane
Was never seen in flesh again.

But now the lonely diggers say
That sometimes at the close of day
They see a misty wraith flash by
With the faint echo of a cry,
It may be true, perhaps they do,
I doubt it much, but what say you!

First published in The Bulletin, 10 October 1891;
and later in
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems by Barcroft Boake, 1897;
Where the Dead Men Lie: The Story of Barcroft Boake, Bush Poet of the Monaro: 1866-1892 edited by Hugh Capel, 2002; and
Barcroft Boake: Collected Works, Edited, With a Life edited by W. F. Refshauge, 2007.

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

See also.

Surely God was a Lover by John Shaw Neilson

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Surely God was a lover when He bade the day begin
Soft as a woman's eyelid -- white as a woman's skin.

Surely God was a lover, with a lover's faults and fears,
When He made the sea as bitter as a wilful woman's tears.

Surely God was a lover, with the madness love will bring:
He wrought while His love was singing, and put her soul in the Spring.

Surely God was a lover, by a woman's wile controlled,
When He made the Summer a woman thirsty and unconsoled.

Surely God was a lover when He made the trees so fair;
In every leaf is a glory caught from a woman's hair.

Surely God was a lover -- see, in the flowers He grows,
His love's eyes in the violet -- her sweetness in the rose.

First published
in The Sun [Sydney], 9 October 1910;
and later in
The Bookfellow, 15 July 1914;
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934;
An Introduction to Australian Literature edited by C.D. Narasimhaiah, 1965;
Green Days and Cherries: the early verses of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981;
An Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by C.D. Narasimhaiah, 1990;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991;
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993; and
Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia edited by Les Murray, 2005.

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

See also.

The Poet by Henry Halloran

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How little know the grov'lling mass,
   Immers'd in the pursuit of gain,
The heaven born visionings that pass,
   All glowing, through the poet's brain!

When Evening draws her twilight veil,
   When Cynthia, in her pensive car,
Uprises in the Past, to hail
   The Hesperian planet from afar;

When through the deep re-echoing vale
   The lonely bulbul thrills her note,
And, borne upon the evening gale,
   Angelic voices seem to float;--

'Tis then the poet loves to dwell
   Far from th' unhallow'd haunts of men:
How dear to him each shadowy dell--
   How dear each wild, terrific glen!

How dear the solitude of night
   To one whose thoughts are fix'd above--
How dear the visions of delight
   Thro' which his fancy loves to rove!

What tho' tho world has frown'd on him--  
   What tho' his early love was blighted
By penury's cold hand, and dim
   The torch his youthful fancy lighted?

What tho' the ceaseless flow of thought
   Has withered his once beauteous brow,
And sorrow to his cheek has brought
   A more than deadly paleness now?  

What though the sneer of sun-bask'd pride
   Has often stung his gentle breast?
And what tho' folly may deride,
   The heavenly flame it ne'er possess'd;--

And power neglect, and treach'ry wound,
   And Envy view with "jaundic'd eye"--
And Malice pour her poison round,
   And swell the tide of calumny?--    

Still, Genius! thy sacred home  
   'Midst mountain solitudes shall be;
There shall thy eagle spirit roam--
   There breathe thy deathless energy.

There shall thy deep mystenous tide
   Bear thoughts unknown to ancient lore,
And thy prophetic spirit glide
   Through realms unvisited before.    

Nor time nor space thy pow'r shall quell--
   Imagination's fields are thine--
Music resigns to thee her shell,
   And Thought its inexhausted mine!

First published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 8 October 1831

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Great Grey Plain by Henry Lawson

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Out West, where the stars are brightest,
   Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead gleam whitest,
   And the sun on a desert glows --
Yet within the selfish kingdom
   Where man starves man for gain,
Where white men tramp for existence --
   Wide lies the Great Grey Plain.

No break in its awful horizon,
   No blur in the dazzling haze,
Save where by the bordering timber
   The fierce, white heat-waves blaze,
And out where the tank-heap rises
   Or looms when the sunlights wane,
Till it seems like a distant mountain
   Low down on the Great Grey Plain.

No sign of a stream or fountain,
   No spring on its dry, hot breast,
No shade from the blazing noontide
   Where a weary man might rest.
Whole years go by when the glowing
   Sky never clouds for rain --
Only the shrubs of the desert
   Grow on the Great Grey Plain.

From the camp, while the rich man's dreaming,
   Come the "traveller" and his mate,
In the ghastly dawnlight seeming
   Like a swagman's ghost out late;
And the horseman blurs in the distance,
   While still the stars remain,
A low, faint dust-cloud haunting
   His track on the Great Grey Plain.

And all day long from before them
   The mirage smokes away --
That daylight ghost of an ocean
   Creeps close behind all day
With an evil, snake-like motion,
   As the waves of a madman's brain:
'Tis a phantom NOT like water
   Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

There's a run on the Western limit
   Where a man lives like a beast,
And a shanty in the mulga
   That stretches to the East;
And the hopeless men who carry
   Their swags and tramp in pain --
The footmen must not tarry
   Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

Out West, where the stars are brightest,
   Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead seem whitest,
   And the sun on a desert glows --
Out back in the hungry distance
   That brave hearts dare in vain --
Where beggars tramp for existence --
   There lies the Great Grey Plain.

'Tis a desert not more barren
   Than the Great Grey Plain of years,
Where a fierce fire burns the hearts of men --
   Dries up the fount of tears:
Where the victims of a greed insane
   Are crushed in a hell-born strife --
Where the souls of a race are murdered
   On the Great Grey Plain of Life!

First published in The Worker, 7 October 1893;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1924;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
A Camp-Fire Yarn : Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
Henry Lawson edited by Geoffrey Blainey, 2002.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

Campaspe by Henry Kendall

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Turn from the ways of this woman! Campaspe, we call her by name --
She is fairer than flowers of the fire -- she is brighter than brightness of flame.
As a song that strikes swift to the heart with the beat of the blood of the South,
And a light and a leap and a smart, is the play of her perilous mouth.
Her eyes are as splendours that break in the rain at the set of the sun,
But turn from the steps of Campaspe -- a woman to look at and shun!

Dost thou know of the cunning of Beauty! Take heed to thyself and beware
Of the trap in the droop of the raiment-the snare in the folds of the hair?
She is fulgent in flashes of pearl, the breeze with her breathing in sweet,
But fly from the face of the girl -- there is death in the fall of her feet!
Is she maiden or marvel like marble? -- O rather a tigress at wait   
To pounce on thy soul for her pastime -- a leopard for love and for hate!

Women of shadow and furnace! She biteth her lips to restrain
Speech that springs out when she sleepeth by the stirs and the starts of her pain.
As music half-shapen of sorrow with its wants and its infinite wail  
Is the voice of Campaspe -- the beauty at bay with her passion dead-pale.
Go out from the courts of her loving, nor tempt the fierce dance of desire
Where thy life would be shrivelled like stubble in the stress and the fervour of fire.

I know of one, gentle as moonlight -- she is sad as the shine of the moon
But touching the ways of her eyes are: she comes to my soul like a tune --
Like a tune that is filled with faint voices of the loved and the lost and the lone
Doth this stranger abide with my silence: like a tune with a tremulous tone.
The leopard, we call her Campaspe! I pluck at a rose and I stir
To think of this sweethearted maiden -- what name is too tender for her?  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1866;
and later in
The Poets and Prose Writers of New South Wales edited by G.B. Barton, 1866;
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966;
The Oxford Book of Australian Love Poems edited by Jennifer Strauss, 1993; and
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993.

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

See also.

Darrell by Will H. Ogilvie

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So I've taken his hundred notes in the end,
   And now, as I turn them over,
I feel like a man who's been false to a friend,
   Or has broken his troth to a lover.
And what will they purchase, when all is said,
   For me with the world's wealth laden?
A barrel or two of Kaludah red,
   Or the favor of some light maiden!
Our wine turns gall at the gray day's birth
   When the lamp of the revel paleth;
We know what the kiss of a woman is worth --
   But a good horse never faileth.
Your white arms clinging, my ringless bride,
   Are bonds that the years will sever;
But the brave hoof-thunder of Darrell's stride
   Will beat in my heart for ever!
You know how little of truth there lies
   In the heart of your hot caresses,
There is danger hid in your dreamful eyes,
   There is death in your winding tresses;
And, since you would turn for a fairer face
   Or a stronger arm's enfolding,
You will never hold in my heart the place
   That one honest horse is holding.

The stars are fading by one and one
   And the fires of the dawn are lightening
The web that a pitiless fate has spun,
   And my own cursed hand is tightening;
Oh! better this arm had lost its force,
   This brain in the dust lain idle,
Before I bartered the grandest horse
   That ever carried a bridle!

First published in The Bulletin, 5 October 1895;
and later in
Fair Girls and Grey Horses: With Other Verses by Will H. Ogilvie, 1958.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

"To Seek and to Save" by Mary Hannay Foott

| No TrackBacks
Affectionately Inscribed to Annie Hutchinson, Salvation Army

The light within her casement woke ere yet
The shrouded East revived at breath of morn;
Her candle burned when midnight moons had set.
Yet never laurel hath this watcher worn;
'Twas never crabbed character of eld,
Sign of the Greek, or symbol of the Moor,
Her womanly eyes to bond of vigil held;
Nor Fame, nor Gain, from slumber did allure.
She threaded our dark places unafraid --
Alone, save for the Presences unseen
Who joyful leave the Bliss Beyond to aid
The Angels of the Earth --- and stood between
The living and the dead, with suppliant mien,
Like Israel's Leader when "the plague was stayed."

First published in The Queenslander, 4 October 1890

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

Real Estate by Ella McFadyen

| No TrackBacks
The fairies live in garden flowers,
   As doth the caterpillar;
The mignonette a cottage is,
   A larkspur is a villa.

In rose-trees' old embattled walls
   Proud fairy earls are dwelling;
Campanulas are churches tall,
   Where bells the hours are telling.

Acanthus flowers let out as flats,
   Whose tennants are erratic;
I knew an artist fay who climbed
   Twelve stories to his attic.

And there's a fairy architect
   A curious gift discloses,
Restoring most artistic homes
   From ruinous moss-roses.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 1931

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Old Shearer by Mary Roche

| No TrackBacks
I'm packing up "Matilda" and we're heading for the ranges,  
   For the big town job that's waiting I don't seem to care a fig.
On the stations all along the South the sheep are heavy covered.
   They'll be mustering for the shearing, and the tally's always big!
I can cut my hundred daily, even crossbreds are not troubles,
   I'll be "rep." on many old gangs once again.
I've been "ringer" of my shed, and so the tar is in my nostrils,
   I can hear the sheep dogs whimper as they pull the fretting chain.
So I'll call "So long" to home ones and I'll swing the leg o'er "Baldy,"
   With my flannels and my "bowyangs" in the blanket on my pack,
   And the wet days I'll be writing home -- there's poker matches to be won.
   And all the Bushland calling to the old hand, going back!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 October 1926

Nothing is known about the author of this poem.

Author reference site: Austlit

In Defence of the Bush by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

| No TrackBacks
So you're back from up the country, Mister Lawson, where you went,
And you're cursing all the business in a bitter discontent;
Well, we grieve to disappoint you, and it makes us sad to hear
That it wasn't cool and shady -- and there wasn't plenty beer,
And the loony bullock snorted when you first came into view;
Well, you know it's not so often that he sees a swell like you;
And the roads were hot and dusty, and the plains were burnt and brown,
And no doubt you're better suited drinking lemon-squash in town.

Yet, perchance, if you should journey down the very track you went
In a month or two at furthest you would wonder what it meant,
Where the sunbaked earth was gasping like a creature in its pain
You would find the grasses waving like a field of summer grain,
And the miles of thirsty gutters blocked with sand and choked with mud,
You would find them mighty rivers with a turbid, sweeping flood;
For the rain and drought and sunshine make no changes in the street,
In the sullen line of buildings and the ceaseless tramp of feet;
But the bush hath moods and changes, as the seasons rise and fall,
And the men who know the bush-land -- they are loyal through it all.

But you found the bush was dismal and a land of no delight,
Did you chance to hear a chorus in the shearers' huts at night?
Did they "rise up, William Riley" by the camp-fire's cheery blaze?
Did they rise him as we rose him in the good old droving days?
And the women of the homesteads and the men you chanced to meet --
Were their faces sour and saddened like the "faces in the street",
And the "shy selector children" -- were they better now or worse
Than the little city urchins who would greet you with a curse?
Is not such a life much better than the squalid street and square
Where the fallen women flaunt it in the fierce electric glare,
Where the sempstress plies her sewing till her eyes are sore and red
In a filthy, dirty attic toiling on for daily bread?
Did you hear no sweeter voices in the music of the bush
Than the roar of trams and 'buses, and the war-whoop of "the push"?
Did the magpies rouse your slumbers with their carol sweet and strange?
Did you hear the silver chiming of the bell-birds on the range?
But, perchance, the wild birds' music by your senses was despised,
For you say you'll stay in townships till the bush is civilised.
Would you make it a tea-garden and on Sundays have a band
Where the "blokes" might take their "donahs",  with a "public" close at hand?
You had better stick to Sydney and make merry with the "push",
For the bush will never suit you, and you'll never suit the bush.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 October 1892;
and later in
The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1895;
The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1982;
Singer of the Bush, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson: Complete Works 1885-1900 compiled by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1983;
The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse edited by Bill Scott, 1986;
Banjo Paterson's Poems of the Bush by A.B. Paterson, 1987;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;
Selected Poems: A. B. Paterson compiled by Les Murray, 1992;
The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson edited by Clement Semmler, 1993;
Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall, 1993; and
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993.

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

See also.

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