Mallee Wife by C.J. Dennis

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"Nice for a holiday," said a Mallee woman recently, after inspecting the hustle and show of the city for the first time.  "But to live in," she continued, "give us the Mallee."

Home's best (she said), and the tale
Of the hungering soil and the flail
   Of the sun and the shuddering threat
   Of the heat, and more heat yet;
Of more than a woman can stand,
Almost, in that merciless land,
   With its lifelong, lingering strife,
   For the Mallee mother and wife.

Oh, I've seen all the spurious zest
Of the city, and yet, home's best;
   The sweep of the plain's vast verge,
   And the calling of Life and the urge
To struggle and hope in vain,
Then struggle and hope again --
   That, and the faith that clings
   For the solving of human things.

Home's best (she said).  I have seen
The glamor of cities, the sheen
   Of the silken garments rare --
   And they spell for me despair;
Despair for the woman who cleaves
To luxury's yellowing leaves --
   Despair for the weakening race,
   Who, faltering, fall from grace.

Life, as I know it is stern;
And the seed of my seed must learn
   That nothing has life to give
   Save a man must labor to live --
Struggle and ache and toil
For the gifts that come of the soil,
   Since every treasure of worth
   Comes of the hard, kind earth.

Home's best (she said), and the dust
And the finger of God out-thrust,
   Saying, "You toil, or die
   Under this pitiless sky."
Even as long since said
To the Parents of Man long dead;
   Even as 'twas decreed
   In Man's first, passionate need.

Home's best.  For what do they know,
Who cleave to glitter and show,
   And strive in a strange excess
   Of pleasure for happiness?
What do they know of worth
Of the secret lure of the earth,
   And the peace, and the exquisite ache of the battle --
   For my man's sake?

First published in The Herald, 7 February 1935

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 7, 2013 5:59 PM.

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