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Old Sister Mary Martha by Myra Morris

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Old Sister Mary Martha walks
   Behind the convent gate,
A-down the only path she knows.
Past blossoming tree and budding rose,
Counting her trembling steps, she goes,
   And makes the turn at eight.

Frail as a Winter bloom is she,
   And old, so very old.
Her eyes are like pale, frosted glass,
Her rusty skirts above the grass
Make scarce a whisper as they pass,
   Scarce stir the leafy mould.

Old Sister Mary Martha halts
   Beside the plum's white lace,
And for one moment fragrant things
From sweet, remembered, far-off Springs
Merge with the rush of angels' wings
   And lie along her face!

First published in The Australian Woman's Mirror, 29 October 1929

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

To a School-Girl by John Shaw Neilson

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O most unconscious daisy!
Thou daybreak of a joy!
Whose eyes invade the impassioned man
In every wayside boy.

Can I, walled in by Autumn,
With buoyant things agree?
Speak all my heart to a daisy
If one should smile at me?

Out of the Summer fallen,
Can I of Summer sing?
Call that I love on the deep yellow
Between me and the Spring?

First published in Bookfellow, 15 July 1921;
and later in
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson edited by R.H. Croll, 1934;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991; and
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993.

Note: this poem is also known by the title "To a School-Girl in Her Fourteenth Year".

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

See also.

The Things Old Men Collect by Jim Grahame

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My shelf is crammed with broken pipes
   And old tobacco tins;
The lapel of my vest is bright
   With shining rows of pins;
I fear that I am growing old
   By signs that I detect,
For I am hoarding odds and ends ---
   The things old men collect.

I seem to love a shabby coat.
   With elbows frayed and torn:
I have a dozen styles in hats
   That someone else has worn;
And hanging round are shirts and pants
   That all show some defect;
And here and there a walking-stick ----
   The kind old men collect.

I've tins of nails and bolts and screws,
   And little coils of twine;
A score of keys for lock and latch
   That fit no door of mine;
My shaving mirror lacks a frame,
   It's dim, and can't reflect
Those lines and wrinkles on my face
   That all old men collect.

I keep two old and faithful dogs,
   And some domestic pets:
One likes to see these things about
   The older that one gets.
I'd have them all inside with me,
   But someone might object;
They do not know the joy there's in
   The friends old men collect.

Though time is quickly flying on,
   Its haste does not annoy.
There's lots of good things in the world --
   The things old men enjoy.
And life is passing fair to me:
   I still can walk erect,
And have no hankering to rest
   Where old men's bones collect.

First published in The Bulletin, 29 June 1922;
and later in
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

Author: James William Grahame (1874-1949) was born in Creswick, Victoria, and spent the early part of his working life on the land in a variety of occupations.  He became a station manager on the darling River in new South wales and later worked for the State Government as an inspector of orchards. He published three collections of his work during his lifetime and died in Leeton, New South Wales, in 1949.

Author reference site: Austlit

An Octogenarian's Autumn by Hedley Barron Miller

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The sun looms later from a quiet sea,
Now autumn's fitful brooding laps the bay;
And, haunting sea and land, fogs meet halfway
And quail before a briefer day's decree.   
Not yet the rimey dew is off the lea,
Where lacing hoar-frost binds the grass with grey,
And curls the rusty leaf. Dank shadows play
On mildewed pomegranates through the tree.
Shorter the cool days grow and from the east
Grave shadows fling a deeper longer band   
Across departed summers dying feast,
Life's autumn, too, draws on. Old shadows stand
On buried years with patient eyes turned west,
Where opal twilight screens the promised land.  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 1934

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

Author reference site: Austlit

Taedium Vitae by Frank Morton

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The Hope of youth is dead, and whence
Shall such hope glad our hearts again?
Fear still we have, and springing thence
Remorseless faculty of pain.
And constant gloom of penitence.
For life, now hopeless grown, is more
Tawdry --- less lovely --- than of yore;   
And now that youth's rich hope has flown,
Say, where has youth's great courage gone?
And where is youth's high hardihed
Now that the Hope of youth is dead?

The Pride of youth has passed, and we
Are humbled out of harmony.
The heart that cheered us once, elate
In merriest mockery of fate,
The glad gay spirit of our Spring,
Are dead beyond awakening.
We bend our necks and bear the blow   
Would once have set that heart aglow,
And wrought that spirit into flame
Of quick resentment of the same,   
And jarred that pride. . . And so, at last,
We're reputable --- Pride has passed.

And Love --- the love of youth --- gives place
To something impotently prim
And stupidly demure of face,
Which Love knew not. Oh, what of him
Who winged his welcomed arrows then
Where'er he would, while we who bled
Nor made complaint nor moaning fled,
But craved the pleasing wound again?
Ah, now the dull years crowd! In vain   
We seek ('tis all we need in truth)
Again our Love --- the love of youth!   

Dear Hope is dead; fair Pride has passed;
Sweet Love has left us with the years;
And this half-life is salt with tears,
With bitterest longings overcast.
And, all unmindful though we sigh,
Joy flutters, pale, about to fly.
The world grows gray; and oh! that we   
Were buried where our treasures be!  

First published in The Queenslander, 28 August 1897

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Gray Years: A Mood by Frank Morton

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"Yet ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close!
   The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah whence and whither flown again, who knowst!"

Omar Khayyam.

We have passed our flood, and ceaseless makes the steady ebb, and slacker
   Grows the spring of life within us; with uncertain feet we tread;
And the shadows lengthen daily, ever broader, ever blacker,
   And the joys of life pall sadly, and the rest of life has fled,

And the lamp of life burns feebly, and the prospects when environ
   Are depressingly unlovely and of dead-gray dubious tone;
Dull the eye which erst flashed brightly, flaccid too those thews of iron;
   Nerves of steel have lost their temper; poignant memory alone

Tells us ever what we once were, when our hot hearts thrilled ecstatic
   To the subtle-tinted music of a thousand golden strings
Struck by gleeful gods and graces in a melody chromatic,
   Voicing love and lust and laughter, and delicious nameless things.   

Oh! but blood was thick in those days, and rushed turbulently, madly,
   Through the veins that throbbed and quivered to the glory of its flow!
And though penitence came sorely, yet we spent our Morning gladly,
   And we will not sulk in sackcloth now the once-swift pulse goes slow.

For our memory, though poignant, is not wholly chill and bitter:
   Solace mingles with its sadness, and its archives are intact.
Not for us warm exploits, these days; but we can (and this is fitter)
   Taste again in recollection joys we may not face in fact.

We have drunk our meed of Pleasure till no drop remains for drinking,
   And we mourn in weary leisure what we drained in needless haste.
But the emptied chalice still is not ill-seeming to our thinking,
   And we keep some touch of sweetness in the fragrant after-taste.

Ah! we charm no smile from Beauty now --- the gifts to charm have perished;
   No soft lips reach forth responsive to the breathing of our vows
As they once did; which is proper, for the beauties whom we cherished
   Bear the brand of Time's coarse finger on their one-time perfect brows.

Ichabod! No Song Celestial glads us now. The clay is clinging
   Close about our hearts and senses. We can never know again
Deeds that move the soul to frenzy, thoughts that set the spirit singing,
   Passion's march of tense emotions, Love's exuberance of pain!

And to her whom once we worshipped we can frame no fit orison;
   These our feet shall never press again the path our feet have trod.
But -- the soft pale face of Death shines forth above the near horizon:
   We are willing now to meet him, even eager.-- Ichabod!

Brothers! dusk has come, and ceaseless makes the steady ebb, and slacker
   Grows the spring of life within us. Hope has lost all nutriment . . .
But the shadows lengthen daily, ever broader, ever blacker:
   Soon shall come the closing darkness -- and nepenthe
      Be content!

First published in The Queenslander, 17 July 1897

Author: Frank Morton (1869-1923) was born in Kent, England and arrived in Australia in 1885.  He began his working life as an engineering apprentice, and served on a ship in 1899, before leaving it in Hong Kong.  He taught in Singapore before taking a job on the staff of the Straits Times.  That was followed by work on a number of Indian newspapers before returning to Australia in 1894.  He then moved about the country and to New Zealand working as a journalist and editor on a series of newspapers before settling in Sydney in 1914.  He died there in 1923.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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