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Grain by Mabel Forrest

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There was yellow grain on Shinar's plain
Before the brown floods swirled about the Ark,
And like a dancing rainbow in the tide
Went down the hoarding vase of polychrome
Which, in the layers of the centuries' mud,
Wise men found fecund with its store of grain,
Bearing for them a page of history --
Grain that was reaped with sickles made of stone,
Where listless, dark-eyed women ground the corn,
Pouring a bright stream from the pottery jar
Into the grinding stone, and pondering
The luck of some swart lover in the chase.

The wealth of Antioch grew from the tolls
On camel trains that, down Orontes way,
Labored to bring the bales of amber wheat,
Linen and ore and painted porcelain cups
And lapis lazuli, and limestone slabs
Whereon was traced a chariot with wheels
Brushing aside a field of ripening corn.

When pastoral peoples drifted from the heights,
And as grain growers settled in the vales,
To beat out copper knives and shares and spears,
From these first settlers rose the harvest dream,
The lush-green paddy-fields where blue canes feed,
The rye upon the Afghanistan hills,
The oats in Wiltshire, and the barley gurs
Paid to their slaves by Babylonian kings;
Wild barley running over Turkestan,
And what in Persia, or in burial-chests
Of Egypt, packed in alabaster urns,
For when the Nile was swamp the sowers came
With pear-shaped mace-heads, wavy-handled pots
They had brought with them out of Palestine
To shimmering visions of a fruitful land.

Wheat on the Darling Downs, like sheets of silk,
A rustling company in Lincoln green
With listening ears turned to December winds;
Corn slowly mellowing through drowsy hours
And barley bright as dragons in the grass.
And tall white silos, sentinels of the plain,
And dusty barns where shadow trips the sun
Through lofty windows, or the hum of scythes
Singing in English counties. Grain on grain,
The history of Man is written here --
Man rising from the mud of a morass
To concrete highways: sickles made of stone,
To the swift smoothness of machinery;
And nature working just the same old way,
With sap and shower to find the grain for bread!

First published in The Bulletin, 14 January 1931

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Fruit of Earth by C.J. Dennis

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Agriculturists and others have been concerned lately over the sudden fluctuation of prices in many staple commodities, while droughts, floods and weather conditions generally have brought to partial failure efforts to restrict and govern artificially the growth and distribution of earth's products.

The winds that blow about the world
   (Said Old George Jones)
See here all hope to ruin hurled,
See there triumphant flags unfurled,
   Over chance-favored zones.
And no man's wisdom, no man's might
   Foresees, much les controls
Some little breeze born of the night
That brings perchance a sudden blight
   Or balm for tortured souls.

But growin' things and sowin' things
   And watchin' of 'em grow
Not hastenin' things or slowin' things
Nor seekin' to be knowin' things
   That men may never know.
'Tis so the kind earth pays a man
   'Tis so content is made.
Not work, but worry slays a man;
I take what tricks Fate plays a man
   An' sticks to Adam's trade.

The fears that creep about the earth -
   Vague fears and short-lived joys -
What in reckonin' are they worth?
Too quickly swayed by grief or mirth
   We live like foolish boys.
Year in, year out, earth mothers us
   And offers livelihood,
This year ill fortune bothers us
Next year her bounty smothers us:
   The sum of all is good.

'Tis futile man proposes things;
   But Nature goes her ways
And God alone disposes things,
And Time alone discloses things
   That rule our future says.
Earth yields me her fertility
   And till she takes my bones,
I'll nought of man's futility.
For peace bides in humility
   (Said Old George Jones).

First published in The Herald, 30 July 1934

The Travelling Post Office by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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The roving breezes come and go, the reed beds sweep and sway,
The sleepy river murmurs low, and loiters on its way,
It is the land of lots o' time along the Castlereagh.

The old man's son had left the farm, he found it dull and slow,
He drifted to the great North-west where all the rovers go.
"He's gone so long," the old man said, "he's dropped right out of mind,
But if you'd write a line to him I'd take it very kind;
He's shearing here and fencing there, a kind of waif and stray,
He's droving now with Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh.
The sheep are travelling for the grass, and travelling very slow;
They may be at Mundooran now, or past the Overflow,
Or tramping down the black soil flats across by Waddiwong,
But all those little country towns would send the letter wrong,
The mailman, if he's extra tired, would pass them in his sleep,
It's safest to address the note to 'Care of Conroy's sheep',
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to 'Care of Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh'."

By rock and ridge and riverside the western mail has gone,
Across the great Blue Mountain Range to take that letter on.
A moment on the topmost grade while open fire doors glare,
She pauses like a living thing to breathe the mountain air,
Then launches down the other side across the plains away
To bear that note to "Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh".

And now by coach and mailman's bag it goes from town to town,
And Conroy's Gap and Conroy's Creek have marked it "further down".
Beneath a sky of deepest blue where never cloud abides,
A speck upon the waste of plain the lonely mailman rides.
Where fierce hot winds have set the pine and myall boughs asweep
He hails the shearers passing by for news of Conroy's sheep.
By big lagoons where wildfowl play and crested pigeons flock,
By camp fires where the drovers ride around their restless stock,
And past the teamster toiling down to fetch the wool away
My letter chases Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh.

First published in The Bulletin, 10 March 1894, and again in the same magazine on 22-29 December 1981;
and later in
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses by A. B Paterson, 1895;
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1907;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens,1909;
The Children's Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens,1913;
Selections from the Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens,1925;
The Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1945;
Australia Fair: Poems and Paintings edited by Douglas Stewart, 1974;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
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 Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Banjo Paterson's Poems of the Bush by A.B. Paterson, 1987;
The Banjo's Best-Loved Poems compiled by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie,1989;
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;
A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson: Bush Ballads, Poems, Stories and Journalism edited by Clement Semmler, 1992;
Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall, 1993;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1996;
Seven Centuries of Poetry in English edited by John Leonard, 2003;
80 Great Poems From Chaucer to Now edited by Geoff Page, 2006;
Sixty Classic Australian Poems edited by Geoff Page, 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.

The Squatteroo by Edward S. Sorenson

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A long-legged, lanky man was he, with grizzly beard and grey,
A stranger at the shanty -- for he came from far away;
And we noticed that his harness was the product of the 'roo,
      And his boots and -- strike me fat!
      There was hair upon his hat!
And he said: "Oi am a grazin' man -- the only Squattheroo!"

So we took him into "Mother's," and we wet him at the bar,
And he spoke about his cattle -- how he branded them with tar,
And mustered by the thousand out upon the lone Paroo.
      They were not the common kine,
      Neither were they grunting swine --
"Faith! They only go on two legs yit," observed the Squatteroo.

He said he'd learnt how garden-stuff was once the rankest weeds,
How men evolved from puny stock the very best of breeds;
And then he crossed the Darling to domesticate the 'roo.
      He would choose his paramours,
      Make him locomote on fours --
Then he'd be a source of profit to the only Squatreroo!

He would make of him a packer, he would teach him not to hop,
And when he had induced the brute his former end to drop,
He would send the horizontal fact some day to Sydney Zoo.
      "Oi am shure compulsive use
      Of the forelegs will produce
What ye'd call an abnormality," averted the Squatteroo.

"There's no dacent occupation for a baste thot stands on ind!
But, he'll be a perfect jewel whin his little paws descind!
And he'll thrott around the shanty loike O'Doolan's pig -- Hooroo!
      He'll be yoked in pairs like oxen,
      He'll forgit his thricks o' boxin',
An' we'll thrain him for the races," said the backblock Squatteroo.

Then he swung into his saddle, said he must be making tracks;
No, he didn't want no stockmen, he employed a hundred blacks,
Who were out a-branding joeys now upon the lone Paroo.
      By-and-by we'd see them riding
      On 'roo-back to Cobar siding,
A-driving kangaroo; for him -- that long-legged Squatteroo!

First published in The Bulletin, 8 March 1902

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Since the Country Carried Sheep by Harry ("Breaker") Morant

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We trucked the cows to Homebush, saw the girls, and started back,
Went West through Cunnamulla, and got to the Eulo track.
Camped a while at Gonybibil -- but, Lord! you wouldn't know
It for the place where you and Mick were stockmen long ago.

Young Merino bought the station, fenced the run and built a 'shed',
Sacked the stockmen, sold the cattle, and put on sheep instead,
But he wasn't built for Queensland. and every blessed year
One hears of 'labour troubles' when Merino starts to shear.

There are ructions with the rouseabouts, and shearers' strikes galore!
The likes were never thought of in the cattle days of yore.
And slowly, round small paddocks now, the 'sleeping lizards' creep,
And Gonybibil's beggared since the country carried sheep.

Time was we had the horses up ere starlight waned away,
The billy would be boiling by the breaking of the day;
And our horses -- by Protection -- were aye in decent nick,
When we rode up the 'Bidgee where the clearskins mustered thick.

They've built brush-yards on Wild Horse Creek, where in the morning's hush
We've sat silent in the saddle, and listened for the rush
Of the scrubbers -- when we heard 'em, 'twas wheel 'em if you can,
While gidgee, pine and mulga tried the nerve of horse and man.

The mickies that we've branded there! the colts we had to ride!
In Gonybibil's palmy days -- before the old boss died.
Could Yorkie Hawkins see his run, I guess his ghost would weep,
For Gonybibil's beggared since the country carried sheep.

From sunrise until sunset through the summer days we'd ride,
But stockyard rails were up and pegged, with cattle safe inside,
When 'twixt the gloamin' and the murk, we heard the well-known note --
The peal of boisterous laughter from the kookaburra's throat.

Camped out beneath the starlit skies, the tree-tops overhead,
A saddle for a pillow, and a blanket for a bed,
'Twas pleasant, mate, to listen to the soughing of the breeze,
And learn the lilting lullabies which stirred the mulga-trees.

Our sleep was sound in those times, for the mustering days were hard,
The morrows might be harder, with the branding in the yard.
But did you see the station now! the men -- and mokes -- they keep!
You'd own the place was beggared -- since the country carried sheep.

First published in The Bulletin, 4 March 1893, and again in the same magazine on 5 April, 1902;
and later in
Bushman and Buccaneer: Harry Morant : His 'Ventures and Verses edited by Frank Renar, 1902;
The Poetry of 'Breaker' Morant: from "The Bulletin" 1891-1903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant, 1980;
This Australia Summer 1981;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007; and
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008.

Author: Harry 'Breaker' Morant (1865?-1902) was born in the United Kingdom - in 1865 by his own account but in 1864 according to later research, possibly under the name Edwin Henry Murrant. He left England in April 1883 bound for Queensland where he married Daisy May O'Dwyer (later known more famously as Daisy Bates) - and quickly divorced - and took to droving and horse-breaking; hence the nickname. In the late 1890s he enlisted with the South Australian Mounted Rifles to fight in the Boer War in South Africa. Along with P.J. Handcock, Morant was court-martialled for executing several Boer prisoners and a German missionary. He was found guilty and executed by firing squad on February 27th 1902.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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