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The Autumn Starlings by Kathleen Dalziel

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None so careless of winter's warning
As a starling-troupe on a warm mid-morning
Playing their sweet imperfect pipes,
Clicking inadequate castanets.
Keeping some old-time festival
Some artless musical free-for-all,
With stuttering solos and quaint quartets,
Crooning and clucking, they try and try
In vain for some note that soars too high.

In shimmering suits of metallic black
And blue, they sing till their voices crack.
And then, what happens? Just cluck and chatter
And happy gossip. What does it matter
After all, if noon still lies
Warm on the woodshed's weathered roof?
A sun-bright morning is still enough,
More than enough, in a starling's eyes.

First published in The Bulletin, 13 June 1956

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Thrushes by Kathleen Dalziel

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The thrushes are singing again; I can hear their delight
   Down leaf-littered aisles where the beaded rain drips from the bushes,
Where autumn's bright candles burn down to the edges of night
   In cinnamon, scarlet and ashes of gold, hear the thrushes!

Before the first wattle flings odorous gifts to the gale,
   Before the first snows to the blossoming almonds belong,
They flute to the early star, luminous, lovely and pale,
   Or herald the dawn with a delicate tribute of song.

It seems that the singers have chanced on a secret divine;
   For, oh, when the sunset dies low into desolate embers,
I guess at a gladness too airily bright to be mine,
   In the magic that mortals forget and the grey bird remembers.

First published in The Bulletin, 3 June 1936

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Blackbirds are Everywhere by Myra Morris

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Blackbirds are everywhere,
Eternally they sing
In green, sun-netted gardens
All summer, winter, spring.

Deep in the tea-tree aisles
They whistle each to each
And call above the tumult
Of waters on the beach.

How brave the broken notes
Down grimy lane and street,
Lifting with joy then muted
Under the traffic's beat!

And by old railway-yards
Where the trains come clanking in,
Grumbling and growling, listen,
When the wheels have ceased to spin!

Listen and you will hear
Through the silence, strange, profound,
The blackbirds' song flung skywards --
A golden spear of sound!

First published in The Bulletin, 23 March 1955

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Departure of the Swifts by Kathleen Dalziel

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High in the skies in thunder-wrath
I saw them muster and mill and swarm,
One and a thousand birds of a feather
Swirling about a mounting storm;

Disappearing and reappearing
Low in the shades, high in the sun,
Lost and found again where the rearing
Thunderheads melt and overrun;

Off -- and over the Bay's bright dimples
Rocketing (catch them if you can),
Soon to be circling round the temples,
Cities and shrines of old Japan;

Summering somewhere in far Cathay,
Feasting on steppes still further west
(It is whispered that some still know the way
To good Saint Brandon's Isle of the Blest.)

But, gone to glory or Timbuctoo,
Whether to Elfland or Avalon,
One and a thousand or two by two
The swifts but follow where summer has gone. 

First published in The Bulletin, 26 February 1958

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.  

The Welcome Swallow by C.J. Dennis

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They know me not to praise and love aright,
Who only pause to mark my headlong flight --
   A swift and slender crescent wheeling by
   Athwart Spring's softly amaranthine sky.
   And yet I am
Named "Welcome," joyously by even these
Who, missing all my soft amenities,
   Still speak the words that ever haunted men,
   And say, "The swallows have come back again."

No braggart I, no loud-voiced chorister:
But, when the bees 'mid blossoms are astir,
   Into the quiet day my song is spent,
   A rare, sweet ministrelsy of gladness blent
   With calm content.
Content is in my pose; my tawny throat,
Swelling anew to every trickling note
   Speaks to the heart of him who listens then:
   "Peace reigns; the swallows have come back again."

Who knows me well could never love me less
For having sought and won my friendliness.
   In my sleek coat of unsuspected hues --
   Russet and fawn and darkly gleaming blues --
   I bring good news.
Drab harbinger of hope; to him who grieves
I chirp my message from the sunlit eaves.
   And, with the sun returning, turn from men
   Face down. "The swallows have come back again."

First published in The Herald, 3 September 1932;
and later in 
The Singing Garden by C.J. Dennis, 1935.

Morning Glory by C.J. Dennis

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Singing morning has begun.
Where the wooded ranges run
To far summits, there the snow
Lingers yet.  But down below
In the quiet, green-girt places,
Where full many a swift creek races
From the snow-lands to the sea,
Now breaks sudden harmony.
 
Where this tree-waned clearing dreams,
First a rosy promise be
As young dawn steels up the sky
Where the frozen ramparts lie.
Now, from dew-wet leaves a-glitter,
Comes a little drowsy twitter,
And the first swift spear of light
Wounds at last the stubborn Night.
 
Flashing now, bright javelins
Pierce the murk; and now begins --
As Day's gleaming ranks deploy --
Morning's canticle of joy.
First a sleepy chuckle, breaking,
Tells of Laughing Jack awaking,
Pausing; then, from tree to tree,
Leaps unbound hilarity.
 
Here's the signal .... Morning's hush
Sweetness shatters, as Grey Thrush,
Vieing with the seraphim,
Lifts his liquid matin hymn.
Golden Whistler joins him then,
Now Red Robin, now Blue Wren;
Magpie's trumpet, sounding, swelling,
Caps the eager chorus welling,
As a wealth of varied notes
Pours now from a hundred throats
Up to greet their lord, the Sun,
Morning, morning has begun!

First published in The Herald, 7 August 1933;
and later in
Random Verse edited by Margaret Herron, 1952.

To a Magpie by C.J. Dennis

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The City Council has granted permission to the Railways Commission to shoot magpies which build nests of wire in the overhead equipment of the electric train system.

O joyous caroller of morn
   Whose wild, triumphant fluting brings
Cheer to an Autumn day new born,
   Who, in the dawn's cool, splendor, flings
Defiance to the departing night,
   Bidding Gloom's myrmidons begone,
Harmonious harbinger of light,
   Proud trumpeter, sing on, sing on!

O foolish and imprudent fowl
   Who stops the early morning rain,
While mad commuters loudly howl
   And traffic managers complain,
Death claims you.  Yet, cease not to sing
   In that bird heaven to which you've gone
Thro' your domestic blundering,
   Short-circuiter, sing on, sing on!

First published in The Herald, 21 March 1929

Mornin' Magpies by C.J. Dennis

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   There's a dismal fowl and dreary
   Haunts me thro' the night-watch weary,
When the task of livin's wearin', and the world is lookin' blue;
   When my daytime hopes are fallin',
   I can hear the mopoke callin'
I can hear his mournful callin' down the creek the whole night thro'.

   Then I feel my spirit sinkin',
   And I lie a-thinkin' -- thinkin'
Of the good intentions stifled, and the resolutions broke,
   Of the things I've done I shouldn't,
   And the times I said I wouldn't;
Then he strikes the note I'm chantin' with his sepulchral "Mo-poke!"

   When I feel the world has beat me,
   And the black thoughts come to greet me,
And I find myself a-doubtin' if the sun will shine again;
   When the ghosts of old sins haunt me,
   And the fears of hell fires daunt me;
Then the croaking bird of Satan comes to chant his dismal strain.

   Oh, there ain't no joy in livin',
   And there ain't no hope of heaven,
And the world is cold and barren -- hope is dead and spirit broke.
   Call again, you dismal croaker!
   Rub it in, you ghoulish joker!
I am ripe for hellish banter. Call again! Mo-poke! Mo-poke!

   No, there ain't no use in strivin';
   Needs must with the devil drivin';
And there ain't no manhood in me, and there ain't no chance to mend.
   All my chances are behind me,
   And despair has come to find me:
Come to find me -- cowed and broken: come to stay until THE END.
 
   There's the least faint streak out eastward,
   And I'm catchin' just the least word
Of the bird talk in the gum-tops -- just a sleepy, timid "tweek."
   Hark!  From yonder forest giant,
   Hear it ring out, proud, defiant!
Hear the joyous mornin' magpies carolin' along the creek!

   Hope awake, and spirit lighter!
   Was there ever mornin' brighter?
Where is now the broken blighter who would play a craven's part?
   Who's the one to sigh and rue things?
   I'm a man to dare and do things!
The mornin' magpie's callin' -- carolin' within my heart.

First published in The Critic, 10 February 1904;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

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.

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.

Black Swans by A. B."Banjo" Paterson

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As I lie at rest on a patch of clover
In the Western Park when the day is done,
I watch as the wild black swans fly over
With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun;
And I hear the clang of their leader crying
To a lagging mate in the rearward flying,
And they fade away in the darkness dying,
Where the stars are mustering one by one.

Oh! ye wild black swans, 'twere a world of wonder
For a while to join in your westward flight,
With the stars above and the dim earth under,
Through the cooling air of the glorious night.
As we swept along on our pinions winging,
We should catch the chime of a church-bell ringing,
Or the distant note of a torrent singing,
Or the far-off flash of a station light.

From the northern lakes with the reeds and rushes,
Where the hills are clothed with a purple haze,
Where the bell-birds chime and the songs of thrushes
Make music sweet in the jungle maze,
They will hold their course to the westward ever,
Till they reach the banks of the old grey river,
Where the waters wash, and the reed-beds quiver
In the burning heat of the summer days.

Oh! ye strange wild birds, will ye bear a greeting
To the folk that live in that western land?
Then for every sweep of your pinions beating,
Ye shall bear a wish to the sunburnt band,
To the stalwart men who are stoutly fighting
With the heat and drought and the dust-storm smiting,
Yet whose life somehow has a strange inviting,
When once to the work they have put their hand.

Facing it yet!  Oh, my friend stout-hearted,
What does it matter for rain or shine,
For the hopes deferred and the gain departed?
Nothing could conquer that heart of thine.
And thy health and strength are beyond confessing
As the only joys that are worth possessing.
May the days to come be as rich in blessing
As the days we spent in the auld lang syne.

I would fain go back to the old grey river,
To the old bush days when our hearts were light,
But, alas! those days they have fled for ever,
They are like the swans that have swept from sight.
And I know full well that the strangers' faces
Would meet us now in our dearest places;
For our day is dead and has left no traces
But the thoughts that live in my mind to-night.

There are folk long dead, and our hearts would sicken --
We would grieve for them with a bitter pain,
If the past could live and the dead could quicken,
We then might turn to that life again.
But on lonely nights we would hear them calling,
We should hear their steps on the pathways falling,
We should loathe the life with a hate appalling
In our lonely rides by the ridge and plain.

     .    .    .    .    .

In the silent park is a scent of clover,
And the distant roar of the town is dead,
And I hear once more as the swans fly over
Their far-off clamour from overhead.
They are flying west, by their instinct guided,
And for man likewise is his fate decided,
And griefs apportioned and joys divided
By a mighty power with a purpose dread.

First published
in The Sydney Mail, 22 July 1893;
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;
Silence Into Song: An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Clifford O'Brien, 1968;
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;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes and Brian McFarlane, 1984;
Banjo Paterson's Poems of the Bush by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson, 1987;
The Banjo's Best-Loved Poems edited by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1989;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;
A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson: Bush Ballads, Poems, Stories and Journalism edited by Clement Semmler, 1992;
The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson edited by Clement Semmler, 1993; and
Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall, 1993.

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

See also.

The Gentle Water Bird by John Shaw Neilson

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(For Mary Gilmore)

In the far days, when every day was long,
Fear was upon me and the fear was strong,
Ere I had learned the recompense of song.

In the dim days I trembled, for I knew
God was above me, always frowning through,
And God was terrible and thunder-blue.

Creeds the discoloured awed my opening mind,
Perils, perplexities -- what could I find? --
All the old terror waiting on mankind.

Even the gentle flowers of white and cream,
The rainbow with its treasury of dream,
Trembled because of God's ungracious scheme.

And in the night the many stars would say
Dark things unaltered in the light of day:
Fear was upon me even in my play.

There was a lake I loved in gentle rain:
One day there fell a bird, a courtly crane:
Wisely he walked, as one who knows of pain.

Gracious he was and lofty as a king:
Silent he was, and yet he seemed to sing
Always of little children and the Spring.

God? Did he know him? It was far he flew?.
God was not terrible and thunder-blue:
-- It was a gentle water bird I knew.

Pity was in him for the weak and strong,
All who have suffered when the days were long,
And he was deep and gentle as a song.

As a calm soldier in a cloak of grey
He did commune with me for many a day
Till the dark fear was lifted far away.

Sober-apparelled, yet he caught the glow:
Always of heaven would he speak, and low,
And he did tell me where the wishes go.

Kinsfolk of his it was who long before
Came from the mist (and no one knows the shore)
Came with the little children to the door.

Was he less wise than those birds long ago
Who flew from God (He surely willed it so)
Bearing great happiness to all below?

Long have I learned that all his speech was true;
I cannot reason it -- how far he flew --
God is not terrible nor thunder-blue.

Sometimes, when watching in the white sunshine,
Someone approaches -- I can half define
All the calm beauty of that friend of mine.

Nothing of hatred will about him cling,
Silent -- how silent -- but his heart will sing
Always of little children and the Spring.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 April 1926;
and later in
New Poems by John Shaw Neilson, 1927;
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984;
Anthology of Australian Religious Poetry edited by Les Murray, 1986;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991; 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.

Bell-Birds by Henry Kendall

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By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling:
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges.
Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.

The silver-voiced bell birds, the darlings of daytime!
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;
When shadows wax strong, and the thunder bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.

October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses, to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning.

Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to the thirsty far-comers.
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels who torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and the leaves in the currents.

Often I sit, looking back to a childhood,
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion,
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion; -
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest-rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys:
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 November 1867;
and later in
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869;
Colonial Monthly: An Australian Magazine, May 1869;
A Century of Australian Song edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
The Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
Selections from Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry P. Heseltine, 1972;
Australia Fair: Poems and Paintings edited Douglas Stewart, 1974;
A Treasury of Australian Poetry, 1982;
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;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Favourite Australian Poems, 1987;
The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;
A Treasury of Bush Verse by G.A. Wilkes, 1991;
The Penguin Book of 19th Century Australian Literature edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
An Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ch'oe Chin-yong and Dynthia Van Den Driesen, 1995;
Classic Australian Verse edited Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Our Country: Classic Australian Verse: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007;
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008;
The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 2009; and
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009.

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

See also.

A Flight of Wild Ducks by Charles Harpur

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Far up the river, hark! 'tis the sharp boom,
Deadened by distance, of some Fowler's gun;
And as into the silence of the scene
The noise spreads flattening to like stillness, lo,
Far westward, laterally lengthening up
Against the open firmament, a long
Dark line comes stretching -- a vast Flight of Ducks!
Following the windings of the valley, on,
Enarging rapidly, it comes -- until
The river, reaching through a group of hills,
Leads it, a short while, out of view -- and then,
Suddenly wheeling with its course, 'tis here!
Sweeping and swarming round the nearest point.
And first now, a swift airy rush is heard
Momently nearing -- and then, all at once,
There passes one keen cutting, gustly tumult
Of strenuous pinions, with a streaming mass
Of instantaneous skiey streaks, -- each streak
Evolving in particular, and yet
Each tangling into each! Thus seen o'er head
Even while we speak -- ere we have spoken, lo,
The living cloud is onward many a rood,
Tracking, as 'twere, in the smooth lymph below
The multifarous shadow of itself!
Far coming -- present -- and far gone at once!
The senses vainly struggle to retain
As one impression, so manifold an image:
For now again a dark line on the verge
Of the horizon, steeping still, it sinks
At once into the landscape, where, yet seen
Though dimly, with a long and scattering sweep
It fetches eastward, and in column so
Dapples along the steep face of the ridge
There banking the turned river. Then it drops
Below the trees on this side -- but to rise
Once more with a quick circling gleam, as touched
By the slant sunshine there, and disappear
As instantaneously, so setting down
Upon the reedy bosom of the stream.

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 4 October 1845;
and later in
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
The Penguin Book of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 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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