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Care Free Bloke's Cigar by C.J. Dennis

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Bush-fire prevention week began on Monday and renewed efforts are to be made to check carelessness with fire. - News Item.

There's a little spark and a wisp of smoke
   By the road where the tall gums are;
And a mile away a care-free bloke
   Speeds onward in his car.
No thought of evil mars his day,
And he's well a hundred miles away
And safe at home, as skies grow grey,
   With another fine cigar.
 
There's a spurt of flame in the breathless night
   And a crackling in the scrub;
There's a withered mint-bush burning bright,
   And a kindling dog-wood shrub.
For yards about the bush glows red
But the care-free bloke, his paper read,
Says, "Bonzer day.  And now for bed
   After a bite of grub."
 
There's a sickening roar as the fire sweeps down
   From the mountainside aflame
On the helpless little forest town,
   And one knew how it came.
Ten miles of blackened hills gape wide
And a stricken home on the mountain side ...
But the care-free bloke toils on in pride.
He saw no spark by the bush roadside,
   So how is he to blame? 

First published in The Herald, 25 January 1933

Smoke by Christine Comber

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Smoke from factory chimneys is black, and foul, and thick,
   Rolling in slow curls that blur the ocean-line,
A giant full of malice, it o'er-spreads the morning sky
   As if to blot the sunshine out of this heart of mine.

Smoke from pine-wood bonfires is fragrant in the night,
   Rising in gusts of whiteness and sparks that soar and die;
Smoke from country bonfires has memories in its haze
   Of poplar-spears and fir-incense, and stars and midnight sky.

Smoke from cottage chimneys is friendly, cheerful smoke,  
   Standing straight above them like a flimsy, greyish spire,   
Smoke from cottage chimneys sends a message through the night
   Of steaming tea, and slippers, and an armchair by the fire.

First published in The Australian Women's Weekly, 8 June 1935

Author reference site: Austlit

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"The Mallee Fire" by Charles Henry Souter

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I suppose it just depends on where you're raised.
Once I met a cove as swore by green belar!
Couldn't sight the good old mallee-stump I praised:
Well -- I couldn't sight belar, and there you are!
But the faces in the fire where the mallee-stump's a-blinking
Are the friendliest I ever seen, to my way o' thinking!

In the city where the fires is mostly coal --
There! I can't abear to go and warm my feet!
Spitting, fizzing things as hasn't got no soul!
Things as puffs out yaller smoke instead of heat!
But at home -- well, it is home when the mallee-stump's a-burning
And the evening's drawing chilly and the season is a-turning!

And there's some as runs them down because they're tough.
Well? And what's the good of anythink as ain't?
No. It's nary use to serve 'em any bluff,
For they'd use up all the patience of a saint.
But they'll split as sweet as sugar if you know the way to take 'em.
If you don't, there isn't nothink in the world as'll make 'em!

They're tremenjus hard to kindle, tho', at first:
Like a friendship of the kind as comes to stay.
You can blow and blow and blow until you burst,
And when they won't, they won't burn, anyway!
But once they gets a start, tho' they make no showy flashes,
Well, they'll serve you true and honest to the last pinch of ashes!

First published in The Bulletin, 6 May 1899;
and later in
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

After the Bushfire by Zora Cross

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Gashes of gullies mock the dried creek-bed,
Gaping like wounds in ridges festered white,
Where trails of ashes scar the distant height.
All colour from the tortured bush is bled,
Save for some blistered tree's torn skin flushed red,
Or smouldering stump burning carbuncle-bright
Through the blinding smoke-haze. Limbs still alight,
Rocket a requiem for the charred dead.
Thc stricken earth, like a used parchment scroll
Of grass and plant and every flower effaced,
Bares to the hot west wind her blackened breast,
Red dust-clouds from the long- parched inland roll,
And, with armadas of scorched leaves enlaced,
Eerily pattern a grim palimpsest.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 1945

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

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The Fool and the Fire by C. J. Dennis

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A fool and a bag in a belt of scrub,
   Cloudless skies and the still hot days,
And the countryside's in a mad hubbub;
   Terror is here and the world's ablaze.
Five thousand sheep went West today,
   Bell's home at the crossing and Casey's pub;
And the cause of it all is a world away;
   A fool with a bag who passed the scrub.

An oaf with a match in a mile of grass,
   Where yesterday the skies shone clear;
But fury leapt where he came to pass;
   And now, ten miles away, comes fear.
Men toil and sweat in the reeking smoke
   That curling drifts to a sky of brass.
And now black ruin and homeless folk
   Are toll to an oaf in a mile of grass.

If the fool be caught can the fool repay?
   What is to do but build again,
And hope for the dawn of a better day,
   When folly is shorn from the ways of men;
What is to do but hope and pray.
   While the scars heal slow in a blackened land,
That the fool shall no more pass this way
   With the seeds of terror in his hand.

First published in The Herald, 8 January 1932;
and later in
Random Verse by C.J. Dennis, 1952.

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

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After the Bushfires by Zora Cross

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Where yesterday the hills were primrose pink
With Christmas bush, and flannel flowers waved fair,
And the glad gums were mottled, and the air
All a bright sheen from glass-green leaves aprink
With rosy tips, and birdlings stayed to wink
A jewelled eye new-born to their full share
Of Life's delights expectant everywhere,
Colour is crucified to the creek's brink.
Stark desolation with wild eyes looks back
On many a trapped wild creature that has swooned
'Mid ash and trees levelled to the burnt loam.
Singed of all grass the brown earth lies charred black;
And where the gully gapes like a great wound
A blind wren mourns her little lost bush home.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November 1936

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

See also.

Sunshine, Drought, and Storm by E.H.L

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Far up on the height, in the tropical blaze of the noonday,
   Or 'neath shade of the pines and the solitude born of the air,
Where the white wings of birds and throb-notes of melody beat not
   In the motionless verdure of trees or the heat and the glare.

The motionless verdure of trees on the slope of the hill-side
   Throws a pendulous pall o'er the moss-covered boulder and me;
While the glitter of distant inlet my vision entrances,
   And the glint from the foam-flecked waves on the far-away sea.

Sultry the air; no cool breezes blow soft o'er the mountain,
   But the sheen of a shimmering ocean of crystalline light
Floods the peak and the plain. The wide-spreading forest and scrub-land
   Throb with tremulous poise and a lustre that dazzles the sight.

No sough from the moorland, no hum from the flower seeking bee.
   The moorland sere is afar, the last of the blossoms have fled;
The breath of a fiery December has touched them and dried them,
   Drought comes with heat, and flowers and pasture are withered and dead.

Oppressive the air grows, hazy the hills that bound the horizon;
   Mists veil the sky where glint of the sun on the ocean has been;
Mists change to slow-rising torreted ramparts, bodeful of tempest,
   Girding with vapours the sky and veiling with dimness the scene.

Whisperings come from the she-oak, murmurings soft from the pine-tree;
   Moans from the moorland, wails from dark gorges lurking beneath;
Rushes the wind with its garment of cloud-wrack sable and sombre ---
   Sulphurous mantle of vapour hiding the fire in its sheath.

Whisperings low change to wailing, murmurings deepen to moaning;
   There is swaying of branches, screaming of birds, the sudden splash of the rain;
Quivering gleam of the lightning in fitful and tremulous splendour,
   Rumble and crash of thunder, resounding again and again.

Nearer, still nearer the tumult, closer, still closer the roar;
   Surging the contest, baleful the fires that incessantly light
Lurid recesses of Hell, displacing bright mansions of Heaven,
   Or yawning abysses of darkness wrapt in the mantle of night.

Forth bursts the levin-bolt from the blackness above the pine-tops,
   And the aisles of the forest lament as the brave trees bend to their doom,
Mid the dirge of the blast and the roll of the storm fiend's chariot
   As he speeds on his wreck-strewn path through the maze of the glowering gloom.

Placid, tranquil the woodland, chequered with sunshine and shadow;
   Sweet exhalations from flowers are wafted upon the breeze;
The winds intone a paean, telling of freshness and gladness,
   Blent with the anthems of birds and rhythmical cadence of trees.

Fresh is the verdurous pasture, gladsome the ripple of brooklets,
   Purling and babbling the gentle laughter of waters that lave;
Tokens of plenitude vast pouring from bounteous Earth's bosom,
   Earth, fertile mother of fruits, bright blossoms, and branches that wave.

Such is the season of summer, charged with the storm or the drought,
   Fraught with the fate of flowers, green pastures, and cattle, and man:
Send us, beneficent God, abundant all-comforting showers;
   Grant us, O God, in the drear time of drought, release from Thy ban.

First published in The Queenslander, 7 March 1881

Note: the author of this poem is not known.

Bannerman of Dandenong: An Australian Ballad by Alice Werner

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I rode through the Bush in the burning noon,
   Over the hills to my bride, --
The track was rough and the way was long,
And Bannerman of the Dandenong,
   He rode along by my side.

A day's march off my Beautiful dwelt,
   By the Murray streams in the West; --
Lightly lilting a gay love-song
Rode Bannerman of the Dandenong,
   With a blood-red rose on his breast.

"Red, red rose of the Western streams"
   Was the song he sang that day --
Truest comrade in hour of need, --
Bay Mathinna his peerless steed --
   I had my own good grey.

There fell a spark on the upland grass --
   The dry Bush leapt into flame; --
And I felt my heart go cold as death,
And Bannerman smiled and caught his breath, --
   But I heard him name Her name.

Down the hill-side the fire-floods rushed,
   On the roaring eastern wind; --
Neck and neck was the reckless race, --
Ever the bay mare kept her pace,
   But the grey horse dropped behind.

He turned in the saddle -- "Let's change, I say!"
   And his bridle rein he drew.
He sprang to the ground, -- "Look sharp!" he said
With a backward toss of his curly head --
   "I ride lighter than you!"

Down and up -- it was quickly done --
   No words to waste that day! --
Swift as a swallow she sped along,
The good bay mare from Dandenong, --
   And Bannerman rode the grey.

The hot air scorched like a furnace blast
   From the very mouth of Hell: --
The blue gums caught and blazed on high
Like flaming pillars into the sky; . . .
   The grey horse staggered and fell.

"Ride, ride, lad, -- ride for her sake!" he cried; --
   Into the gulf of flame
Were swept, in less than a breathing space
The laughing eyes, and the comely face,
   And the lips that named HER name.

She bore me bravely, the good bay mare; --
   Stunned, and dizzy and blind,
I heard the sound of a mingling roar --
'Twas the Lachlan River that rushed before,
   And the flames that rolled behind.

Safe -- safe, at Nammoora gate,
   I fell, and lay like a stone.
O love! thine arms were about me then,
Thy warm tears called me to life again, --
   But -- O God! that I came alone! --

We dwell in peace, my beautiful one
   And I, by the streams in the West, --
But oft through the mist of my dreams along
Rides Bannerman of the Dandenong,
   With the blood-red rose on his breast.

First published in The Bulletin, 10 January 1891,
and later in :
The Bulletin, 24 March 1900;
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stephens, 1907;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stepehens, 1909
School Paper: Grades V and VI, March 1926;
The North Queensland Register, 16 July 1928;
On the Track with Bill Bowyang: With Australian Bush Recitations edited by Dawn Anderson, 1991-92; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

Author: Alice Werner (1859-1935) was born in Trieste, Italy in 1859 and moved with her family to Dunedin, New Zealand the same year.  She later became an expert in African Languages and dialects, teaching at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Author reference sites: Austlit

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