Fifty Long Years
She stood beside the winding river-ways, where sand-tits build high in the flood-scarred bank,
Shading with one slim hand her musing gaze, watching tho Years-To-Be pass rank on rank;
Some were full-faced, red-tuniced, prosp'rous years, and some were lean, Drought-stricken, shambling by,
And some were worn and leaden-cheeked with tears, and some went shambling with defiant eye.
Behind them she could hear the waggons creak; the oxen organ note resonant, deep,
And baby laughter bubbling glad and weak, mixed with the plaintive call of trav'lling sheep;
She heard the shears click in the bark-roofed shed, the ringer's boastful words the tar-boy's cry;
The fall of dice when stars were overhead, a restless chorus as the years went by.
She heard the pack-horse hoot-beats in the night, saw tossing heads upon the cattle camp,
And the peaked survey tents gleam dusky-white by the blazed line along the reedy swamp;
She knew the empty acres of the North, the miles and miles of sea washed broken beach;
And watching where the Pioneers went forth, she felt the lure of Things Still Out of Reach.
She saw the flitting shadow on the track, the arm upraised, the poising of the spear,
The naked bodies crouching lithe and black, the haunted darkness, and the dogging fear;
She saw the matted moss no foot had trod, the dingo prowl, the shy-eyed kangaroo;
She saw the great tree felled, the first-turned sod, the first smoke rising to the peerless blue;
She saw the city set by Moreton Bay, a village then upon its heaped brown hills;
Saw the scrub fringe recede from day to day, and busy streets where once rushed mountain rills;
And then, where spread the gracious black soil Downs, once empty grassy sweeps, she heard arise
Insistent, eager hum of growing towns, and lush and green the wheatfield charmed her eyes,
She heard the farmer whistling on his way, and, blown upon the dew-sweet summer breeze
There ever came a scent of new mown hay, with the rich underbreath of wattle trees.
As rose, the church and chapel on the hill, and wire fences crossed the daisied plain;
She heard the mutter of the crushing mill and the full thunder of the laden train;
She strained her eyes to where Pandanus palms throng to the sands along the northern slopes,
She saw the cotton fling, its tufted arms and sweat-dark miners tolling on the stopes;
She saw the glint of gold, the black of tin, wolfram, antimony, and gleaming ore;
She saw the mighty treasures gathered in, yet knew the jealous earth-breast guarded more,
And, glancing red and white between the boles of shapely black-butt trees, on ridges brown,
And loit'ring by the lilied water-holes, the heavy beasts move on towards the town;
She saw the wool bales bound with rope and hide, swaying adown the tracks from north to south,
By station home, by salt-bush levels wide, towards the railway and the river mouth,
She heard the swift machines whirr in the sheds, she breathed the freshness of the new washed wool;
Where harvesters flash by their green and reds, to the tall corn beyond the willowed pool --
The stalks of sorghum and the emerald cane, the golden sunflow'rs in trim gardens set,
And when the full blue day began to wane soft ev'ning drew the souls from mignonette.
Fifty Long Years!
She stands to-day a perfect woman grown, her firm feet planted on her rock-bound shore;
She stands and smiles on all she loves to own, on all she dreamed those fifty years before.
She hears with hopeful heart the fact'ries' hum, sees a proud army rise to her command,
Her flag flies high o'er miles of grass and gum and wheat crests ruffle in a pleasant land.
She looks, she finds her gazing very sweet, her eyes grow soft, such tender mem'ries throng;
Her children cast their laurels at her feet, the leaves they pluck in Science, Art, and Song;
She spreads her arms across the sunlit land -- upon her fingers glints the opal's fire,
Matrix and pearl enclasp each mother hand, she knows the rapture of fulfilled desire.
And flings her brown hair from her forehead's snow, while flashes forth (those dusky locks between),
Loose links of silver, virgin gold aglow, and shapen stones of clearest olivine,
Her bosom rises with her clarion call, it echoes from palm height to sapphire sea,
"Give me your hands in greeting one and all -- Oh! Sister States, acclaim my Jubilee!"
First published in The Sunday Times, 8 August 1909