Recently in City Life Category

The Street Behind the Elms by Myra Morris

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Tall houses built of ugly brick
   Stand squeezed together in a row  
Along the dull, suburban street
   Where roaring trucks and tram-cars go
And people swinging shopper's bags
   On hollow heels pass to and fro.

The elms beside the paving stones
   Beside the gutters swept and clean,
Have put on sticky garnet buds
   And whorls of pallid, chalky green;  
And threads of jade and amber run  
   Where boughs as bare as bones have been.

Between the elms shop-windows show
   Humdrum with shoes and soap and cakes,
But when the wind uncoils itself
   From dusty little nooks and shakes
Upon the air a lovely gale
   Of flurrying green and gauzy flakes.

The street takes on a magic look
   Behind that airy dancing veil.
The tall, drab buildings move in mist,
   Their shadowy walls rose-tinged and frail,
And all the people passing by
   Are people in a fairy-tale.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 1944

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

A Face in the Street by Kathleen Dalziel

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Only a face in the street, 
   Haunting me many a day; 
Passed on the wave of the crowd 
Out where the noises are loud, 
Out where the hurrying feet 
   Pause not or stay. 

Only a face in the street, 
   Such as the angels have had. 
Fair like the gold of the corn, 
Waved by the winds of the morn; 
Eyes that were wondrously sweet --
   Proud and yet sad. 

Only a face in the street. 
   Haunting me many a day; 
Passing and vanished and gone. 
Swiftly the crowd hurried on. 
Only a face in the street --
   Fair as the May.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 October 1903

Author reference site: Austlit

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The Outlook by Mabel Forrest

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A city roof of iron wrought,
Blank windows by all eyes forgot; 
And yet the early morning sun, 
With a whole day's work still undone. 

Paused (giving to my sleepy gaze 
The kind intention of its rays),
To paint that cold forbidding spot 
In warm and glowing apricot!

First published in The Courier-Mail, 30 September 1933

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also

Queen Street at 1.55 p.m. by Mabel Forrest

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There they hurry to office and shop;
Girls in navy, and green, and red, 
Worn old men in their overalls,
Young men laughing. And not one notes
They are pixy led!

Here, by a dream of a handsome swain,
There by the lure of gold;
Here by a triumph in sport or love, 
On a stake that is brave and bold.

The motors hoot, and the trams clang by,
And high on my balcony
I know that they follow the calling note
Of a piper they cannot see!

A feather of gold in his cap of green, 
His feet leave no print behind. 
But he beckons them on to a rainbow bridge
In the way of the driving wind! 

Ladies in silk and furs and gems;
Lean charwomen in thread-bare capes; 
Stout employer, pale unemployed,
Twittering tune for them all he makes! 

For he is the colour of Hope and Joy-- 
Of all that they cannot reach.
He pipes of the gate to a promised land,
And he fashions his tune for each!

When the chimes are trembling against the hour
They pass. . . (And a dream goes, too.) 
Crafty old men, and careless young-- 
For the piper pipes on a song unsung, 
And he makes it all seem true!

First published in The Courier-Mail, 2 September 1933

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also

The Miracle by Kathleen Dalziel

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Oh, stupid folk and most unwise,
   Within the cityward rushing train, 
With faces blank and tired eyes
   That to the printed pages strain.
Out where the spreading sunlight glows
   On huddled yards and sordid walls, 
Or red tiled villas, rows on rows,  
   A miracle to-day befalls.
And Resurrection sets a sign,
   That all those having eyes may see, 
Where loveliness is like a shrine
   About the sanctity of a tree.
Oh, stupid folk and most unwise,
   It fills my heart with sweetest pain 
And praise. Like blooms from Paradise,
   The white-starred almond buds again.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 10 August 1929

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

To Sydney by Mabel Forrest

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I sing my love for your city, for she has a voice remembered, 
   A kiss that leaves us a longing for the taste of her lips again, 
And the flame of her sunset's fires by the black or the night is embered, 
   When the Star Troops ride through the heavens and tighten a silver rein.   

I sing my love of your city, the disks of her tall clock towers, 
   The suck of her stealthy wavelets down under the jutting plank,     
The long grey ships in the harbor, the wind and the waft of flowers, 
   The fleck of white on the water, the flash of red on the bank. 

I loved, but I had to leave her, for the days of our bond wore over, 
   And the blue of her blue eye follows, a memory that stings to pain.   
Are you gathering fresh hearts to you, O Sydney, my four weeks' lover?   
   What matter, so comes the season when your smiles are for me again!  

First published in The Sunday Times, 4 June 1911

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

In the Street by Mabel Forrest

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The street at night: a line of light,
And the red and blue of the flashing cars.
   The surging masses of people flow --
   Hurrying or idling, on they go
Thro' the tempting glow of the city bars.

As I cross the street with lingering feet,
And pause on the iron bridge awhile,
   Something comes thro' the human rush --
   Something speaks of the silent bush,
And moves me to a wondering smile.

Only a sound on the metalled ground,
Crossing close by the shadowy Quay,
   A little mob of bewildered sheep,
   Afraid to hurry -- afraid to creep,
Bringing memories back to me.

Each woolly back from the grey bush track,
Each frightened eye in the gas-lamp's flare
   Recalling the yards at Cargoolees,
   And the fragrant breath of the wattle breeze,
And mountain ranges, away out there.

Tram-cars speeding, all unheeding
The tremb'ling creatures beside the wall.
   The tramp of hoofs on the flinty ground,
   Of drafted sheep for the shambles bound,
And a strangeness over all.

The street so richly gemmed with light --
The town that has no time to sleep --
   Loud laughs and oaths ring from the bars --
   While flashing lights from passing cars
Reveal to me the frightened sheep!

First published in Steele Rudd's Magazine, 7 April 1904

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Home-Sick by Zora Cross

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Sydney, dear old companion,
   With your kind face to the sky,
With your spires and domes and columns
   By the waters cool and shy,
I have loved your light robes trailing,
Through the sea of beauty sailing,
   But to-night I want to cry.

There's a little northern steamer
   Going chugging from the bay;
There's a laughing line of water
   All along the Barrier way;
And it's calling me, and calling,
All its echoes softly falling
   Rich with spices of the spray.

There's a sleepy mob of cattle
   Coming slowly from the West;
And the horses of the drovers
   Seem hoof-dead from want of rest;
But my soul amid the gleaming
Of the happy sunlight's streaming
   Woos the bushland to my breast.

Oh, I want the clean, green Northland,
   Want the singing, swinging tread
Of the everlasting freedom
   Where the sun and air are wed!
Oh, I want the rivers sweeping
And the sleepy sea winds creeping
   Over palmy cape and head.

Sydney, dear old gay companion,
   Hemmed by walls from liberty,
Shut from meadow, farm, and station.
   And their wildness, loose and free!
Dear old mate with memories thronging,
You can understand the longing,
   You were once but scrub and sea.
First published in The Sydney Mail, 18 February 1920

Suburbia - A Yearn by C.J. Dennis

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O man with a Position, prithee tell,
How is't you mould your sal'ried life so well;
Holding in lofty scorn that lowly mob
Of "Blokes" who earn mere "wages" at a "job".

Knights of Suburbia, whose only care
Is to be counted 'mid the "naicest" there,
Teach me how I, some day, may learn to be
Clothed in drab Respectability.

I cannot muster due respect for those
Who wear the very nicest kind of clothes;
Nor does the Upper House sufficiently
Impress the dull, "right-thinking" part o' me.

Fain would I garb my meekness in a coat
Whose very blackness struck a pious note,
And crease my pants, and aye, with tender care,
Arrange becomingly my plebian hair.

A "Something in the City" would I be,
With due respect for men of Propputy.
Or sooth, if such ambition be too rash,
I'd, as a godlike grocer, groce for cash.

Ah, lead me to some suburb grey and calm!
My very soul craves for a potted palm
In my front porch.  Nay, but it were sublime
To stalk the stealthy slug o' summer-time.

Then would I take some proper girl to wife,
And know the joys of a "well-ordered" life,
Beget suburban daughters who would be
Models of drawing-room propriety.

Ah me, that drawing-room! -- my lady's pride.
With products of Chow-labor side by side.
An upright grand by Bubblestein and Bohrs,
And framed enlargements of our ancestors.

Our arms -- a "what not" rampant on a ground
Of pious drab.  There would we sit around
While Bertha thumped the keys o' balmy eves,
And caterpillars chewed the fuschia leaves.

There would we offer incense, highly toned,
And worship, nightly, FURNITURE enthroned.
There would we -- nay, I may not even hope,
Whose only wash-hand bowl is plugged with soap.

With yellow soap, to caulk a leak obscene --
Whose writing-table once held kerosene.
What does he wot of over-mantels, he
Who keeps tobacco where he should keep tea?

Knight of Suburbia, your daily round,
Treading to morning trains the same old ground,
Is not for me; though I would gladly be
A champion at passing cakes and tea.

O, that the stars had willed it were my fate
To be immoderately moderate;
To sit at eve, 'mid fans and photo frames,
And play at sundry senseless parlor games;

Then, having bathed my soul in revelry,
Put out the cat, and turned the front door key,
Away to rest, by one dim taper's gleam,
To court the vague, unnecessary dream.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 December 1909;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

City of Dreams by C.J Dennis

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In Melbourne lately, there are not lacking signs of a cultural and architectural renascence.  Professor Wood-Jones suggests the adoption of the Melbourne Hospital site for a centre of art and culture, while Mr Lionel Lindsay pleads for less vulgarity and more artistic cohesion in the city's architecture.

Oh, we might have a marvelous city
   Were we only less keen on cash
Less avid for things -- more's the pity --
   That fade and are gone in a flash,
A city where duffers in my line
   In rapt adoration fall flat
To behold its superlative skyline --
   But there isn't much money in that.

Oh, we might have a city most splendid
   Were sordid self-seeking denied.
Were good taste and culture attended
   By pride that transcends money-pride.
Then, urged by more glorious dreaming
   Than moved beneath Pericles' hat,
We would out-Athens Athens in scheming
   But -- there isn't much money in that.

So let's build our city according
   To canons commercial and sane.
Where every house is a hoarding
   And every "palace" a pain.
Let us mingle the Gothic and Moorish
   In the nice neo-Georgian flat.
What odds, tho' they blither it's boorish?
   Who cares?  For there's money in that.

Oh, let's have a conglomeration
   Of all architectural ills.
We build for ourselves, not the nation,
   And to advertise somebody's pills
With piles that are proud and pretentious
   And styles that are "pretty" and fat.
And a fig for their strictures sententious!
   There's not a brass farthing in that.

And so we'll grow richer and richer
   While curleywigs crawl the facade
Of the home of the sur-super-picture
   Or pubs where the profits are made.
Yet -- We might have a marvellous city
   If we only knew how to grow fat
At the game.  But we don't -- more's the pity.
   So there isn't much money in that.

And when we have piled up the riches,
   And pass, and leave never a trace,
A grave-digger, with clay on his breeches,
   Will come and pitch dirt on our face.
And our passing may serve to remind him,
   As he gives the grave-mound a last pat:
"Well, he's gone; and he's left nought behind him,
   And there isn't much honor in that."

First published in The Herald, 10 October 1935

One Hundred Years by C.J Dennis

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Now, Batman, Prophet Batman, a hundred years ago,
   He looked upon this land and found it good.
"'Tis the place to build a village," bold Batman said, and so
   They straight began - or so I've understood -
To fling rude huts together by the swamp and by the stream,
To make beginning here and then for Batman's daring dream.

But Batman, Prophet Batman, was quite a modest cove;
   His vision sought no far and fabled goals.
A village he could picture here; but no vast treasure trove -
   A mighty city of a million souls -
A miracle arising by the swamp and by the stream
In the hundred years that followed on one pioneering dream.

Now I, far lesser prophet, stand here to view the scene -
   Tall spire, proud dome athwart a sunny sky,
This far-flung city basking by many a garden green -
   Yet hopelessly I fail to prophesy.
While earth holds threat and promise both, and high hope walks with dread,
Then who may claim the vision of one hundred years ahead?

Shall yet a greater miracle arise beside the stream,
   When wiser plans of wiser men prevail -
Some shining City of Content beyond man's boldest bream?
   Or must a world's mad frenzy end the tale,
And, in a hundred years from now, another village rise
To shield indomitable man 'neath ruin-fretted skies?

First published in The Herald, 4 October 1934

The Hidden City by C.J. Dennis

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It was the schooner Desperate
   That sailed the southern sea,
And the skipper had brought his little daughter
   To our centenary.
Blue were her eyes and plucked her brow,
   Where she wore a golden curl.
Yet, 'spite her looks, she was somehow
   A shrewd, observant girl.

But and spake an old sailor
   Who had been that way before --
"I pray don't land at yonder port
   Lest your girl count it a bore.
Last year the town had a handsome street,
   This year no street we see."
"Why?" asked the skipper.  "Poles," said the tar.
   And a sneering laugh laughed he.

For an alderman had spoken,
   Who had known the ropes long since,
And he said, "Where are them sticks an' rag
   We had for that other Prince.
Let's stick 'em up in the street again."
   Said the mayor, "Don't be a quince.
We'll have some new bright painted ones;
   And let the aesthetes wince."

"Father," the skipper's daughter cried
   "No fair city I see."
"It is behind them decorations, lass --
   Them candy sticks you see."
"But, father, why do they stand there,
   All orange smeared and red,
Like garish clowns in a stately street?"
   "Search me," the skipper said.

"Oh, father!  What are those nightmare things,
   Those gadgets brightly lit?
Let us away on urgent wings,
   Or I fear I'll have a fit."
"Courage, my child," the skipper said.
   Curb your aesthetic sense,
And close your eyes and cover your head,
   And I shall bear you hence.

"Come hither, come hither, my little daughter,
   And do not tremble so."
He wrapped her up in his seaman's coat.
   "Come," said he, "let us go
Out where no poles or pylons are,
   And no centenary,
To a scene that no man's hand may mar."
   And he steered for the open sea.

First published in The Herald, 6 September 1934

Night and Day by C.J. Dennis

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Tasmania's premier, Mr Ogilvie, declares that Melbourne by day is a garden; by night, a cemetery.

Melbourne by day: a city, flower-laden
   An avenue of loveliness each street,
Tree-lined; a beauteous blossom every maiden --
   Well, one in every score or so you meet --
Skyline and vista, river and rooftop gleaming,
   Aesthetically rated very high;
Tower, majestic dome and tall spire dreaming
   Up to a perfect sky.
Arcadian city, garden-fringed and gay,
An artist's dream come true -- Melbourne by day.

Melbourne by night: a graveyard given over
   To ghouls and ghosts of an unholy gloom,
Grim, silent night, wherein a spectral rover
   Steals down the street to fade into its tomb
Glumly, to dodge the doleful cop patrolling
   His dismal beat before the shrouded bars;
And, over all, the curfew, tolling, tolling,
   Up to the sneering stars;
The buildings, mausoleums coldly white
As giants' sepulchres: Melbourne by night.

Melbourne beneath the sun: a garden scented,
   Where merry citizens frisk to and fro --
Phyllis and Strephon, smiling and contented,
   Gathering gorgeous blossoms as they go.
Scent of boronia and garnered wattles --
   Five-thirty! Traffic swells, and no man lags --
Burghers, at grovers' counters, snatching bottles
   To stow in luncheon bags
And hasten homeward ere the day be done
And grief descends: Melbourne beneath the sun.

Melbourne when darkness falls: a burial acre --
   Necropolis, wrapt in a clammy shroud.
Even the merry moon would fain forsake her
   And hide her gay, fat face behind a cloud.
Athwart the sky the tortured storm-wrack sweeping
   Stoops to the fog that up from seaward rolls
With Gloom's grim cohorts ever creeping, creeping
   To claim men's hopeless souls ...
Hark! From suburbia a gay voice calls,
"Here's luck, old dears!" Melbourne when darkness falls.

First published in The Herald, 18 August 1937 

Melbourne Streets - Royal Arcade by C.J. Dennis

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As I went over through the Royal Arcade,
   Where mirrors counterfeited space
To multiply the gauds displayed,
   I met a fellow face to face --
A loutish oaf who did not know
   The traffic laws - a swishing "jay"
Who shuffled when I sought to go
   To left or right, and blocked my way.

I gazed into his foolish face,
   And thought that I had never seen
So great a lack of saving grace
   In any visage.  Vacant, mean,
A smirking moron's, one would say,
   Denoting low mentality...
I cursed the fool and walked away. 
            And so did he.

First published in The Herald, 20 February 1929

Allegory by Mary Corringham

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I sought her in the busy whirl of light
That is a city's very breath of being;
After now this, now that, gay phantom fleeing,
Till so much splendour dazzled my poor sight.
I thought to find her clad in robes so bright
That I could never pass her by unseeing;
And other seekers, all in thought agreeing,
Were blind to her -- so simply gowned in white.
Not in loud music, leading dancing feet,
But in low bird-calls on a peaceful eve;
Not in gay concourses where idlers meet,
But in some corner soothing hearts that grieve --
Where tears, as well as transient joy, abide
Shall I find pleasure walking by my side.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 1929

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

On a Street by Henry Kendall

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I dread that street! its haggard face
   I have not seen for eight long years --
A mother's curse is on the place:
   (There's blood, my reader, in her tears,)
No child of man shall ever track
   Through filthy dust the singer's feet;
A fierce old memory drags me back --
   I hate its name -- I dread that street.

Upon the lap of green sweet lands,
   Whose months are like your English Mays,
I try to hide in Lethe's sands
   The bitter old Bohemian days.
But Sorrow speaks in singing leaf,
   And trouble talketh in the tide;
The skirts of a stupendous grief
   Are trailing ever at my side.

I will not say who suffered there:
   'Tis best the name aloof to keep,
Because the world is very fair
   Its light should sing the dark to sleep.
But -- let me whisper -- in that street
   A woman, faint through want of bread,
Has often pawned the quilt and sheet,
   And wept upon a barren bed.

How gladly would I change my theme,
   Or cease the song and steal away,
But on the hill, and by the stream
   A ghost is with me night and day!
A dreadful darkness full of wild
   Chaotic visions comes to me:
I seem to hear a dying child --
   Its mother's face I seem to see.

Here surely on this bank of bloom
   My verse with shine should overflow;
But ah, it comes -- the rented room.
   With man and wife who suffered so!   
From flower and leaf there is no hint --
   I only see a sharp distress:
A lady in a faded print,
   A careworn writer for the Press.

I only hear the brutal curse
   Of landlord clamouring for his pay;
And yonder is the pauper's hearse
   That comes to take a child away,
Apart, and with the half-grey head
   Of sudden age, again I see
The father writing by the dead
   To earn the undertaker's fee.

No tear at all is asked for him --
   A drunkard well deserves his life;
But voice will quiver-eyes grow dim
   For her, the patient, pure young wife,
The gentle girl of better days,
   As timid as a mountain fawn,
Who used to choose untrodden ways,
   And place at night her rags in pawn.

She could not face the lighted square,
   Or shew the street her poor thin dress;
In one close chamber, bleak and bare,
   She hid her burden of distress.
Her happy schoolmates used to drive
   On gaudy wheels the town about:
The meal that keeps a dog alive
   She often had to go without.

I tell you this is not a tale
   Conceived by me, but bitter truth!   
Bohemia knows it pinched and pale
   Beside the pyre of burnt-out Youth!   
These eyes of mine have often seen
   The sweet girl-wife, in winters rude,
Steal out at night through courts unclean,  
   To hunt about for chips of wood.

Have I no word at all for him
   Who used down fetid lanes to slink,
And squat in taproom corners grim,
   And drown his thoughts in dregs of drink?
This much I'll say, that, when the flame  
   Of Reason re-assumed its force,
The hell the Christian fears to name   
   Was heaven to his fierce remorse.

Just think of him -- beneath the ban,
   And steeped in sorrow to the neck!
Without a friend -- a feeble man
   In failing health -- a human wreck!   
With all his sense and scholarship,
   How could he face his fading wife?
The devil never lifted whip   
   With stings like those that scourged his life!
But He, in whom the dying thief
   Upon the Cross did place his trust,
Forgets the sin and feels the grief,
   And lifts the sufferer from the dust.
And now because I have a dream
   The man and woman found the light,
A glory burns upon the stream --
   With gold and green the woods are bright.

But -- still I hate that haggard street --
   Its filthy courts, its alleys wild!
In dreams of it I always meet
   The phantom of a wailing child.
The name of it begets distress --
   Ah, Song, be silent! show no more
The lady in the perished dress --
   The scholar on the taproom floor! 

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 12 April 1879;
and later in
Poems of Henry Kendall by Henry Kendall, 1886;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1988;
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998; 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.

Interlude by Alice Gore-Jones

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Snow among the bamboos!
Or so it seemed.
Cold as an Alpine peak,
Had someone dreamed?
Beyond the gates, warm and dusty,
Lay the streets of the city.
On sloping lawns
Shimmered the high pageantry
Of Spring --
Pink and gold and purple
Vivid as remembering.
Here, in the green heart
Of the gardens
All was quiet.
The river flowed silently;  
An old man dozed on his seat,
A pigeon on noiseless feet
Rifled the clover.
Through the stillness
Brooded the bamboos,
And, in their midst,
Delicate as snow-flakes
Drifting through the shadows,
White azaleas bloomed.  

First published in The Cairns Post, 11 April 1938

Author: Alice Gore-Jones (1887-1961) was born in Toowong near Brisbane in 1887.  She was educated in both Queensland and New South Wales and worked mainly as a journalist on Brisbane newspapers.  She died in Queensland in 1961.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

A Brisbane Reverie: March, 1873 by J. Brunton Stephens

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As I sit beside my little study window, looking down
From the heights of contemplation (attic front) upon the town---
(Attic front, per week --- with board, of course a sovreign and a crown);---

As I sit --- (these sad digressions, though, are much to be deplored)---
Is my lonely little attic --- (it as all I can afford;
And I should have mentioned, washing not included in the board);---

As I sit --- (these wild parentheses my very soul abhors)---
High above the ills of life, its petty rumors, paltry wars---
(The attic back is cheaper, but it wants a chest of drawers);---

In the purpling light of half-past six, before the stars are met,
While the stricken sun clings fondly to his royal mantle yet,
Dying glorious on the hill-tops in reluctant violet,---

Just the time that favors vision, blissful moments that unbar
The inner sight (assisted by a very mild cigar),
To behold the things that are not, side by side with those that are--

Just the very light and very time that suit the bard's complaint,
When through present, past, and future, roams his soul without restraint---
When no clearer are the things that are than are the things that ain't;---

With a dual apperception, metaphysical, profound,
Past and present running parallel, I scan the scene around---
(Were there two of us the attic front would only be a pound).---

Beneath mine eyes the buried past arises from the tomb,
Not cadaverous or ghostly, but in all its living bloom---
(I would rather pay the odds than have a partner in my room).

How the complex now contrasteth with the elemental then!   
Tide of change outflowing flow of ink, outstripping stride or pen!
(Unless it were,.... but, no.... they only take in single men).

Where trackless wilderness lay wide, a hundred ages through---
(I can see a man with papers, from my attic point of view,
Who for gath'ring house-assessments gets a very decent screw).

Where forest-contiguity assuaged the summer heats,
It is now an argued question, when the City Council meets,
If we mightn't buy a tree or two to shade the glaring streets.

Where no sound announced the flight of time, not even crow of cock,
I can see the gun that stuns the town with monitory shock,
And a son of that same weapon hired to shoot at 1 o'clock

Where the kangaroos gave hops, the "old men" fleetest of the fleet,
Mrs. Pursy gives a "hop" to-night to all the town's elite,
But her "old man" cannot hop because of bunions on his feet

Where the emu, "at its own sweet will," went wandering all the day.
And left its bill-prints on whate'er came handy in its way,
There are printed bills that advertise "The Emu for the Bay."

Where of old with awful mysteries and diabolic din,
They "kippered" adolescents in the presence of their kin,
There's a grocer selling herrings kippered, half-a-crown per tin.

Where the savage only used his club to supplement his fist,
The white man uses his for friendly intercourse and whist,
Not to mention sherry, port bordeaux, et cetera --- see List.

Where dress was at a discount, or at most a modest "fall,"
Rise "Criterion," "Cosmopolitan," and "City Clothing Hall,"
And neither men nor women count for much --- the dress is all.

Where a bride's trousseau consisted of an extra coat of grease,
And Nature gave the pair a suit of glossy black apiece,
Now the matrimonial outfit is a perfect golden fleece.

Where lorn widows wore the knee-joints of the late lamented dead,
We have dashing wives who wear their living husbands' joints instead---
Yea, their vitals, for embellishment of bosom, neck, and head.

Where the blacks, ignoring livers, lived according to their wills,
Nor knew that flesh is heir to quite a lexicon of ills,
Five white chemists in one street grow rich through antibilious pills.

Where the only bell was the bell-bird's note, now many mingling bells
"Make Catholic the trembling air," as famed George Eliot tells
Of another town somewhere between more northern parallels.

(But in case the name of Catholic offend protesting ear,
Let Wesleyan or Baptist be interpolated here,
Or that bells make Presbyterian the trembling atmosphere).

Where the savage learned no love from earth, nor from the "shining frame,"
And merely feared the devil, under some outlandish name,
There are heaps of Britishers whose creed is --- very much the same!

Where the gin was black --- (methinks 'tis time the bard were shutting up:
The bell is ringing for the non-inebriating cup,
And even attic bards most have their little "bite and sup").

First published in The Queenslander, 5 April 1873;
and later in
The Black Gin and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1873;
The Australian Town and Country Journal, 14 June 1873;
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1885; and
The Poetical Works of Brunton Stephens by J. Brunton Stephens, 1905.

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

See also.

A Farewell to Brisbane by M. Roberts

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Farewell, dear Brisbane, to thy fond-loved haunts ---
Thy sunny skies, thy river rippling by,
Thy charming banks, of pleasant sun and shade,
Thy smiling hills, with verdure richly drest!
Thy habitations nestling in the vales,
Adorning slopes, or crowning summits high!
Brisbane --- reposing in thy wealth and pride,
Thy streets proclaim that Plutus is thy guest;
Long may his visit be! though other ports
Wish enviously for thy renowned fame.
May valued Commerce ever on thee gaze!
And Liberty o'erwatch thy every path!
May peace and plenty reign around those hills!
May war molesting ne'er disturb their rest!
Again --- and yet again --- through memory's glass
We view each spot endeared by time and thought;
Again we see thy landscape smiling clear ---
Beaming so brightly 'neath the morning sun!
Again we see the golden sunset hour,
When Nature mellows 'neath the ruddy hue,
While daylight melts away in glorious haze,
And stars appear, to herald night's approach.
Loved scene of all! --- the clear and tranquil night!
With busy life suspended. Peace around
Reigns silently, and Nature gladly rests,
Bathing in dew after the heat of day.
Our charms forsake us with advancing time --
Sad age arrests our youth's elastic step;
Though we may keep the fresh spring leaves of Hope,
Yet comes too soon the winter of our life.
Brisbane, such charms as thine will never fade;
No, ne'er be lost, whilst ever flows along
Thy beauteous river, winding in its course;
Thy banks, reflected in its limpid stream,
Preserve thy beauty to an endless day.
Dear Brisbane! though we say "farewell" to thee,
Our hearts due homage pay, though distant far;
And yet a lingering hope still haunts us here ---
A wish that once again we may behold
Those scenes --- if 'tis but to admire them more.

First published in The Queenslander, 19 February 1887

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

Author reference site:

Song of the Slum-Woman by Nina Murdoch

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The baby and the rubbish-tin are huddled side by side,
I'm gettin' through the washin', and the yard is not too wide;
'N' when you come to think of it, it doesn't seem quite square,
For the baby 'n' the rubbish-tin to sit together there.

Of course there's room enough for 'im to play upon the street
(Next door but one a kid got crush beneath an 'orse's feet);
'E sits quite good 'n' quiet, 'n' 'e never starts to whine
Till 'is eyes get sort of achy with the flappin' on the line.

There is 'Ospitals for Women, 'n' there's Infants 'Omes as well,
'N' the Walker Convalescent you can rest in for a spell.
It'd be a deal sight cheaper than the nurse, 'n' bed, 'n' ward
If the Council 'd provide us with a decent-sized backyard.

For there's Billy down with fever, 'n' there's Janie got sore eyes,
'N' Hector, though 'e's turned fifteen, 'e isn't any size.
Yet they fill us up with Charity in 'Ospitals 'n all!
Won't anybody tell 'em they're against a bloomin' wall?

If they's start from the beginnin' like, with rentals on the square,
'N' pull these rotten houses down, 'n' 'elp us get fresh air,
If they'd see we got conveniences -- not much, just what we need --
Why they'd have both feet on sickness, 'fore it 'ad the chance to breed!
But the baby and the rubbish-tin are huddled side by side,
I'm gettin' through the washin' and the yard is not too wide.
There's the Parliament 'n' Premier 'n' the grand Lord Mayor, too --
It kind o' sets you wond'rin' what they all intend to do!

First published in The Bulletin, 7 October 1915

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

From an Upper Verandah by J. Brunton Stephens

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What happier haunt could the gods allot
   For loftiest musing to sage or bard? --
Yet I would that this upper verandah did not
   Look down on my beautiful Neighbour's Back-yard!

I stir the afflatus: Descend, oh ye Nine!
   Let the crystalline gates of the soul be unbarred!
No. My thoughts will keep running in one fixed line --
   The clothes-line that hangs in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Let me gaze on the bills; let me think of the sea;
   Of the dawn rosy-fingered -- the night silver starred:--
(What dear little feet must the owner's be
   Of those stockings that hang in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Let me tune my soul to a measure devout:--
   Ah, the musical mood is all jangled and jarred,
While things with borders, and things without,
   Keep fluttering down there in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Are the True and the Good and the Beautiful dead,
   That I win not one gleam of Pierian regard?
(Does she suffer, I wonder, from cold in the head? --
   Such a lot of mouchoirs in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Comes the fit. While it sways me, high themes would I sing!
   Prometheus! Achilles! Have at you! En garde!   
Alexander the Great -- (oh that I were a string
   On that apron hung out in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)   

I will shut my eyes fast -- I have hit it at last
   Now my purest Ideals flit by me unmarred;
And odors of memory rise from the past,
   (And an odor of suds from my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Ah, yes, when the eyelids together are prest,
   Every vestige of earth we throw off and discard.
(These are flannels, I think. Is she weak in the chest? --
   There! I'm looking again at my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Since the Muses back out, let Philosophy in:
   Let me ponder its problems cold and hard.
Ah, Philosophy dies in a celibate grin
   At that bolster-case down in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Oh shame on my rapidly silvering hairs!
   Oh shame on this veteran battered and scarred!
I to be witched with these frilled-affairs!
   Confound my neighbour! Confound her Back yard!

Why seek for the blossoms of Auld Lang Syne,
   When the boughs where they budded are blasted and charred? --
Faugh! the whole concern's too alkaline --
   It's washing day in my Neighbour's Back-yard.

First published in The Queenslander, 18 September 1875;
and later in
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1885; and
The Poetical Works of Brunton Stephens by J. Brunton Stephens,1902.

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

See also.

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