Recently in Death Category

The Unborn Dead by Zora Cross

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Her hands were slim as lilies white, 
And in her eyes an emerald light 
Continually burned still fire.
Her fingers moved along a lyre, 
As delicate as lilac leaves.
She was the soul that in me grieves 
The woman I shall one day be,
Love-lorn beside a phantom sea. 

O unborn woman, writing here
The lines you'll read in a new year, 
Look up, remember me again, 
And all my pity, all my pain,
My loves, my hopes, my woman-tears, 
That shall pursue you down the years.

First published in The Australasian, 30 December 1922

A Suburban House by Mabel Forrest

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A little back from the street it stands,
   With trim parterres and shutters green, 
And tall sunflowers in a row;
   Such is the setting, prim, serene, 
To the life he hated so!

The doors are closed, the house is still;
   With a peace that tells not of shame, 
The silence of deeds well done;
   The brass plate with the dead man's name 
Still winks in the morning sun.

Who would dream those walls hold grief untold,
   And a horror of bated breath! 
Secure in snug suburban pride,
   No outward hint of a shameful death 
Marks the house of the suicide.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 28 December 1904

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Toiler by Mabel Forrest

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I stand beside her grave; the sod is brown,
   Long hours of sunshine o'er the mound must pass,
And winds must blow and gentle rains come down,
   Ere Nature spreads her woven mat of grass 
Above the rest that she has found at last;
   Above the spot where toil cannot encroach, 
Where busy Care is crushed and overpast,
   Where clutching shapes of Greed dare not approach.

I do not grieve as one who mourning stands;
   I do not bow the head or bend the knee;
I see in fancy those poor work-worn hands,
   I think how very tired she used to be!
I think of weary feet that onward pres't,
   The look of anxious care she always wore;
I know how good to her is this long rest,
   And pray that it is sleep for evermore!

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 December 1904

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Derelict by Zora Cross

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When I walked back that well-known way last night,
   I hardly knew the place. Friends I had owned
   Had gone, and little lonely echoes moaned
About the spot that once their talk made bright.
Yet at my window I beheld a light.
   And entering my room, some insect droned  
   As usual, some beetle black intoned 
A lone familiar monody of flight.

I saw the instrument I often played,
   The books I loved, the chair wherein I sat.  
   I dared to try a tune by memory led.
It had a sound of music that had strayed
   From rhythm, lost, untutored, broken, flat....
      I did not know till then that I was dead.

First published in The Australasian, 1 December 1923

Still-Born by Mabel Forrest

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There only blow the gentle winds, and pale and tender suns  
Stream down the trees with temperate heat, and there the river runs  
With never brawling on a stone, or sullen, reckless flood,          
And every star-enraptured night is steeped in moonlight mood.  
It is half-way to Heaven's wails, and half-way to the earth,        
The land of babes whom Death has found against the gates of Birth!

They swing in cities made of reeds, or grasses woven green,  
The twilit spaces of the grove, or sunny walks between; 
Their coverlids are budding flowers where musky breezes move,
And all about them wing the thoughts; the unseen Mother love
Of her who waited in the world and stitched the dainty cap,
Who held in dreams the dimpled form close cuddled in her lap,
Who put the little garment by, sweet-sheaved in lavender,
And kissed the tiny broidered frock that was "for him" - or "her"-
This love that never found its goal-yet is a pulsing thing.  
It helps to guard the drowsy babes that in their hammocks swing,      
Too kind for Sorrow is the rhythm, and all too soft for Mirth,  
That rocks the babies Death has claimed beside the gates of Birth!    

The glow-worms in the shining grass have trimmed a thousand lights,
For babies do not love the dusk of Mother-empty nights,
And one white bird sits all day long upon a swaying bough,
And trills the crooning lullabies that living lips lack now,  
For they grow never older here-no blue eyes lose their trust -
No little feet halt in a road begrimed with tears and dust.  
For they are always babies here, and sinless and unstained,
Whose hours to Time immutable for ever-more are chained -  
It lies half-way to Heaven's heights-yet not too far from earth -
The land of babes whom Death has reached from out the gates of Birth!

First published in The Australasian, 17 June 1911

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

In the Ashes by Mabel Forrest

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I found the cold grey ashes of a fire
Which these two lit, whom Vengeance followed fast,
Although the dragging lawyer-vines were cast
To stay the following footsteps - Hate's desire,
Breaking all barriers that the scrubs et up,
Thirsty to fill with blood its brazen cup.

I found the ashes that such memories keep.
Tall ironbarks were round them, scored of trunk;
And here and there a wan bush flower, drunk
With sun and dew, and falling into sleep,
Yet murmuring nothing of the vows it heard,
Though its pale heart was redder by a word.

And overhead a bronze-wing in the boughs
Rippled swift pinions, and a pink galah
Strutted in seeding grass, yet kept afar
From that grey ring that wed to Life's carouse
Pursuing Death. The blue smoke o'er the trees
Betrays no more the rendezvous of these.

With stirless leaves the ironbarks look down,
Yet they must know that never human tongue
Can tell of how those lovers kissed and clung,
And how grey eyes struck flame from eyes of brown.
And least they did not live to see Love pass
Into a sear of ashes on the grass.

Beneath her hair they told me, when she lay
Ready for burial, in the small bush inn,
There was one bullet mark to pay her sin.
Her small white hands were folded. Did she pray?
After her death? (In life not much, I vow!)
Pray to the God who would not hear her now!

But he died harder! When I saw her there
I understood how he would fight for life.
Although he had no weapon but a knife
With which to parry bullets. She was fair,
And Death was not an easy thing to choose
When there was life -- and life with her -- to lose!

But they were very quiet when they slept
On those tough trestles. So we laid them down
Under the weeping myalls. Then to town
One for the sergeant went. But I -- I kept
Pact with the promptings of a strange desire
And rode to find their little burned-out fire.

There was a wattle blooming at the edge
Of that thick timber, and it spilled its gold
Before my horse's hoofs as though it told
Of golden reeds that rustle through Life's sedge,
Making papyrus over which to write
Record of hours that were all too bright

For mortals living. Death had given them these
Ere for himself the price he claimed, I know
There was some special glory in the glow
Of that small camp-fire shining through the trees
And that, ere each crisp twig on it they set.
Often across its warmth their hands had met.

I left my horse, and idly, in the cold
Of that dull pyre, with gum-switch stirred.
It was no sob of shattered hopes I heard
(Dead leaf and chip that once were fairy gold!),
No hieroglyph of graves in cinders spelled --
One quick, sweet laugh was all the ashes held!

First published in The Bulletin, 17 May 1917 

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

In the Slumber-House by Mabel Forrest

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You, who have dreamed all your life, here shall you dream no longer.
Red and strong is the shield of Life -- but the sword of Death is stronger;
His white wings hover overhead, and his white feet press the grasses,
And his whisper thrills round your bed when the silken north wind passes.
By the railing within the gate that your slumber-house encloses,
There you couch in your maiden state, with the grasses and the roses.
The wattle in the corner patch stretches arms across the fences,
Spills its gold on the rusted latch and smothers Death's bare defences.
Girl, of lands where the sun is bright, and girl who was made for loving,
Here you lie in the moonless night while the long, long hours are moving --
Lie where the tall blue grass is spread, alone, with no dreams to flout you,
Of lover's breast for your brown head, and a lover's arms about you.
I, who rode when the sun was low, to the unbarred western gate,
Undreading, careless, certain, slow -- to find that I rode too late,
Can call your name where the grass-spears start, can dream of ungarnered blisses,
But never hold you against my heart and teach you to wake with kisses!

First published in The Lone Hand, 2 May 1910

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Hate's Recompense by Mabel Forrest

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They said to me, "Christian, before you die 
Forgive your enemies." Then answered I: 
"This that ye ask of me has come too late, 
For I have long forgiven the wrongs of Hate.
Plead for my friends, for it is hard to prove 
Perfect forgiveness for the wrongs of Love."

First published in The Queenslander, 30 April 1898

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Young Dead by Myra Morris

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No mighty architecture marks their grave;
   Across the covering earth no flow'rs are strown;  
   No fiery letters cut in carven stone 
Burn splendid syllables above the brave.    
But crag, and cliff, and sand form fitting pave,  
   And drifting dust by gutt'ral sea-winds blown,    
   Writhes o'er the rocks the screeching guns have known,
To requiem of long Aegean wave.

Then sleep! Uncaring, sleep, O happy dead!      
   And when the tides upgathered swirl and sweep,
   And the resurgent seas roll by and strain -- 
Appassionato round your rugged bed --
   Still slumber on! The centuries will reap 
   This seed - souls of the fallen born again!

First published in The Argus, 24 April 1920

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Valley of Flowers by Mabel Forrest

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A red feather he wore in his riding hat, and pointed riding shoon,
And the gold-chased hilt of his riding sword caught light front he afternoon;
And he leaned from his high saddle bow, and he held out his knightly hand --
"Have you been to the Valley of Flowers, or strayed into Flower-land?"
Then she put her empty pitcher down, and she looked at the moss-brown well,
Where village swains to the village maid had a homelier tale to tell;
And boorish louts seemed the village swains in the glare of the afternoon,
No bonny red feathers in riding hats, and no russet pointed shoon.
She was dimpled and soft, her heart was young, and her face was bright with youth;
She had heard of the legend of Flower-land, she wanted to test its truth;
So he set his gantlet against her waist for his was a knightly hand,
And thus they went, with his jet-black steed, on the journey to Flower-land.
Oh, swift was the journey to Flower-land, and easy the road to ride;
They crossed a plain that was hemmed with blooms, and they splashed thro' a silver tide;
The little waves sang at his horse's knees,and the pebbles gleamed below;
"But nothing is half as fair," quoth he, "as the valley to which we go."

So they watched her pass from the village street, and the old dames shook their heads,
And talked of flowers that turned to thorns, and of lying on self-made beds;
The whirr of the shuttles was stayed a space, for the girls forgot to spin,
Till the old men turned from the ingle nook to silence the old wives' din.
And the children coming home from school, with their small, impatient feet,
Tripped over the empty pitcher that stood on the cobbles of the street;
And the maids took up their spinning again, tho' they seemed but ill at ease,
For there came over a scent of flowers, borne back on the western breeze. 
And the days repeated their summer tale -- grey morn and gold afternoon -
But there never was gleam of sword-hilt bright, and there were no painted shoon;
And above the mists of the rolling downs, when the children were in bed,
And the sun was hiding behind he earth, no flash of feather red;
And sometimes a maid would stay her wheel, with an idle dreaming hand,
To wonder what they had found so fair to bind them to Flower-land.

One eve, when a storm hung black in the west, and the thunder muttered low,
And the peaks of the sea-girt far-off hills were red with the afterglow,
A will-o'-the-wisp came along the street from the mountains far and fair,
And a pale girl followed its wandering light with flowers in her hair.
So soft did she step thro' the grey storm dusk that they scarcely heard her feet,
Tho' she sought for an empty pitcher long in the narrow cobbled street;
And she paid no heed to the peering eyes, but she laughed and caught her breath
As she babbled of roses red as blood and of lilies white as Death.
And some said that she was a maid bewitched, and some spoke a bitter word;
And they jeered that she filled her pitcher now, but she neither went nor heard;
"She went a-weaving with flowers," they gibed, "and for fairy flax to spin;
Now she seeks for her shattered pitcher to set her rare dream-blossoms in!"
Then a white maid leaned from her lattice out, "Nay! jest not with the dead;
She has stayed too long in Flower-land," the wise white maiden said.

First published in The Australasian, 23 February 1907

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Pale Mourners by Myra Morris

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Far in the forest night entwined,
   I hear the wailing mourners go:
I see the pale procession wind
   Among the tree-trunks, dim and slow.

Why have I risen from my bed
   To watch them threading out and in?
The fireflies flicker overhead
   In webs the watching spiders spin.

Each pointed shoe with gems is set;
   All ashen white each ghostly gown.
Each wears a jewelled carcanet,
   To match her elderberry crown.

Why weep they in these woods of green
   And fill the running dark with fear?
They chant their melancholy threne
   Above the trappings of a bier!

"No more he'll hunt the bee." they sing,
   "No more he'll hear the fairy horn,
No more the flower-bells will ring
   For him along the edge of morn.

"For him no more brown gypsies brush
   The fallen leaves of gold and red;
No magic beasts move in the lush,
   Green grass, for he that played - is dead!"

Whom mourn they as they onward glide,
   With death-flowers blowing to the knee?
I watch them like a rising tide
   Among the trunks of ebony.

The moon has left her murky cloud,
   The phantom mourners pass me by.
Ah, woe! Beneath the lifted shroud
   I see the child that once was I!

First published in The Bulletin, 27 January 1921

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Drowned Butterfly by Myra Morris

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Look! Here upon the sand a lovely thing,
Lying among the sea-shells, foam-enlaced --
A drenched white butterfly,
Each silken wing,
Once iridescent, ebon-chased,
Broken and brushed
With the wild sea,
Its little feathered body crushed

O lovely thing! Poor fragile butterfly!
How came it so to die,
This shining jewel of a summer's day?
Perhaps it saw the low-hung, quivering spray,
White as old almond-bloom
Above the sea;
And winged far out, its flight a rhapsody,
Unto the swift, sharp doom
Of the tide's swirling race,
Looking to find some strange, new garden there,
Pale-blossomed, fair,
With perfumed flowers
Above the towers
Of crystal and of chrysoprase!
And now where all the shells are spread
Like petal-drifts -- look! it lies dead!

I cannot bear to think this hot sweet day,
Of that short life, shorter than hours of spring.
Here for one shining flash, then swept away --
O beautiful, poor thing!....
Yet what of me!
Am I not as some restless butterfly,
Questing the joys of life on radiant wing,
Knowing the while (O rebel I!)
That even as I soar, unbounded, high,
Just out beyond there sounds forebodingly,
The murmur of death's dark relentless sea?

First published in The Bulletin, 19 January 1928

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Earth by Hugh McCrae

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Green grows my grave in the grass,
   Somewhere....? Oh, let it be
Here in the land that I love,
   My heart's own Italy.

The bee will hum to the bud,
   And the bud will whisper to me
Of the dawn and the dew and the flood
   And the season's mystery.

The song of the brook through the stones,
   The song of the thrush through the tree,
Will mingle and marry and hush
   With the music of moonlight and sea.

And mad with their musical chant
   I know that my heaven will be
To go through the wild olden wood
   Of earth-sweet memory.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 December 1912;
and later in
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985.

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Rain on the Grave by P. Luftig (Peter Airey)

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'Neath the torrid sun of the Western plain 
   There lieth a dear one dead; 
O! blue were his eyes and fair the curls 
   That clustered round his head.

There were none to smooth his pillow down, 
   To close his eyelids dear; 
No sound of woman's weeping fell, 
   There fell no burning tear. 

But far, where the little homestead lies, 
   An old man's hair is gray; 
His heart is faint with a deadly fear 
   For the son so far away. 

And the mother wails her absent one, 
   As Rachel did of old-- 
'No more I'll see his eyes of blue,   
   Or dress his locks of gold'; 

While a winsome maiden bows her head 
   As the big brown eyes run o'er -- 
'And though my love lies low in death, 
   I will love him evermore.' 

And the tears that fast and faster fall 
   The kind heaven lifts on high, 
And forms of the drops a cloudlet pale 
   That floats to the Western sky; 

And the tears fall soft from the cloudlet down 
   Afar on the dear one's head; 
That he lie not alone on the Western plain, 
   Unwept--among the dead.

First published in The Queenslander, 16 December 1893

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Pale Neighbour by John Shaw Neilson

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Over the road she lives not far,
   My neighbour pale and thin:
"Sweet is the world!" she cries, "how sweet
   To keep on living in!"

Her heart it is a right red heart
   That cannot stoop to pine;
Her hand-clasp is a happiness,
   Her welcome is a wine.

Love, she will have it, is a lilt
   From some lost comedy
Played long ago when the white stars
   Lightened the greenery.

Ever she talks of earth and air
   and sunlit junketing:
Gaily she says, "I know I shall
   Be dancing in the Spring!"

Almost I fear her low, low voice
   As one may fear the moon,
As one may fear too faint a sound
   In an old uncanny tune.

... Over the road 'twill not be long --
   Clearly I see it all
Ere ever the red days come up
   Or the pale grasses fall.

There will be black upon us, and
   Within our eyes a dew:
We shall be walking neighbourly
   As neighbours -- two and two.

First published in The Bookfellow, 15 December 1913;
and later in
The Lone Hand, 16 September 1919;
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934; and
Green Days and Cherries: the early verses of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981.

Outside by Will M. Fleming

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It seems so cold, so very cold  
   To stand where seas are blue,
Reluctant, on the edge of life,
   And watch what others do.  
To live outside the hearts of those
   Whose daily ways we know,      
And watch, as they were marionettes,
   And life a puppet show.
To hear the ages tramping past, 
   With strong, unhurried feet,
And sit as loungers in a park
   Upon a shaded seat. 

To hear the blithe birds as they go,
   Each eager, joyous pair,
With eyes and ears too dull to know
   The happiness that's there. 

It must be cold, so very cold,
   When evening shadows fall;
And Death calls from eternity,
   Alone to hear the call.

First published
in The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 August 1928

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Old Nell Dickerson by John Shaw Neilson

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The young folk heard the old folk say
   'twas long ago she came;
Some said it was her own, and some
   it was another's shame.
All pleasantly the seasons passed
   in gray and gold and green,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no one had ever seen.

They said that when a baby crowed
   she turned her head away,
And when delightful lovers kissed
   her sallow face went gray:
Some say she laughed at love and death
   and every man-made law --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no babbler ever saw.

October ran with greenery
   and blossoms white and fair;
The poorest soul had time to feast
   on beauty everywhere;
A thousand anthems rose to God
   through the uproarious blue,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no singer ever knew.

The summer sauntered in with wheat
   and forest fire and haze,
And the white frocks of white girls,
   and lads with love ablaze;
Sweet sighs were in the high heavens
   and upon the warm ground --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   it never yet was found.

The winter came with wistful talk
   of water-birds in tune,
And while their snowy treasures slept
   did mother ewes commune;
In every wind and every rain
   some daring joys would climb --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   was prisoner all the time.

The streamers stood across the sky
   one evening clear and warm;
The old folk said the streamers come
   foretelling strife and storm.
When old Nell laughed her hollow laugh
   the neighbours looked in awe,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no neighbour ever saw.

And with the night came thundering
   like Evil wandering near,
And the tender little children wept
   and the women shook with fear;
Out on the night went one stern soul --
   along the wind it blew;
Oh, the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no babbler ever knew!

Softly they sought her little room,
   and she was blue and cold;
Upon the wall some straggling words
   her last poor wishes told:
Nothing she gave, and little begged --
   they read there mournfully:
"Bitter and black was all my life,
   but wear no black for me."

'Twas a green day and a wild day
   and lovers walked along,
And the old men, the grey men,
   the ruddy men and strong,
And the tenderest of pale girls
   in pink and green and blue
Walked mournfully behind the heart
   that no one ever knew.

And there were many dropping tears
   on sashes red and wide,
And more hot prayers were said that day
   than if a king had died;
And some wore white and yellow frocks
   and some wore blue and green,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no one had ever seen.

First published in The Sun (Sydney), 6 August 1911;
and later in
The Bookfellow, 15 June 1914;
Green Days and Cherries: the early verse of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981; and
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991.

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

See also.

Life and Death by Emily Bulcock

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Life that kept me on the rack,   
Life that filled both hands and heart --
Set for me no idle part,
Rudely broke upon my dream ---
Yields its wavering torchlight back!
Strange Death's pulseless calm will seem!  

Yet perchance that calm will be
Stirred by vigorous life awaking
Larger buds of promise breaking!
Death will yield a nobler mind,
As the tangled threads unwind,
Reading clear Life's mystery.

So before the journey ends  
I would know him as a lover!
Making thus a brave amends,
Much to me he will discover.
So we twain will meet as friends
Whisper then this comfort over ---
"Death, that takes so much, so much
Yieldeth all at one swift touch!"

First published in The Register, 1 July 1922;
and later in
Jacaranda Blooms and Other Poems by Emily Bulcock, 1923.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

An Episode of Bush Life by Ernest Favenc

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The hot fierce sun above; below, the river
   In glittering sparkles flashing back each ray:
Scarcely a breath to make the tree tops quiver,
   Or rustle 'midst their leaves in idle play.

Scarcely a sound to tell that life is teeming
   In the dense scrub that lines the winding creek
In drowsy stillness sleeps the forest--dreaming ---
   Save where a parrot wakes it with a shriek.

A long harsh shriek! like one in anguish dying,
   Or eldritch cursing with unholy ban;
As though the frightened bird had seen there lying
   The dead horse, on the living breathing man;

And, in that startled glance, instinct had told it
   The meaning of the tragedy below,
And ere it flew, in pity to behold it,
   It cried aloud, in one long wail of woe.

"Is this a dream? Can I be really here?
   The dead horse lying on my shattered bone;
No chance of life! No friend, no comrade near!
   Nought left but death --- a lingering death --- alone,

"How many dreadful hours must I await
   Death's coming? --- for he is my only friend,
Who in his mercy kindly will abate
   My sufferings, and console me at the end.

"Will he come quickly? Shall I see him stand
   And gaze at me with eyes of solemn greeting?
Then will he stoop, and with an icy hand
   Touch my warm heart, and still its weary beating?   

"Or, in the evening's shadow-haunted gloom,
   When through the trees I hear the night-wind roam,
But as a darker shadow will he loom,
   And gently comfort me, and take me home?   

"Ah night! dear night! so cool, and calm, and still;  
   Could I but drink once more, in peace I'd lie
In your dark arms; let me but have my fill
   Of that sweet water! God, then let me die.

"In the deep silence I can hear it splash
   Amongst the rocky boulders far below.
Oh! could I only reach the side, and dash
   My fevered body in its cooling flow!   

"Keep back, you fiend! I see you hiding there  
   Behind that tree-trunk, mocking me in scorn:
Grinning and mowing, with a wicked stare
   That could not come save from a thing hell-born.

"You'll go away when the hot day is done,   
   And the kind night cools me with dewy rain;
But when the east glows red before the sun
   You will return, and torture me again;

"Showing me where the sparkling river falls
   Over the rocks --- so close! O Heaven, and then   
Delude me with false answers to my calls
   For aid and succour from my fellow-men.

"Give me quick death, if you have mercy, Christ,
   And are the God of love, and not of fear!
Why torture me? Surely it had sufficed   
   To take my life --- not leave me lingering here.

"If fiend you are, then work your fiendish will;
   Burning me with fierce sun and fiercer thirst:
Crushed, lone, and helpless, I defy you still;
   I'll pray no more, but hold you for accursed.

"Ah! do not bind me! Give me water, pray!  
   And I'll not struggle more, but let the flame
Consume me calmly; only take away
   Those haunting eyes --- that head, bowed in shame.

"Call no more ghosts; there are enough here now;
   If this is hell I cannot now atone
For past misdeeds. O cool my aching brow!
   Keep off, you devils ! Let me die alone.

"How balmy feels the air! and the soft sound  
   Of chiming bells comes on the evening breeze,
So rich with fragrance, from the flower-decked ground
   From hawthorn hedges, and from chestnut trees.

"This well-known lane! The old familiar place  
   Left years ago, but never quite forgot ---
This hand in mine! Is it my sister's face?  
   How little changed! To think I know you not!   

"True, I am weak and faint; but we will go
   To the old churchyard, and when there we'll stray
Amongst the quiet tombs, and you can show
   Me those of friends, lost since I went away.

"Strange! it is falling dark; and where I stand
   There seems an open grave. Surely I live!
And yet --- I'm blind; and now --- how cold your hand!
   This must be death ! Have mercy --- God --- forgive."

First published in The Queenslander, 1 May 1880;
and later in
Voices of the Desert by Ernest Favenc, 1905.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Invincible by Will M. Fleming

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He came from out the night,
   He passed me by,
Because it was not time
   For me to die.
But others caught their breath;
   His name was Death.
In golden, perfumed hours
   Beside the sea,
I met him 'mid the flowers.
   He spoke to me
As softly as a dove;
   His name was Love.
And now I know why some
   May not know fear,
For, walking with Desire
   No man could hear
Dark Death, howe'er he cried,
   Till Love is satisfied.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April 1931

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

A Common Grief by Henry Parkes

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A simple Irish maiden, with wild heart
Exuberant of natural playfulness,
Oft, holding in her arms a sweet-eyed child,
Sung an old peasant dirge, in feigned distress,
As to surprise the lovely face that smiled
Into a transient shade of grief, that then  
She might, with fuller fondness, see it start
Back into light and joy, when she again
Looked up herself, from her sad-acted part.
"I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!" the maiden sung,    
And her bright face put on a mimic sorrow,
"I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!" until that young
And pensive listener knew how she could borrow
The tones and mask of mourning, and so grew
Expectant of the mockery ever new,
And learnt to lisp, with a pretended pity,
The silly burden of the maiden's ditty.

   And while her third blue summer's light
      Yet warmed that infant's brow,
   While yet the earth with flowers was bright,
   And nature seemed to know no blight,
      A sickness laid her low.

   A cruel and insidious sickness
      Laid low that gentle child --
   Low in her spirit's suffering meekness,
   Low in her voice of softening weakness,
      And eyes that patient smiled.

   Low in her mother's dear embrace!   
      And, with soft-drooping eye,
   She murmured, in that resting-place,
   Beneath that loving, watching face,
      "I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!"

   She feebly takes her favourite flowers,
      From sister's hand and brother's;
   And feebly, as our grief o'erpowers
   Our hearts, she lifts her eyes to ours,
      Her father's and her mother's.

   But not so quickly droop and fade
      The flowers she holds as she; 
   And morning's light, and evening's shade,
   Where now her little bed is made,
      But mark where it will be.

   The night of fitful moanings's past,
      The day of pain is done; 
   We see the die of death is cast --
   We feel that she must go, at last --
      We say aloud, "She's gone!"   

   There is a wealth for memory still,--
      Her quiet sojourn here --
   Her temper meek, her gentle will --
   The flowers of peace no worm may kill,
      Which made her life so dear! 

   But fancy, in her limnings rare,
      Will hear the haunting cry
   Steal o'er that crown of sunny hair,
   Those sweet blue eyes, that forehead fair,
      "I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!"

First published
in The Empire, 3 April 1854;
and later in
Murmurmings of the Stream by Henry Parkes, 1857.

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

See also.

Cooranbeen by Henry Kendall

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Years fifty, and seven to boot, have smitten the children of men
Since sound of a voice or a foot came out of the head of that Glen;
The brand of black devil is there-an evil wind moaneth around;
There is doom-there is death in the air; a curse groweth up from the ground.
No noise of the axe or the saw in that Hollow unholy is heard --
No fall of the hoof or the paw -- no whirr of the wing of the bird;
But a grey mother down by the sea, as wan as the foam on the strait,
Has counted the beads on her knee these forty-nine winters and eight.

Whenever an elder is asked -- a whiteheaded man of the woods --
Of the terrible Mystery marked where the dark everlastingly broods,
Be sure, he will turn to the bay with his back to the Glen in the range,
And glide like a phantom away with a countenance pallid with change.
From the line of dead timber that lies supine at the foot of the glade
The fierce-featured eaglehawk flies -- afraid as a dove is afraid;
But back in that wilderness dread are a fall and the forks of a ford --
Ah, pray and uncover your head, and lean like a child on the Lord.

A sinister fog at the wane-at the change of the moon cometh forth,
Like an ominous ghost in the train of a bitter black storm of the North:
At the head of the Gully -- unknown, it hangs like aspirit of bale;
And the noise of a shriek and a groan strikes up in the gusts of the gale.
In the throat of a feculent pit in the beard of a bloody-red sedge;
And a foam like the foam of a fit sweats out of the lips of the ledge;
But down in the water of death-in the livid dead pool at the base --
Bow low with inaudible breath: beseech with the hands to the face.

A furlong of fetid black fen, with gelid green patches of pond,
Lies dumb by the horns of the Glen -- at the gates of the Horror beyond;
And these who have looked on it tell of the terrible growths that are there --
The flowerage fostered by Hell -- the blossoms that startle and scare.
If ever a wandering bird should light on Gehennas like this
Be sure that a cry will be heard, and the sound of the flat adder's hiss.
But hard by the jaws of the bend is a ghastly Thing matted with moss --
Ah, Lord be a Father -- a Friend, for the sake of the Christ of the Cross.

Black Tom with the sinews of five -- that never a hangman could hang --
In the days of the shackle and gyve, broke loose from the guards of the gang.
Thereafter for seasons a score this devil prowled under the ban,
A mate of red talon and paw -- a wolf in the shape of a man.
But, ringed by ineffable fire, in a thunder and wind of the North
The sword of Omnipotent ire -- the bolt of high Heaven went forth;
But, wan as the sorrowful foam, a grey mother waits by the sea
For the boys that have never come home these forty four winters and three.

From the folds of the forested hills there are ravelled and roundabout tracks,
Because of the terror that fills the stronghanded men of the axe.
Of the workers away in the range, there is none that will wait for the night
When the storm-stricken moon is in change, and the sinister fog is in sight.
And later and deep in the dark, when the bitter wind whistles about,
There is never a howl or a bark from the dog in the kennel without;
But the white fathers fasten the door, and often and often they start
At a sound like a foot on the floor, and a touch like a hand on the heart.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 January 1879;
and later in
Songs from the Mountains by Henry Kendall, 1880;
A Century of Australian Song edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957; and
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966.

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

See also.

My Epitaph by C.J. Dennis

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Oh, praise me now if you would please
My soul with soothing flatteries.
Praise with my living clay agrees.
         'Tis sweet, I vow.
Give me kind words while I can feel
The modest blushes gently steal,
What time my virtues you reveal.
         Oh, praise me now!

For, when the vital spark has fled,
No matter what kind words are said,
I'll simply go on being dead
         And take no heed.
Or if, perchance, beneath the clay,
I hear some kindly critic say,
"He was a boshter'in his day!"
         'Twere hard indeed.

'Twere bitter hard to be confined,
Gagged by grim Death, while fellows kind
Call my good qualities to mind,
         And softly sigh.
I vow I'd writhe within my bier,
And strive to croak at least, "Hear, hear!"
For I have ever prized that dear
         Right to reply.

And, when at last I meet my doom
And moulder in the chilly tomb,
Gaunt Death might play within the gloom --
         Who knows what pranks.
My very skeleton would squirm
To hear, on my behalf, some worm
Or some unlettered grave-yard germ
         Returning thanks.

Then, if you're keen on praising me,
I'd rather be alive to see
And hear and feel the flattery,
         And know 'tis true.
And when I rise to make reply
I fain would droop a modest eye
And by my halting, speech imply
         It is my due.

I do not want a monument.
Why should good money so be spent?
Nay, put it out at ten per cent.,
         And when you save
Enough to purchase goodly fare,
Then spread me out a banquet rare.
No gift's appreciated there,
         Within the grave.

Oh, praise me now while I am here;
In my attentive living ear
Pour adulation; never fear
         I mind the row.
I love to hear you harp upon
Those dulcet strings.  Play on, play on!
Do not delay until I'm gone.
         But praise me now!

First published in The Bulletin, 31 December 1914

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

See also.

The Late-Hours Shop Girl by Henry Halloran

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(On reading "Tam the Chapman," of Burns.)

As Nellie, faint and sick of heart,
Passed homeward from the glaring mart,
Where she from nine until eleven
Had toiled to keep her poor life even --
The clock, with clang morose and slow,
Had toll'd the hour some time ago  --
She slipped upon the drizzled way
And fell, and there half dead she lay;
She saw, at least she thought she saw,
With feelings both of love and awe,
A ghost, or angel, pale as she,
Which stood, as if for company,
And said to Nellie, "Will you come?
I'll find for you a better home.
No tyrant there my power may brave
The white slave there is not a slave,   
For my great Master finds for her
A home, beyond the sepulchre,
And gives her of those glorious things
Which shine not in the halls of kings.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 28 November 1885

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Doom by Christopher Brennan

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Dead night, unholy quiet, doom, and weird
Are heavy on its roof,
The palace-keep that prosperous Evil rear'd
Defiant, heaven-proof.

Founded in fraud, mortar'd with blood, and clamp'd
With clutching iron hands,
It frown'd down right, its flaunted scutcheon ramp'd
Above the abject lands.

And now, the sentinels have left that gate
Nor bar protects, nor pin,
But high and wide the portal yawns, till Fate
And Judgment enter in.

A groaning trembles thro' the massive vaults,
A muttering down the halls,
As closer still the impending thunder halts
Nor yet the levin falls.

A panic whispering round the galleries
Runs twittering: then the hush,
And in the dimmest nooks divining eyes
See blackness throng and crush.

Palsied, with fix'd and writhen face, high Sin
Stares from the shrouded throne
With glassy eyes whose gaze is turn'd within
-- Where at the last are known

Ate and Ruin, each Erinys-shape
Dire, ineluctable,
From whom nor death nor madness brings escape
-- And least, the House of Hell.

This is their doom, deserv'd, complete and due,
That they themselves must know
Whose witless hand it was that overthrew
With self-inflicted blow

Their monstrous dream; to know their own the sword
That smote them from the skies,
That stretch'd in dust the Dagon they adored,
And shatter'd their emprise;

Their own the skill that most industrious built
This pit of their despair
Star-high, smooth-rounded, baffling, where their guilt
Must find eternal lair.

The enginery they wrought, whose maw they fed
With fume and fire of hate,
To break his house above their neighbour's head,
Hath left theirs desolate.

And Evil knows at last, all overtoil'd,
The law whereby it must,
By self stupidity and dulness foil'd,
Still labour for the Just.

This is their punishment: there is no worse;
What have they left to dread
Who reck not of the living orphan's curse,
The slow wrath of the dead?

Tho' for a while, lest from the festering lie
Our air drink poison-shade,
The scavengers of Justice yet must ply
Their stern and simple trade,

(For sword and rope are hungry, axe and block
Demand their grim repast,
Whereof who would defraud them, shakes the rock
On which his house stands fast)

Our vengeance now is full: what else must fall
Can add no best, no worst;
The cup is brimm'd whence they have drunken gall,
Where we have slaked our thirst.

Our vengeance is complete, deserv'd, and won,
And sevenfold seventyfold
The retribution on the guilty one
Is levied, summ'd, and told.

We that have suffer'd with the suffering right --
For all our doubts and fears,
For all our anguish in the muttering night,
For all our blood and tears,

For dread and for dismay, and that foul rape
Man's spirit but scarce withstood
When from the Pit, in our usurped shape,
The Abominable was spew'd --

Lo, their cold agony and icy sweat,
Their self-damnation known!
Let justice come: What need we vengeance yet?
Its wreaking was their own.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1918;
and later in
The Cairns Post, 25 November 1918;
A Chant of Doom and Other Verses by Christopher Brennan, 1918; and
The Verse of Christopher Brennan edited by A. R. Chisholm, 1960.

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

See also.

Good-Bye by Ada Cambridge

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Good-bye! -- 'tis like a churchyard bell -- good-bye!
   Poor weeping eyes! Poor head, bowed down with woe!
   Kiss me again, dear love, before you go.
Ah, me, how fast the precious moments fly!
            Good-bye! Good-bye!

We are like mourners when they stand and cry
   At open grave in wintry wind and rain.
   Yes, it is death. But you shall rise again --
Your sun return to this benighted sky.
            Good-bye! Good-bye!

The great physician, Time, shall pacify
   This parting anguish with another friend.
   Your heart is broken now, but it will mend.
Though it is death, yet still you will not die.
            Good-bye! Good-bye!

Dear heart! dear eyes! dear tongue that cannot lie!
   Your love is true, your grief is deep and sore;
   But love will pass, then you will grieve no more.
New love will come. Your tears will soon be dry!
            Good-bye! Good-bye!

First published in The Bulletin, 1 November 1906;
and later in
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1907;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
Unspoken Thoughts by Ada Cambrdige, 1988; and
100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss edited by Jamie Grant, 2011.

Author: Ada Cambridge (1844-1926) was born in Norfolk, England and arrived in Australia in 1870.  By that time was she had married a curate, George Cross, and was already published.  The couple lived and worked in rural Victoria, and in 1873 Cambridge began writing to supplement the family income. She published 26 novels during her lifetime along with 3 collections of her poetry.  She and her husband returned to England in 1909, but Cambridge returned to Victoria after her husband died in 1917. She died in Elsternwick in 1926.

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

The Lad Who Started Out by John Shaw Neilson

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October and the shining air put wondrous thoughts in him;
And he could fight and climb and ride, and he could shoot and swim;
The baby was about him yet, but a mystic fever ran   
In the little lad who started out one day to be a man.

Tempting and fair, two furlongs off, there rose the forest green,
Where the subtle bees had hid their home; but the river ran between.
Out of a gaudy dandelion a whispering pirate flew,    
And the fever spoke to the dear lad, and told him what to do.

Ay, 'twas a madness of the heart! but of the kind that goes
With the kingly men and conquerors, wherever red blood shows.  
A thousand fathers stormed in him and drove him in his dream:
Quickly he cast his clothes aside, and walked into the stream.    

The babe's blue was on his eye, and the yellow on his hair,
Proudly he held the good broad chin that all the heroes bear.
But, oh! too high and wide and strong the snow-fed river ran
For the little lad who started out one day to be a man.

Ah, madly comes the taste of him in coats the children wear,
And the red caps of the toddlers, and ruddy legs and bare,
The pirates whispering in the gold say grievous things of him.
And the leaves along the sunshine laugh, because he could not swim.

There is a woman, sweet and kind, a woman, calm and grey,
And her eyes have love for little lads, in all their boisterous play.
She says "So was his merry heart, so was his pretty chin;
My sorrow must run out and out, for I dare not keep it in."

But when the snow-fed waters come, and the yellow's in the air,
She looks not long on the blue sky, for his his eyes are there.
Oh, the yellow had not left his head when all her tears began
For the little lad who started out one day to be a man.  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October 1926;
and later in
Hell and After: Four Early English-Language Poets edited by Les Murray, 2005.

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

See also.

The Singer by George Essex Evans

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She sang of Hope, of happy days,
   Of glorious spring and summer's prime;
Softer than old-time minstrels' lays
   Uprose that melody sublime.

She sang of Faith, of firm resolve,
   Of strong unwavering constancy;
To trust and live till death should solve
   The problem of life's mystery.

She sang of Death -- that spectre grim --
   Of pain, and age, and faltering gait;
Of eyes once bright, now faint and dim;
   Of hearths and homes made desolate.

She sang of Love; and as she sang
   Her colour came and went again;
No words can tell how clearly rang
   The cadence of that sweet refrain.

She sang no more; for on that night
   There came a shadow and a gloom
Which hid the singer from our sight,
   And hung around a darkened room.

And now she sings where angels sing
   A nobler song in spheres above;
Where Death no more can enter in,
   And Hope and Faith are lost in Love.

But from the echoes of the past
   Her voice comes ringing back again,
To tell the hearts who knew her last
   That Hope and Faith and Love remain.

First published in The Queenslander, 23 October 1886

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

See also.

Footfalls by Henry Kendall

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The embers were blinking and clinking away --
   The casement half open was thrown;
There was nothing but cloud on the skirts of the day;
   And I sat in the threshold alone!

And said to the river, which flowed by my door
   With its beautiful face to the hill,
"I have waited and waited, all wearied and sore,
   But my love is a wanderer still!"

And said to the wind, as it paused in its flight
   To look through the shivering pane,
"There are memories moaning and homeless to night,
   That can never be tranquil again!"

And said to the woods, as their burdens were borne
   With a flutter and sigh to the caves,
"They are wrinkled and wasted, and tattered and torn,
   And we too have our withering leaves!"

Did I hear a low echo of footfalls about;
   Whilst watching those forest-trees stark!
Or was it a dream that I hurried without,
   To clutch at, and grapple the dark?  

In the Shadow I stood for a moment and spake --
   "Bright thing, that was loved in the past,
"Oh ! am I asleep - or abroad and awake?
   And are you so near me at last?  

"Oh! roamer from lands where the vanished years go,
   Oh! waif from those mystical zones,
Come here where I long for you broken and low
   On the mosses and watery stones!

"Come out of your silence, and tell me if life
   Is so fair in that world as they say;
Was it worth all this yearning, and weeping, and strife,
   When you left it behind you to-day?  

"Will it end all this watching, and doubting, and dread?
   Do these sorrows die out with our breath?
Will they pass from our souls, like a nightmare," I said,
   "While we glide through the mazes of death?"

"Come out of that darkness, and teach me the lore
   You have learnt since I looked on your face;
By the summers that blossomed and faded of yore --
   By the lights which have fled to that place!

"You answer me not, when I know that you could --
When I know that you could, and you should;
   Though the storms are abroad on the wave;
Though the rain droppeth down with a wail to the wood,
   And my heart is as cold as your grave!"

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 1861;
and later in
Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 11 January 1862;
The Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, 27 May 1862;
Poems and Songs by Henry Kendall, 1862; and
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966.

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

See also.

The Camp Within the West by Roderic Quinn

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O did you see a troop go by    
Way-weary and oppressed,    
Dead kisses on the drooping lip    
And a dead heart in the breast?    
Yea, I have seen them one by one
Way-weary and oppressed,   
And when I asked them, "Whither speed?"
They answered, "To the West!"

And were they pale as pale could be ---   
Death-pale with haunted eyes,
And did you see the hot white dust   
Range round their feet and rise?   
O, they were pale as pale could be,   
And pale as an embered leaf;   
The hot white dust had risen, but
They laid it with their grief.
Did no one say the way is long,   
And crave a little rest?   
O no, they said, "The night is nigh,   
Our camp is in the West!"

And did pain pierce their feet, as though   
The way with thorns were set,   
And were they visited by strange   
Dark angels of regret?   
Oh yes, and some were mute as death,
Though shot by many a dart,   
With them the salt of inward tears   
Went stinging through the heart. 
And how are these wayfarers called,   
And whither do they wend?
The Weary-Hearted --- and their road   
At sunset hath an end.
Shed tears for them ... Nay, nay, no tears
They yearn for endless rest;   
Perhaps large stars will burn above
Their camp within the West.
First published in The Bulletin, 15 October 1898 and in the same magazine on 29 December 1900 and 29 January 1930;
and later in
The Lone Hand, 1 April 1908;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R.H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
A Girdle of Song: By Poets of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Eire, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa edited by Edith M. Fry, 1944; and
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964.

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

See also.

Pat Magee by Harry "Breaker" Morant

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   Dying! in the sheltering shade
   That the myall branches made,
While the horse-bells clanged and tinkled, far away across the plain;
   The white stars above were blinking,
   As old Pat Magee lay thinking
Of the faces and the places he would never see again.

   That long trip -- his life -- is over,
   And the grizzled, gaunt old drover
Gives "delivery;" hands his way-bill to his Owner, up above.
   Whether, now, a heaven or hell come,
   Pat will find old mates to welcome --
Saints a few and sinners many 'mong the ones he used to love.

   Lived his years -- some five-and-fifty --
   Neither over-wise nor thrifty;
Many times he "went a bender" from the sober way and straight;
   Yet men found in days of trouble
   Paddy's friendship was no bubble,
And he never wronged a woman nor went back upon a mate.

   And the Boss of all bosses
   May be lenient to the "losses" --
On the tracks that Paddy's travelled there were bound to be a few.
   Maybe He who pays the wages
   Knows how weary were some "stages,"
And there'll be a big "percentage," p'raphs, allowed on coming through.

   So we dug upon the 'Bidgee,
   Fenced it round with stakes of gidgee,
Paddy's grave! for burial-service Jack just whispered, "Rest his soul!"
   Then next morning, heavy-hearted,
   Got the nags up and departed,
Did what Pat himself had ne'er done -- left a comrade on a hole.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 September 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; and
The Poetry of 'Breaker' Morant: from the Bulletin 1891-1903 with original illustrations by Harry Morant, 1980.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

I Spoke to the Violet by John Shaw Neilson

| No TrackBacks
Shy one, I said, you can take me away in a breath,
But I like not the coat that you come in -- the colour of death.  

The silence you come with is sweeter to me than a sound,
But I love not the colour -- I saw it go into the ground.            

And, though you haunt me with all that is health to a rhyme,
My thoughts are as old as the native beginning of Time.  

Your scent does encompass all beauty in one loving breath,
But I like not the coat that you come in -- the colour of death.        

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 1937;
and later in
Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse by John Shaw Neilson, 1938;
A Book of Australian Verse edited by Judith Wright, 1968;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984; and
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991.

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

See also.

Spring Dirge by Victor J. Daley

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A child came singing, through the dusty town,
   A song so sweet that all men stayed to hear;
   Forgetting, for a space, their ancient fear
Of evil days and death and fortune's frown.

She sang of Winter dead and Spring new-born
  In the green fields beyond the far hills bound;
   And how this fair Spring, coming blossum-crowned,
Would cross the city's threshold on the morn.

And each caged bird in every close anigh,
   En' as she sang, caught up the glad refrain
   Of Hope and Love, fair days come again,
'Till all who heard forgot they had to die.

And all the ghosts of buried woes were laid
   That heard the song of this sweet sorceress;
   The Past grew to a dream of old distress,
And merry were the hearts of man and maid.

So, at the first faint flush of tender dawn
   Spring stole with noiseless steps through the gray gloom,
   And men knew only by a strange perfume
Which filled the air that she had come and gone.

But, ah, the lustre of her violet eyes
   Was dimmed with tears for her sweet singing maid,
   Whose voice would sound no more in shine or shade
To charm men's souls at set of sun or rise.

For there, with dews of dawn upon her hair,
   Like a fair flower plucked and flung away,
   Dead in the street the litte maiden lay
Who gave now life to hearts nigh dead of care.

Alas, must this be still the bitter doom
   Awaiting those, the finer souled of earth,
   Who make for men a morning song of mirth
While yet the birds are dumb amid the gloom?

They walk on thorny ways with feet unshod;
   Sing one last song, and die as that song dies.
   There is no human hand to close their eyes,
And very heavy is the hand of God.

First published
in The Sydney Mail, 22 July 1882;
and then later in
At Dawn and Dusk by Victor J. Daley, 1902.

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

See also.

The Dying Convict's Letter by Henry Parkes

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["Among the few who died in June 1794, was a convict of the name of Gillies. His death took place on the morning of the Speedy's arrival from England; by which ship a letter was received addressed to him, admonishing him of the uncertainty of life, recommending him early to think of the end of it, and acquainting him with the death of his wife, a child, and two other near relations. He had ceased to breathe a few moments before this distressful intelligence would otherwise have reached him."- Collins' History of New South Wales, chap. 13.  These verses were suggested by the above paragraph, though it will be seen the writer has not confined himself to the facts, as therein related.]

In mental agony he lifted up
   His voice to him who hears the sufferer's prayer;
"Merciful God! withhold this bitter cup,
   My failing strength, a little while, repair,--
Oh, let me hear once more, before I go,
Of her whom my rash crime has steep'd in shame and woe!"

There was a pause:- he knew by the glad hum
   Of expectation round his squalid couch,
An English ship had anchor'd there was come
   To land, a boat with letters, --- scarce they touch
The beach, when a soil'd missive met the eye
Of one he sent to enquire; --- 'tis his! now read, and die.
"My dear lost son."- they were his father's words,-
   "In grief unbounded I now write to thee;
And oh! I fear my heart's sore-strained chords
   Will break long ere thine answer reaches me;
Only for that I live; --- alas, alas!
How, like the morning dews, our earthly joys all pass!

"O, son, repent thee, while the day is thine,
   Trust not the morrow, -- death may come before;
Let not God's anger smite thee 'midst thy sin,
   Turn, turn, and mercy at his feet implore!
How shall I tell thee, too unhappy son,
Whose head, to warn thy soul, his wrath has fall'n upon?

"She whom thou didst bring home, in life's fair morn
   To sit where sat thy mother, by our hearth;
Whose smiles were of a guileless spirit born.
   Whose sadness seem'd more sweet than others mirth;
She who so clung to thee, when guilt and shame,
Like a foul leprosy, covered thy felon's name!

"Forgive my anguished heart, my son, if hard
   The words I've written:--- she is gone to rest!
Yet fairer should have been her love'e reward,
   Cruel it was to wound that gentle breast
So deeply and so ruthlessly! -- with her
Sleeps thy fair boy; he, too, shares the dark sepulchre."

He ceased to read, his bony hand still clenched
   The opened letter; as he backward fell
Upon his sea weed pillow; death was quenching
   The feeble light in his cold heart, -- 'twas well!
Yet once again, to search that scroll, he strove,
For words he knew were there, of her departed love.

Vain was his dying effort, to unfold
   The written treasure, -- but not all in vain.--
That struggle freed his soul from earth's faint hold,
   His sin and suffering past! the prisoner's chain
Had a light pressure for his pulseless limb;
An ignominious grave in pity closed o'er him!

First published
in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 13 July 1844

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

See also.

The Robe of Grass by J. Le Gay Brereton

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Here lies the woven garb he wore
Of grass he gathered by the shore
   Whereon the phantom waves still fret and foam
And sigh along the visionary sand.
"Where is he now?" you cry; "What desolate land
   Gleams round him in dull mockery of home?"
You knew him by the robe he cast
About him, grey and worn at last.
   "It fades," you murmur, "changes, lives and dies.
Why has he vanished? Whither is he fled?
And is there any light among the dead?
   Can any dream come singing where he lies?"
Ah peace! lift up your clouded eyes,
Nor where this curious relic lies
   Grope in the blown dust for the print of feet.
Dim, tottering, ghastly sounds are these; but he
Laughs now as ever, still aloof and free,
   Eager and wild and passionate and fleet.
Because he has dropped the part he played,
Shall love be baffled and dismayed?
   Let the frail earth and all its visions melt,
And let the heart that loves, the eye that sees,
Seek him amid immortal mysteries,
   For lo, he dwells where he has ever dwelt.

First published in The Lone Hand, 1 May 1913;
and later in
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1924; and
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R. H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Bushman's Track by Will M. Fleming

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There is a track, away "out back,"
   Which opens up when bushmen fall,
And there, they say, you hear alway
   The lonely curlew's wandering call.

And many a soul has reached its goal
   By passing down that misty hall;
And many an ear devoid of fear
   Has heard the lonely curlew's call.

What need of shroud? Enough of cloud
   Is there to form an endless pall.
What need of psalm? For nought can harm
   Those souls who hear the curlew's call.

Though when alone the track is shown,
   What need to dread which waits for all
Who gather near to save from fear
   Those who have heard the curlew's call?

There is a track away out back
   Which opens up when bushmen fall,
And there, they say, you hear alway
   The lonely curlew's wandering call.

First published in The Queenslander, 10 April 1897

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Jim's Whip by Barcroft Boake

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Yes, there it hangs upon the wall
And never gives a sound,
The hand that trimmed its greenhide fall
Is hidden underground,
There, in that patch of sally shade,
Beneath that grassy mound.

I never take it from the wall,
That whip belonged to him,
The man I singled from them all,
He was my husband, Jim;
I see him now, so straight and tall,
So long and lithe of limb.

That whip was with him night and day
When he was on the track;
I've often heard him laugh. and say
That when they heard its crack,
After the breaking of the drought,
The cattle all came back.

And all the time that Jim was here
A-working on the run
I'd hear that whip ring sharp and clear
Just about set of sun
To let me know that he was near
And that his work was done.

I was away that afternoon,
Penning the calves, when, bang!
I heard his whip, 'twas rather soon -
A thousand echoes rang
And died away among the hills,
As toward the hut I sprang.

I made the tea and waited, but,
Seized by a sudden whim,
I went and sat outside the hut
Watching the light grow dim -
I waited there till after dark,
But not a sign of Jim.

The evening air was damp with dew;
Just as the clock struck ten
His horse came riderless - I knew
What was the matter then.
Why should the Lord have singled out
My Jim from other men?

I took the horse and found him where
He lay beneath the sky
With blood all clotted on his hair;
I felt too dazed to cry -
I held him to me as I prayed
To God that I might die.

But sometimes now I seem to hear -
Just when the air grows chill -
A single whip-crack, sharp and clear,
Re-echo from the hill.
That's Jim, to let me know he's near
And thinking of me still.

First published in The Bulletin, 19 March 1892;
and later in
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems by Barcroft Boake, 1897;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
Australian Bush Poems, 1991;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Barcroft Henry Boake edited by Hugh Capel, 2002;
Where the Dead Men Lie: The Story of Barcroft Boake, Bush Poet of the Monaro: 1866-1892  by Hugh Capel, 2002;
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
Barcroft Boake: Collected Works, Edited, with a Life edited by W. F. Refshauge, 2007.

Author: Barcroft Henry Thomas Boake (1866-1892)  was born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1866. He received a better than usual education but turned his back on the city in favour of bush life, believing it to be 'the only life worth living.' He worked as assistant to a surveyor in the Snowy River country and later as a drover and boundary-rider in the Monaro and Western Queensland. He returned to Sydney in 1891 for family reasons but disappeared in May 1892. His body was found eight days later, hanging by the neck from a stockwhip, in scrub at Middle Harbour in Sydney.

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

See also.

A Grave by the Sea by George Essex Evans

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No white cloud sails the lonely sky,
Thro' the gaunt trees no breezes sigh,
   Thro' the lush grass no fall of feet;
No song of bird in all the land,
   But, floating faint and dreamily,
The distant dirge of waves that beat
   In discontent upon the sand.

Here, where all Nature seems aswoon,
   Time, languid as a summer stream,
Drifts down the soft sweet afternoon;
   And Death, discrowned of terror, brings
Surcease to souls that wake not soon,
   And casts above Life's fevered dream
Cool shadows of Immortal Wings.

Here, by the old graves overgrown,
A bare mound, without wreath or stone,
   Marks where he sleeps 'mid grasses long,
Who sought not things that others seek,
   Who fought in silence and alone,
Who in his weakness was so strong
   And in his strength so weak.

The shining years shall glide and go,
The human tides shall ebb and flow,
   And Love make sweet the days to be,
And Death make smooth the brow of pain,
   But no such heart again shall glow,
And no such friend shall come to me
   Thro' all the cycles that remain.

Some pass and perish with their breath;
He liveth still and quickeneth,
   As scent of roses on the wind
Recalls the bygone Summer's day;
   He leaves this side the seas of Death
The fragrance of a noble mind:
   He dies, but passes not away.

First published in The Queenslander, 2 March 1895

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

See also.

The Slain by Victor Daley

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I followed in an awful dream,
   With no desire, or hope, or plan,
The winding of a silent stream
   That through a shadowy woodland ran.

No voice of leaves above I heard,
   No voice of gladness or distress,
There was no song from any bird
   To stir that dreadful silentness.

And as that gloomy path I trod,
   I found within a place remote
The body of a fair dead God
   With marks of fingers on his throat.

Who slew that Being all divine,
   And from his eyes the life-light stole?
Ah, me the finger-marks were mine,
   And mine the murder of my soul!

First published in The Bulletin, 23 February 1901

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

See also.

The Corner Man by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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I dreamed a dream at the midnight deep,
   When fancies come and go
To vex a man in his soothing sleep
   With thoughts of awful woe --
I dreamed that I was a corner-man
   Of a nigger minstrel show.

I cracked my jokes, and the building rang
   With laughter loud and long;
I hushed the house as I softly sang
   An old plantation song --
A tale of the wicked slavery days
   Of cruelty and wrong.

A small boy sat on the foremost seat --
   A mirthful youngster he;
He beat the time with his restless feet
   To each new melody,
And he picked me out as the brightest star
   Of the black fraternity.

"Oh father," he said, "what WOULD we do
   If the corner-man should die?
I never saw such a man -- did you?
   He makes the people cry,
And then, when he likes, he makes them laugh."
   The old man made reply --

"We each of us fill a very small space
   In the great creation's plan,
If a man don't keep his lead in the race
   There's plenty more that can;
The world can very soon fill the place
   Of even a corner-man."

     .    .    .    .    .

I woke with a jump, rejoiced to find
   Myself at home in bed,
And I framed a moral in my mind
   From the words the old man said.
The world will jog along just the same
   When its corner-men are dead.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 January 1889 and again in the same magazine on 27 August 1930;
and later in
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1917;
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; and
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990.

Author: Andrew Barton Paterson (1864-1941), also known universally as "Banjo", sits in the top rank of Australian poets, especially those of the "bush" era.  His early life was spent near Orange in New South Wales and after some home-schooling he was sent to Sydney to matriculate.  He failed a University of Sydney scholarship exam but entered a solicitor's office as a clerk and was admitted to the bar in 1886.   He started writing poetry in 1885 and ten years later published his first collection, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, which was full of, by then, iconic Australian poems. He worked as a journalist for a number of years, being a newspaper correspondent during the Boer War, and, after further travels to China and England, quit his legal practice in 1902.  He continued to write until his death in Sydney in 1941.

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

See also.

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