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When I Was Born by Mabel Forrest

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When I was born they might have closed the windows of the room,
Have shut out gardens deep enrosed, and glossed magnolia bloom;
The warm white buds that on their lips, altho' the day was done, 
Still keep the thin gold arrow-tips they have filched from the sun, 
The love of suns, of greeting springs, was birthright to my soul.

When I was born they might have drawn a curtain o'er the pane,  
For in the blue sky till the dawn a full white moon did reign;
A large-eyed Venus is the moon clasped round by cloud above,  
She gives to babes a doubtful boon, the gift of passionate love.  

When I was born they might have stilled that wild brown bird that sings,  
His reckless heart by music filled, with rhythm on his wings,  
Ere, fitting to the lattice sill, thro' the warm, moon-washed air,  
Down to my ear he bent to trill and dropt a feather there;  
And made me his, by no calm choice -- soul-fettered and fate-bound,  
Wringing my heart for that true note which but by pain is found.  

When I was born a trumpet bloom cast forth it's almond breath,
A blossom pale against the gloom, a slim white perfumed death;  
Great Java lily buds that start, far in the jungled south,  
Would they had pressed its poisoned heart above my helpless mouth!  

When I was born they might have closed the windows of the room,  
Have shut out garden walks enrosed and glossed magnolia bloom;  
Have shut out hints of dewy morn, the pulsing green and blow,  
For all my days I feel the thorns, who loved the roses so;  
But open was the room to skies and heavy life-filled air,  
And in the grass were fire-flies and flowers everywhere.  

My mother liked the shutters wide, she liked to smell the flow'rs;  
She liked to see the planets ride thro' the long waiting hours;
She liked to see the stir begin about the gates of morn;
She did not know that grief slipped in, the night that I was born.

First published in The Australasian, 9 October 1909

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

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Your Road by Mabel Forrest

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Make no mistake, for the road goes up, 
The road goes up, aye, the road goes up;
   Not the desperate plunge o'er the canyon's edge,   
   Nor the poppied sleep 'neath the briary hedge,  
While the lingers slip on the poison cup. 

No byways, feathery with grass and fern, 
No sweeping river, no sheltered burn;
   But the wide white, road, in the dust and glare,  
   With the pitiless sunlight everywhere,  
No butterfly on a rose to sup,
But a wingless progress--slowly up.

Make no mistake, for your road goes up,
Your road goes up, aye; your road goes up;
   For others the dream in the poppied field, 
   For others the green boughs' tender shield,
There is only toil in your loving cup.

You wonder sometimes, when eves are grey, 
And the lids come down o'er the eyes of day,
Why the bowers of love are decked for some,
While your feet keep time to a distant drum 
Past the warm inn door, where the merry sup
And bid you pause as you stumble up.

But make no mistake, for your road goes up, 
Your road goes up, aye, your road goes up;
   No slipping to rest o'er the grassy edge, 
   Nor hidden nest in the budding hedge, 
With your happy cheek on a violet cup.  

There are mountains rising above the vale;
There's a helpful staff for the feet that fail,
   There's a great while star in the purple night    
   That is only seen from a mountain height. 
There's a board where gods, at the last, may sup                
At the end of the road that journeys up!  

First published in The Australasian, 29 July 1916

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

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Mile-Stones by Kathleen Dalziel

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Just a cradled babe asleep
Where the vine-tree shade is deep,
And the larkspurs vigil keep.

Eyes of blue and tangled locks --
Just a child in muddy socks
With a bunch of "four o'clocks."

Just a schoolboy and his mate
Coming through the garden gate
When the afternoon grew late.

Just a lad who went away,
Courage high and heart so gay,
On a long-lost Summer day.

Nothing further, only these
Ragged ends of memories.

First published in The Australian Woman's Mirror, 12 July 1927

Author reference site: Austlit

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Brotherhood of Earth by C.J. Dennis

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"For, notwithstanding every tribulation, the earth is a safeguard and ... a security against ills of any kind. The earth remains when everything else has departed." - Passage from the will of a N.S.W. grazier, recently dead, who implored his sons to hold on to the land.

While we are of the earth is the earth our haven,
   The broad lands and the green grass under the sun.
Upon the heart of a man is this deep graven
   Whose toil is done
Out in the fields and the fallow lands and the stubble
   Where beasts are his brothers, and all things of earth
Stand to his need; in fair content, in trouble,
   The only worth.

We come of the clay and to the clay descending
   In its dark couch from all the upper strife
Find that deep peace that yet is not an ending,
   But unity of life
With the high stars and life past comprehension
   Of man's blunt senses born from out the sod.
Here is not burial, but an ascension
   To things of God.

Cleave to it then, my son, that it may teach you
   The brotherhood of earth while earth things last,
That some foreknowledge, some dark hint may reach you
   Out of the vast
Unknowable that broods about those living
   Close to the soil and with the soil yet strive
That it may give them hope, and, in the giving,
   Keep faith alive.

Not from the skies above, not out of cities,
   Not thro' vague gropings of human mind,
Not in the play of mortal hates or pities
   Such peace we find.
While we are of the earth shall earth uphold us,
   Our mother, teacher, and our one true friend
Till time and space be done, and joys enfold us
   With unity sans end.

First published in The Herald, 15 November 1937

The Hymn of Futility by C.J. Dennis

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The settlement of the Territory is Australia's own job, and Australia's own salvation depends on the efficiency and  expedition with which it is done. - The BULLETIN (12/3/'14)

Lord, Thou hast given unto us a land.
   In Thy beneficence Thou has ordained
That we should hold a country great and grand,
   Such as no race of old has ever gained.
A favoured people, basking in Thy smile:
   So dost Thou leave us to work out our fate;
But, Lord, be patient yet a little while.
   The shade is pleasing and our task is great.

Lo, Thou hast said: "This land I give to you
   To be the cradle of a mighty race,
Who shall take up the White Man's task anew,
   And all the nations of the world outpace.
No heritage for cowards or for slaves,
   Here is a mission for the brave, the strong.
Then see ye to it, lest dishonoured graves
   Bear witness that he tarried overlong."

Lo, Thou hast said: "When ye have toiled and tilled,
   When ye have borne the heat, and wisely sown,
And every corner of the vineyard filled
   With goodly growth, the land shall be your own.
Then shall your sons and your sons' sons rejoice.
   Then shall the race speak with a conqueror's mouth;
And all the world shall hearken to its voice,
   And heed the great White Nation of the South."

And Thou hast said: "This, striving, shall ye do.
   Be diligent to tend and guard the soil.
If this great heritage I trust to you
   Be worth the purchase of a meed of toil,
Then shall ye not, at call of game or mart,
   Forgo the labour of a single day.
They spurn the gift who treasure but a part.
   Guard ye the whole, lest all be cast away!

"Say, is My bounty worth the winning?"  (Lord,
   So hast thou spoken.  Humbly have we heard.)
"No son of man is born who can afford
   To pay Me tribute with an empty word.
Guard ye the treasure if the gift be meet.
   Win ye to strength and wisdom while ye may.
For he who fears the burden and the heat
   Shall gain the wages of a squandered day!"

Lord, we have heard....Loud our Hosannas rang!
   Voices of glad thanksgiving did we lift.
From out the fullness of our hearts we sang
   Sweet hymns of praise for this Thy gracious gift.
Here, in one corner of the land, we found
   A goodly garden, where abundant food
We won, with scanty labor, from the ground.
   Here did we rest.   And, Lord, we found it good!

Great cities have we builded here, O Lord;
   And corn and kine full plenty for our need
We have; and cloth the wondrous land afford
   Treasure beyond the wildest dreams of greed.
Even this tiny portion of Thy gift,
   One corner of our mighty continent,
Doth please us well.  A voice in prayer we lift:
   "Lord, give us peace!  For we are well content."

Lord, give us peace; for Thou has sent a sign:
   Smoke of a raider's ships athwart the sky!
Nay, suffer us to hold this gift of Thine!
   The burden, Lord!  The burden-by and by!
The sun is hot, Lord, and the way is long!
   'Tis pleasant in this corner Thou has blest.
Leave us to tarry here with wine and song.
   Our little corner, Lord!  Guard Thou the rest!

But yesterday our fathers hither came,
   Rovers and strangers on a foreign strand.
Must we, for their neglect, bear all the blame?
   Nay, Master, we have come to love our land!
But see, the task Thou givest us is great;
   The load is heavy and the way is long!
Hold Thou our enemy without the gate;
   When we have rested then shall we be strong.

Lord, Thou hast spoken ... And, with hands to ears,
   We would shut out the thunder of Thy voice
That in the nightwatch wakes our sudden fears --
   "The day is here, and yours must be the choice.
Will ye be slaves and shun the task of men?
   Will ye be weak who may be brave and strong?"
We wave our banners boastfully, and then,
   Weakly we answer, "Lord, the way is long!"

"Time tarries not, but here ye tarry yet,
   The futile masters of a continent,
Guard ye the gift I gave?  Do ye forget?"
   And still we answer, "Lord, we are content.
Fat have we grown upon this goodly soil,
   A little while he patient, Lord, and wait.
To-morrow and to-morrow will we toil.
   The shade is pleasing, Lord!  Our task is great!"

But ever through the clamour of the mart,
   And ever on the playground through the cheers:
"He spurns the gift who guardeth but a part" -
   So cloth the warning fall on heedless cars.
"Guard ye the treasure if the gift be meet" --
   (Loudly we call the odds, we cheer the play.)
"For he who fears the burden and the heat
   Shall glean the harvest of a squandered day."

First published in The Bulletin, 16 April 1914;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

In the Fullness of Time by C. J. Dennis

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Let us not speak of the wars or be ever and ever pursuing
      Tales of the madness of men and his savage turmoil;
For this is the time of the terror of hate and of great evil-doing;
      But is echoes fall light where a man lives close to the soil
In a calm land and fair land fruited deeply,
      Where conqueror's ruthless heel has never trod,
Where the rain falls and the sun shines, slanting steeply
      On the fertile sod.

They have fashioned their engines of war from the earth of the metals it yielded,
      Ingenious, mighty, the product of hand and of brain;
And the flesh of a man 'gainst their might quivers bare and for ever unshielded,
      But every shot that they fire is a shot fired in vain.
For the years come and the years go, and their going
      Leaves nothing with these who but death and bedevilment plan,
Who have moved scarce a pace; spite of all their aggression be showing,
      From the Piltdown man.

These shall make nothing of earth, tho' they put all her lands to the slaughter;
      And the toil of their hands and their culture may never abide;
For in some far corner of earth by impassable water
      A race shall live on to arise, an implacable tide.
When you pass, and I pass into the darkness,
      Or into light, then shall the high tide climb,
And the wise hearts conquer hate and its foul starkness,
      In the fullness of time

First published in The Herald, 20 January 1938

The Pendulum by C.J. Dennis

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Speaking at Wesley Church on Sunday, Mr. Gullett, M.H.R., said that renewed prosperity would follow Australia's present troubles.  The first essential to early recovery was faith in Australia and a cessation of political squabbling.

There was never a time in this world so glad
   But it changed at last to gloom;
There was never a time in this world too bad
   For the light somewhere to loom.
There was never a day, however bright,
But found its end in the fading light;
There was never a night too dark and drear
For the dawn on the hilltop to appear.

Tick -- tock.  Tick -- tock.
Oh, the universe is a mighty clock,
   And the world is ruled by rhythm.
And the bad years go, and the good years come
To the swing of the gods' great pendulum;
And, whether we like the game or no,
We puny mortals here below
   Must swing the whole way with 'em.

Long have we striven since earth began,
   And the dawn of brotherhood,
To seek from the skies some mystic plan
   For mankind's lasting good;
But to and fro - to and fro -
With the swinging rhythm we have to go;
While the voice of Destiny wisely saith:
"Strive on; all's well if ye hold to faith."

Tick -- tock.  Tick -- tock.
This universe is a mighty clock
   With us to the pendulum clinging;
And we make complaint, or we shout with glee,
Blaming or praising the times that be.
But why grow gloomy?  For, after all,
Whether we rise or whether we fall,
  We have got to keep on swinging. 

First published in The Herald, 6 January 1931

Through Wild Beast Wood by Dulcie Deamer

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The path lies upward. . . Sometimes there seems none.
   And then one stands like a sleep-walker stayed
By the stark leavings of murder done --
   A rigid thing in unseen blood arrayed. 

And an amazement ghastlier than fear
   Descends. . . What now? These trees, tall as the sky,
Blacker than darkness, are so still, so near,
   That, in this circle, will and movement die.

Wind with a scent of wolves goes sidelong past;
   And that's the rotten-sweetness of hid death. 
Comfort me with Thy rod and staff at last,
   Oh, Spirit! Or is that decay Thy breath?

Where is the path that leads from Wild Beast Wood?
   My sword is broken, and my guide is night. 
How shall the lustful panther be withstood?
   Mortality speaks softly left and right.

Death has me utterly. Oh. Dragon-dark.
   Seize -- make an end! Despair has closed my eyes.
And still no touch or whisper. . . . Ah -- but, hark!
   What dew of voices dropping from the skies. 

With "Gloria in excelsls"? -- and the trees,
   Each an archangel robed in midnight blue, 
And wolf and panther fawning at the knees  
   Of her who holds up Life for death to view!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 1934

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Masts Over the Housetops by Lance Fallaw

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Tall masts that stand where the highways meet, 
What place for you in a builded street?

For you were born in the forest's lap,
And clothed in sunshine and fed with sap, 
And bathed as you grew in that finer sea, 
The dim, green air that enfolds a tree;
Till you held your head with your peers at last,
And your woven shadows below you cast.
Now you are dead. Some doom has bound you 
Here by the wharf, with the housetops round you.

You can never go back to the forest ways,
But there's still a pathway where leaps and plays
The wild wave closing, for ever cleft.
Spread, spread your wings -- there is one life left.
You shall breathe again of a salter blow
Than the tops of Nordic headlands know. 
You shall see yourselves in a nobler pool 
Than ever was laid in woodlands cool.
You shall triumph and toil, you shall stagger and strain;
You shall live, you shall live, you shall live again.

Spread your canvas, loose from the pier.
Walls, windows, roofs -- what place for your here?

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 November 1931

Author reference sites: Austlit

See also.

Cui Bono by Robert Adams

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Were we but sure, there were no hereafter!
   Certain and sure, that never again,
Now skies could echo our sighs and our laughter,
   Heedless alike of our pleasure or pain.

Were we but sure, that never a morrow,
   Could dawn on the silence and darkness of death;
How many a sufferer -- saddened with sorrow --
   Would sigh forth for ever, life's fluttering breath.

Could we be certain of never awaking
   From life's last peaceable pulseless sleep,
How many a swimmer whose strength is breaking
   Would quietly sink down Eternity's deep.

For who would struggle, worn out and weary,
   With the dregs of a life which has nought to give
Save troubles and trials and days grown dreary
   If he ceased to live, when he ceased to live?

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 October 1879

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Nay! by Robert Adams

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Shall the light of our life end in darkness?
   Yea, die out in darkness and space,
Like the fugitive gleam of a meteor,
   When ending its vanishing race;

Which fades into darkness for over,
   As it crumbles to dust on the earth
In ashes, whose coldness may never
   Re-kindle again with bright birth.

Were we aimlessly given existence
   To suffer far more than enjoy?
Were we carelessly brought into being,
   Which Fate with a breath may destroy?   

If so, then the bright worlds of Heaven
   Are Goliaths of sorrow and death,
And in cruelty only was given
   To mortal the boon of his breath!

For we enter this life with sad crying,
   And leave it with suffering moan,
And its troubles are echoed with sighing,
   And its agony's voice ie a groan!   

And but few are its moments of laughter,
   And its happiness shadowed with dread   
Of a hidden and awful hereafter
   When our dust goeth down to the dead.     

Yea, were we but brought into being
   To perish for over with time,
Man might doubt in his God as "all-seeing"  
   And eternal in purpose sublime!        

For, whatever earth's trial or sorrow,
   Some innermost consciousness saith
"Some happy 'hereafter' to-morrow
   Shall justify fully all faith

"That earth's pilgrimage leads up to Heaven  
   Through darkness -- if reverent trod --
And to infinite happiness given
   By the measureless mercy of God."        

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 September 1880

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Sapphire Mountain by Dulcie Deamer

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What of the worlds within the soul?
   A poet has said that strand and lea
Are but, as it were, a pictured scroll
   Of the glowing earth and the chanting sea.
That blue-grey hill in a sun-washed sky
   Is only a painted shadow thrown
By a sapphire mountain, hero-high,
   That my stripped spirit must scale alone.
Naked, unshod, and spear in hand,
   Up to the snows where the god-folk dwell,
It must pass from the valley-land,
   And heights hold Heaven, and depths hold Hell.
The organ-note of eternal seas
   Rolls in music on golden winds,
Strange fruits strengthen the slackening knees.
   Flame 'o the sun is a sword that blinds.
What if I climb the hills that seem --
   Conning this curious pictured scroll?
Empty the labour as in a dream --
   The sapphire mountain's within my soul!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1935

Author: Mary Elizabeth Kathleen Dulcie Deamer (1890-1972) was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and joined a touring theatrical company in 1908. She married in Perth that same year and toured the Far East as an actor.  She separated from her husband in 1922 and settled in Sydney, where she remained until her death in 1972. She published 6 novels, 3 poetry collections, 3 short story collections and wrote 9 plays.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Storm Phantasy by E. J. Brady

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At dusk the wind rose,
   Wild, out of the west;
A wind the bush knows,
   But the sea knows best.

All night the wind blew,
   Strong, through the trees;
And tyrannically threw,
   Its might on the seas.

Resentful and loud,
   Torn forest lords grieved;
Rebellious, and proud,
   High waters upheaved.

"Their master am I!"
  The wind in his might,
Fierce lord of the sky,
   Proclaimed through the night.

"My power I use,
   Over seas, over lands,
And none shall refuse  
   My royal commands."

But somewhere out far,
   Far out from the sky,
The voice of a star
   Made mocking reply --

"The winds of the moon  
   Once flaunted as thou;
The winds of the moon,
   But, where are they, now?

"At one with thy proud
   Wind brothers of Mars,
Who blotted with cloud
   The light of the stars.

"Small servant of change --
   Our Master, sublime --
Thou shalt not outrange
   His limits of Time:

"Thy voice shall be stilled,
   Oh, boaster of Earth;
With death were instilled
   The seeds of thy birth.

"Beginnings and ends,
   Though neither may be.
Time gives not, but lends.
   To thee and to me."  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June 1937

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

See also.

Fate by Robert Crawford

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O Thou, who knowest whence we came, and can
Endow a moment with the mood of Man,
   When my wan moment like a dream is gone,
Destroy or take me then where I began.

If it be in the moment I have err'd
A thousand times, remember I'm a word
   That Thou hast spoken, its echoes have
All from Thine own intensity occurr'd.

I am no other than what Thou hast made,
Apprenticed to Thy purpose, like a trade,
  I know not why; and if I care or no,
'Tis to Thy purpose, too, how I am paid!

First published in The Bulletin, 2 May 1903

Author reference site: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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