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The Blue Lagoon by Zora Cross

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I came upon a pool as still as air --
A blue lagoon, cool-chaste as moonlit jade.
My footsteps on the brink no echo made,
And there was not one murmur anywhere.
The quiet dusk unbound her soft, brown hair,
A noiseless leaf fell through the cool, green shade;
And one long slender shadow seemed to wade
In soundlessness across the stillness there.

I felt a cool breeze touch me and depart;
There was a phantom rustle at my ear --
A ghost's thin voice that whispered "Death" to me.
I heard my own soul tapping at my heart:
Yet as I turned to leave that place in fear
A snow-white lily opened languidly.

First published in The Bulletin, 31 January 1924

Wanderers Lost by C. J. Dennis

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Oh, we are the phantoms of rovers lost --
   See how the mocking mirages play!
Men who have ventured and paid the cost.
   Lone, waiting women, 'tis vain to pray!
We died unshriven, as rovers die,
And no man knows where our white bones lie.
   Black birds gather when rovers stray,
   Out where the mocking mirages play.

A maiden has waited a long year thro'.
   Mark where a crow from the northward flies!
"Ah, can he be false that had sworn so true?"
   They say that a wanderer woos with lies.
A maiden has waited and counted the days,
Since a lover went roving the northward ways.
   What do they profit -- unheeded sighs?
   Mark where a crow from the northward flies!

Out in the desert a still thing lies.
   Westward the sun is sinking low.
Who is to mourn when a rover dies?
   Hark!  'Tis the caw of a sated crow.
Who is to tell of a mad'ning thirst --
Of a lonely death in a land accurst?
   Merciful God!  Is she ne'er to know?
   (Hark to the caw of a sated crow.)

Oh, we are the legion that never came back --
   Ever have rovers to count the cost.
Men who went out on the waterless track.
   Curst is the plain that was ne'er recross'd!
Restless to roam o'er the desert our doom,
Till our end shall be known and our bones find a tomb.
   Mourn for the souls of wanderers lost,
   Ever have rovers to count the cost.

First published in The Critic, 12 January 1905

The Demon Snow-Shoes by Barcroft Boake

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The snow lies deep on hill and dale,
In rocky gulch and grassy vale,
The tiny, trickling, tumbling falls
Are frozen 'twixt their rocky walls
That grey and brown look silent down
Upon Kiandra's shrouded town.

The Eucumbene itself lies dead,
Fast frozen in its narrow bed,
And distant sounds ring out quite near,
The crystal air is froze so clear,
While to and fro the people go
In silent swiftness o'er the snow.

And, like a mighty gallows-frame,
The derrick in the New Chum Claim
Hangs over, where, despite the cold,
Strong miners seek the hidden gold,
And stiff and blue, half-frozen through,
The fickle dame of fortune woo.

Far out, along a snow-capped range
There rose a sound which echoed strange,
Where snow-emburdened branches hang,
And flashing icicles, there rang
A gay refrain, as towards the plain
Sped swiftly downward Carl the Dane.

His long, lithe snow-shoes sped along
In easy rhythm to his song;
Now slowly circling round the hill,
Now speeding downward with a will;
The crystals crash and blaze and flash
As o'er the frozen crust they dash.

Among the hills the first he shone
Of all who buckled snow-shoe on,
For though the mountain lads were fleet,
But one bold rival dare compete,
To veer and steer devoid of fear,
Beside this strong-limbed mountaineer.

'Twas Davy Eccleston who dared
To cast the challenge, "if Carl cared
On shoes to try their natural pace,
Then let him enter for the race,
Which might be run by anyone ---
A would-be champion." Carl said "Done."

But not alone in point of speed
They sought to gain an equal meed,
For, in the narrow lists of love,
Dave Eccleston had cast the glove,
Though both had prayed, the blushing maid
As yet no preference betrayed,

But played them off, as women will,
One 'gainst the other one, until
A day when she was sorely pressed
To loving neither youth confessed,
But did exclaiin --- the wily dame,
"Who wins this race, I'll bear his name."

These words were running in Carl's head
As o'er the frozen crust he sped,
But suddenly became aware
That not alone he travelled there,
He sudden spied, with swinging stride,
A stranger speeding by his side;

The breezes o'er each shoulder toss'd
His beard, bediamonded with frost,
His eyes flashed strangely, bushy-brow'd,
His breath hung round him like a shroud,
He never spoke, nor silence broke,
But by the Dane sped stroke for stroke.

"Old man! I neither know your name,
Nor what you are, nor whence you came;
But this, if I but had your shoes
The championship I ne'er could lose.
To call them mine, those shoes divine,
I'll gladly pay should you incline."

The stranger merely bowed his head --
"The shoes are yours," he grimly said;
"I change with you, though at a loss,
And in return I ask that cross
Which. while she sung, your mother hung:
Around your neck when you were young."

Carl hesitated when he heard
The price, but not for long demurred,
And gave the cross; the shoes were laced
Upon his feet in trembling haste,
So long and light, smooth-polished, bright,
His heart beat gladly at the sight.

Now, on the morning of the race,
Expectancy on every face,
They come the programme to fulfil
Upon the slope of Township hill;
With silent feet the people meet,
While youths and maidens laughing greet.

High-piled the flashing snowdrifts lie,
And laugh to scorn the sun's dull eye,
That, glistening feebly, seems to say --
"When summer comes you'll melt away:
When I grow strong you'll change your song;
I think so, though I may be wrong."

The pistol flashed, and off they went
Like lightning on the steep descent.
Resistlessly down-swooping swift
0'er the smooth face of polished drift
The racers strain with might and main,
But in the lead flies Carl the Dane.

Behind him, Davy did his best,
With hopeless eye and lip compressed:
Beat by a snow-shoe length at most
They flash and pass the winning-post.
The maiden said "I'll gladly wed
The youth who in this race has led."

But where was he? still speeding fast,
Over the frozen stream he pass'd,
They watched his flying form until
They lost it over Sawyer's Hill,
Nor saw it more, the people swore
The like they'd never seen before.

The way he scaled that steep ascent
Was quite against all precedent,
While others said he could but chose
To do it on those demon shoes;
They talked in vain, for Carl the Dane
Was never seen in flesh again.

But now the lonely diggers say
That sometimes at the close of day
They see a misty wraith flash by
With the faint echo of a cry,
It may be true, perhaps they do,
I doubt it much, but what say you!

First published in The Bulletin, 10 October 1891;
and later in
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems by Barcroft Boake, 1897;
Where the Dead Men Lie: The Story of Barcroft Boake, Bush Poet of the Monaro: 1866-1892 edited by Hugh Capel, 2002; and
Barcroft Boake: Collected Works, Edited, With a Life edited by W. F. Refshauge, 2007.

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

See also.

The Omen by Mary Hannay Foott

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   The clouds closed ashen gray --
   Where the last of sunlight lay
Like a dying ember on a hearth grown chill;
   And the great pines, that were green
   With the west aflame between,
Stood all sable on the sand-ridge -- whispering still.

   There arose not moon or star;
   And the horse bells, tinkling far
In the distant creek-bed, fainter fell and ceased.
   With its crimson bleached to snow
   Burned the camp-fire -- low, and low;
And a rainy gale blew sudden from the East.

   And the sombre serried lines
   Of the vast environing pines
Merged their blackness in the swiftly-gathered gloom.
   And 'twas then, ah then, I heard
   First thy plaintful voice, O bird --
Like the wail of banished ghost at word of doom.

   All a painted scene it seemed --
   While the sunset glowed and gleamed --
When the waning west grew cold. No ominous chill
   Checked the heart-beat steady and strong,
   As some savage-chanted song
Came the curlew's call and woke no boding thrill.

   So I hearkened -- oft and oft,
   For the foot of Fate fell soft;
Gladness, line by line, all moonlike melted slow;
   And the planets quenched and spent
   Yet awhile their lustre lent;   
And the angels poised for flight delayed to go.

First published in The Queenslander, 13 September 1890

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

See also.

Ghost Glen by Henry Kendall

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"Shut your ears, Stranger, or turn from Ghost Glen now,
For the paths are grown over, untrodden by men now --
Shut your ears, Stranger," saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery Runic, when sets the half-moon in!

To-night the North Easter goes travelling slowly --
But it never stoops down to that Hollow unholy --
To-night it rolls loud on the ridges red-litten,
But it cannot abide in that forest, sin-smitten!

For over the pitfall the moon-dew is thawing,
And, with never a body, two shadows stand sawing!
The wraiths of two Sawyers (STEP UNDER AND UNDER),
Who did a foul murder and were blackened with thunder!

Whenever the Storm Wind comes driven and driving,
Through the blood-spattered timber you may see the saw striving --
You may see the Saw heaving, and falling, and heaving,
Whenever the sea-creek is chafing and grieving.

And across a burnt body, as black as an adder,
Sits the sprite of a sheep-dog! -- was ever sight sadder?
For, as the dry thunder splits louder and faster,
This sprite of a sheep-dog howls for his master! --

"Oh! count your beads deftly," saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery Runic, when sets the half-moon in!
And well may she mutter, for the dark, hollow laughter
You will hear in the sawpits and the bloody logs after!

Ay, count your beads deftly, and keep your ways wary,
For the sake of the Saviour and sweet Mother Mary!
Pray for your peace in these perilous places,
And pray for the laying of horrible faces!

One starts, with a forehead wrinkled and livid,
Aghast at the lightnings sudden and vivid!
One telleth, with curses the gold that they drew there,
(Ah! cross your breast humbly) from him whom they slew there!

The Stranger, who came from the loved -- the romantic
Island that sleeps on the moaning Atlantic;
Leaving behind him a patient home, yearning
For the steps in the distance, never returning; --

Who was left in the Forest, shrunken and starkly
Burnt by his slayers; (so men have said, darkly);
With the half crazy sheepdog, who cowered beside there,
And yelled at the silence, and marvelled, and died there!

Yes, cross your breast humbly, and hold your breath tightly;
Or fly for your life from those shadows unsightly;
From the set staring features (cold, and so young, too!)
And the death on the lips that a mother hath clung to.

I tell you the bushman is braver than most men,
Who even in daylight doth go through the Ghost Glen!
Although in that Hollow, unholy and lonely,
He sees the dank sawpits and bloody logs only!

First published in Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New Engand Advertiser, 16 August 1894;
and later in
The Athenaeum, 17 February 1866;
The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1866;
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1988; and
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993.

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

See also.

Sorrow-Crown'd on the Day Before by J.Galliard Barker

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Spectral faces flit to and fro,
Haunting and wistful and sad to-nigh
Springing up with the afterglow,
Stately forms that onward go,
Gliding, mystic, silent, slow.

Fancied voices, breathing song
Singing weird words to a weird refrain
Singing a fiend's impassioned song,
Singing all night, the whole night long,
Singing dead words of a long dead song.

Rippling mirth, so haunting to-day;
Gruel peals of a girlish voice;
Graveyard laughs that are light and gay
Raising the dreams of that golden May,
Fatal old dream that passed away.  

First published in The Queenslander, 23 July 1898

Author: John Galliard Barker (1865-1941) was born in Brisbane, Queensland and may have been tutored by J. Brunton Stephens as a child.  Little else is known about the author.  He was a cousin of Australian novelist Rosa Praed.

Author reference site: Austlit

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