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Surely God was a Lover by John Shaw Neilson

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Surely God was a lover when He bade the day begin
Soft as a woman's eyelid -- white as a woman's skin.

Surely God was a lover, with a lover's faults and fears,
When He made the sea as bitter as a wilful woman's tears.

Surely God was a lover, with the madness love will bring:
He wrought while His love was singing, and put her soul in the Spring.

Surely God was a lover, by a woman's wile controlled,
When He made the Summer a woman thirsty and unconsoled.

Surely God was a lover when He made the trees so fair;
In every leaf is a glory caught from a woman's hair.

Surely God was a lover -- see, in the flowers He grows,
His love's eyes in the violet -- her sweetness in the rose.

First published
in The Sun [Sydney], 9 October 1910;
and later in
The Bookfellow, 15 July 1914;
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934;
An Introduction to Australian Literature edited by C.D. Narasimhaiah, 1965;
Green Days and Cherries: the early verses of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981;
An Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by C.D. Narasimhaiah, 1990;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991;
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993; and
Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia edited by Les Murray, 2005.

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

See also.

Life by Emily Bulcock

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      Life is too great for me!
The lessons set I cannot understand.
Oh, Thou who planned the task stretch out Thine hand
From out the darkness of the Shadow Land;
      Blindly I grope for Thee.

A weakling set to play a giant's part
In a strange world 'neath stranger worlds I go.
The greatness overhead disturbs my heart
More than the complex littleness below:
Bewildered like a lost child at a show.

      Yet sometimes all is clear,
The stars are lamps to light my way to God:
All Earth is holy ground. With feet unshod
I walk where once Divinity has trod and still holds dear.

      And in that good hour's grace,
Through all the maze I see a purpose clear:
Even the tools for my day's work are dear,
Because He shared man's lot and labour here.
How then could aught on Earth be Commonplace?

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 16 August 1930;
and later in
Quenchless Springs: New Poems by Emily Bulcock, 1944.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Man God by Charles Harpur

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A Man of Sorrows, and with Grief acquainted,
   He bowed his beauteous head to the rude hands
      Of Pilate's hireling bands;
And while beneath their cruel scourge he fainted,
   Yet loved them -- he, the heaven-descended Dove!
      Even with a Brother's love.

And when upon the infamous Cross they nailed him,
   With Hatred's mockery, and Scorn's bitter smile,
      Even then he cried, the while
Nature's extremest Agony assailed him, --
   Father, thy mercy even for These renew!
      They know not what they do.

And why, thus scorned and shamed, did he then trample
   Such natural indignation down, as now
      Pains, while we read, our brow?
That Brotherly Love, perfected by example,
   Might crucify that emnity in men
      Which crucified it then.

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 19 July 1845;
and later in
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 8 July 1846;
The Empire, 19 March 1858; and
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984.

Note: this poem is also known by the title "Ecco Homo".

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

See also.

A Ballade of Sandalphon by Ethel Turner

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There are volumes of old-world tales
   That the dust of time endears,  
And, withal, are so fresh, oft the soul inhales,
   Warm breaths of long-buried seers.
In one -- in the Talmud -- there appears
   A story, mystically sweet,
Of an angel who ever the wild prayers hears  
   Of the restless world at his feet.

The ladder of light, that no foot e'er scales,
   Is the means by which to his ears
Comes the tale of grief that mankind assails,
   The hope each breast inspheres.
Silent, he stands where the ladder rears
   Its head in the golden street;
Its lowest rung the darkness nears
   Of the restless world at his feet.

And he gathers them up-the songs, the wails,
   The passionate bursts of tears,
And they change in his hand to purple trails,
   Of blossoms, whose glory cheers,
Or to white, as we place upon biers.  
   But only their fragrance e'er reaches God's seat;
'Tis the angel who hears the woes of the years,
   Of the restless world at his feet.

L'Envoi.

Sandalphon! The mist slowly clears,
   No longer our prayers shall you greet:
God of Himself hears the hopes and the fears
   Of the restless world at his feet.    

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 June 1905

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Cast Adrift by Clarinda Parkes

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A little, lonely boat,
On the wild waves afloat;
   Never a sail in sight,
   Day darkling into night --
      Stormy and stern,

So tossed my soul adrift,
High on doubt's waves uplift;
   Vainly I sought for aid,
   Boundless the billows played
      Round me, in anger!

Hoarsely the deep seas moaned,
Roughly the wild winds groaned;
   Cold cloyed the sailor's haart, --
   Oh, God, from earth to part,
      And from the loving!

So saw I horrors round,
So heard I terrors sound;
   Helpless, I lay and wept,
   Dreaming all succour slept,
      Wide waked destruction.

Lo! on the orient verge
Is it the breakers' surge?
   No, but a coming sail --
   God, shall their senses fail,
      Maddened by hope!

So, through my dark despair,
What struggling light is there?
   Dimly my cross uprears
   Him that will ease all fears,
     The Dying, the Deathless!

Hark to the thankful cry!
Mark you the upturned eye!
   Snatched from an ocean grave,
   Look how great tear-drops lave
      The sailors' smilings.

Lo, I, with trust on high,
Cling to that Cross for aye,
   So doth my worship burst
   Out into song at first,
      Deep'ning to weeping.

First published in The Sydney Mail, 11 May 1861

Author reference site: Austlit

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I Love Him So by Charles Harpur

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I love Him so,
That though his face I ne'er might see,
In the assurance that he so loved me,
My happy heart would glow
With pulses sweeter than the sweetest be
That colder ones can know.

I love Him so,
That to my thought 'twere sweet to sleep
Even in death, believing he would keep,
With solemn steps and slow,
In sabbath memory my Grave, and weep
For Her who slept below.

I love Him so,
That all desires when he is by,
Shrink even from the import of a sigh;
As flowers unseen that grow,  
Being mute, must so remain; as in the sky
Are stars that none may know.  

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 3 May 1845;
and later in
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 11 July 1846;
The Bushrangers, a Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems by Charles Harpur, 1853; and
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984

Note: this poem is also known by the title "Virginal Love".

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

See also.

The Spirit of Unrest by George Essex Evans

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Speak! Heart of man! Say! hast thou never felt?
Has never o'er thy calm existence stealt
   The Spirit of Unrest?
Say! hast than never felt thyself to be
The helpless tool --- th' unwilling agency ---
   Of some unbidden guest?
The fiend which haunted Saul is with me now,
His temptings greet my ear, my throbbing brow
   Reels with fine strain.
Vainly I turn, as vainly strive to flee;
His muttered counsels follow after me.
   And echo o'er again,
Speak! Hast thou ever felt that life for thee
Had nought of purpose --- nought of purity!
   One hopeless dreary blank!
Say, hast thou felt like this, yet feared to die
--- Yes --- feared to solve life's solemn mystery,
   And, shuddering, backwards shrank?
Hast thou been driven forth in mad despair
And forced to roam, whither ye knew not where,
   Nor cared indeed to know?
Say, have the tones of all you hold most dear
Meaningless fallen on your leaden ear
   And failed to soothe your woe?
Oh speak! Reply! A tortured brother's cry
Of agony demands thy sympathy.
   From me for e'er hath gone
God's fairest gift --- affection's natural springs ---
And now I look on my life's dearest things
   Indifferent or with scorn.
Oh dreaded demon! Well I know thy power
To thus assail us. In our weakest hour
   An angel's form assume,
And in the borrowed garments of a god
To lead us from the path the just have trod
   And lure us to our doom.
Oh! God Omniscient, from my tortured soul
This awful load of misery unroll!
   Remove! defeat! this fiend,
And cast him howling loud with baffled yell
Back from this hell --- my heart --- to that great hell
   From which he first was weaned.
Oh, God Omniscient, let there never be
A barrier 'twixt thy sinful child and thee!
   Bring Heaven more near,
Lift Earth t'wards Heaven --- bring Heaven closer Earth,
And teach us children of a sinful birth
   To trust and love and fear.

First published in The Queenslander, 14 April 1883 and in The Brisbane Courier on the same day.

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

See also.

Vagueness by Henry Halloran

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Impromptu on Reading Tennyson's "Vastness."      

I.      

What were it all if the eyes of the mortal could measure the limitless vastness of God?
The vastness were narrowed, the infinite cramp'd to the vision of atoms of vapour and clod.

II.  

He who rides on the wings of the winds that are viewless as dust in the shoreless abysses of space,
Is not to be compassed by man, tho' his spirit may follow the footsteps of Beauty and Grace;  

III.     

May see, as in vision, the Architect building in vastness his myriad, myriad orbs;
And feel, in his own microcosmic conceptions, the reflex of Will which creates and absorbs;  

IV.

And learn, with a heart which is trustful, as childhood's, with something of childhood's pure spiritual gaze,
What is hid from the doubter in infinite darkness, from the scorner in utter Cimmerian haze.  

V.

Is there God do they ask in their resolute blindness, a God who creates, and directs, and sustains?
Is there Light may they ask, when the Sun pours his splendors on pitiless caverns and desolate plains?

VI.

Is there purpose, that indicates wisdom eternal in the fitness, completeness and beauty of things?
Or merely the movements of Force moulding Matter -- blind singer, who knows not the song which he sings?

VII.

Is there goodness, if nerves that are thrilled with such transport as lifts up the human and makes it divine,
May be racked with the tortures sciatica fastens on agonised nature, from ankle to spine?

VIII.        

We see, altho' blind as the mole in its darkness, there is the Jehovah, the Father and God;
We feel there is light of the Light, and its brightness in darkness illumines the atom, the clod.

IX.  

We know, atho' gross with a sensual stupor, His power in every breath which we draw;
And we bow to the goodness that bound all that's erring by the sharpness that roles in retributive law.

X.  

From the fountains of Morning the roseate splendors fall over the dim and insensible earth,
And all that seemed dead in the silence of darkness starts up into forms of a marvellous birth;  

XI.  

The light seeks the caverns and depths, where the blackness of darkness the treasures of ocean concealed,
And the wonderful growths of the forests of beauty, of russet and crimson and gold, are revealed.

XII.

For miles down the steeps of the mountains they gather, with prisms of lustre awaiting the sun,
And trail thro' the valleys unknown of by mortals, for creatures of scarlet, and azure, and dun.    

XIII.      

Why the Maker made these for our eyes which can see not, for myriad miles beyond myriads told,  
Is breathed in the Sea's semitones that say "Beauty is fashoned of Harmony, gold within gold."  

XIV.      

Its dominant note has the same mighty meaning, and tells thro' all vastness, triumphant and clear,
The Beauty of Harmony -- God the Creator -- the Love that can fail not the Father, is here.

XV.  

From the fountains of Morning, this Earth in its beauty, this glorious planet by angels was seen,
With its forests and oceans, its light and its shadow its places of lustre of gold and of green.  

XVI.

And Space took her kindly, and gave her a welcome as clear from the hand of her Maker she sprung,
And the lines of her orbit, unchanging for ever, were fixed by His angels, her sisters among.

XVII.  

And the sounds of their singing her birth-hymn, in eohoes e'en now thro' the vastness are journeying on,
To return to the care of the saints who are toiling, when their resolute toil in His service is done.

XVIII.

For far in the vastness of ages uncounted has man been a toiler, that marvellous Man,
And he still is a toiler, in blindness and error, towards light and towards wisdom achieving a plan.

XIX.

Thro' the crucible gold finds an infinite pureness, the terrible flame is its prescient friend;
And man, thro' his strivings of hope and of sorrow of anguish and triumph, still toils for an end.

XX.  

Assailed by the tyrant, maligned by the liar, betrayed in his need by the friend of his heart,
He still holds on high his invincible spirit, and true to himself acts his resolute part.  

XXI.  

There are freedom and joy for that man of all others, tho' his home has been plundered that lies by the road;
And "three score and ten" is the least of the burthens he lifts on his back, and makes light of his load.

XXII

Peace, heart! in the light which is certainly coming, the spiritual light, second dawn of the soul,
The atoms which sprang from the Infinite Father shall see, not the parts, but the Infinite Whole

XXIII.

And read, with the eyes of archangels, the purpose which moved in its vastness the Infinite Will;
Until then, bow thee down in a silent adoring; it is He who hath willed it. Vain seeker, be still.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 9 January 1886

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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