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Woonoona: The Last of His Tribe by Henry Kendall

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He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
   And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,  
   Or think of the loneliness there ---
      Of the loss and the loneliness there!

The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
   And turn to their covers for fear,
But he sits in the ashes, and lets them pass
   Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear!
      With the nullah, the sling, and the spear!

Uluela, behold him! the thunder that breaks
   On the tops of the rocks, with the rain,
And the wind, which drives up with the salt of the lakes,  
   Have made him a hunter again --
      A hunter and fisher again!

For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought,
   But he dreams of the hunts of yore;
And the foes that he sought, and the fights which he fought
   With these who will battle no more ---
      Who will go to the battle no more!

It is well that the water, which trembles and fills,
   Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an Echo rolls out from the sides of the hills;
   And he starts at a wonderful Song ---
      At the sounds of a wonderful Song!  

And he sees, through the rents of the scattering fogs,
   The corrobboree warlike and grim;
And the lubra, who sat by the fire, on the logs,
   To watch, like a mourner, for him!
      Like a mother and mourner, for him!

Will he go, in his sleep, from these desolate lands,
   Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced Woman, who beckons, and stands,
   And stares, like a Dream, in his face!
      Like a marvellous Dream, in his face!       

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 1864;
and later in
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869;
Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall by Henry Kendall, 1903;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Children's Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1913;
Selections from the Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;
The Bulletin (Christmas edition), 11 December 1957;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966;
This Land : An Anthology of Australian Poetry for Young People edited by M.M. Flynn and J. Groom, 1968;
Silence into Song: An Anthology of Australian Verse compiled by Clifford O'Brien, 1968;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry edited by Rodney Hall, 1981;
Poetry Speaks edited by Leone Peguero, 1982;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes and Brian McFarlane, 1984;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Mark O'Connor, 1988;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;
A Treasury of Bush Verse edited by G.A. Wilkes, 1991;
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
An Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ch'oe Chin-yong and Cynthia Van Den Driesen, 1995;
The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literatures in English edited by John Thieme, 1996;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Sunlines : An Anthology of Poetry to Celebrate Australia's Harmony in Diversity edited by Anne Fairbairn, 2002;
Our Country : Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael cook, 2004; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

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

See also.

Ned Connor: A Tale of the Bush by Charles Harpur

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'Twas Night -- and where a wat'ry sound
Came moaning up the Flat,
Six rude and bearded Stockmen round
Their blazing hut-fire sat,
And laughed, as on some starting hound
The cracking fuel spat.

And merrier still the log-fire cracks
As night the starker falls:
And not a noisy tongue there lacks
To tell of drunken brawls
But most, of battle with the Blacks
Some bloody tale appals.

Amongst them then Ned Connor spoke,
And up his stature drew:
What is there in an open stroke
To boast? -- you only slew
Them who'd have done, each hell-black one,
The same or worse to you.

But lost amid the Hills one day,
Which then was well-nigh shut,
I met a Black upon my way,
And thus the matter put
Unto him -- See; this knife's for thee --
Come, guide me to my Hut.

His savage eyes grew huge with joy
As on the prize they bent;
And leading, even like a Boy,
He capered as he went:
But think you, Men, to give the toy
Ned Connor ever meant?

An hour had brought us many a mile,
And then, as closed the day,
The Savage, pointing with a smile
To where my Station lay --
There give to me the knife, said he,
And let me go my way.

I never meant to give him such,
As I before have said;
And when he stretched his hand to clutch,
A thought came in my head:
I raised my gun, as though in fun;
I fired -- and he was dead.

The ruffian laughed in ruthless mood
When ended thus his tale!
But all the rest, though Men of Blood,
With horror deemed to quail;
And saw that, boastful though he stood,
Ned Connor too was pale.

Now what to hear had made them fear,
Had also made them dry:
But strange! the water-pail that late
Brimmed in a corner nigh,
Was empty! -- In amazement great,
There's not a drop! they cry.

Their thirst grew bitter -- and they said,
Come this will never do!
It is your turn for water, Ned,
Then why not go? He drew
His breath full hard, tend from his head
There dripped a sudden dew.

But shaming to be taxed with fear,
He seized the pail, and said
What care I? though the night be drear,
Who ever saw the Dead?
And if I fail to fill this pail,
The Devil shall instead!

He sallied forth: a sudden blast
Went sobbing by the door,
Through which they heard his footsteps fast
Recede -- and when no more
They heard them, round the fire aghast
They gathered as before.

And long, impatient all and wild,
They wondered at his stay;
Till one outspake -- A weanling child
Could make not more delay!
If longer slack in coming back
He'll bring with him the day.

But as they thus were wondering -- hark!
They heard a frantic shriek!
Then nearing footsteps through the dark
Came waywardly and weak --
And while the dogs did howl and bark,
They stared, but feared to speak.

Against the door that to had swung
One rushed then, and 'twas split!
And 'mongst them there Ned Connor sprung
And fell into a fit!
And through the night in ghastly plight
He struggled hard in it.

And when his sense returned, again
The Sun was rising bright:
But shuddering as in deadly pain,
He turned him from the light,
And pointing, said -- To bed, to bed!
For Death is in my sight !

They bore him to his bed straightway,
Those horror-stricken men,
And questioned him, as there he lay,
Of what had met his ken:
At length aloud he 'gan to pray,
And thus bespake them then.

I went (you heard), with impious boast,
For water to the Brook;
But when the threshold I had crost
All strength my heart forsook!
Each forward step seemed death, but most
I feared behind to look.

Long murky clouds kept hurrying fast
Across the starless sky;
Strange sounds came drowning in the blast
That piped by fits so high:
A winding gleam -- and lo, the Stream
Was wildly moaning by.

I stood at gaze -- my spirits shrank --
A dull damp sense of awe
'Numbed me, as crawling up the bank
Crude Shapes methought I saw! --
I must not back, I said, alack!
But down at once and draw.

Now stooping o'er the water's edge
Mine eyes thereon I threw,
And lo, distinctly through the sedge
Within the Stream I view --
Not mine own shadow from the ledge!
But Him -- the Black I slew.

With backward bound I started round,
And up the bank did flee;
But ah, as swiftly in my track
Bare footsteps seemed to be;
Step -- step for mine, close at my back
I heard, but naught could see!

It was a horrid thing to hear
Behind me still the sound;
I could not bear to have it there,
And desperate, faced me round;
When through the dark a sudden spark
Shot upward from the ground.

Transfixed as with a stunning stroke,
I could not turn again,
But saw, whence came the spark, a smoke
Arise -- I saw it plain!
And from it spread an odour dead
That bit me to the brain.

At first I saw it bloating out
In size not o'er a span;
Then as it slowly wreathed about,
To heighten it began,
Until it took in bulk and look
The stature of a Man.

No stir was near, I might but hear
The beating of my blood;
And there, within my reach almost,
The grisly Phantom stood!
I stared till fear in Fear was lost,
So awful was my mood.

I spake -- I know not what -- and lo,
The diabolic Birth
'Gan writhing wildly to and fro,
As if in horrid mirth,
And then, against me rushing so,
It dashed me to the earth.

Long stunned -- my brain began to swim
With consciousness anew --
But when, with eyeballs strained and dim,
I looked again, I knew
A Form stood o'er me there -- 'twas Him,
The Savage that I slew!

I shrieked, and bounding to my feet,
I fled; but as before
Bare footsteps tracked me, beat for heat,
Until I gained the door: --
What then befel I cannot tell --
I know of nothing more.

He ceased -- and turning in his bed,
Aloud for mercy cried;
And for three days and nights, 'tis said,
He uttered nought beside;
When wild with woe, he shrieked, and so
The haunted Murderer died.

The fearful Men around him then,
Each one of them did say:
Now well we know 'twas murder so
Even a black to slay!
And where he said he saw the Dead,
They buried him next day.

First published in The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 19 August 1846;
and later in
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.

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

See also.

Trucanini's Dirge* by Robert Adams

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"And the place thereof shall know them no more." - Psalm 103, v 16.
"They make a solitude, and call it peace." - Byron.

Thro' the forests deep the slow rains weep,
   And the leaves fall thick beneath,
As the last lone child of Tasmania's wild
   Lies passing away in death.

The she-oaks wail in the autumn gale,
   And the sad mists shadowy rise
O'er the wild swamp streams, where the curlew screams,
   As the queen of the dead tribes dies!   

The dark tribe's queen! she has suffered, and seen
   Her race perish one by one
In the terrible past, till lonely and last
   The sands of her life are run.

Ere the last ones sink on the silent brink
   Of Eternity's shrouded wave,
As her dark cheek pales, she mournfully wails
   Her dirge o'er her people's grave.

Oh, God of our race! hast thou never a place
   For the one we were spoiled of on earth?
Or shall we be left, of a heaven bereft,
   And our death be as doomed as our birth?

Oh, God of our tribes! we bore the jibes
   And scourge of our tyrants long --
Were hunted and slain, from forest and plain,   
   With never a righted wrong!

With hatchet and flame, they drove the game
   From our happy hunting grounds,
And ravished and slew, and merciless threw
   Our babes to their savage hounds.

Thou saw'st our woes, oh God of our foes!
   And heard'st the awful wails
Of our slaughtered ones, as the lightning guns
   Swept thundering through our vales.

Oh pitiless race of the fierce pale-face!
   Had'st thou a warrant from God?
In the cold grey north, to come south and drive forth
   The peaceable people who trod.

By right of their birth, their own spot of earth?
   Was there not room under Heaven
For thy people and mine, that my people by thine
   To death and destruction were given?

You came unsought, and the gifts you brought
   As Christians from over the wave,
Were greed for land and a merciless hand,
   And the fire drink that digs the grave!

Ere came the White, time's peaceful flight
   Was measured by happy years,
And we lived our life -- with scarcely a strife --
   'Midst friendship which knew no fears!

With never a foe, and scarcely a woe --
   Except for some loved one's death --
We lived by the chase -- a harmless race,
   And gladsome with freedom's breath.

Oh, the happy days! midst the pleasant ways
   Of the wildwoods and the hills,
Where the echoes rang, whilst the wild birds sang
   To the music of rippling rills!

Ah! never again o'er hill and plain
   Shall Trucanini rove,
With the swift firm tread of the wilderness bred,
   Whose home is the forest grove.

By Tamar's banks, where the bearded ranks
   Of the bright green rushes bend,
Shall her bark canoe the swan pursue,
   Or her arm the swift spear send --

No more, no more,-- ah! never once more,
   Shall the feet of my people skim
O'er the tufted grass, up the mountain pass,
   Or the bush tracks greenly dim.

Never, no never! Alas! for ever
   They have faded from river and shore;
Yea! have passed like a dream or a summer-dried stream,
   And their place shall know them no more!

Lay me to rest in the silent breast
   Of the solemn mountain chain,
Beyond all trace of the ruthless race
   By whom my race was slain!

And have remorse on my lonely corse;
   Let ravenous science reap
Nor nerve, nor bone, but leave me alone,
   Unharmed! for my last long sleep. +

My days are past, and I die, the last
   Of the tribes! So let me rest
In my long last home, where they loved to roam,
   Where the hills face the dying west;

And the shadows deep of the mountains sweep
   O'er the lonely wandering stream;
There lay my head, in its last cold bed,
   For the sleep that has never a dream!

Whilst the high stars calm, hear the night wind's psalm,
   And the rivulet's rippling wave,
As Nature wild takes home her child,
   And watches her lonely grave!

* Trucanini, the last of the Tasmanian aborigines, died May 8, 1876, aged 73 years.

+ Her last words were, "Don't let them cut me up, but bury me behind one of the mountains."

First published
in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 27 May 1876

Author: Robert Dudley Adams (1829-1912) was born Robert Dudley Herbert but changed his name when he migrated to New South Wales in 1851.  He worked mainly as a journalist for Sydney newsapers but also had work published in England.  He died in Sydney in 1912.

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Beautiful Squatter by Charles Harpur

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Where the wandering Barwin delighteth the eye,
   Befringed with the myall and golden-bloomed gorse,
Oh, a beautiful Squatter came galloping by,
   With a beard on his chin like the tail of his horse;
And his locks trained all round to so equal a pitch,
   That his mother herself, it may truly be said,
Had been puzzled in no small degree to find which
   Was the front, or the back, or the sides of his head.

Beside a small fire 'neath a fair-spreading tree,
   (A cedar, I think, but perhaps 'twas a gum)
What vision of Love did that Squatter now see,
   In the midst of a catch so to render him dumb?
Why, all on the delicate herbage asquat,
   And smiling to see him so flustered and mute,
'Twas the charming Miss 'Possum-skin having a chat
   With the elegant Lady of Lord Bandycoot.

The Squatter dismounted -- what else could he do?
   And meaning her tender affections to win,
'Gan talking of dampers and blankets quite new
   With a warmth that soon ruined poor Miss 'Possum-skin!
And Lord Bandycoot also, while dining that day
   On a baked kangaroo of the kind that is red,
At the very third bite to King Dingo did say --
   O, how heavy I feel all at once in the head!

But alas for the Belles of the Barwin! -- the youth
   Galloped home, to forget all his promises fair;
Whereupon Lady Bandicoot told the whole truth
   To her lord, and Miss 'Possum-skin raved in despair!
And mark the result! royal Dingo straightway,
   And his Warriors, swore to avenge them in arms!
And that beautiful Squatter on beautiful day,
   Was waddied to death in the bloom of his charms!

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 15 March 1845;
and later in
The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser, 26 March 1845;
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984;
The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse edited by Philip Neilsen, 1986;
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987;
The Sting in the Wattle: Australian Satirical Verse edited by Philip Neilsen, 1993;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008;
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

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

See also.

The Race of Jindoobarrie by Archibald Meston

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[Bribie Island was inhabited by a powerful tribe called "Jindoobarrie," a graceful, athletic, and warlike raw. In 1840 they were numbered at 600 to 1000; and to-day there is not a soul left on the island.]

Through vistas dim of vanished years,
With unrecorded sighs and tears,
Thy voice the mournful listener hears, ---
   Dark Jindoobarrie!   

A faint sad voice from days of yore,
An echo from the lonely shore
Where stalk thy stately forms no more,
   Caroomba Jindoobarrie!   

The days when you were wild and free,
And slept beneath the Doorah tree
On sand dunes by the sounding sea,
   Bandarra Jindoobarrie!   

And now! Oh Fate's remorseless doom,
Lone Beerwah rises through the gloom,
And calls in vain above thy tomb,
   "Inta wanya, Jindoobarrie?"

Round where the Cape in ocean dips,
Sailed Flinders in his white-winged ships,
The Heralds of your death eclipse,
   Oh Jindoobarrie!   

And what the deeds, and whose the blame,
When pale-faced "Carooinggi" came
With club of steel and spear of flame?
   Yalba! Jindoobarrie!     

But vengeance came in after years,
Each murdered stranger's ghost appears
Transfixed by dim and shadowy spears, ---
   Warrang Jindoobarrie!   

What reck they now, those deeds of yore?
No more the stranger's blood, no more
Thine own shall stain thy native shore,
   Wild Jindoobarrie!   

Silent the songs when hearts were light,
Gone are the dance, the hunt, the fight,
In darkness of eternal night.
   Lost Jindoobarrie!   

In vain the voice of Beerwah calls
From terraced cliffs and waterfalls,
Hark! Echo from the caverned walls, ---
   "Wanya Jindoobarrie?"

Lost in the dark Cimmerian gloom,
And on thy lonely unknown tomb
Stern Fate records the words of doom, ---
   "Dead is the race of Jindoobarrie!"

First published in The Queenslander, 26 September 1891

Caroomba --- great, mighty.
Doorah tree --- camping tree.
Bandarra --- strong.
Inta wanya --- where are you?
Carooinggi --- strangers.
Yalba -- speak!
Warrang --- bad, fierce.
Wanya --- where?

Author: Archibald Meston (1852-1924) was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and arrived in Australia in 1859. He lived near the Clarence River in New South Wales during his chldhood but spent the bulk of his adult years in Queensland.  He was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly for 4 years and edited a number of Queensland newspapers before being appointed director of the Queensland Tourist Board in Sydney in 1910.  Throughout his life he wrote as a free-lance journalist, poet and short-story writer.  He died in Brisbane in 1924.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

An Aboriginal Mother's Lament by Charles Harpur

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It will be remembered that, a few years back, a party of stockmen (several of whom were afterwards executed for the crime) made wholesale massacre of a small tribe of defenceless Blacks, to the number, it is believed, of more than a score, heaping their bodies as they slaughtered them, upon a large fire kindled for the purpose. Of this doomed tribe, one woman only, with her infant as it appeared subsequently on evidence, escaped the Whiteman's vengeance. And this woman, after having fled to a considerable distance from the scene of the massacre, and when wearied and overtaken by the night is supposed to make the following lament.

Oh, I would further fly my child,
   To make thee safer yet
From the unsparing Whiteman's
   Dread hand, all murder-wet!
Yet bear thee on, as I have borne,
   So stealthily and fleet,
But darkness shuts the forest,
   And thorns are in my feet!
Oh, moan not! I would give this braid
   That once bound Hibbi's brow,
But for a single palmful
   Of water for thee now.

Ah, spring not to his name! -- no more
   To glad us may he come!
Afar his ashes smoulder
   Beneath the blasted Gum --
All charred and blasted by the fire
   The Whiteman kindled there,
To burn our murdered kindred,
   And scorch us to despair!
Oh, moan not! I would give this braid
   That once bound Hibbi's brow,
But for a single palmful
   Of water for thee now.

And but for thee, I would their fire
   Had eaten me as fast!
Hark! do I hear death cry?
   Yet drowning up the blast?
But no! -- when his bound hands had signed
   The way that we should fly,
Thrown on the pyre fresh bleeding,
   I saw thy father die!
Oh, moan not! I would give this braid,
   His first fond gift to me,
But for a single palmful
   Of water for thee now.

No more shall his loud tomahawk
   Be plied for our relief;
The streams have lost for ever
   The shadow of a chief;
The fading track of his fleet foot
   May guide not as before;
And the echo of the mountains
   Shall answer him no more.
Oh, moan not! I would give this braid,
   Thy father's gift to me,
But for a single palmful
    Of water now for thee.

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 26 July 1845;
and later in
The Bushrangers, a Play in Five Acts and Other Poems by Charles Harpur, 1853;
Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984; and
Family Ties:Australian Poems of the Family edited by Jennifer Strauss, 1998.

Note: this poem is also known by the title A Wail from the Bush.  It references the Myall Creek massacre of 1838.

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

See also.

Death of "The Last of His Tribe" by David Flanagan

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They watched o'er the flight of his wandering soul
   To the realm of the gone-before;
For they knew he was nearing the coveted goal, ---
   That he stood at the open door:
   At the verge of the open door.

And they tenderly bent o'er his languishing head
   To catch what his lips might say;
Ere the soul of "the last of his tribe" had fled   
   To the land of eternal day:
   Of a lovely eternal day.

They caught at the half-uttered murmurs that fell,
   Like the drops from a failing source;
And still as they hearkened could randomly tell
   Where his wandering thoughts held their course:
   Their restless and volatile course.

He was far away back in his youthful days,
   In the spring of a manful might;   
Once more in the battle he won the praise
   Of his tribe as the foe took flight ---
   From his nullah and spear took flight.

Again he was far from his tropical home,
   In search of a happier spot;
Now eastward; now westward; still home he would come;
   For a cheerier place there was not:
   A home like his own there was not.

And he joined in the chase of the swift kangaroo;
   And he speared the shy fish in the stream;
But he suddenly started --- his journey was through, ---
   And he smiled like a child in a dream:
   Like an innocent child in a dream.

And the watchers knew as the smile died away,
   That the old man's spirit had fled;
And the spear and the boomerang useless lay ---
   For "the last of his tribe" was dead:   
   Of the tribe he had mourned was dead!

* Having had the pleasure, not long ago, of reading the late Henry Kendall's fine poem, "The Last of His Tribe," the thought struck me that he might have written also about the death of that unlucky representative of his dying race.

First published in The Queenslander, 28 January 1888

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

Note: you can read the text of Henry Kendall's poem here.

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