Recently in Sea and Oceans Category

Autumn Sea by Kathleen Dalziel

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Pale cloud, shadows that meet and mingle 
   In toppling crag and tumbled cave.
The tinkling lisp of the broken shingle 
   Lapped by the low retreating wave 
Oft repeated by every slow
   Breath of the tranquil tide below.
With scarcely a fringe of foaming laces,
   The level fields of the lazy sea;
Still as a lake of the inland places,
   Slumber in lapis-lazuli.
Mirroring clouds like up-side-down   
   Ruined towers of a faery town.
Up-side-down in its highways even,
   The white terns wheel and the gannets pass,  
With a mist of breeze like a breath of heaven. 
   Blurring its lovely looking glass ...  
Till all of a sudden there seems to be
   Something afoot far out to sea.
All of a sudden the sea rejoices,
   The tide runs in where the tide crept out;
And the air is full of the talking voices
   And far on the reef the breakers shout.
The winds awake from their sleep profound, 
   And the autumn day is alive with sound.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 1934

Author reference site: Austlit

See also

Wandering Blood by Myra Morris

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I am the child of the wind and the sea,
The sport of the long, straight rain;
And the wild, wet breeze from the roaring south,
And the creaming tide in the harbor-mouth
Shall never call me in vain.
The East calls and the West calls,
From the skies that touch the plain;
And my feet are hot for the roads that take
The empurpled wastes where the rainbows break,
Where the foxes bark and the wild birds wake,
And the bracken browns on the hill.
Ho, ho, for the scud in the wintry morn;
Ho, ho, for the sleet and the clouds all torn!
Heigho, for the tempest's thrill!
The rain calls and the wind calls,
And my feet are never still!

For my fathers came from over the sea,
And their wandering blood runs red in me;
And as long as there's salt in the windy South,
And the fresh tides cream in the harbor-month,
As long as the sap sings sweet in the tree,
The wanderer's heart shall beat in me!

Deep in the womb of the blossoming earth
No grave could imprison me;
For I'd hear the drone of the sea-winds pass,
And I'd breathe the scent of the sun-warmed grass,
And Death should set me free.
O green day, O glad day.
I should wake to bird and tree;
And I'd steal where the waves broke clear and cold,
And shake out the dust from each white grave-fold,
And untie my hair on those sands of gold
Where the pig-face trailed to the deep!
And, oh, none should know that the dead ran wild
And danced with the bees on the cliffs gorse-tiled,
And danced on the windy steep!
The mad earth, the glad earth
Would never let me sleep!

For my fathers came from over the sea,
And their wandering blood runs red in me:
And as long as the ti-tree boughs are stripped,
And the magpie trolls in the eucalypt --
As long as the seagull calls from the sea,
The wanderer's heart will beat in me!

First published in The Bulletin, 9 February 1922

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Child Song - Sunset Bay by David McKee Wright

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Little wavelets, curly-wet, sipping at our toes,
This is pretty Sunset Bay, as everybody knows,
White foot, brown foot, little fishes' tails --
Oh, there's lots of laughing water where the big ship sails!

Little wavelets, curly-wet, do you go to school?
Do you like the sands to shear all your pinky wool?
Red light, gold light, little nibbled moon --
All the world's a cherry tart and no one has a spoon.

Little wavelets, curly-wet, turn and run away,
Thank you for a merry splash, come another day!
Brown head, gold head, little fishes' fins --
Oh, the sky is catching bed-time upon small star pins!

First published in The Bulletin, 3 December 1914;
and later in
Selections from Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Inland by Mervyn O'Hara

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The curling smoke blown back from ships  
   That leave the misty land;  
And the long drawn kiss of the ocean's lips  
   On the brown neck of the sand.
The surf's thunder -- the salt smells,  
   And the skylines distant blue,  
And the long swing of the green swells --
   All those -- all those -- I knew!

All these were mine; but now I pass
   My days behind the sea,
Among hills, on plains that are rolling in grass.
   I hear like a murmurous bee
Singing, the sound of the fugitive creeks,
   That slip through the briar and the fern;
But a soft sighing when one speaks
   Is all that my heart can learn!
  
The bush it seems is half afraid
   To voice its secret thought;
It breathes still where I have stayed,
   Wherever I have sought;
But the stars at night bring glimpses and gleams
   Of the coastlands back to me,
And, instead of the dust of the straining teams,
   I can taste the spray of the sea.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1924

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

Author reference site: Austlit

Sea-Shell by Marjorie Quinn

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I found you on the sandy shore,
   Fluted and delicate and thin,
And knew that lately you had been
   Lapped by the tide that, rushing in,
Drew out again to ocean-well
Leaving you desolate, sea-shell!

I found you there so sweetly wrought,
   So fine, so exquisitely made,
Resting upon the grains of sand
   Where late the tumbling waves had played;
The rosy colour blushing through
Your skin, as it in life might do.

I found you by your lord bereft,
   Lonely upon the furrowed sand;
How, shall I take you for my own
   And hold you close within my hand?
The tide turns and he comes apace --
I fling you back to his embrace!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 1936

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.   

The Beach by E.J. Brady

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Like Cleopatra's neck incurved,
   Or Phryne's arms of snow,
From Bastion Rock to Gabo swerved
   And bended as a bow;
It offers to the Austral sun
   It's miles of silvern sand,
In virgin beauty, yet unwon
   By any spoiler's hand.

At night I hear the ancient seas --
   White-headed seers, along
These darkened shores their memories
   Pour forth in epics long
Of years primeval. And in strange,
   Soft, minor chords reply
Old pilgrim winds that reef and range,
   Unrested, wander by.

Deep secrets theirs----of aeons gone,
   When suns and systems, worn
By endless forces, fiercely shone
   In nascent strength newborn;
When gave the seventh Pleiad out,
   Unshamed, her starry boon;
And glowed, o'er jungles north and south,
   A tropic polar moon.

Time's burdens and the yoke of years
   Have tamed their early might;
No more the cow'ring caveman hears
   The storm gods in the night;
No more do chartless shallops hie
   A furtive course from shore;
And in their quiet havens lie
   The dead ships evermore.

But they who nursed the germ of life,
   The new ameboid cell,
From which, or science errs, the strife
   Of all that follows fell.
What marvels have they looked within
   Their ocean hearts? What dreams
Of empire and of effort in
   Their world-encircling streams?

For they, who cradled first of Eld
   The Ion, shaped in cell,
With Man and Man's far future held
   All Heaven, Earth and Hell!
And when ensuing epochs rang
   With rage of death and birth,
On vanished shores they proudly sang
   The oldest songs of earth.

Betimes, a-dreaming, when my camp-
   Fire reds the foreland, I
Can dimly hear the Titan tramp
   Of Ages marching by;
And, scroll by scroll, the Eras, rolled
   On mighty parchments, pearled
With priceless truths to me unfold
   The Story of the World.

Then deep-sea voices faint recall,
   And deep-sea echoes bring
The roar of monsters and the fall
   Of preying foot and wing;
These pass and perish at a breath,
   Their weaker types remain --
Slow evolution armed with death
   From bulk, reduces brain!

I hear wild winds primeval fan
   Volcanic mountains steep,
Where, in the quiet future, Man
   His fertile tilth will reap.
I see an Everlasting Force
   Re-mould, destroy, re-shape;
Give firmer foothold to the horse
   And forehead to the ape.

Anon these songs of effort cease
   And kinder themes outpour,
In turn the diva-throated seas
   Unto a listening shore.
Aye, then methinks, I hear retold
   Old stories ever new,
Of Jason and the heroes bold
   Red-hearted, proud and true.

Old galleys dip their carven beaks
   Into the azure brine,
That in their Delphic feasts fair Greeks
   May pour the Samian wine.
In rose gondolas, silken-sailed
   The royal Doges go,
And young Crusaders silver-mailed,
   With bannerets of snow.

Rome's daring eagles, flaunting high
   Their wings of blood, go on,
Fair burn across a sunset sky
   Brave banners of St. John.
Columbus, peering through the dusk,
   I see fare forth amain --
A glory harvest from the husk
   Of Littleness to gain.

I glimpse John Cabot with his white
   Hair rimed by northern spray;
And grandly through the awful night
   I hear his courage say:
"As near to Heaven, friends, by sea --
   Though Death wait either hand --
As near to Heaven now we be
   As e'er we'll be on land."

I hear Magellan dauntless cry,
   "Not if we eat the hides
From off this vessel's yards shall I
   Turn back, whate'er betides,
Till these new seas are conquered!" Drake,
   A-roaring down the main,
With gallant ruffians in his wake
   I see go out again.

Aye, out again and home again,
   Along historic years,
For either glory, love or gain,
   Go forth these buccaneers;
The pirate brood, with laden chests,
   Outspilling plundered toll;
The black sea eagles in their nests,
   Blood-stained, but brave of soul.

The saucy sloop, the frigate gay,
   The fighting forty-four;
The oaken hulls of Nelson's day,
   The ships of trade and war.
Night long the roving waters bring
   Their ghostly memories;
Night long the ancient surges sing
   High human historics.

But when the east, attendant, waits
   Her mansions to adorn,
And with skilled magic decorates
   The bridal couch of Morn;
With royal purple drapes each plinth
   Of frowning rock, and fills
With topaz and with hyacinth
  The hollows of the hills.

When low the inlet and its isles,
   In Asiatic guise,
Salaam with soft and pliant smiles
   The Sultan of the Skies;
As from the lakes a silver veil
   Of mist is deftly drawn,
An Amazon in golden mail
   The Beach salutes the Dawn.

White lace of foam around her knees,
   She flutters like a girl;
And threads her blue embroideries
   With seaweed and with pearl.
The spotted cowrie and the fair,
   Frail nautilus are hers,
Rose spirals and the shining, rare
   Sea shells and mariners.

The jewel caskets of the deeps
   Lie ready to her hand,
In ev'ry tropic wave that leafs
   Foam-freighted to her sand.
And now, in cadence, measured, slow,
   From minstrels submarine
Sweet rhymes and rondels gaily flow
   Across this sunlit scene.

O! Life and Now these minstrels chant --
   A pagan song of old,
The song dark lovers of Levant
   Outsang in hours of gold.
A radiance now, a rare delight,
   A dream of love and wine,
She lieth in the morning light
   This Austral beach of mine.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 August 1910;
and later in
Bells and Hobbles by E. J. Brady, 1911.

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

See also.

Waters of Wellington by Ethel Turner

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Through forty hours of wraith-white mist
   We splendid broke a way.
Faint on the ocean's farthest edge  
   A smear of purple lay.  

A smear of purple, warmed with rose
   And wine ran o'er the sea.
"Now feel I as Columbus felt,"
   Laughed low my heart to me.

Who first of very first time sees
   A new land far ahead.
Drinks of the fiery sailor's cup,
   And breaks his yeasty bread.

Wine-red the seas a little space,
   Then sudden shot with grey;  
And lilac veiled the fringy coast,
   Light lilac washed each bay.

Silent we slipped along the sea,
   And now the shores swim near,
Stern guards at arms around their land,
   Still, secret, and austere.

And red-roofed round the water's edge
   The sprinkled townships lay.
Or red-roofed climbed the sheerest bills,
   And clung 'twixt sky and bay.

O, not as other hills the hills
   That rose both near and far,
All crumpled in a thousand shapes,
   And creased with water-scar.

And so I came to Wellington,
   Piled round its opal sea.
"Now feel I as Columbus felt,"
   Laughed low my heart to me.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 1926

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Harbour Magic by Arthur H. Adams

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On these autumnal mornings, when the bay
Lies somnolent, as if the world were
Into a magic maze of amethyst,
Waiting for beauty of the coming day.
There dawns a peaceful picture far away,
As if a weary old astrologist
Had conjured up from out the thinning mist
A shining beauty like a bride's array.

Across the solemn water, dumb, opaque,
The city seems a girl in silver-grey;
A ripple runs across the placid lake;
The dawn expectant in her white array
Goes proudly forth to meet the bridegroom day;
Across the harbour rips a ferry's wake!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1930

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

See also.

Subter Undis by Henry Halloran

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"We soon shall see the angels," the Angel-mother said,
And on her child's enquiring eyes her hand she softly laid;
And looking, with the glance of faith, beyond that fearful scene,
She saw their gracious looks of love, -- and sister-pitying mien.

The waves, like wolves, were leaping up around that fated fold,
Yet gentle hearts sustained the weak, and comforted the bld, --
Into each other's eyes they cast that calm and holy light,
Which guides, e'en more than cluster'd suns, amidst the darkest night.

Aye! He is walking on the waves, and surely they can see,
The footsteps of the Lord of Love, who chid the raging sea;
"Why are ye fearful?" once again, in soften'd acents stole
Upon the quicken'd nerves, and passed, in comfort, to the soul!

Oh! gallant ones! Oh! gentle ones! for many a year to come,
In sorrowing hearts, this tale of woe, wil make joy's utterance dumb;
And upraised hands, and streaming eyes, in midnight hours record,
The love -- the passionate grief, -- dear friends! -- with which ye are deplored.

In a private note which accompanied these verses, the following touching passage occurs: "On board the ill-fated London was a lady named Mrs. Owen.  It is represented that the last words which she was heard to speak were addressed to her little child, and that they were these: 'We soon shall see the angels, dear, of whom I have so often told you.'  Every incident connected with the dread catastrophe and sublime example presented by the London possesses, and must long possess, a peculiar interest..."

First published in The Sydney Mail, 7 April 1866

Note: the shipwreck referred to above is probably that of the SS London which sank in the Bay of Biscay, en route to Melbourne, on 11 January 1866.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Song of the Surf by Adam Lindsay Gordon

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White steeds of ocean, that leap with a hollow and wearisome roar
On the bar of ironstone steep, not a fathom's length from the shore.
Is there never a seer nor sophist can interpret your wild refrain,
When speech the harshest and roughest is seldom studied in vain?
My ears are constantly smitten by that dreary monotone,
In a hieroglyphic 'tis written --- 'tis spoken in a tongue unknown;
Gathering, growing, and swelling, and surging, and shivering, say!
What is the tale you are telling? What is the drift of your lay?

You come, and your crests are hoary with the foam of your countless years;
You break, with a rainbow of glory, through the spray of your glittering tears.
Is your song a song of gladness? a paean of joyous might?
Or a wail of discordant sadness for the wrongs you never can right?
For the empty seat by the ingle? for children 'reft of their sire?
For the bride, sitting, sad and single and pale, by the flickering fire?
For your ravenous pools of suction? for your shattering billow swell?
For your ceaseless work of destruction? for your hunger insatiable?

Not far from this very place, on the sand and the shingle dry,
He lay, with his battered face upturned to the frowning sky.
When your waters washed and swilled high over his drowning head,
When his nostrils and lungs were filled, when his feet and hands were as lead.
When against the rock he was hurled, and sucked again to the sea,
On the shores of another world, on the brink of eternity,
On the verge of annihilation, did it come to that swimmer strong,
The sudden interpretation of your mystical weird-like song?

"Mortal! that which thou askest, ask not thou of the waves;
Fool! Thou foolishly taskest us --- we are only slaves;
Might, more mighty, impels us --- we must our lot fulfil,
He who gathers and swells us curbs us too at His will.
Think'st thou the wave that shatters questioneth His decree?
Little to us it matters, and nought it matters to thee.
Not, thus murmuring idly, we from our duty would swerve.
Over the world spread widely, ever we labour and serve."

First published in The Queenslander, 31 March 1883;
and later in
Sea Spray and Smoke Drift by Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1909;
Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes: Poetical Works of Adam Lindsay Gordon by Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1970; and
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

By the Sea by Christine Comber

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Morning on the white sands,
The cool, salt, light sands!
   Stroll along the tide-mark where the gulls turn and wheel;
Watch the ocean sweeping,
Crested breakers leaping,
   Till your troubles count as little as the sand beneath your heel.

Noon on the dry sands,
The crowded, hot, high sands!
   Bask in the sunshine till you hear the breakers call;
Dash into the white foam,
The flying, soft, bright foam,
   Revel in the sparkling surf with raft and boat and ball.

Evening on the white sands,
The long, cool, moon-bright sands!
   Youth's heart is turned to love, what ever else betide.
With the slow waves calling,
And long shadows falling,
   The ocean seems a magic power to plight your troth beside.

First published in The Advocate, 29 March 1943

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Fisher by Roderic Quinn

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All night a noise of leaping fish
   Went round the bay,
And up and down the shallow sands
   Sang water at their play.

The mangroves drooped on salty creeks,
   And through the dark,
Making a pale patch in the deep,
   Gleamed, as it swam, a shark.

In streaks and twists of sudden fire
   Among the reeds
The bream went by, and where they passed
  The bubbles shone like beads.

All night the full deep drinking-song
   Of Nature stirred,
And nought beside, save leaping fish
   And some forlorn night-bird.

No lost wind wandered down the hills
   To tell of wide,
Wild waterways; on velvet moved
   The silky, sucking tide.

Deep down there sloped in shadowy mass
   A giant hill,
And midway, mirrored in the tide,
   The stars burned large and still.

The fisher, dreaming on the rocks,
   Heard Nature say
Strange, secret things that no one hears
   Upon the beaten way;

And whisperings and wonder stirred,
   And hopes and fears,
And sadness touched his heart, and filled
   His eyes with star-stained tears:

And so, thrilled through with joy and love
   And sweet distress,
He stood entranced, enchained by her
   Full-breasted loveliness.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 February 1898, and again in the same magazine on 24 August 1949;
and later in
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R.H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1946;
A Book of Australian Verse edited by Judith Wright, 1956;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Australia Fair: Poems and Paintings edited by Douglas Stewart, 1974;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985; and
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008.

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

See also.

From Manly by Marjorie Quinn

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As morn comes stealing stealing on the sea,
I watch its advent, like a devotee.
The sun-rays reach South Head, their seeking light
Touching the Light-House to a shining white;
North Head in shadow and a hill-side green,
Below, the long red roofs of Quarantine.

How still the sea sleeps! Scarce a ripple stirs
Its silken surface: few the voyagers
Who vex its calm. While sail no questing ships,
Down to its breast the wheeling sea-gull dips.
Beyond the Light-House high upon South Head,
The red-roofed houses down the slopes are spread.

The day comes, heralded by peace, serene;
Night follows on its heel -- and what between?
Peace? Or the storm that takes unerring toll
While through the Heads the long waves surge and roll,
To break upon the rocks within the bay,
In beaten foam and snowy-frosted spray?  
Peace on the sea and in the heart of man,
In these short hours the flying moments span,
Or tempest, wreaking its impetuous will
On man and sea, till rage has had its fill!

The day breaks fair; this much the seeker knows,
Nor he, nor any, may descry its close,
Though it shine fair, alas! that grief and pain
May be its servants, treading in its train.

On many, many days the harbour lies,
Dreaming in loveliness beneath bright skies;
On many, many days a man shall be
Rich in small joys, with home his Treasury.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 February 1934

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Night On the Equator by Henry Parkes

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A Calm.

The veil of night o'erspreads the torrid sky,
Through which a whelming gush of starlight breaks,   
Oppressively resplendent to the eye,
As from his feverish sleep the sailor wakes --
Stretched on the deck, which now he nightly makes
His pillow, when his weary watch is done;
And the great moon is risen again, and takes
Her way through heaven still glowing from the sun,
And on the deaden'd deep our bark's a lonely one.   

A fearful calm is dwelling on the sea,
As 'twere the waters dreaming in their sleep:
And heaven is full of a placidity
As awful as the slumber of the deep.   
The few light clouds which on the horizon keep
Have in their aspect an ethereal death;   
And vain the goodliest vessel a power to sweep
Along the waters -- there is not a breath   
Of air to stir her sails, the blinding moon beneath.

A Breeze.
   

Look up among the multitude of lights,
Which hang in heaven so senseless and serene;
Behold the glory of these tropic nights --
Methought the azure depths which lie between
Those fairy worlds, where God is surely seen!   
Look up in pious love's supremacy,
As glides our bark swift through the glowing scene;   
And thy Creator's omnipresence see,
Where'er thy soul can search, some glimpse of Deity!

Oh, mortal! tear the serpent from thy brow,
Thy pride of heart should not profane thee here;
God on the waters waits thy worship now,
The God who loves the lowly heart sincere.
And who, tonight, could view and not revere
The hand which framed those shining mysteries,
Still shedding o'er each world's allotted sphere
The shadow of his glory? The glad seas,
Methinks, give praise to Him who gives this blessed breeze.

First published
in Australasian Chronicle, 28 January 1841;
and later in
Stolen Moments: A Short Series of Poems by Henry Parkes, 1842.

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

See also.

O! Treacherous Sea: A Memory of Sorrento by Henry O'Donnell

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How oft, voluptuous, cruel sea,
  When weary of the mime
That men call life, I turned to thee
   In sunshine and in rime;

To buy surcrease of grief, and win
   The peace thy whispers gave,
And hear, again, a lost voice in
   The lyric of a wave.

No lover ever bent beside --
  With passon-supple knee --
His idol's couch, at eventide,
   In such wld ecstasy

As when, to catch -- though oft 'twas cold --
   Thy opaescent eye,
I lay upon the fringe of gold
   On thy drapery,

And watched thy palpitating breast,
   Star gemmed, caress the sky
While, as by earth's sore sin distressed,
   Thy lips would breath a sigh

That seemed a vesper sacrifice
   Unto the highest Heaven,
That, like a tender plea, would rise
   That Earth might be forgiven.

At morn thou wert in merrier mood,
   When night from dawn would fly,
And poured into mine ear a flood
   Of rippling melody.

'Mid all the fakse and fleeting ones
   That brought me only rue,
And mocked at me, in dulcet tones,
   I swore that thou were true.

But, now, I feel as lover feels
   Who knows, with bitter smart,
His idol's snowy breast conceals
   A black and murd'rous heart.

For all thy love but veiled thy greed,
   Thy heat with malice burned,
And I am left bereft, indeed,
   Since thou hast traitor turned

And folded to thy poisoned breast
   Hearts that were blent with mine;
Ah! how I mourn I e'er caressed
   So foul a heart as thine.

They heard thee sing as Syren sings,
   And say thy Syren face,
But, lured by thy soft whisperings,
   Found death in thy embrace.

'Twere naught, to one full oft betrayed,
   Thou shouldst be false to me:
For love's delight is but hand-maid
   To love's inconstancy.

But, greedy, envious, murd'rous flood,
   What of those lives you stole?
Didst thou, then, crave of warm, young blood
   So hideous a dole

That thou shouldst woo, with witching wiles,
   And all a wanton's charms,
Those trustful ones, beguiled with smiles,
   To crush them in thy arms?

Well may thy restless, throbbing surge
   Bear witness to thy crime.
Rest nevermore! but let their dirge
   With every throb keep time.

I hate the opalescent gleam
   Of thy once-melting eye;
Thy sigh is now become a scream,
   Thy melody a lie.

Forget thy amorous songs of yore,
   Sing ne'er again to me,
But moan, alone, for evermore
   For thy treachery.

First published in Melbourne Punch, 25 January 1906

Author reference site: Austlit.

See also.

Harbour Lights by Louise Mack

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Do you remember, happily,
   How we watched the harbour lights,
Fascinated with their beauty,
   Spell-bound in the perfumed nights?

Gleaming from the moonlit hill,
   Yellow lights like tigers' eyes,
Reflecting in the waters still
   Drowning 'neath the breezes sighs.

While far on high the Pleiads lean,
   Twinkling to our mortal stars,
Stars of ruby, and emerald green,
   From anchor'd ships in the harbour bar.

Ships that dream in sleeping bays,
   Barges that creep from shore to shore,
Musing on secret ocean ways
   And pale sands where the breakers roar.

O, lovely silent harbour lights,
   From dusk to dawn you flame and gleam,
Burning jewels for the sombre night,
   Enraptured in some love-long dream.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 1925

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also

South of Gabo by E. J. Brady

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The young gales hatch below the Snares;
   As fledglings wild, uncouth,
A fierce Antarctic dam prepares
   Their flight of fear and ruth.

From icy nests on crags forlorn,
   And bergs and glaciers bold,
They flutter forth, for aye to mourn
   Their birthplace lorn and cold.

Full-pinioned, at the Tasman Sea,
   They leave along the crests,
In shrieking, loud, witch revelry,
   White feathers from their breasts.

They scream around the lonely isles
   Like sad-voiced restless things
That sweep perforce the darkened miles
   With strong, far-spreading wings.

From Wilson's up to cloud-capped Howe
   Their giant playground lies,
When on each spray-drenched harbor brow
   The "Stand-off" signal flies.

Then South of Gabo watch and ware
   The shipmen as they go;
For o'er the hummocks, whitely bare,
   The cutting sand-drifts blow;

And cruel rock-knives, hidden, wait
   With edges sharp as steel,
Along a coast of Evil Fate,
   Each doomed shore-driven keel.

Here lie the dead ships one by one;
   Out here the surges croon
The Federal to her rest-place gone,
   The sunken Ly-ee-moon.

Long kelp and seaweed, through the curl
   Of combers all agleam,
The floating hair of some drowned girl
   In waving tresses seem.

Here, graved beneath the golden sands
   And iridescent shell,
Lost sailors out of distant lands,
   Unsought, are sleeping well.

But South of Gabo, when those strong
   And wayward winds are done,
'Tis all a deep, harmonious song
   Of Sea and Land and Sun.

The little cutters spread their wings,
   From Eden to Cape Schanck.
The coaster's rusty framework rings
   The hymn of rod and crank.

The ketches, leaving in their wake
   An odor of benzine,
With quick explosions noisy take
   Their way across the green.

With wattle-bark and fish and maize,
   From five to twenty tons,
The midget fleet goes down the bays,
   And seaward, daring, runs.

With seasoned crews, of twos and threes,
   To handle wheel and sheet,
Steal up and down the changing seas,
   The fathers of our fleet.

Hard-fisted, lean Australians these
   Who know the fickle bars,
The soundings and the mysteries
   Of clouds and tides and stars.

When South of Gabo roars the brood
   Of all the gales of Hell,
They --- long before --- for shelter stood
   And anchored safe and well.

But here and there along the coast,
   Sea-worn and salt with foam,
Old wreckage gives the brood to boast
   Of ships that came not home.

Oh, South of Gabo --- where the Heel
   Of All Australia stands,
Their hearts are like the tested steel,
   And iron are their hands.

And South of Gabo --- where no ease
   Of Capricorn they ken,
Is bred by rougher shores and seas,
   A stronger race of men.

From South of Gabo yet may track
   By sea-trail sternly forth,
The men who'll hurl Invasion back,
   Defeated, from the North.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 October 1909;
and later in
Bells and Hobbles by E.J. Brady, 1911

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

See also.

The Master Mariner's Song (Outward Bound) by Charles Harpur

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Away -- away She plunges
With her white sails o'er her spread,
Like the summer clouds that gather
On some hill's piny head:
Still away She plunges, rampant,
Like a Lion roused to wrath,
And the proud wave lies humbled
In the track of her path.

Ye ho! my gallant Sailors,
Wear her head from off the Land!
As his steed obeys the Arab,
How she gives to the hand!
Like a Soul the world forsaking,
Now she leaves the coast behind--
And the Main's her wide dwelling,
And her spouse is the Wind.

Then pledge we a full measure
To the Friends we left to day,
Whose kind thoughts shall hover o'er us
On our watery way:
Where diurnally remind us
Shall the same bright-brimming rite,
Of the eyes that yearned blessings
When we last knew their light.

First published in The Maitland Mercry & Hunter River General Advertiser, 12 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.

Springtides Lost by Christopher Brennan

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Spring-ripple of green along the way,
keen plash of aery waves that play,
and in my heart
thy dreamy smart, O distant day!

Oh whisper hidden in the spring
of days when soul and song took wing
beneath her eyes,
twin smiling skies bent listening.

Oh cruel spell the season weaves!
heart-piercing smell of smoky eves,
all, all is old!
ironic gold that but deceives!

Strange spring, wilt only make me mourn?
Ah, for thy grace is overworn!
we are the ghost
of spring-tides lost and singing morn!

First published
in The Australian Magazine, 6 July 1899;
and later in
The Verse of Christopher Brennan edited by A.R. Chisholm and John Quinn, 1960;
Poems [1913] by Christopher Brennan, 1972;
Selected Poems edited by G. A. Wilkes, 1973; and
Christopher Brennan edited by Terry Sturm, 1984.

Note: this poem was also known by the title "Towards the Source: 1894-97: 24".

Author: Christopher John Brennan (1870-1932) was born in Sydney to Irish immigrants.  He survived an early bout of typhoid and was destined for the priesthood until a love of poetry overtook him.  He studied at the University of Sydney, and in Berlin (1892-94) under a scholarship.  Brennan married in 1897 - later dissolved in 1922 - and was appointed to an academic post at the University of Sydney in 1909.  He was dismissed from this post in 1925 due to his "adulterous" behaviour and he took up a teaching job at a private school, where he remained until his death in 1932.

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

See also.

Australian Scenery: Bondi Bay by Henry Halloran

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What troubled murmurs meet my anxious ear?
What sounds so awful -- melancholy -- drear?  
Is it the thunder's unexhausted roar,
Dying in echoes on the cavern'd shore?
Is it the voice of Ocean, whispering low
The secrets of his depths -- the tales of woe
Unheard by human ears? The gloomy fate
Of some lorn spirit, sad and desolate,
Whelm'd 'neath the waves? The curse -- the hideous cry --
The phrenzied shriek of gasping agony?

Imagination, with discursive wing,
Paints every scene; and, with impetuous spring,
Bursts through the clouds, mysterioutsly spread,
In silent gloom, above the shipwreck'd dead:--
She shews the dastard wretch, unnerv'd by fear,
Sink in the surge;-- the manlier appear
Riding the ridges, and, with look elate,
Struggling, with hope, against the pow'r of fate.
But vain their efforts -- the impetuous surge
Bears them, resisting, to the vortex' verge.
The eddies yawn, and the resistless shock
Dashes their panting bosoms on the rock;--
The waves retire, commingled with their gore,
Leaving their bodies bleaching on the shore!

Hoarser and louder now the surge resounds --
Wilder the woody prospect that surrounds; --
Here heavenly Solitude extends her reign
On the white margin of the bubbling main; --
Here Inspiration bids the heart rejoice --
In ocean's roar we hear th' Eternal's voice:
In every shrub, that decks the sparkling sand,
We trace the work of His creative hand.
The heart expands, unfetter'd by the chain
The world imposes; here the phrenzied brain
May seek repose -- the anguish'd bosom find
A solace for its woes: free as the wind
The thoughts may wander, mid the heart o'erflow
With the wild joy impassion'd spirits know!   

Thro' a long vista of embow'ring trees,
Which give their sear leaves to the rustling breeze,
The wide expanse of Ocean meets the eye --
The awful emblem of Eternity!  

From North to South a sweeping bay extends --
The South-East point in rocky masses ends --
While here and there, upon th' untrodden shore,
Are strewed the 'thwart, the helm, the broken oar --
The fragments of a sail, the splinter'd mast --
The fisher's joy! the victim of the blast!
But where's the fisher? Did the langhing gale
Close round his head? did ev'ry effort fail?  
No tongue can tell: perchance he found a grave
Beneath the azure mantle of the wave; --
Perchance he lives, and in some dark-ribb'd skiff
Now bounds triumphant past the threat'ning cliff.

To the North-East a frowning headland rears
His giant form; on his rough brow appears
The scar of time; magnificently rude,  
He towers above the deep; the waves subdued,
Boil round his base; the many-cavern'd shore
In flying echoes iterates the roar!

The white-haired waves, from Ocean's bosom thrown,
Roll to the shore with melancholy moan;
But gathering strength and fury in their course,
They meet the breakers with resistless force.
Swift to the strand the quiv'ring surges fly,
And hissing spread their rainbow volumes high.
On the wide beach the lucid sparkles blaze
With glow reflected from the solar rays;
As if two planets, from their orbits hurl'd,
Should meet, and pour their star-showers on the world.
The shell-clad shore is gemm'd with glitt'ring surge,
Which fades like light on evening's sombre verge,
Back to the main the weeping tide recoils,
Or midst the barrier rocks in torture boils.
Again returning with impetuous force,
The frantic billows urge their boisterous course:
Across the bay the snow-capt ridges sweep,
And howl in concert with the lab'ring deep!

A little barque, in undulating play,
Dances in distance on her wat'ry way;
And where the blue waves with the clouds unite,
She seems some lonely spirit in her flight:
Still less and less her form; at length she dies,
As fades the rainbow in the azure skies.
No trace remains of where the vessel danc'd --
No trace remains of where the meteor glanc'd --
No trace remains of where the Siroc flew --
No trace remains of morn's aerial dew --
No trace remains to mark the course of man --
His space, a point -- his being, but a span!

Note: "Bondi Bay," distant about 5 1/4- miles due East of Sydney. The word Bondi, in the language of the Aborigines, signifies falling, and is peculiarly apposite to the continual falling of the waters at this spot.

First published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 16 June 1831.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Sea-Grief by Dowell O'Reilly

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Along the serried coast the South wind raves,
Grey birds scream landward through the distance hoar,
And, swinging from the dim confounded shore,
The everlasting boom of broken waves    
Like muffled thunder rolls about the graves
Of all the wonder lands and lives of yore,
Whose bones asunder bleach for evermore    
In sobbing chasms and under choking caves.    
O breaking heart --- whose only rest is rage,
White tossing arms, and lips that kiss and part
In lonely dreams of Love's wild liberty --
Not the mean earth thy suffering can assuage
Nor highest heaven fulfil that hungry heart,
O fair, full bosomed, passionate, weeping Sea!

First published in The Bulletin, 10 June 1899, and again in the same magazine on 29 January 1980;
and later in
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 Percval Serle, R. H. Croll, and Frank Wilmot, 1927;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964; and
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982.

Author: Dowell O'Reilly (1865-1923) was born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Grammar.  He was elected to parliament in 1894, but was defeated at an election in 1898.  He then became a master at his old school, where he remained until 1909.  His daughter Eleanor later achieved fame as the novelist Eleanor Dark.  He died in Leura, NSW, in 1923.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

Ships That Never Return by E. J. Brady

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Sailing an ocean that has not been chartered,
   Sailing an ocean that knoweth no shore,
Argos of life for ever departed,
   Outgoing Agos, returning no more.

Short-freighted with joy, over-burthened with sorrow,
   O'er a dim skyline, unnumbered, they fade,
Bound for the ports of a timeless to-morrow,
   Bound for the harbor of Silence and Shade.

Each anxious captain, commanding his shallop,
   Maketh his passage as best to him seems,
Held by dull calms, or, anon, as they gallop,
   Driven amain by the winds of his dreams.

What matters the voyage once it is over?
   And over for all one day it must be.
Mayhap it will matter what cargo the rover
   Renders to Him who is Lord of the Sea.

First published in The Bulletin, 29 May 1929

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

See also.

Stars in the Sea by Roderic Quinn

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I took a boat on a starry night
   And went for a row on the water,
And she danced like a child on her wake of light,
   And bowed where the ripples caught her.

I vowed as I rowed on the velvet blue
   Through the night and the starry splendour;
To woo and sue a maiden I knew
   Till she bent to my pleadings tender.

My painted boat she was light and glad,
   And gladder my heart with wishing,
And I came in time to a little lad
   Who stood on the rocks a-fishing.

I said "Ahoy!" and he said "Ahoy!"
   And I asked how the fish were biting --
"And what are you trying to catch, my boy,
   Bream, silver and red -- or whiting?"

"Neither," he answered; "the seaweed mars
   My line, and the sharp shells under --
I am trying my luck with those great, big stars
   Down there in the round skies under."

Good-bye from him, and good-bye from me.
   And never a laugh came after;
So many go fishing for stars in the sea
   That it's hardly a subject for laughter.

  b18990415-p10-Stars in the Sea-illo-amended.jpg

First published in The Bulletin, 15 April 1899;
and later in
Aussie: The Australian Soldiers Magazine, 4 April 1918;
The Bulletin, 1 February 1950;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

Note: the poem was originally published with the accompanying illustration.

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

See also.

Monody on the Foundering of the Quetta by Arthur A. D. Bayldon

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Gone! gone! gone! and the land is plunged in gloom:
      A hidden rock, a rending shock;
      A sudden cry that thrilled the sky;
      One fond last look --- then suddenly
         Weltering in their watery tomb.
      How hard it seemed to die
      With the moonlit shore close by,
         Where the waves disowned their boom,
      And wooed the bare beach silently;
         A scene to mock them in their doom.
      It is a thought to make one pray;
      Friends and strangers, wives and mothers,
      Widows, fathers, sisters, brothers,
      In three minutes swept away ---
               Oh, where are they?

Ye trembling winds, struck dumb with awe;
   Thou ashen moon, that hidst thy trembling head,
      At the dreadful scene ye saw!     
And thou, oh proud, sad, stern, relentless sea --
But thy great language is unknown to me ---
               Whither whither have they fled?

Ye answer not, for ye are not eternal:
   Now Science, with her meting line and rod,         
Speaks grimly: " Death is the end of life; lo! they are drowned;"
But through my soul, that throbs with thoughts supernal,
Thrills a still small voice without sound:
              "How are they dead?
   When death is life, and life is truth, and truth is God!
               Thither they have fled."

First published in The Queenslander, 22 March 1890

Author: Arthur Albert Dawson Bayldon (1865-1958) was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, and arrived in Australia in 1889.  He had already traveled widely in Europe and America by this time and had also published two volumes of verse. He began his working life in Australia as a journalist but took on a number of occupations as he moved from Brisbane to Orange, New South Wales, and then to Sydney.  He died there in 1958.

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

See also.

God Help Our Men at Sea by Henry Kendall

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The wild night comes, like an owl to its lair;
   The black clouds follow fast;
And the sungleams die, and the lightnings glare,
   And the ships go heaving past, past, past,     
   The ships go heaving past!  
         Bar the doors, and higher, higher,
         Pile the faggots on the fire!     
         Now abroad by many a light,
         Empty seats there are to-night;   
         Empty seats that none may fill,
         For the storm grows louder still!
How it surges and swells through the gorges and dells,
   Under the ledges and over the lea,
Where a watery sound goeth moaning around,
               God help our men at sea!    

Oh! never a tempest blew on the shore,
   But what some heart did groan
For a darling voice it would hear no more,
   And a face that had left it lone, lone, lone --
   A face that had left it lone!
         I am watching by a pane
         Darkened with the gusty rain,  
         Watching through a mist of tears,   
         Sad with thoughts of other years:
         For a brother I did miss   
         In a stormy time like this!-
Ha, the torrent howls past, like a fiend on the blast,
   Under the ledges and over the lea;
And the pent waters gleam, and the wild surges scream --
               God help our men at sea!

Ah! Lord, they may grope through the dark to find
   Thy hand within the gale;
And cries may rise on the wings of the wind,
   From mariners weary and pale, pale, pale --
   From mariners weary and pale!
         'Tis a fearful thing to know,
         While the storm-winds loudly blow,
         That a man can sometimes come   
         Too near to his father's home;
         So that he shall kneel and say,
         "Lord, I would be far away!"
Ho! the hurricanes roar round a dangerous shore,
   Under the ledges and over the lea,
And there twinkles a light on the billows so white --  
               God help our men at sea!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 March 1862;
and later in
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869.

Author: Henry Kendall (1839-1882) was born near Milton on the NSW coast. He lived in the coastal regions of Illawarra in the south of NSW and Clarence River in the north before spending two years aboard a whaling vessel. He returned to live in Sydney and published his first volume of poetry, Poems and Songs in 1862. He moved to Melbourne in 1868 after his marriage and published his second volume, Leaves from Australian Forests in 1869. His lack of success, however, along with the death of his daughter Araluen, drove him to alcohol and he was to spend various periods in a Sydney asylum for his addiction. He was finally cured, reunited with his wife and achieved some level of success with his final volume of poetry, Songs from the Mountains, in 1880. He died in 1882.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Blow the Man Down by E. J. Brady

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As I was a-walking down Winchester-street --
Hey-ho! Blow the man down! --
A pretty young girl I happened to meet --
Oh, give some time to blow the man down!
So we'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down --
Hey-ho! Blow the man down!
We'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down --
Oh, give some time to blow the man down!


She lived with a lady who lived with a bloke,
And when I got back to me ship I was broke --
Oh, blow the man down!
Six months had I bullied the salt seas about,
I did it all in and they cleaned me right out --
Blow the man down!
I hadn't enough for a cold morning's shout,
So we'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down.
Oh, give some time to blow the man down!

A wife in New York and a woman in 'Pool,
They say a sailorman's born a damn fool --
Oh, blow the man down!
So hitch up your breeches and turn in your cheek
The quid you've been chewing for over a week,
And blow the man down!
Me tongue was so dry that I hardly could speak --
Oh, blow the man up and blow the man down;
They'll give us some time to blow the man down.

There's old Billy Buntline that ought for to be
Much better behaved than a young chap like me --
Hey, blow the man down!
There's silly old Billy, who's sixty-and-four,
Last night he goes looking for pleasure ashore --
Comes back to the ship in his short and no more,
We'll blow the man up and we'll blow the man down.
Come, lend us a hand to blow the man down!

We hauls on the sheets, and we lays on the yard --
Salt beef does for Johnny and biscuits are hard --
Oh, blow the man down!
Oh, blather the bos'n and blither the mate!
'Tis all in the way of a sea-gangster's fate,
And blow the man down --
From Ratcliffe Highway and round to the Gate
We'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down.

Frank Drake was a sailor and Nelson was too;
They died in the Sarvice, like sailormen do --
Come, blow the man down!
Gold braid on their shoulders and monuments tall,
And poor merchant Johnny was nothing at all!
Oh, blow the man down!
A dirty mean trader and nothing at all,
But blow the man up and blow the man down,
We've lent them a hand to blow the man down!

We've lent them a hand in the way we were made
To build up the Empire for traffic and trade --
Oh, blow the man down!
A reef in her topsails and let her gang free,
The port of old London's the Port of the Sea --
Now, blow the man down!
For ever and ever and ever to be,
The port of old London's the port of the sea.
We'll blow the man up and we'll blow the man down --
Oh, give us some time to blow the man down!

First published in The Bulletin, 12 February 1925

Author: Edwin James Brady (1869-1952) was born at Carcoar, New South Wales, and later attended the University of Sydney, but did not graduate.  He worked on the wharfs in Sydney as a time-keeper, an occupation that was to have a profound effect on his poetry. His first work was published in The Bulletin in 1891 and during his lifetime he published four collections of his verse.  He moved to Mallacoota, Victoria, around 1912 and spent the rest of his life in that area, though he also travelled extensively.

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

See also.

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