Recently in Time and Change Category

The River by Kathleen Dalziel

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Oh! uneventful days, about me flowing  
   So fast, your even current carries me
Onward, through changing vale and vista going,
   Till lost, far out at sea.

The landscape alters, far hills drawing nigher,
   Though lesser they become, in very truth
The further that you bear me from the higher
   Blue mountains of my youth

So quietly, I scarcely heed the motion,
   So like to like the days, set end to end.
Yet who knows? One may suddenly see the ocean
   Loom round the nearest bend

Loom round the nearest bend, and the white breakers
   And that uncharted gulf that waits all men.
Oh! what, beyond these peaceful autumn acres,
   Beyond the bar-what then?

Oh, River of Time, seeking Eternity,
   That end accomplished, shall the end be less
Than that of some lost atom in a sea
   Of utter nothingness?

Or shall some rich sea change suffice? Our wills
   Part of some mighty cycle to become;
As the sun draws the rains back to the hills,
   And as the streams run home.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1931

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

A Death Knell by Zora Cross

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Good-bye! Good-bye! the soft winds sigh,
   When the rosy sun sinks low.
Good-bye! Good-bye! moans the roaring sea
   As it tosses the foam from its brow.
      So mortals sigh, so mortals moan,
         Yet ever say Good-bye,
         Yet ever say Good-bye.

Good-bye! Good-bye! the friends dear part,
   And meet no more in court.
Good-bye! Good-bye! thou dear old realm,
   Where paper battle are fought.
      And mortals pass and mortals pass,
         O, ever say Good-bye,
         O, ever say Good-bye.

That sweet, sad word, that echoing knell,
   Of my poor weary heart,
With tones so like a muffled toll,
   "We part! We part! We part!"
      So "aged" says, so "aged" says,
         And ever moans Good-bye,
         And ever moans Good-bye.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 15 July 1908

Thought for To-Day by Zora Cross

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Do not look back. Time has this much to teach.
It never was Defeat but Victory
That lured the aggressor beyond his reach.
Take this to your soul now intimately.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1942

Ambition's Part by Zora Cross

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There's silence in the city, deep and dark;
   There's solitude beneath the painted glee
Of all, who strive to push their frail barque
   Across the black, unfathomable sea
Of Time. The heated pomp and busy roar
   Is but the raging of that angry sea,
Whose inky waters wash the silent shore,
   The silent sands of Life. We cannot be
What we would be, and so our ship is cast
   Upon the silent seashore, rudderless,
And lost; while we ourselves fall from the mast
   On to the dreary deck, where pitiless
Ambition, rosy with Eternal Life,
   Pours out the contents of her golden urn
Into the naked sea. Thus in the strife
   There comes a silence dim -- thus man doth learn
How small this great world really is -- how mild
   And still is this our life so seeming wild.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 2 June 1909

Too Late by Kathleen Dalziel

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Where soft wreaths of mist are curling
   Round by nail and ruined stone --
Where wild gusts of Night are whirling
   Brown leaves, scattered wide and blown
O'er the graves of silent sleepers,
   Kneeling weary and alone;--

Hating now with Hate's own essence,
   Wedding ring and binding vow;
Loathing, too, his very presence,
   Bound with gilded fetters now;
Thro' the elm tree and the cypress,
   Loud the breezes sob and sough.

Oh! to clasp your hand, my true love,
   Just a long look at your face!
There is neither old nor new love
   That could ever take your place.
Tho' your voice is hushed for ever
   And the grass grows o'er your face.

Many seasons, many changes
   Rise and gather, fade and fall;
But my heart ne'er roams or ranges
   From the truest love of all,
Tho' the years have bound me closely
   Prisoned in a hateful thrall.

Only here in God's Own Acre
   Where the silent sleepers rest,
I may pray to God, my Maker,
   In the regions of the Blest,
To forgive my sins and follies
   While the moon sinks in the west.

And before the gray of morning,
   Just to set my spirit free
From all the weariness and scorning,
   And, throughout Eternity,
Just to dream the old dream over,
   As in days of used-to-be.

Where the wreaths of mist are curling,
   Where the silent sleepers lie,
Where the wild night winds are whirling
   'Neath the dripping winter sky,
In the close of God's own acre
   Maybe He will hear my cry.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 May 1903

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Return by Kathleen Dalziel

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Only the seas would be the same if I went back there now.
Only the same wild dawns would flame over the mountain's brow.
Only the great dark clouds would come and the great dark clouds would go --
I would find the seas and the skies of home, but home I would never know.

Stranger faces where strangers bide, for the kindly hearts that were,
The hearts gone over the Great Divide this many a year and year:
Streets where the footways used to run, town where the gum-trees grew,
The same old seas and skies and sun, and all the rest of it new!

Only the sea in the scarlet dawn, only the morning star,
Only the veils of violet drawn where the hills of evening are;
Only the roar when the tide turns round, only the song of the tide --
Sky and ocean and cloud and sound, and nothing the same beside!

They hacked the forest and hewed the hill, and the face of the earth is changed,
But the white caps play in a south wind still, and the skies are not estranged:
And still are the summer days blue and long, and the winters big with rain --
And I would be one who could not belong if I went back home again!

I know if I saw the place once more I would break my heart almost
With the breaking waves on a stranger shore on a windy autumn coast,
And sense the truth through an exile's pain of a right that is somehow wrong.
I never can win me home again -- I have missed my way too long.

First published in The Bulletin, 27 April 1932

Author reference site: Austlit

See also

Deserted by Kathleen Dalziel

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The little path goes winding on amid the bending briar,
Where rifted hills are rosy with the sunset's fading fire;
But few there are that find it now, and very few inquire.

I know that on a day like this the river wind is blowing
All honey-scented with the breath of blossomed ti-tree growing
Above the dripping lady-fern and amber ripples flowing.

Perhaps the mist is rising now along the valley's pride,
Slow-trailing robes of silver like a shy and silent bride;
My lone heart so remembers it in dreams unsatisfied.

Past the homestead and the clearing and the ridges dark and dun
Come the quiet picture faintly on my memory one by one,
When the cattle pass the sliprails at the setting of the sun.

And an old-fashioned garden to wilderness has grown;
The springing saplings rustle where the rosy wreaths have blown --
The old grey Bush has taken and gathered back her own.

Pale milky stars a-glimmer in an after-glow of jade,
Dew diamonds in star shine, and jaspers in the shade,
And a bronzewing crooning softly in the musk and myrtle glade.

But no more I'll be dreaming, for such fancies hurt me so,
And the years have lost their lustre and the pulse of life beats slow
Since I swung the gate behind for the last time long ago.

First published in The Bulletin, 24 March 1927

Author reference site: Austlit

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Last of the Line by Mabel Forrest

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A basket of white kittens and a tray of apricots,
   A red wasp, buzzing, as it hangs above the honeyed fruits,
A dish of sun-parched orange pips, a lacquered box of dates,
   And a beggar at the gateway with his bowl of saffron roots.

The sun across the shadow bars the earth with tiger stripes,
   There's a rusty gun beyond them, and a loophole in the wall,
Once the arsenal of soldiers and to-day the court of women,
   And the drifting dust of ages with its perfume smothering all.

Dust of vanished roses, and dust of women's dreaming,
   Dust of men who bartered, and of other men who took --
Every stone is graven with the cipher of a story,
   The clatter of a weapon, or a lover's parting look.

Out beyond the courtyard is the yellow of the desert,
   And the yellow lion wanders there among the mighty tombs...
With a basket of white kittens and a lacquer box of sweetmeats,
   The craven cub of fighting men yawns in the women's rooms.

First published in The Bulletin, 22 March 1933

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Patches and Powder by Zora Cross

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I peeped in a volume, old-fashioned and brown,
And thought of the people in History Town,
When life was the light on a bubble of wine
And lovers told love through a pale valentine.

With rondels of roses they kept Venus mute;
And tripped rigadoons and gavottes to a lute;
While, hidden behind a white fan of delight,
In triolet trifles they wasted the night.

Blue-bodiced with satin brocades, and their curls
Close-held to their heads with a fillet of pearls,
They blushed to a rondeau; and under that spell,
Crushed passion to death like a cold villanelle.

But one of those maids had an eyeful of wink,
And one of those gallants was human, I think,
Or how should we two, between laughter and kiss,
Sit hugging each other to Heaven like this?

First published in The Lone Hand, 1 March 1919

The Song of the Younger Men by C.J. Dennis

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The Old men sit at the Council, craft and wise with years
Mouthing the Old Men's proverbs, filled with the Old Men's fears;
And they tell of a young land's folly, of a nation mad with haste,
   As they hark back to an ancient day
When that land was named a waste.
And the grey heads nod together, as they speak of a strange unrest --
To the Old Man, done with striving, peace ever seems the best --
And they seek to stay with a precept, with the stroke of a futile pen,
   With a sounding phrase from the olden days
The march of the Younger Men.

Son of a Scottish crofter, son of an English hind,
Son of an Irish rebel - seed of the venturing kind -
Here is a tie to bind us; here is a bond shall hold:
This is the land we know and love, scorning the things of old!
Naught of an old land calls us - highland, or meadow, or fen.
Ours is the voice of the Nation!  Way for Younger Men!

For ye of the older order let there be fitting praise.
We pay our meed to our fathers and the labor of their days.
They ventured, as brave men venture, out of a Northern clime
   In a goodly cause; and they lived by laws
Wrought in an olden time.
But we are the country's children; we are the Nation's own;
And the hope of our hearts is ever with the land where we have grown.
Ye have fashioned and planned and figured by an ancient rule o' thumb;
   Ye have cleared the way; ye have served your day;
Now have the Builders come!

Out of the Isles of Britain, Germany, Finland, France,
They came - yet half regretting, with many a backward glance;
They carved them a place for their children by the work of their strong, brave hands;
   Toiled with a will and a manly skill
Learned in the older lands.
But ever their hearts were yearning for a scene of the olden kind;
And ever their eyes were turning to the land that they left behind;
And ever a vague hope held them that once, ere they went to rest,
   They would journey again to the valley, the plain,
In the land they loved the best.

And all that they fashioned and builded, all that they planned and wrought
Was after the ancient model, in the way that their fathers taught.
And the Old World's modes and customs, and the Old World's feuds and spites
   Have they fostered here full many a year;
But the Young Men claim their rights.
For the Young Men wait impatient while the Old Men linger yet
Maundering still at the Council of the things they will not forget.
We are tired of their brawls and wrangles, tired of their percepts sage;
   But the knell is toiled of the order old
When the Young Man comes of age.

For their vision, so dulled and blunted by the bounds of the older land,
Saw naught of the new land's vastness, naught of its promise grand.
Cooped in their crowded cities built by the ocean's rim,
   Naught cared they for lands away
Back in the distance dim.
But we of the clearer vision, we of the broader view
Chafe at the Old World's shackles, longing to build anew.
Out o'er the rolling spaces, there is our young gaze bent.
   And our eyes are wide with a brave young pride -
Viewing a continent.

Still do the greybeards linger, mouthing their platitudes,
Clinging to dead traditions, cherishing old-time feuds;
And the bland, unfaithful statesman, seeking their cause to guard,
   With a sophist's tongue would cheat the young....
Oh, the ways of the old die hard!
And the grey heads wag their warning, and the old heads shake with fear,
And the old tongues con the wisdom of a sage of yester-year.
But the hearts of the Young are gladdened with a vision beyond their ken;
   And the land around shall a slogan sound --
'Tis the chant of the Younger Men!

We have winnowed your ancient wisdom, marking each fault and flaw,
We have noted the evil borrowed from the dregs of an olden law;
And we pledge our youth to the building in our great and glorious land,
   And the senile rage of a bygone age
Shall never delay our hand!
Had our fathers lagged in the old land, fearing the strange and new,
We had been hinds and peasants, helots and rebels too.
But we found in our own loved country, space for our souls to grow.
   Yield ye then to the Younger Men!
For the things of the old must go!

The Old Men sit at the Council, weary and sick with years,
Mouthing the Old Men's proverbs, filled with the Old Men's fears.
But the Young Men wait at the portal, and their cries shall never cease
   Nor the stress! the storm!  Oh, their veins run warm....
But the Old Men long for peace.
Way for the Nation Builders!  Way for the Younger men!
For our eyes have seen a vision that is far beyond your ken.
We are the New Land's children, proud of a nation's birth!
   And the New, White Race shall take her place
'Mid the Peoples of the Earth!

Son of a Scottish crofter, son of an English hind,
Son of an Irish rebel - here is a tie shall bind:
We are the Land's own people: we of the native born!
Here is a land we know and love; and the feuds of old we scorn!
Naught of the Old World calls us - highland, or meadow, or fen.
Ours is the Voice of the Nation!  Way for the Younger Men!

First published in The Bulletin, 2 July 1914

The Chase of Ages by C.J. Dennis

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Light of my lives! Is the time not yet?
   Lo, I've brooded on a star
Through many a year, with the hope held dear
   That, in some future far,
I would know the joy of a love returned.
   Are my lives lived vainly, all?
Since that cosmic morn when life, now-born,
   First moved on this mundane ball?
Yea, I mind it yet, when first we met
   On a tertiary rock,
Flow the graceful charm of your rudiments
   Imparted love's first shock.
But I was a mere organic cell
   In that early eocene,
While you were a prim, primordial germ,
   And the mother of protogene.
So I loved and died, and the ages sped
   Till the time of my second birth;
When I took my place in the cosmic race,
   And again came down to earth.
Once more we met.  Ah, love, not yet!
   You were far above my state!
For how could I raise my mollusc gaze
   To a virtuous vertebrate?
Again we died, and again we slept,
   And again we came to be --
I as an anthropoidal ape,
   And you as a chimpanzee.
You as a charming chimpanzee,
   With a high, patrician air;
And I watched you waltz from tree to tree
   As I slunk in my lowly lair.
And yet again, in an age or so,
   We met, and I mind the sob
I sobbed when I found that I was what?
   And you were a thingumbob.
You had sold your tail for a kind of soul,
   You had grown two thumbs beside;
And I knew again that my love was vain,
   So I went to the woods and died.
As a humble homunculus, later on,
   I crept to your cave at night,
And howled long, love-lorn howls in vain
   To my lady troglodyte.
And I grew insane at your cold disdain,
   And my howlings filled the place,
Till your father sought me out one night,
   And - again I yearned in space.
Then, light of my lives!  Is the time not yet?
   say, in what distant life --
In what dim age that is still to come
   May I win and call you wife?
Still high above!  My love, my love!
   Nay, how can I raise my eyes
To you, my star of the eocene,
   My e'er elusive prize?
Lo, Time speeds on, and the suns grow cold,
   And the earth infirm and hoar,
And, ages past, we are here at last --
   Ay, both on the earth once more.
But, alas, dear heart, as far apart
   As e'er in this cosmic whirl;
For I'm but a lowly writer-man
   And you are a tea-room girl.

First published in The Bulletin, 30 June 1910;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913; and
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

The Boon of Discontent by C.J. Dennis

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Discontent is evident in every country in the world, and there appears to be no sovereign remedy for unrest. - Wisdom from the daily papers.

   Once an anthropoidal ape,
   Hairy, savage, strange of shape,
On a day that was excessively B.C.,
   In a forest damp and dim,
   With his tail round a limb,
Hung head downward from a neolithic tree;
And appeared to be lost in gloomy introspection.
   In his dull primeval style,
   He considered quite a while --
A comparatively thoughtful ape was he --
   Then he drummed upon his chest,
   And remarked: "I give it best!
Strike me lucky!  This 'ere game's no good to me!
And I'm full up of the whole damn business!"
   To the father of the tribe
   He proceeded to describe
How upon a change of living he was bent.
   Said the Tory anthropoid:
   "Son, such thoughts you should avoid:
They are obviously born of discontent.
And such revolutionary notions would rend the whole social fabric."
      Since the Eocene,
   Till this age of biplanes,
      Man has ever been
   Yearning toward the high planes.
And while the Tory lags behind in by-ways worn and narrow,
'Tis the discontented section that shoves on the old world's barrow.
   Once a naked troglodyte,
   On a bitter Winter's night,
Sat and shivered in his cave the whole night through!
   For his scanty coat of hair
   In no manner could compare
With the matted clothes his late forefather grew.
(Meaning the meditative anthropoidal ape I mentioned previously.)
   And the troglodyte remarked,
   As without a wild dog barked,
And a dinosaurus lumbered through the fog,
   "I am sick of nakedness,
   And I'd like, I must confess,
To be shielded in the clothing of a dog.
And, hang me, if I don't go after one in the morning."
   He was met with scoffs and grins,
   When he walked abroad in skins:
And the troglodyte Conservatives cried: "Shame!
   Thus to hide the healthy nude
   Is obscene, indecent rude!"
But the malcontent felt warmer, all the same.
And so began the evolution of the split skirt and the hot sock.
      Since the Age of Stone,
   To these Days of Reason,
      Man has keener grown
   In and out of season.
'Tis through being discontented that humanity progresses.
If you're satisfied with dog skins you will ne'er have satin dresses.
   Once upon a time, a slave
   Had an impulse to behave
In a most unprecedented sort of style.
   He threw down his tools, and cried
   That he wasn't satisfied,
And all slavery was barbarous and vile.
(They probably boiled him in oil; but that's merely incidental.)
   Once again, a man who rode
   In a coach disliked the mode
Of that locomotion.  'Twas too slow by far.
   He was filled with discontent;
   So he - or some other - went
And, in course of time, evolved the motor-car.
And, if ever you've had one scare seven devils out of you, you'll know 
     it for a very great invention.
   So, observe, this discontent
   To mankind is wisely sent
That he may be urged along to conquer new things,
   They who were quite satisfied,
   Like the Dinosaurs, died.
While the discontented anthropoids still do things.
And continue to be discontented, of course; but that's all in the game.

      Since the age of apes,
   To this generation,
      Mankind thus escapes
   Absolute stagnation.
Here's the only consolation my philosophy is giving:
Discontentment with existence is your sole excuse for living.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 May 1914;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

Lotsertime by C.J. Dennis

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The suggestion has been made that the flying boat mail from England should be brought on by fast land plane via Darwin and Adelaide, thus saving about a day and a half on the route via Sydney, with the last stage by train.  But authorities so far appear to be apathetic.

Aw, chuck the mail bags over there,
      It's great to have 'em brought by air;
   But, now they're here, just sling 'em round,
   Out anywhere, upon the ground.
I'll pick 'em up an' make full speed
Soon as me 'orse 'as 'as a feed.
   Delays don't count in this fair clime;
   This is the land o' Lotsertime.

I 'ear 'ow Europe's gone fair mad
      On speed.  But I'm like my ole dad.
   The things a man don't do today
   He does termorrer, anyway.
So wot's the odds!  This speed's all tripe.
Wait on until I light me pipe.
   A spell for yarnin' ain't no crime;
   This is the land o' Lotsertime.

The Melbourne cockies, they don't care.
      There's always 'eaps o' time to spare.
   They ain't air-minded like yous blokes
   From Europe, or them Yankee folks.
Why should we be, when all is said?
When coves dies they're a long time dead.
   Why worry while the crops is prime?
   This is the land o' Lotsertime.

So, sling the mail bags over 'ere.
      I'll fill me pipe again an' clear.
   I hold one record, 't any rate;
   I always gets there, soon or late.
The mail gets thro', dry stage or wet;
An' fire or flood ain't beat me yet.
   Our troubles 'ow speed records climb
   In this 'ere land o' Lotsertime.

First published in The Herald, 10 May 1938;
and later in
The Queenslander, 18 May 1938.

Son of a Fool by C.J. Dennis

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Gyved and chained in his father's home,
   He toiled 'neath a conqueror's rule;
Bowed to the earth in the land of his birth;
   The Slave who was Son of a Fool.

Poor remnant he of a conquered race,
   Long shorn of its power and pride,
No reverence shone in his sullen face
   When they told how that race had died.
But the meed that he gave to his father's name
Was a down-drooped head and a flush of shame.

Burned in his brain was the pitiful tale
   Of a sabre too late unsheathed;
Deep in his heart lay the poisoned dart
   Of the shame that his sire bequeathed:
The searing shame of a laggard life,
Of an arm too weak in the hour of strife.

Oh, the Fool had reigned full many a year
   In the Land of the Bounteous Gifts,
Dreaming and drifting, with never a fear,
   As a doomed fool pleasantly drifts;
And he ate his fill of the gifts she gave --
The Fool who was sire of a hopeless Slave.

Through years of plenty and years of peace
   he lolled in the pleasing shade,
Marking his flocks and his herds increase,
   Watching his waxing trade;
And he smiled when he heard of the old world's wars,
With never a care for his own rich stores.

Year by year as his harvest grew,
   He gleaned with a lightsome heart;
His barns he filled, and he sowed and tilled,
   Trading in port and mart.
Proud of his prowess in sport and trade
Was the Fool, who scoffed at an alien raid.

Little he recked of the gathering cloud
   That boded a swift disgrace.
Was he not seed of a manly breed,
   Proud son of a warlike race?
And he told of the deeds that his sires had done --
While he wielded a bat in the place of a gun.

Small were his fears in the rich fat years,
   Loud was his laugh of scorn
When they whispered low of a watching foe,
   Greedy for gold and corn;
A foe grown jealous of trade an pow'r,
Marking the treasure, and waiting the hour.

'Twas a cheerful Fool, but a Fool foredoomed
   Gazed out on a clear spring morn;
And his eye ranged wide o'er the countryside,
   With its treasures, its kine and corn.
And, "Mine, all mine!" said the prosperous Fool.
"And it never shall pass to an alien rule!"

And, e'en when the smoke of the raiders' ships
   Trailed out o'er the northern skies,
His laugh was loud: "'Tis a summer cloud,"
   Said the Fool in his Paradise.
And, to guard his honor, he gave a gun
To the feeble hands of his younger son.

Oh, a startled Fool, and a Fool in haste
   Awoke on a later day,
When they sped the word that a foe laid waste
   His ports by the smiling bay,
And his voice was shrill as he bade his sons
Haste out to the sound of the booming guns.

He was brave, they tell, as a fool is brave,
   With an oath 'tween his hard-clenched teeth,
When he found the sword that he fain would wave
   Held fast in its rusty sheath;
When he learned that the hand, so skilled in play,
Was the hand of a child that fatal day.

And scarce had he raised his rallying cry,
   Scarce had he called one note,
When he died, as ever a fool must die,
   With his war-song still in his throat.
And an open ditch was the hasty grave
Of the Fool who fathered a hopeless Slave.

They point the moral, they tell the tale,
   And the old world wags its head:
"If a Fool hath treasure, and Might prevail,
   Then the Fool must die," 'tis said.
And the end of it all is a broken gun
And the heritage gleaned by a hapless son.

Gyved and chained in his father's home,
   He toiled 'neath a conqueror's rule;
While they flung in his face the taunt of his race:
   A Slave and the Son of a Fool.

First published in The Bulletin, 3 April 1913;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

The Stoush o' Day by C.J. Dennis

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Ar, these is 'appy days! An' 'ow they've flown --
   Flown like the smoke of some inchanted fag;
Since dear Doreen, the sweetest tart I've known,
   Passed me the jolt that made me sky the rag.
An' ev'ry golding day floats o'er a chap
Like a glad dream of some celeschil scrap.
Refreshed wiv sleep Day to the mornin' mill
   Comes jauntily to out the nigger, Night.
Trained to the minute, confident in skill,
   'E swaggers in the East, chock-full o' skite;
Then spars a bit, an' plugs Night on the point.
Out go the stars; an' Day 'as jumped the joint.
The sun looks up, an' wiv a cautious stare,
   Like some crook keekin' o'er a winder sill
To make dead cert'in everythink is square,
   'E shoves 'is boko o'er an Eastem 'ill,
Then rises, wiv 'is dial all a-grin,
An' sez, " 'Ooray! I knoo that we could win!"
Sure of 'is title then, the champeen Day
   Begins to put on dawg among 'is push,
An', as he mooches on 'is gaudy way,
   Drors tribute from each tree an' flow'r an' bush.
An', w'ile 'e swigs the dew in sylvan bars,
The sun shouts insults at the sneakin' stars.
Then, lo! the push o' Day rise to applaud;
   An' all 'is creatures clamour at 'is feet
Until 'e thinks 'imself a little gawd,
   An' swaggers on an' kids 'imself a treat.
The w'ile the lurkin' barrackers o' Night
Sneak in retreat an' plan another fight.
On thro' the hours, triumphant, proud an' fit,
   The champeen marches on 'is up'ard way,
Till, at the zenith, bli'me! 'E--is--IT!
   And all the world bows to the Boshter Day.
The jealous Night speeds ethergrams thro' space
'Otly demandin' terms, an' time, an' place.
A w'ile the champeen scorns to make reply;
   'E's taken tickets on 'is own 'igh worth;
Puffed up wiv pride, an' livin' mighty 'igh,
   'E don't admit that Night is on the earth.
But as the hours creep on 'e deigns to state
'E'll fight for all the earth an' 'arf the gate.
Late afternoon . . . Day feels 'is Gabby arms,
   An' tells 'imself 'e don't seem quite the thing.
The 'omin' birds shriek clamorous alarms;
   An' Night creeps stealthily to gain the ring.
But see! The champeen backs an' fills, becos
'E doesn't feel the Boshter Bloke 'e was.
Time does a bunk as us-u-al, nor stays
   A single instant, e'en at Day's be'est.
Alas, the 'eavy-weight's 'igh-livin' ways
   'As made 'im soft, an' large around the vest.
'E sez 'e's fat inside; 'e starts to whine;
'E sez 'e wants to dror the colour line.
Relentless nigger Night crawls thro' the ropes,
   Advancin' grimly on the quakin' Day,
Whose noisy push, shorn of their 'igh-noon 'opes,
   Wait, 'ushed an' anxious, fer the comin' fray.
And many lusty barrackers of noon
Desert 'im one by one -- traitors so soon!
'E's out er form! 'E 'asn't trained enough!
   They mark their sickly champeen on the stage,
An' narked, the sun, 'is backer, in a huff,
   Sneaks outer sight, red in the face wiv rage.
W'ile gloomy roosters, they 'oo made the morn
Ring wiv 'is praises, creep to bed forlorn.
All hint an' groggy grows the beaten Day;
   'E staggers drunkenly about the ring;
An owl loots jeerin'ly across the way,
   An' bats come out to mock the fallin' King.
Now, wiv a jolt, Night spreads 'im on the floor,
An' all the west grows ruddy wiv 'is gore.
A single, vulgar star leers from the sky
   An' in derision, rudely mutters, "Yah!"
The moon, Night's conkerbine, comes glidin' by
   An' laughs a 'eartless, silvery "Ha-ha!"
Scorned, beaten, Day gives up the 'opeless fight,
An' drops 'is bundle in the lap o' Night.
So goes each day, like some celeschil mill,
   E'er since I met that shyin' little peach.
'Er bonzer voice! I 'ear its music still,
   As when she guv that promise fer the beach.
An', square an' all, no matter 'ow yeh start,
The commin end of most of us is -- Tart.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 April 1909;
and later in 
The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by C.J. Dennis, 1915; and
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis, 1988.

The Nearing Drums by C. J. Dennis

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Beside my own house-door am I
   With all the world at peace.
A little cloud against the sky
   Trails by its tattered fleece,
The sunlight sports amid the tossing trees,
Their leaves now dark, now silver in the breeze.

The brown-tipped saplings bend and sway
   As in a mimic strife,
Like merry children at their play.
   Aglow with careless life ....
And, muffled, like the roll of distant drums,
A drone of waters from the gully comes.

The Jack has laughed the whole day long --
   A jocund bird is he!
This eve, a thrush his even song
   Pipes merrily to me.
He pipes of idle hours, of pleasant days,
Of lives cast blessedly in tranquil ways.

With peace and freedom over all
   The summer day has flown;
And well content am I to call
   This happy land mine own.
Mine own! ... And in the thrush's careless song
I mark a changing note: "How long? How long?"

How long?  And, as the years march on,
   Shall it be e'er as this?
Or shall some alien look upon
   These scenes we love -- as his?
Still from the gully sounds that rhythmic beat:
The menace of the drums; the marching feet!

Shall this dear land we call our own
   Be ours one other year?
Mark how the drums have louder grown!
   The tramping feet draw near!
And thro' the drone breaks forth a warning voice:
"Yours be the sacrifice!  Yours is the choice!"

The challenge of a bugle blast!
   The thrush's song is lost.
Pale, stern-faced men march grimly past
   Where saplings swayed and tossed;
And where the peaceful clouds sailed slowly by,
I see black smoke of cannon in the sky.

I mark the smoke of cannon rise
   To hide the summer sun;
I hear the soldiers' fighting cries,
   The booming of a gun.
My countrymen!  Our summer day has flown!
To-morrow! -- shall this loved land be our own?
Ours is the choice. And shall our sons,
   When those dark days are o'er --
When stilled again are drums and guns --
   Sit each beside his door? --
Beside his own house-door and proudly say,
"'Tis to our sires we owe this summer day?"

Or shall they, vanquished and enslaved, 
   Mourn for a country lost --
The land their fathers might have saved
   Who meanly shirked the cost?
And shall they curse, upon that evil day,
The dolts who dreamed one summer time away?

Beside mine own house-door am I,
   With all the world at peace,
A little cloud trails slowly by
   Its torn and tattered fleece,
And sweetly, to my idle ear there comes
The note of happy bird-talk in the gums.

The brown-tipped saplings bend and gleam,
   Like careless boys at play:
Like careless boys we laugh, we dream
   The livelong summer day.....
Louder the sound from out the gully comes;
The marching feet; the sullen roll of drums.

First published in The Lone Hand, 1 March 1913

See also.

Contrast by Kathleen Dalziel

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There, the long twilight glimmers to its close
   In mothy meadows, and bordered lanes that lie
Between the elms and blossoming hedgerows,
   Beneath an English sky.

Twilights of long ago, the lingering hours
   Of starry Junes, amid the gathering dew.
So distant now, it seems they were not ours,
   But some one's that we knew.

Here, the warm fragrance of the eucalypt
   Blows, and the rounded skyline rolls away
Into blue distance, in gold sunshine dipped,
   The long Australian day.

And then, so suddenly it almost tricks
   The senses, the low sun has slipped from sight.
An unseen lance of instant darkness pricks
   The bubble of the day, and it is night.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 26 July 1930

Author reference site: Austlit

See also

Night Piece by Christopher Brennan

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The yellow gas is fired from street to street
   Past rows of heartless homes and hearths unlit,
Dead churches, and the unending pavement beat
   By crowds (say, rather, haggard shades that flit

Round nightly haunts of their delusive dream
   Where'er our paradisal instinct starves)
Till on the utmost post, its sinuous gleam
   Crawls in the oily water of the wharves,

Where Homer's sea loses his keen breath, hemm'd
   What place rebellious piles were driven down:
The priest-like waters to this task condemn'd
   To wash the roots of the inhuman town!

Where fat and strange-eyed fish that never saw
   The outer deep, broad halls of sapphire light,
Glut in the city's draught each nameless maw:
   And there, wide-eyed unto the soulless night,

Methinks a drown'd maid's face might fitly show
   What we have slain, a life that had been free,
Clean, large, nor thus tormented - even so
   As are the skies, the salt winds and the sea.

Ay, we had saved our days and kept them whole,
   To whom no part in our old joy remains --
Had felt those bright winds sweeping thro' our soul
   And all the keen sea tumbling in our veins;

Thrill'd to the harps of sunrise, when the height
   Whitens, and dawn dissolves in virgin tears;
Or caught, across the hush'd ambrosial night,
   The choral music of the swinging spheres;

Or drunk the silence, if nought else -- But no!
   And from each rotting soul distils in dreams
A poison, o'er the old earth creeping slow,
   That kills the flowers and curdles the live streams,

That taints the fresh breath of re-risen day
   And reeks across the pale bewildered moon...
Shall we be cleans'd and how?  I only pray,
   Red flame or deluge, may that end be soon!

First published in The Bulletin, 11 July 1896 and again in the same magazine on 28 August 1897;
and later in
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Verse of Christopher Brennan edited by A.R. Chisholm and John Joseph Quinn, 1960';
Poems [1913] by Christopher Brennan, 1972;
Selected Poems edited by G.A. Wilkes, 1973;
Christopher Brennan edited by Terry Sturm, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;
The Penguin Book of 19th Century Australian Literature edited by Michael Ackland, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Note: this poem is also known by the titles "Cities" and "The Yellow Gas".

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

See also.

The Old Sundial by Emily Coungeau

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Enclosed within a Roman wall
   An old-world garden hidden lies,
Where gorgeous tulips, slim and tall,
   Tilt fragile cups with laughing eyes.   
Upon the green, close shaven lawn,
   Where graceful pampas grasses sway,
And beauty long ago was born,
Sunlight and shadow ever play.

An antique dial long since grey,
   With moss-rimmed pedestal for throne,
Dreams 'mid these lovely colours gay
   Of all the changes it has known.
For here once walked in pensive mood
   An Abbot with his breviary,
Who murmured oft beneath his hood
   A "Miserere Dominie."

Yonder, long bearded, stonily
   Time's statue, with his scythe, looks o'er
This place of hallowed memory,
   Haunted in spirit evermore.
Only one brush with magic power
   Could paint the buds enlaced with dew,   
Day, golden-winged, the lilac hour,
   Soft thisteldowns beneath the blue.

The gilded hands have backward sped,
   And with the old, enchanting spell
The cloak of years has gently fled,
  While chords of sweet, lost music swell.
Across the grass comes smiling youth,
   I ask of Time, "Can this be Me ?"
"Ah, yet, it once was you in truth,"
   And then he breathed "Eternity."

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 9 April 1927

Author: Emily Coungeau (1860-1936) was born in Essex, England, and migrated to Australia in 1887, following three of her brothers.  She married in 1889 in Richmond, Melbourne and moved to Brisbane where she and her husband ran a very successful wine saloon. She began publishing poetry in 1913 and produced four collections of her verse during her lifetime.  She died in Brisbane in 1936.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Dead Old Year by Douglas B. W. Sladen

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Come, soul, and bury the dead old year;
   Time was when she was fair,
Though now her body be shrunk and sere,
   Gone the gold of her hair.

In the cathedral of memory
   Set up escutcheon meet,
And with her sisters --- the years gone by ---   
   Give her embalming sweet.

A warm tear over her ashes drop --
   True wife was she to you;
She bore you many a darling hope,
   And blessings not a few.

First published in The Queenslander, 7 January 1882; and again in the same newspaper on 23 December 1882.

Author: Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen (1856-1947) was born in London and studied at Trinity College Oxford before arriving in Australia in 1879.  Following his BA from Oxford he took a law degree at the University of Melbourne before settling in Sydney after being appointed the first lecturer in modern history at the University of Sydney.  He returned to England in 1884 but maintained an interest in Australian poetry, especially that of Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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