The Music Of Your Voice
A vase upon the mantelpiece,
A ship upon the sea,
A goat upon a mountain-top
Are much the same to me;
But when you mention melon jam,
Or picnics by the creek,
Or apple pies, or pantomimes,
I love to hear you speak.
The date of Magna Charta or
The doings of the Dutch,
Or capes, or towns, or verbs, or nouns
Do not excite me much;
But when you mention motor rides -
Down by the sea for choice
Or chasing games, or chocolates,
I love to hear your voice.
The Dawn Dance
What do you think I saw to-day when I arose at dawn?
Blue Wrens and Yellow-tails dancing on the lawn!
Bobbing here, and bowing there, gossiping away,
And how I wished that you were there to see the merry play!
But you were snug abed, my boy, blankets to your chin,
Nor dreamed of dancing birds without or sunbeams dancing in.
Grey Thrush, he piped the tune for them. I peeped out through the glass
Between the window curtains, and I saw them on the grass -
Merry little fairy folk, dancing up and down,
Blue bonnet, yellow skirt, cloaks of grey and brown,
Underneath the wattle-tree, silver in the dawn,
Blue Wrens and Yellow-tails dancing on the lawn.
Not upon the crowded beaches
Where the sun beats fierce and hot;
Not upon the river reaches
In a shady silvan spot;
But in some deep mountain valley,
'Mid the sassafras and fern,
Here's the place where I would dally
When the suns of Summer burn.
Here the sifted sunlight dappling
Carpets with translucent green,
Flecks and flirts on fern and sapling,
Where the cold stream peeps between.
'Here,' you muse, 'since time's beginning,
Foot of man has never known;
Mine the joy first to be winning
All this beauty for my own.'
'Here,' you muse, 'is safe seclusion
Known alone to bee and bird,
From the rude unsought intrusion
Of the common human herd.' . . .
Then a lipstick grossly gleaming,
And a half-smoked fag you see;
And you waken from your dreaming
As a shrill voice yells 'Coo-ee!'
The Dusky Wood-Swallow
Surely must you know me,
Friendly and content;
All my actions show me
With my band of toilers,
When the blue days smile:
Little Jacky Martin
Come to stay a while.
Every town and village
Knows me, every farm.
Mine no wish to pillage,
Mine no will to harm;
Busy in the orchard,
My pest-destroying band:
Little Jacky Martin
Come to lend a hand.
In far forest land
When you've cut a clearing,
Lo, I am at hand,
Wheeling, soaring floating
Where the new fields bask;
Little Jacky Martin
Come to aid the task.
In the chilly weather
See us in the trees,
Huddled up together
Like the swarming bees.
Awing again and toiling
When the chill days end;
Little Jacky Martin
Down by the slipralls stands our cow
Chewing, chewing, chewing,
She does not care what folks out there
In the great, big world are doing.
She sees the small cloud-shadows pass
And green grass shining under.
If she does think, what does she think
About it all, I wonder?
She sees the swallows skimming by
Above the sweet young clover,
The light reeds swaying in the wind
And tall trees bending over.
Far down the track she hears the crack
of bullock-whips, and raving
Of angry men where, in the sun,
Her fellow-beasts are slaving.
Girls, we are told, can scratch and scold,
And boys will fight and wrangle,
And big, grown men, just now and then,
Fret o'er some fingle-fangle,
Vexing the earth with grief or mirth,
Longing, rejoicing, rueing -
But by the slipralls stands our cow,
The Pallid Cuckoo
Dolefully and drearily
Come I with the spring;
Wearily and cerily
My threnody I sing.
Hear my drear, discordant note
Sobbing, sobbing in my throat,
Weaving, wailing thro' the wattles
Where the builders are a-wing.
Outcast and ostracized,
By the feathered world despised,
Chased from tree to tree.
Nought to do the summer thro',
My woeful weird a dree;
Singing, 'Pity, ah, pity,
I'm the menace and the warning,
In the harmony of morning
Out of tune am I-
Out of tune and out of work,
Meanly 'mid the leaves I lurk,
Fretfully to sing my sorrow,
Furtively to spy.
Outcast and desolate,
Earning ever scorn and hate
For my treachery.
Shiftless drone, I grieve alone,
To a mournful key
Singing, 'Sorrow, ah, sorrow!
Yarrawonga by herself
Lived too long upon a shelf
She a stolid farmer's wife.
Far remote from modern strife
Drowsily beside her door
Dreamed of hectic days long o'er.
Yarrawonga dreamed in peace,
Watched her flocks and herds increase,
Drugged by wealth she sleepier grew,
Scorned the strenuous and new,
Scorned all haste and modern ways,
Yet oozed contentment all her days.
Yarrawonga now awakes,
And a sudden interest takes
In the schemes of eagr men,
Who'd restore her youth again
Who'd renew a youth half lost
And, at her contentment's cost,
Bring life-giving waters down
To rejuvenate her town.
Yarrawonga soon shall be
Resting in an inland sea
Gazing on a man-made lake
That new fruitfulness hall wake
O'er wide fields where drought has spread
Vague alarm and sudden dread.
Then shall Yarrawonga know
The dignity of years ago.
Care Free Bloke's Cigar
There's a little spark and a wisp of smoke
By the road where the tall gums are;
And a mile away a care-free bloke
Speeds onward in his car.
No thought of evil mars his day,
And he's well a hundred miles away
And safe at home, as skies grow grey,
With another fine cigar.
There's a spurt of flame in the breathless night
And a crackling in the scrub;
There's a withered mint-bush burning bright,
And a kindling dog-wood shrub.
For yards about the bush glows red
But the care-free bloke, his paper read,
Says, 'Bonzer day. And now for bed
After a bite of grub.'
There's a sickening roar as the fire sweeps down
From the mountainside aflame
On the helpless little forest town,
And one knew how it came.
Ten miles of blackened hills gape wide
And a stricken home on the mountain side ...
But the care-free bloke toils on in pride.
He saw no spark by the bush roadside,
So how is he to blame?
The cattle-lands of Corryong,
The maiden of the snows
(Where silver streams the winter long
Sing pleasantly their tinkling song)
Not many a town man knows.
And here sleek cattle, deep in grass,
Watch placidly the seasons pass.
Her beauty has a wondrous worth
This maiden cleanly bright
A beauty won from her rich earth
Where the great Murray has his birth,
And gathers up his might
To scatter rich fertility
On his long journey to the sea.
Her face is laved in waters clear
Snow waters dashing down.
That flash, and hide, and reappear
To feed the pastures far and near
About this lovely town
Fair Corryong, the Cattle Queen,
Hiding her beauty here unseen.
A glory here the scene presents
Glory that may not die;
Where, up from these green, gleaming bents,
Great Kosciusko's battlements
Lift to the laughing sky.
And Corryong contentment knows
The joyous maiden of the snows.
I sing of the hat, of the human lid,
The cadev, the tile, or whatever you please,
The thing that we wear - or our fathers did
For the making of comfort and greater ease.
Man suffers a roof up over his head
'Gainst the wind and the weather, to keep them out;
But as for a woman, when all is said,
It's the very last thing she thinks about.
Why queer 'creations' should deck her brow,
Or the back of her neck, or her small pink ear,
She hasn't the least idea, I vow;
For out of the blue come things of fear,
And, all in a night as it were - like that
Every matron and maid in town
Abandons the saucer she had for a hat
For a thing like a billy-can upside down.
Weird fruit salads and flower-decked tiles,
Dingle-dangles, roosters and bows,
Furs and feathers have served the styles
And what is the next craze no man knows.
But the cruel thing that I have heard said
I still deny, as I ever denied:
That the crazy affairs on the feminine head
Give evidence clear of the stuff inside.
The Children Of The Sun
The Children of the Sun are out,
About the hills and beaches
The stolid burghers halo and stout,
The tailored sheik, the city lout,
And plain blokes with their peaches,
And dinkum coves alert and brown;
While over all the sun shines down.
The Children of the Sun are prone
To sunlight, play and pleasure;
And sober-minded mentors groan
And shake their beads and gravely moan
O'er all this love of leisure.
This lust for sport and sun they say
Will surely bring its reckoning day.
The Children of the Sun heed not,
But laugh and gather vigor,
Where summer days shine gold and hot,
They bask in many a sylvan spot
To meet a new year's rigor.
And who shall say they are not wise?
Strength languishes when pleasure dies.
The Children of the Sun but know
That while the sun is shining
And glad life beckons they must go;
For souls too long akin to woe
Lost all thro' much repining.
Rejuvenation bids them hence,
Then who shall cry 'Improvidence'?
Where the Yarra dreams along,
Now in shadow, now in sun,
Murmuring a drowsy song,
Here she rests, the placid one.
Here she rests and takes her ease,
Peaceful home of cattlemen;
Haste and hustle, things like these,
Touch her lightly - Yarra Glen.
Easy flow with little care
Flows her rich river-flats
'Mid the lush green grasses where
Roam the milkers and the fats;
Where the sun-tanned herdsmen ride
Leisurely about green fields
Sloping to the river-side,
Rich with Nature's kindly yields.
Well content to drift and dream,
Life's high fever stirs her not,
Land of cows and corn and cream
By the hastening world forgot.
Something here of olden days
Lingers still, to wake anew
Memories of placid ways
That her staid forefathers knew.
In this calm backwater set,
Here she drowses well in call
Of the city's fume and fret,
Yet oblivious to it all.
Wisely she forgoes the gift
That fast living brings to men,
Well content to dream and drift
Happy rustic, Yarra Glen.
The Grey Goshawk
There is a flutter in the trees,
And now a sudden, dread unease
Stills all the bushland melodies
Amid the gums;
Stills now the song of wren and thrush,
Robin and honeyeater hush.
Now, with a swoop, a whistling rush,
Grey goshawk comes.
I am the threat: the dread king.
Grim Azrael, is on the wing,
And every little living thing
Dares scarce a breath.
And now a parrot, shrill with fear,
Flies dodging there and doubling here
Thro' inlaced limbs, in mad career
From lusting death.
Grey ghost, grey death, I work my will
O'er forest dense, o'er wood hill,
And on some tree-top rend my kill
With reddened beak.
There is no have in the tree,
There is no habor safe from me;
In many a singing sanctuary
My meat I seek.
Beware! The swift grey ghost is out!
Be still! Grey death lurks near about!
Crouch close! Shrink low! ... But have no doubt
I've marked my kill.
Grim nemesis. I never fail;
Gaint hunger is my spur, my flail.
I feast. And now away I sail
O'er the far hill.
Where the sunlight, burning down,
Lights her luscious orange groves,
Lights the river and the town;
Where the placid Murray roves;
Where each shining summer gives
Life to loveliness serene;
Here the tropic lady lives
'Mid her almost tropic scene.
Palm trees spreading to the sun,
Dusk of lemon, sheen of vine;
Vitamin and vigour won
And imprisoned, till the wine,
Gushing from the purple grape
In the press, allows again
Golden sunlight to escape
These the dower of her domain.
Gay and glad and vigorous,
Winning wealth from summertime,
Glorious gifts she gleans for us
Dwellers in a colder clime;
Conjuring from her kindly earth
Golden fruits to give men joy
Well this lady knows the worth
Of her Arcadian employ.
Tropic lady! Well she knows
Whence her brave abundance comes.
Wealth, where her broad river flows,
Bordered by its spreading gums;
Comes with waters winding down
From the cold lands of the east,
Suffering her sun-kissed town
To spread for us a kingly feast.
With the advent of the Autumn
Trees behave as Nature taught 'em;
Maple, Sumach, Plum and Poplar, and the Chestnut known as Horse,
Ere they shed the Summer fashion,
Break into a perfect passion
Of sweet rivalry in color (if deciduous, of course).
Autumn comes, and Claret Ashes,
Liquidambars, showing splashes
From her palette, don the motley - Joseph's coats of many a hue:
Russet-red and golden-yellow
As the season waxes mellow.
As for me, like certain gum-trees, I perversely grow more blue.
I would quaff in ample measure
Every draught of Autumn's pleasure
Were it not a grim foreboding spreads its color thro' the mind.
And I know that Autumn breezes
Bring the first hint of the wheezes;
For, when Fall the Summer follows, Winter is not far behind.
Would I were like lucky mortals
Who, with Winter at the portals,
Shed their ills like Autumn leaves and welcome days of snow and ice.
Still, why not accept the present?
Fall brings favors amply pleasant.
Seat me - Ishoo! - id the sudlight. Autumb cad be very dice.
The Little Black Cormorant
By inlet and islet and wide river reaches,
By lake and lagoon I'm at home,
Yet oft' the far forests of blue-gum and beeches
About the broad ranges I roam,
'There's a strange, sombre bird with a hook in his beak.'
'Tis the little black cormorant raiding your creek.
And woe to the fisher and woe to the fishes
A gourmand I freely confess
When I come a-searching for succulent dishes,
Arrayed in my funeral dress,
Then the fishermen rave, and in anger they speak:
'There's a little black cormorant coming up creek!'
But I'm quick and I'm cunning, as many a greyling,
A blackfish, a trout or a bream
Has known to his sorrow when down I go sailing
To hunt him beneath the dark stream.
To my cavernous maw then they all come alike,
And 'tis death should the little black cormorant strike.
But I am an outlaw. I'm hunted and harried,
I'm banned from the havens of men.
And woe is to me if to long I have tarried
A shot o'er the waters - and then,
There is reason indeed for my funeral dress,
For, alas, here's a little black cormorant less.
Where the road's white bracelet runs
Round the cliff 'twixt bush and sea,
Gleaming 'neath the summer's suns
There she rests delightfully
There she rests, a jewel set
In the bracelet's shining band
Far from all the stress and fret
Of the markets of the land.
Summers come and summers go:
There she beckons pleasantly
By the gentle ebb and flow
Of her blue, eternal sea.
Where the Ocean Road dips down,
There she greets, the Southern Queen,
Weary men from mart and town,
Seeking strength from her bright scene.
Wooded slope and waterfall,
Mountain path and shining sand,
Bush and beach - she offers all
Offers with a generous hand.
All the gifts for which men sigh,
Seeking ease and soft release.
And the summers, drifting by,
Bring her loveliness increase.
In the light of Loutitt Bay,
There she smiles, the Southern Queen,
Lending to a summer's day
Grateful rest and mood serene.
Lady Lorne, the lovely one,
Jewel of uncounted price
Friend of the children of the sun,
The honeymooners' paradise.
Underneath a tree I lie,
Watching with lack lustre eye,
All those little trivial things
Weakness after sickness brings;
Watching birds flit to and fro;
Watching how the grasses grow;
Watching how the leaves and trees
Blend in Autumn harmonies
And wise insects, taught by God,
Build their shelters in the sod.
Oh, how low the pride of men
Falls and grovels meekly, when
Convalescence comes at last
After long borne sufferings past,
E'en the arrogance of pain
That strange vanity - is vain
And he lies, a stricken thing,
Bereft of even suffering.
All is gone - the pain, the pride;
Arrogance is laid aside.
And he owes all things he'd do
To some worthier being, who,
Out of charity, shall seek
To assist the helpless weak
Out of charity to lend
Splendid strength he is to spend.
So beneath the tree I lie,
Reading with a languid eye
Views of that and views of this
In a world so long amiss,
And, by some strange alchemy,
Suddenly it seems to me
That, as Earth's wild turmoils cease,
Comes convalescence now and peace.
As Between Pensioners
''Tis precious stuff,' said old George Jones
'When men sore needs a fall;
Tho' how or why it comes, I owns
I ain't got clear at all.
Some sez that in the sun, a spot
Controls it in some way.'
'It's this 'ere wireless, like as not,'
Said old Pete Parraday.
'Wireless,' scoffed grey-haired Joey Park.
'Wot wireless did they use
When ole man Noah sailed the ark?
It's them black cockytoos.
Last week I seen more than a few,
An' then wot did I say '
''Tis wireless - I'm tellin' you!'
Said old Pete Parraday.
'Cockies? Sun-spots?' said Daddy Shore,
'Jist foolish talk an' vain.
It's this 'ere Abbysinian war
An' guns as causes rain.
Ain't it been proved by natcharil laws
Time an' again, the way '
'It's this 'ere wireless is the cause,'
Said old Pete Parraday.
Said old George Jones, 'Ain't you ashamed
To talk the way you do?
It's providence gits mostly blamed
When things is lookin' blue.
Ain't the rain now due? For ain't we got
O'er all this world full sway?'
'Too right. But wireless helps a lot,'
Said old Pete Parraday.
At the meeting of the waters
Where the dark tree shadows play
Wangaratta's sons and daughters
Dream the drowsy hours away;
Placid see the season's greeting
Winter storm and summer sun
Wed, to flow henceforth as one.
Where two northbound rivers meeting,
Long since prone to sudden dangers
When, to dim her dawning pride,
Morgan and his wild bushrangers
Thronged her pleasant countryside,
Now in her quiet graveyard resting
Lies old shame and that rash lad,
Where a mate, on tin attesting,
Pleads that 'he was not all bad.'
Crime and she are almost strangers
Now, since those ill doers died.
Bishops reign where once bushrangers
Slew her peace and shamed her pride.
And content within her waxes
In this pious atmosphere
Where naught now save threat-worn taxes
Wakens echoes of past fear.
At the meeting of the waters
Where tree shadows shift and sway,
Nothing lingers here that slaughters
Her bucolic calm away.
Done at last with Youth's adventure
Quiet lady slow to move,
And wealthier grown she lives down censure
As she drifts in one straight groove.
Side by side near the road they stand
Like grave old men grown wise with years,
Veterans twain in this forest land,
Marching together, hand to hand,
Sober as ancient seers.
Gnarled and bitten and scarred and bent,
Sap run sluggish and youth all spent,
They lift spare limbs to the heartening sky,
World-worn and weary, yet loth to die.
They had known the bite of the blunt stone axe
(Wounds like warrior's long healed scars)
When they hid the quarry of hunting blacks,
Ranging the forest with eyes on the tracks
That led to these lusty spare
Spars grown old ere the spoilers came
To give this forest to blade and flame;
Too old to profit that ruthless greed
Which their likelier kinsmen went to feed.
For eight score summers the winds that blow
Down thro' the forest have worked their will;
For eight score winters storm and snow,
Frost and fury have bowed them low;
Yet stand the veterans still,
By the side of the road where the cars run down
With their transient freights to the mushroom town;
And they lift spare limbs to the deathless sky,
World-worn and weary, yet loth to die.
Bountiful rain, we have yearned for you, prayed for you,
When, thro' the drought days, ill visions had scope;
Thankfulness vast in the past we displayed for you
When you have come at the end of our hope.
Now you have come, is our subsequent attitude
Smacking of gracelessness far from the mind.
Is there a tinge of reproach in our gratitude
If we suggest that you can be too kind?
Farmland and forest have known your munificence;
Sweet, tender green springs anew in the fields;
Meekly and meetly we hail your beneficence,
Dreaming again fresh, glorious yields.
Bountiful rain, of your bounty give ear to us,
Yet deem us not for your bounty unfit,
If we remark that just now you appear to us
Well - overdoing it just a wee bit.
The forest's aweep, but the rain is still falling;
The farmlands are soaking, the paddocks awash;
The swollen hill-creeks thro' their gullies go brawling;
And down thro' the cowyard the dairymen slosh.
Shade of old Noah and all his zoology!
Bountiful rain! Now the drought threat has ceased,
Might we suggest, with an abject apology,
More than enough is as good as a feast.
Where Feathertop frowns thro' the winter scud,
Where Buffalo broods on high,
Dwells she, a lass of royal blood,
And a sparkle lights her eye
The clear, clean glint of the sun on snow,
Where the small streams, singing down,
Into the golden Ovens flow,
To decorate her town.
Wild was she on an olden day
And a wilful lass, forsooth,
When the rough, tough diggers came her way
Ere she emerged from youth.
From her river flats they dredged the gold
And laid sad waste to these,
While they drove in thousands from their fold
The thrifty, scared Chinese.
Waxing in beauty, she has grown
To a maid of wide renown;
For the wild, swift days have long since flown.
Now, by her tree-girt town,
Where her plaited river murmuring flows
Thro' sylvan scenes and rare,
A maiden clad in beauty goes
To her hop-fields gleaming there.
Yet men still scheme to dredge these fields,
And filch their loveliness,
All for the sake of bigger yields
In gold, that count far less
Than the rare, rich harvests won today
In calm security.
Leaving but ruin and decay
To sad posterity.
The Land Down-Under
When the rustics gather round
To quaff their ale, they hear a tale
That wakens doubt profound
A wild, wild tale that comes by mail
From Gaffer Gandy's Joe,
Who left his home long since to roam
In the land of the light pink snow.
And the talk goes to and fro:
'Be goom, laad, that be rich!
Pink snow, he said; an' the rain be red,
But swans be black as pitch!
A great lad for romance
Be Gaffer Gandy's Joe.
Ho, the kangaroo have pockets too!
In the land of the pale pink snow.'
They yarn in the inn's tapp-room:
'Worms, Joe do write, they be a sight,
An' six foot long. Be goom!
Birds, he do say, laughs loud all day,
And the cherry stones do grow
Outside the skin, an' not within,
In the land of the pale pink snow.
'The lizards shed their tails,
An' the trees they sheds their bark,
But keeps their leaves while winter grieves
(Did e'er 'ee hear sick tork?)
The squirrels they fly by night from high,
Says Gaffer Gandy's Joe.
An' the fish have legs, an' the beasts lays eggs
In the land of the pale pink snow.'
Rugged men and tough men these,
Men of the lonely ways,
Hard and sturdy as their trees
Where the timbered ranges raise
Their ragged crests to rake the sky;
For the call has come again,
As oft it came in the years gone by,
And the Bush sends forth her men.
Silent men, with eyes alert,
Tramping the hillside steep,
Where the giant trees at the mountain's skirt
Their lonely vigil keep;
Fighting their way where the tangled fern
Covers an ancient track,
Plying the lore that the bushmen learn
Thro' the lonely years outback.
The men of the forest are out once more,
Searching early and late.
As they searched thro' many a day before,
For many a missing mate.
Or a wandering stranger gone astray
In the land of the towering tree,
That has become for all today
The land of tragedy.
And, while the task is a task for men,
Ne'er will they call a stop.
They will tramp the wild bushland again,
And tramp until they drop,
With never a thought for the hours ill-spared
From the labor of the day
To the men of the forest whom fate has dared,
There's nought but to obey.
The Lure Of Spring
As I walked out one brave spring morn,
When earth was young and new,
I met a laughing mountain maid
As fresh as mountain dew.
Oh, blow you breezes; shine, you sun!
For this the world was well begun.
And spring's soft promise, lifted high,
Shone wattle gold against blue sky.
As I walked with her that spring morn
I sought her brave young eyes,
And to earth's olden mysteries
I straightway read replies.
Oh, yearn you, gum-tips to the sun!
For this the world was well begun.
And mysteries thronged about us now
As green buds swelled upon the bough.
I have walked out on many a Spring
Since that long-vanished day;
But aught of that ill-treasured lore
Recapture no man may.
Yet, laugh you, young grass to the sun!
For that the world was well begun.
And every bird-song gladly sung
Still whispers secrets to earth's young.
As I walk out this brave spring morn,
And man and maid I see
By some green way, I thank kind life
That gave one Spring to me.
Oh, blow you breezes; shine you sun!
For this the world was well begun:
That spring holds for young lovers yet
Deeps secret that the old forget.
A country lass with rosy cheeks,
A healthy maid with merry ways;
Labor 'mid loveliness she seeks,
And strives to crowd with joy her days.
For she was raised upon a farm;
Upon a farm she grew in grace,
And in that clear air won this charm,
This sweet allure of form and face.
Where she had won the art to grow,
About her house, about her door,
Such loveliness as these days show,
Ask of the years that went before.
But learn she did, as scenes attest
By tree-girt lawn and flowery way,
Even her bridge-heads flank some nest
Of nodding roses, richly gay.
Beyond her home the wheatlands roll,
To yield their tithes upon her dower;
Yet, 'spite her soft, aesthetic soul,
She gives not all to field and flower.
For, show the lass a well-set horse;
Show her a dog with grace or speed;
Set her upon some sunlit course,
And she knows full content indeed.
A country lass with rosy cheeks,
Deft and delightful, who can be
A hostess rare to one who seeks
Her kindly hospitality.
And here she reigns, a queen indeed,
About her flowery realm to ride,
Mounted upon a well-bred steed,
A good hound trotting by her side.
A civic lady, peerly proud
Of excellences that here crowd
About her trim, well-ordered streets:
The visitor she warmly greets
E'er with a bland and kindly smile,
Full conscious of her grace the while
A grace that comes of duty done
Thro' long years in her grateful sun.
Fit cause for pride lies in her past:
Her solid buildings, reared to last,
And all her old-world atmosphere
Hinting at Holland quaintly here,
With windmills turning in the breeze
Wafted from her historic seas
That knew the sails of venturers
Long ere this pleasant land was hers.
The stone man's footprints, graved in stone,
About her ancient rocks are known;
Here, too, the Spaniard, 'neath her wave,
Found with his stately ship a grave.
And thus, thro' hist'ry, can she show
How men may wax and men may grow
By wisely planned development
To an estate of proud content.
So, 'mid her rich lands of the south
Cast from a burning mountain's mouth
She grows her fruits and lives her life
Remote from hectic city strife.
And who shall come to her wide sea,
Seeking her hospitality,
In this contented dame shall find
A gracious lady, calm and kind.
The Ant Explorer
Once a little sugar ant made up his mind to roam-
To fare away far away, far away from home.
He had eaten all his breakfast, and he had his ma's consent
To see what he should chance to see and here's the way he went
Up and down a fern frond, round and round a stone,
Down a gloomy gully where he loathed to be alone,
Up a mighty mountain range, seven inches high,
Through the fearful forest grass that nearly hid the sky,
Out along a bracken bridge, bending in the moss,
Till he reached a dreadful desert that was feet and feet across.
'Twas a dry, deserted desert, and a trackless land to tread,
He wished that he was home again and tucked-up tight in bed.
His little legs were wobbly, his strength was nearly spent,
And so he turned around again and here's the way he went-
Back away from desert lands feet and feet across,
Back along the bracken bridge bending in the moss,
Through the fearful forest grass shutting out the sky,
Up a mighty mountain range seven inches high,
Down a gloomy gully, where he loathed to be alone,
Up and down a fern frond and round and round a stone.
A dreary ant, a weary ant, resolved no more to roam,
He staggered up the garden path and popped back home.
What (said the poet) should we care
For all this mad world's phantasies,
For rumours rife upon the air
Of terrors looming overseas?
If so, the soul were plagued alway
With far-fetched grieving, what of mirth?
For somewhere sorror broods all day;
Yet laughter, too, inhabits earth.
For the sun shines and the grass grows,
And the ferns nod above the stream
That down this placid valley flows;
Then let us rest a while, and dream.
For the grass grows as the sun shines,
And the stream flows and sings a song
To chide the sad heart that repines
Ah, summer, summer, linger long!
What (I gave answer) badgers me
Are not the tragedies of earth.
Despite your gay philosophy
Of seeking joy and claiming mirth
For boon companions as you go,
Oft times these very joys oppress
And suns that shine and streams that flow
May be a source of weariness.
For the grass grows and the sun gleams
To sear the grass and, where they flow,
I must bring water from the streams
To make the blinking grass to grow.
And the sun gleams and the grass grows -
Indeed I know it well enough;
For as it springs where water flows
I've got to cut the blasted stuff.
Here she bides, a buxom lady,
Blest by peace and great content;
Dwelling by her byways shady,
Where the elm trees boughs are bent;
Shutting out the world's wild clamor,
Lending to her streets a glamour,
Gracious and beneficent.
Fortune came to her full easy,
Asking little of man's toil;
So she prospered in those breezy
Days when wealth sprang from the soil
And kind earth, munificently,
As the placid seasons passed,
For man's fortune proffered gently
Rich and gracious gifts in plenty,
Drawn from out her storehouse vast.
Portly dame, untuned to trouble,
Destined through the years to be
While the ills of earth redouble
Sheltered in tranquility,
Asking neither fame nor glory,
And with quiet dilligence
Tending earth that tells the story
Of an age long gone and hoary,
And the young world's turbulence.
Brown hills, broody in the diatnce,
Fecund fields that won their worth
Out of nature's mad insistence
To remould her tortured earth
These have left their age-old traces
In the glacier's graven trail,
Thro' the wondrous green oasis
Where the pleasant river races
To the sea from this calm vale.
I don't know what's come to the summer
In these dull and decadent years;
But a fellow grows glummer and glummer
As promise of autumn appears;
For there's not been a sign of a week-end of shine,
Or the sun on the sea all aglimmer.
And, as the weeks pass, wet and windy, alas,
Thin hope grows yet slimmer and slimmer.
Oh, the sad days, the mad days,
Of rain and wind and mud!
The week speeds by with the sun on high
To come a sickening thud.
When the slippery slosh of the gum golosh
On the soaked and sodden ground
Thro' the country lane sounds once again
When the week-end comes around.
When I go to the bush for a week-end
From a city aglow in the sun,
My holiday comes to a bleak end
Ere half a day's length has been run.
And I gaze thro' the pane at the splattering rain,
Forlorn thro' a profitless Sunday,
And come back to town with the sun pouring down
To smile on my labours on Monday.
Oh, the weekends, when pique ends
In grim and gaunt despair!
Hope wakes anew as all week thro'
The glass is pointing fair,
And fine and warm: but a lurking storm
Behind the high hills grows
To spread dismay each Saturday
And another week-end goes.
Singing morning has begun.
Where the wooded ranges run
To far summits, there the snow
Lingers yet. But down below
In the quiet, green-girt places,
Where full many a swift creek races
From the snow-lands to the sea,
Now breaks sudden harmony.
Where this tree-waned clearing dreams,
First a rosy promise be
As young dawn steels up the sky
Where the frozen ramparts lie.
Now, from dew-wet leaves a-glitter,
Comes a little drowsy twitter,
And the first swift spear of light
Wounds at last the stubborn Night.
Flashing now, bright javelins
Pierce the murk; and now begins
As Day's gleaming ranks deploy
Morning's canticle of joy.
First a sleepy chuckle, breaking,
Tells of Laughing Jack awaking,
Pausing; then, from tree to tree,
Leaps unbound hilarity.
Here's the signal .... Morning's hush
Sweetness shatters, as Grey Thrush,
Veiling with the seraphim,
Lifts his liquid matin hymn.
Golden Whistler joins him then,
Now Red Robin, now Blue Wren;
Magpie's trumpet, sounding, swelling,
Caps the eager chorus welling,
As a wealth of varied notes
Pours now from a hundred throats
Up to greet their lord, the Sun,
Morning, morning has begun!
Now comes the time when we douse flies
With various kinds of sprays
The sand flies, and the house flies,
And the flies with furtive ways.
But I keep my hate for the large flies
That come for the tree-lined creek
Those arch flies, the March flies
With a crosscut saw for a beak.
Now, most flies rouse in the autumn
From the summer's drowsy daze,
And they bite as nature taught 'em,
In various styles and ways.
They nip, or they stab or they burrow;
But the fly that knocks me out
Is the March fly, with the dull, dead eye
And a crosscut saw for a snout.
Now the house flies come to the table
Or busily play on the pane;
And our rage and heat they calmly treat
With the uttermost disdain.
And the buzz-flies buzz and blunder,
And the sandflies dig right in;
But my whole soul shrinks when the March fly sinks
His crosscut under my skin.
He's a sneak and an arrant coward,
And the lowest of low-down cows,
By nature ghoulishly dowered
With a weapon no law allows.
And it isn't the pain he gives me
Nor the blood he may chance to draw,
It's the loathsome way that he makes foul play
With his really terrible,
Horrible crosscut saw.
A Forest Scene
As I went down a forest place
At the closing of the year
To find me peace, and gather grace
In this green gladness here.
I saw a scene I knew of old,
In many a year gone by
A loveliness to have and hold
Here, with the gully waters cold,
And the bland, blue peeping sky.
And I saw the blue wrens trooping near,
And I heard the thrushes call,
And found surcease from worldly fear
For a peace was over all.
And my mind went back to long ago,
For here was a scene I knew
Where the gums and ancient tree ferns grow,
And the ever-lasting waters flow,
And life yields little new.
And I thought of the world - of the world of men,
Who ever seek them change,
And haste, and hectic, haste again
To a goal beyond their range.
And I heard the thrush and the blue wren there
Fluting their songs of glee
For them this world was passing fair,
And they found content and gladness there.
Why came not peace to me?
Then I saw life, as men see life
I who am but a man;
And I dreamed of a scene devoid of strife,
Built on the good God's plan.
And I came me back from that forest place,
With a dream to have and hold,
Of men with naught but life to face,
Of men grown young in simple grace,
And the birds and the bush grown old!
Country Towns - Boort
She knows the Mallee's tragedy
Of thwarted hope, of pain,
Of promise wrecked, when weak men flee
And strong men pray in vain;
While day on burning day drifts by
Beneath a brazen, cloudless sky.
She knows the bane of Mallee dust
When Mallee droughts come down
To filch the last of lingering trust
And darken her small town
Darken men's hearts and minds until
Nought serves her, save a stubborn will.
All this she knows. Yet she knows, too
On thro' the tale of years
The changing luck of gamblers, who
Undaunted, scorning fears
Strive on, till fickle fortune rains
A wondrous gift of sudden gains.
And then she knows that mystic thing
Her jealous earth concealed
The glory of a Mallee spring
And many a fruitful yield
Of green corn quickened by sweet showers,
And kine that flatten mid the flowers.
So has she lived beside her lake
The good and bad years thro';
Till man-made streams now flow to slake
Her thirsty earth anew,
And man's unconquered will has planned
New life for this unstable land.
And who shall say no day may dawn
When, from the Mallee's soil
Drought's fingers are at last withdrawn,
Seeking no more their spoil;
And, man and Nature in accord,
Win, year by year, toll's meet reward
Not guilty, yer Honor . . . An' givin' me reasons,
I'd like for to plead this ‘ere change in the seasons,
Plus one flamin' goat with a terrible silly
Great grin on ‘is map wot ‘ud drive a man dilly
‘E lobs in me shop an' - "Is this enough rain for yeh?"
Honest yer Honor, I'd like to explain for yeh,
‘Twas n't ‘is tone, or ‘is talk of the weather
And ‘twas n't ‘is grin; but the whole lot together.
"This enough rain for yeh?" Stands there inquirin',
As if this ‘ere rain's the one thing I'm desirin'.
"Wet, ain't it?" ‘e grins, with ‘is mackintosh leakin'
All over me carpit . . . it's justice I'm seekin'
Plain justice, yer Honor. I wonder I'm sober.
You know ‘ow it poured thro' the whole of October,
Then floods in November - an' this ‘eathen image
Sez, "Rain enough for yeh?" That started the scrimmage.
"Wet, ain't it?" ‘e sez. Can a man claim I wrongs ‘im
Right there in me shop, when I ups an' I dongs ‘im?
For I done al me cash - as ‘e well must remember,
The coot - in this ‘ere ice-cream joint last September.
Yes, ice-cream, yer Honor. Cool drinks - then this weather
An' ‘im, an' ‘is talk, an' ‘is grin all together
Well - a man can stand so much. I ain't prone to fightin',
But, if a fine must be, well, make it a light ‘un.
In A Forest Garden: A Promise Of Spring
Spring surely must be near. High over head
The kind blue heavens bend to timbers tall;
And here, this morning, is the picture spread
That I have learned to love the best of all.
I hear Flame Robin call
His early love-song. Winter's might is sped;
And young crows now begin to fleck with red
This great green, living wall.
Picture of promise, that I count the best
Of many a fair familiar Bushland scene;
Lifting o'er all, the far mount's sunlit crest
Looks down where silver wattles lightly screen
Blue smoke, that peeps between
Their tall tops, from some settler's hidden nest
Looks down on golden wattles closely pressed
To blackwood's luscious green.
Before the dovecote, mirrored in the pond,
A veil diaphanous of drifting mist
Makes many a nimbus for grey gums beyond
Whose gaunt, grey limbs a mountain sun has kissed
To palest amethyst.
Now, stepping very daintily, with fond,
Soft cooings, fantails on the lawn respond,
To Spring, the amorist.
From the deep forest, on the clean crisp air,
The bushman's axe-blows echo sharply clear;
A soft cloud's tattered fleece drifts idly where
Glows azure hope. Impatient to appear
Springs now full many a spear
Of marching daffodils. Shorn of cold care,
The joyous bush birds vie with flutings rare.
Spring surely must be near.
Country Roads ~ The New Chum Road
A new chum went, to ease his care,
A-many years ago,
To loiter round Toolangi where
The stately blue gums grow.
No bushcraft had he for his quest,
No friend to be his guide,
But sought the grade that served him best,
From Yarra's plain to mountain crest,
And crossed the Great Divide.
And round and round the hills he wound
No lilting tramp song sang he
First East, then North, then West-ward bound.
An easy grade at last he found
That led him to Toolangi.
And tho' they vowed his trail a freak,
The men that followed after
No straighter, easier path might seek,
Yet named the brook the New Chum Creek,
With rough, good-humored laughter.
They followed on his trail for years
With many a stout bush load:
Till came at last wise engineers
To build a goodly road.
With plan and scale and instrument
They sought the mountain side
To find the way the new chum went,
The best, as clearly evident,
To cross the Great Divide,
So round and round that hilly around
The pleasant track goes weaving.
Who seek its hillsides, blossom bound,
By many a gum and fern-tree crowned
Will find small cause for grieving.
The New Chum Road 'tis called today;
And they who travel round it,
And drive along that verdant way,
Will find it in their hearts to say:
'Good luck to him that found it.'
Day after day, week after burning week,
A ruthless sun has sucked the forest dry.
Morn after anxious morn men's glances seek
The hills, hard-etched against a harder sky.
Gay blossoms droop and die.
Menace is here, as day draws to its peak,
And, 'mid the listless gums along the creek,
Hot little breezes sigh.
To-day the threat took shape; the birds were dumb.
Once more, as sullen, savage morning broke,
The silence told that trembling fear had come,
To bird and beast and all the forest folk.
One little wisp of smoke
Far in the south behind the listless gum
Grew to a purple pall. Like some far drum,
A distant muttering broke.
Red noon beheld red death come shouting o'er
These once green slopes-a leaping, living thing.
Touched by its breath, tree after tall tree wore
A fiery crown, as tho' to mock a king -
A ghastly blossoming
Of sudden flame that died and was no more.
And, where a proud old giant towered of yore,
Stood now a blackened thing.
Fierce raved the conquering flame, as demons rave,
Earth shook to thunders of the falling slain.
Brambles and bushes, once so gay and brave,
Shrank back, and writhed, and shrieked and shrieked again
Like sentient things in pain.
Gone from the forest all that kind spring gave…
And now, at laggard last, too late to save,
Comes soft, ironic rain.