Jack Cornstalk As A Lover
'For he rides hard to dull the pain,
Who rides from him who loves him best;
But he rides slowly home again,
Whose restless heart must rove for rest.'
Sweethearts Wait On Every Shore
SHE SITS beside the tinted tide,
That’s reddened by the tortured sand;
And through the East, to ocean wide,
A vessel sails from sight of land.
But she will wait and watch in vain,
For it is said in Cupid’s lore,
“That he who loved will love again,
And sweethearts wait on every shore.”
We knew too little of the world,
And you and I were good—
’Twas paltry things that wrecked our lives
As well I knew they would.
The people said our love was dead,
But how were they to know?
Ah! had we loved each other less
We’d not have quarrelled so.
We knew too little of the world,
And you and I were kind,
We listened to what others said
And both of us were blind.
The people said ’twas selfishness,
But how were they to know?
Ah! had we both more selfish been
We’d not have parted so.
But still when all seems lost on earth
Then heaven sets a sign—
Kneel down beside your lonely bed,
And I will kneel by mine,
And let us pray for happy days—
Like those of long ago.
Ah! had we knelt together then
We’d not have parted so.
Spirit girl to whom 'twas given
To revisit scenes of pain,
From the hell I thought was Heaven
You have lifted me again;
Through the world that I inherit,
Where I loved her ere she died,
I am walking with the spirit
Of a dead girl by my side.
Through my old possessions only
For a very little while,
And they say that I am lonely,
And they pity, but I smile:
For the brighter side has won me
By the calmness that it brings,
And the peace that is upon me
Does not come of earthly things.
Spirit girl, the good is in me,
But the flesh you know is weak,
And with no pure soul to win me
I might miss the path I seek;
Lead me by the love you bore me
When you trod the earth with me,
Till the light is clear before me
And my spirit too is free.
New Life, New Love
The breezes blow on the river below,
And the fleecy clouds float high,
And I mark how the dark green gum trees match
The bright blue dome of the sky.
The rain has been, and the grass is green
Where the slopes were bare and brown,
And I see the things that I used to see
In the days ere my head went down.
I have found a light in my long dark night,
Brighter than stars or moon;
I have lost the fear of the sunset drear,
And the sadness of afternoon.
Here let us stand while I hold your hand,
Where the light’s on your golden head—
Oh! I feel the thrill that I used to feel
In the days ere my heart was dead.
The storm’s gone by, but my lips are dry
And the old wrong rankles yet—
Sweetheart or wife, I must take new life
From your red lips warm and wet!
So let it be, you may cling to me,
There is nothing on earth to dread,
For I’ll be the man that I used to be
In the days ere my heart was dead!
As It Was In The Beginning
As it was in the beginning, so we’ll find it in the end,
For a lover, or a brother, or a sweetheart, or a friend;
As it was in the beginning, so we’ll find it by-and-bye,
When weak women hug their babies, and strong men go out to die.
As ’tis written now, or spoken, so we’ll find it yet in deed—
For their State, or for their Country, for their Honour or their Creed;
For the love of Right, or hatred for the Everlasting Lie,
When the women think of some things, and strong men go out to die.
As it used to be in past times, in the future so it must,
We shall find him stretching forward with his face down in the dust,
All his wounds in front, and hidden—blood to earth, and back to sky,
When pale women pray in private, and strong men go out to die.
Rebels all we are, and brothers—rebels to the laws we make—
Rich or poor, or fat or lean man, fighting for another’s sake;
It is all as God decreed it—we shall find it by-and-bye,
When our girls, disguised in boys’ clothes, go to die where strong men die.
Sacred To The Memory Of “unknown”
Oh, the wild black swans fly westward still,
While the sun goes down in glory—
And away o’er lonely plain and hill
Still runs the same old story:
The sheoaks sigh it all day long—
It is safe in the Big Scrub’s keeping—
’Tis the butcher-birds’ and the bell-birds’ song
In the gum where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping—
(It is heard in the chat of the soldier-birds
O’er the grave where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping).
Ah! the Bushmen knew not his name or land,
Or the shame that had sent him here—
But the Bushmen knew by the dead man’s hand
That his past life lay not near.
The law of the land might have watched for him,
Or a sweetheart, wife, or mother;
But they bared their heads, and their eyes were dim,
For he might have been a brother!
(Ah! the death he died brought him near to them,
For he might have been a brother.)
Oh, the wild black swans to the westward fade,
And the sunset burns to ashes,
And three times bright on an eastern range
The light of a big star flashes,
Like a signal sent to a distant strand
Where a dead man’s love sits weeping.
And the night comes grand to the Great Lone Land
O’er the grave where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping,
And the big white stars in their clusters blaze
O’er the Bush where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping.
Give Yourself A Show: New Year's Eve
TO my fellow sinners all, who, in hope and doubt,
Through the Commonwealth to-night watch the Old Year out,
New Year’s Resolutions are jerry-built I know,
But I want to say to you, “Give yourselves a show”.
You who drink for drinking’s sake, love for lust alone,
Thinking heaven is a myth and the world your own—
Dancing gaily down to hell in the devil’s dance—
This I have to say to you: “Give your souls a chance”.
You who drink because of shame that you think will last,
Or because of wrong done you—trouble in the past—
“Nothing left to live for now,” you will say, I know;
But you have your own self yet, give that self a show!
You who want all things on earth—money, love, and fame
Having the advantage of worldly place or name—
You who have more than you want, even than you know,
In the glorious New Year give someone else a show.
You, the mischief-makers all, who in secret glee
Love to tell the villainies of a scamp like me;
There are things he’ll never tell—things you’ll never know—
Look into your own lives first—give the man a show.
You, the politician, who, for jealousy or gold,
Or for mean ambition, sell, or see your country sold,
Pandering to the hollow crowd, toadying to the low,
For shame’s sake banish selfishness—give your land a show.
The Foreign Drunk
When you get tight in foreign lands
You never need go slinking,
No female neighbours lift their hands
And say “The brute!—he’s drinking!”
No mischief-maker runs with smiles
To give your wife a notion,
For she may be ten thousand miles
Across the bounding ocean.
Oh! I’ve been Scottish “fu” all night,
(O’er ills o’ life victorious),
And I’ve been Dutch and German tight,
And French and Dago glorious.
We saw no boa-constrictors then,
In every lady’s boa,
Though we got drunk with Antwerp men,
And woke up in Genoa!
When you get tight in foreign lands,
All foreigners are brothers—
You drink their drink and grasp their hands
And never wish for others.
Their foreign ways and foreign songs—
And girls—you take delight in:
The war-whoop that you raise belongs
To the country you get tight in.
When you get tight in a foreign port—
(Or rather bacchanalian),
You need no tongue for love or sport
Save your own good Australian.
(A girl in Naples kept me square—
Or helped me to recover—
For mortal knoweth everywhere
The language of the lover).
When you get tight in foreign parts,
With tongue and legs unstable,
They do their best, with all their hearts
And help you all they’re able.
Ah me! It was a happy year,
Though all the rest were “blanky,”
When I got drunk on lager beer,
And sobered up on “Swankey.”
The Muscovy Duck
The rooster is a brainless dude, although he sports a crest,
The hen’s an awful fool we know, though hen-eggs are the best;
She’ll flutter, cackling, anywhere save through a gate or door,
And try to hatch a door-knob, too, for forty days or more.
The turkey is of small account, we’ll let it go in peace,
And other fowls are ornaments, and geese are simply geese;
But over all that cackle, hiss, or gobble, quack, or cluck,
My favourite shall always be the quaint Muscovy duck.
I’m fond of Mrs Muscovy, I think she knows the most
Of all the different kinds of fowls that poultry-breeders boast.
She knows best how to build her nest when laying time is past,
And you should see the knowing pride with which she sets at last.
She waddles out for food and drink—she’s not afraid of us,
And if we fix her now and then she doesn’t make a fuss;
No frantic flaps of useless wings, no cackle, hiss, nor cluck,
She’s queen of all philosophers—the quaint Muscovy duck.
It is a wondrous thing to see, and a wondrous thing to tell,
Her ducklings know as much as ducks the day they leave the shell.
That she is proud as proud can be, is plain to any dunce—
The little ducklings set to work to grow up ducks at once;
And, on a sunny winter’s day, ’tis a good thing for the eyes
To see her waddle round and watch her ducklings catching flies,
I love her for her waddle, and her patience, and her pluck,
Her wag of tail and nod of head—the quaint Muscovy duck.
Somewhere Up In Queensland
He's somewhere up in Queensland,
The old folks used to say;
He’s somewhere up in Queensland,
The people say to-day.
But Somewhere (up in Queensland)
That uncle used to know—
That filled our hearts with wonder,
Seems vanished long ago.
He’s gone to Queensland, droving,
The old folks used to say;
He’s gone to Queensland, droving,
The people say to-day.
But “gone to Queensland, droving,”
Might mean, in language plain,
He follows stock in buggies,
And gets supplies by train.
He’s knocking round in Queensland,
The old folks used to say;
He’s gone to Queensland, roving,
His sweetheart says to-day.
But “gone to Queensland, roving”
By mighty plain and scrub,
Might mean he drives a motor-car
For Missus Moneygrub.
He’s looking for new country,
The old folks used to say;
Our boy has gone exploring,
Fond parents say to-day.
“Exploring” out in Queensland
Might only mean to some
He’s salesman in “the drapery”
Of a bush emporium.
To somewhere up in Queensland
Went Tom and Ted and Jack;
From somewhere up in Queensland
The dusty cheques come back:
From somewhere up in Queensland
Brown drovers used to come,
And someone up in Queensland
Kept many a southern home.
Somewhere up in Queensland,
How many black sheep roam,
Who never write a letter,
And never think of home.
For someone up in Queensland
How many a mother spoke;
For someone up in Queensland
How many a girl’s heart broke.
Mary Called Him 'Mister'
They'd parted but a year before—she never thought he’d come,
She stammer’d, blushed, held out her hand, and called him ‘Mister Gum.’
How could he know that all the while she longed to murmur ‘John.’
He called her ‘Miss le Brook,’ and asked how she was getting on.
They’d parted but a year before; they’d loved each other well,
But he’d been to the city, and he came back such a swell.
They longed to meet in fond embrace, they hungered for a kiss—
But Mary called him ‘Mister,’ and the idiot called her ‘Miss.’
He stood and lean’d against the door—a stupid chap was he—
And, when she asked if he’d come in and have a cup of tea,
He looked to left, he looked to right, and then he glanced behind,
And slowly doffed his cabbage-tree, and said he ‘didn’t mind.’
She made a shy apology because the meat was tough,
And then she asked if he was sure his tea was sweet enough;
He stirred the tea and sipped it twice, and answer’d ‘plenty, quite;’
And cut the smallest piece of beef and said that it was ‘right.’
She glanced at him at times and cough’d an awkward little cough;
He stared at anything but her and said, ‘I must be off.’
That evening he went riding north—a sad and lonely ride—
She locked herself inside her room, and there sat down and cried.
They’d parted but a year before, they loved each other well—
But she was such a country girl and he was such a swell ;
They longed to meet in fond embrace, they hungered for a kiss—
But Mary called him ‘Mister’ and the idiot called her ‘Miss.
Break O’ Day
You love me, you say, and I think you do,
But I know so many who don’t,
And how can I say I’ll be true to you
When I know very well that I won’t?
I have journeyed long and my goal is far,
I love, but I cannot bide,
For as sure as rises the morning star,
With the break of day I’ll ride.
I was doomed to ruin or doomed to mar
The home wherever I stay,
But I’ll think of you as the morning star
And they call me Break o’ Day.
They well might have named me the Fall o’ Night,
For drear is the track I mark,
But I love fair girls and I love the light,
For I and my tribe were dark.
You may love me dear, for a day and night,
You may cast your life aside;
But as sure as the morning star shines bright
With the break of day I’ll ride.
There was never a lover so proud and kind,
There was never a friend so true;
But the song of my life I have left behind
In the heart of a girl like you.
There was never so deep or cruel a wrong
In the land that is far away,
There was never so bitter a broken heart
That rode at the break of day.
God bless you, dear, with your red-gold hair
And your pitying eyes of grey—
Oh! my heart forbids that a star so fair
Should be marred by the Break o’ Day.
Live on, my girl, as the girl you are,
Be a good and a true man’s bride,
For as sure as beckons the evening star
With the fall o’ night I’ll ride.
I was born to ruin or born to mar
The home wherever I light.
Oh! I wish that you were the Evening Star
And that I were the Fall o’ Night.
Oh, never let on to your own true love
That ever you drank a drop;
That ever you played in a two-up school
Or slept in a sly-grog shop;
That ever a bad girl nursed you round –
That ever you sank so low.
But she pulled you through, and it's only you
And your old mate Harry know.
"Billy the Link" they called you then,
And it makes me sad to think
Of the strenuous days when it took three cops
And a pimp to couple the Link.
"Mister Linkhurst" they call you now,
And your kitchen garden grows;
And no one knows in your family,
But your Uncle Harry knows.
Oh, never let on to your fair young bride
How a "straight" girl stabbed your heart
With a devilish wire to the Western side
Where we were a world apart.
With pick and shovel you fought it out
Where the red sirocco blows;
And no one knew in the gang save you –
But your old mate Harry knows.
Oh, never let on to your own good wife,
For a tender heart has she,
Of the girl that loved and the girl that lies
In the graveyard there by the sea!
'Twas not for his "manners" she loved the cad,
'Twas not for his verse or prose,
But the pity she felt for the country lad –
And your Uncle Harry knows.
The bad girl went where the bad girls go
And I see her dark eyes yet;
The good girl left me her broken heart,
But I trow that their souls have met.
The cry of the heart we send not forth
On every wind that blows;
You are hiding a sorrow from someone now –
But your Uncle Harry knows.
The Bush Girl
So you rode from the range where your brothers “select,”
Through the ghostly grey bush in the dawn---
You rode slowly at first, lest her heart should suspect
That you were glad to be gone;
You had scarcely the courage to glance back at her
By the homestead receding from view,
And you breathed with relief as you rounded the spur,
For the world was a wide world to you.
Grey eyes that grow sadder than sunset or rain,
Fond heart that is ever more true
Firm faith that grows firmer for watching in vain---
She’ll wait by the sliprails for you.
Ah! The world is a new and a wide one to you,
But the world to your sweetheart is shut,
For a change never comes to the lonely Bush girl
From the stockyard, the bush, and the hut;
And the only relief from the dullness she feels
Is when ridges grow softened and dim,
And away in the dusk to the sliprails she steals
To dream of past meetings “with him.”
Do you think, where, in place of bare fences, dry creeks,
Clear streams and green hedges are seen---
Where the girls have the lily and rose in their cheeks,
And the grass in midsummer is green---
Do you think now and then, now or then, in the whirl
Of the city, while London is new,
Of the hut in the Bush, and the freckled-faced girl
Who is eating her heart out for you?
Grey eyes that are sadder than sunset or rain,
Bruised heart that is ever more true,
Fond faith that is firmer for trusting in vain---
She waits by the sliprails for you
Brother, You’ll Take My Hand
NOT to the sober and staid,
Leading a quiet life,
But to men whose paths are laid
Ever through storm and strife—
Here is a song from me,
Sent to the tragic West,
Message of sympathy
To the hearts that can never rest.
This is the song I send
Out to the Western land—
Sinner, and martyr, and friend,
Brother! you’ll take my hand.
To you who have loved and lost;
To you whose souls have died
Cursing a fair false face
And the red warm lips that lied;
Loved with a boyish love,
With a love that was pure and true,
That set one woman above
The world that was known to you;
Eating your heart out now
Alone on a waste of sand—
I have been played with too.
Brother! you’ll take my hand.
To you who were loved too well,
And who cast that love aside
When your vanity was replete
And your passion was satisfied—
Haunted now day and night;
Haunted in every place
By the eyes of a suicide,
Set in a dead girl’s face.
Crouched in your misery
Out where the stars are grand—
O I am haunted too!
Brother! you’ll take my hand.
To you who had wealth or name,
Friends, love, and a future fair,
And who sacrificed all for drink
And the nights of Leicester Square:
In by the drunken town,
Out on the barren tramp,
Pacing it up and down
Alone by the listening camp;
Crouched in your agony,
Hiding your eyes with your hand—
I had the ball at my feet—
Brother! I understand.
There is a light for all;
Hold up your head and live!
Forgive the woman who wronged,
And the dead girl will forgive.
Brood not, but work for good;
Work in the world of men—
Strong is the man who fell
And rose from the depths again.
There shall be peace for you,
Sinners, who win the land.
I would fight upward too—
Brother! you’ll take my hand.
Cherry- Tree Inn
The rafters are open to sun, moon, and star,
Thistles and nettles grow high in the bar --
The chimneys are crumbling, the log fires are dead,
And green mosses spring from the hearthstone instead.
The voices are silent, the bustle and din,
For the railroad hath ruined the Cherry-tree Inn.
Save the glimmer of stars, or the moon's pallid streams,
And the sounds of the 'possums that camp on the beams,
The bar-room is dark and the stable is still,
For the coach comes no more over Cherry-tree Hill.
No riders push on through the darkness to win
The rest and the comfort of Cherry-tree Inn.
I drift from my theme, for my memory strays
To the carrying, digging, and bushranging days --
Far back to the seasons that I love the best,
When a stream of wild diggers rushed into the west,
But the `rushes' grew feeble, and sluggish, and thin,
Till scarcely a swagman passed Cherry-tree Inn.
Do you think, my old mate (if it's thinking you be),
Of the days when you tramped to the goldfields with me?
Do you think of the day of our thirty-mile tramp,
When never a fire could we light on the camp,
And, weary and footsore and drenched to the skin,
We tramped through the darkness to Cherry-tree Inn?
Then I had a sweetheart and you had a wife,
And Johnny was more to his mother than life;
But we solemnly swore, ere that evening was done,
That we'd never return till our fortunes were won.
Next morning to harvests of folly and sin
We tramped o'er the ranges from Cherry-tree Inn.
. . . . .
The years have gone over with many a change,
And there comes an old swagman from over the range,
And faint 'neath the weight of his rain-sodden load,
He suddenly thinks of the inn by the road.
He tramps through the darkness the shelter to win,
And reaches the ruins of Cherry-tree Inn.
The Peace Maker
It has a “point” of neither sex
But comes in guise of both,
And, doubly dangerous complex,
It is a thing to loathe—
A lady with her sweet, sad smile,
A gentleman on oath.
Strip off the mother-veil, and fur!
And signs of “quiet taste”.
The dead child’s locket take from her
(The dead man’s gift in haste)
And wash from every evil line
The layers of filling paste!
From “saddened eyes” the hell’s own glare!
From “sweet mouth” blasphemy!
Wrench out the gold-filled false teeth there
That twice mock honesty,
And leave the evil face awry
For married folk to see.
For foolish girl wives in despair,
For men’s and children’s sakes,
Let loose the glossed and padded hair
To writhe like scorching snakes!
And strip the barren body bare
To show what Satan makes.
Aye! I could take her by the throat
More sure than hangman’s noose,
And set my teeth and set my nails,
And hate would set my thews.
And fling her to the drought-starved swine,
Were all my brethren Jews.
There was the kindest man I knew,
Brave, handsome, straight and tall—
Between his loved ones and the world
He stood, a fortress wall.
He whines, a ruined drunkard now,
And this thing did it all.
There was the girl who married me
And bore my children twain,
We’ll never meet each other’s eyes
Like boy and girl again.
The very children’s love and trust
By this foul thing was slain.
There was a girl my manhood loved,
She’d Love’s own red gold hair,
And grey eyes that were Pity’s own
And courage that was rare.
She sleeps amongst the suicides,
And this thing sent her there.
And all because the town was dull
And goodness was too tame,
And people took no interest
In one they could not blame.
And all because my life was clean
And I had won a name.
And now, for years of senseless hate
And paltry, bitter strife,
For “reparation” come too late,
For sweetheart, mate and wife,
I tread her vile heart in the dust
And ashes of my life.
The Drover's Sweetheart
An hour before the sun goes down
Behind the ragged boughs,
I go across the little run
And bring the dusty cows;
And once I used to sit and rest
Beneath the fading dome,
For there was one that I loved best
Who'd bring the cattle home.
Our yard is fixed with double bails,
Round one the grass is green,
The bush is growing through the rails,
The spike is rusted in;
And 'twas from there his freckled face
Would turn and smile at me --
He'd milk a dozen in the race
While I was milking three.
I milk eleven cows myself
Where once I milked but four;
I set the dishes on the shelf
And close the dairy door;
And when the glaring sunlight fails
And the fire shines through the cracks,
I climb the broken stockyard rails
And watch the bridle-tracks.
He kissed me twice and once again
And rode across the hill,
The pint-pots and the hobble-chain
I hear them jingling still;
He'll come at night or not at all --
He left in dust and heat,
And when the soft, cool shadows fall
Is the best time to meet.
And he is coming back again,
He wrote to let me know,
The floods were in the Darling then --
It seems so long ago;
He'd come through miles of slush and mud,
And it was weary work,
The creeks were bankers, and the flood
Was forty miles round Bourke.
He said the floods had formed a block,
The plains could not be crossed,
And there was foot-rot in the flock
And hundreds had been lost;
The sheep were falling thick and fast
A hundred miles from town,
And when he reached the line at last
He trucked the remnant down.
And so he'll have to stand the cost;
His luck was always bad,
Instead of making more, he lost
The money that he had;
And how he'll manage, heaven knows
(My eyes are getting dim),
He says -- he says -- he don't -- suppose
I'll want -- to -- marry -- him.
As if I wouldn't take his hand
Without a golden glove --
Oh! Jack, you men won't understand
How much a girl can love.
I long to see his face once more --
Jack's dog! thank God, it's Jack! --
(I never thought I'd faint before)
He's coming -- up -- the track.
The Squatter’s Daughter
OUT in the west, where runs are wide,
And days than ours are hotter,
Not very far from Lachlan Side
There dwelt a wealthy squatter.
Of old opinions he was full—
An Englishman, his sire,
Was hated long where peasants pull
Their forelocks to the squire.
He loved the good old British laws,
And Royalty’s regalia,
And oft was heard to growl because
They wouldn’t fit Australia.
This squatter had a lovely child—
An angel bright we thought her;
And all the stockmen rude and wild
Adored the squatter’s daughter.
But on a bright eventful morn,
A swell of northern nation—
A lordling—brought his languid yawn
And eyeglass to the station.
He coveted the squatter’s wealth;
He saw the squatter’s daughter:
And, what is more than heart or health,
His empty title bought her.
And “Yes”, the father made her say
In spite of tears and kissing;
But early on the wedding day
The station found her missing.
And madder still the squatter grew,
And madder still the lover;
When by-and-by a-missing too,
A stockman they discover.
Then on the squatter’s brow the frown
Went blacker still and blacker;
He sent a man to bring from town
A trooper and a tracker.
The dusty rascal saw the trail;
He never saw it plainer;
The reason why he came to fail
Will take a shrewd explainer.
A day and night the party lose;
The track the tracker parried;
And then a stockman brought the news—
“The runaways were married!”
The squatter swore that he’d forgive,
Perhaps, when he forgot her;
But he’d disown her while he’d live,
And while they called him squatter.
But as the empty months went o’er,
To ease his heart’s vexation
He brought his bold young son-in-law
To manage stock and station.
And glad was he that he forgave,
Because a something had he
To keep his gray hairs from the grave,
And call him “Dear Grand Daddy”.
To Democratic victories
In after years he’d listen;
And, strange to say, to things like these
His aged eyes would glisten.
The lordling took another girl
Not quite of his desire,
And went to where the farmers twirl
Their forelocks to the squire.
Now often to the station comes
An old and wrinkled tracker:
They cheer his heart with plenty rum,
And “plenty pheller bacca”.
The Gathering Of The Brown-Eyed
The brown eyes came from Asia, where all mystery is true,
Ere the masters of Soul Secrets dreamed of hazel, grey, and blue;
And the Brown Eyes came to Egypt, which is called the gypsies’ home,
And the Brown Eyes went from Egypt and Jerusalem to Rome.
There was strife amongst the Brown Eyes for the false things and the true;
There was war amongst the Brown Eyes for the old gods and the new;
But the old gods live for ever, and their goddesses are bright
In the temples of Old Passions with the Brown Eyes of the White.
The Brown Eyes east, by Africa, they saw and conquered Spain,
And the Brown Eyes marched as Christians till a Brown Eye met a Dane,
The Dane had Brown-Eyed children who in blue eyes took delight—
And a son of blue-eyed sailors, brown-eyed, reads the stars to-night.
Oh, Knowledge from Old Deserts, where the great stars rocked the world!
Oh, courage from grim seaboards, where the Viking ships were hurled!
The clear skin of the Norseman, and the desert strength and sight,
The power to fathom mankind, and the glorious gift to write!
We can look in souls of women, aye! and let them know we do;
We can fix the false eyes earthward; we can meet and match the true;
We can startle Voice from Silence, and from Darkness flash the Light—
And the eyes to fathom Asia are the Brown Eyes of the White.
There’s a legend in the nations that all Brown Eyes once were true,
But were taught in love and warfare by the sinful shades of blue;
There’s a story amongst sinners that all Brown Eyes once were kind,
Till the Steel-Blue struck the Red-Fire in a hatred that was blind.
But the Brown Eyes are the saddest at the death of Love and Truth.
And the Brown Eyes are the grandest and the dreamiest of Youth.
They have risen in rebellion unto leadership sublime—
And the grey-eyed queens of women loved, and love them for all time!
Brown Eyes never married Brown Eyes but unhappiness held sway,
For the real mates of the Brown Eyes have for ever been the grey.
But though Brown Eyes quarrel hotly, though their very souls be wrenched,
Never Blue-Eye wronged a Brown-Eye but the Brown-Eye was avenged!
Through the breadth of wide Australia, waiting desert-like and vast,
We have sent our Brown-Eyed children, who are multiplying fast.
Patriots, picture-writers, sages, fill the Brown-Eyed rolls to-night—
’Tis the gathering from all ages of the Brown-Eyed of the White.
Australia's Forgotten Flag
Oh! the Cross of deepest blue,
With the bright stars shining through,
That was raised, my sons, for you,
On a skirt of purest whiteness long ago,
On the field of far Eureka long ago.
Oh! the girl that sewed the silk,
Blue as skies and white as milk,
(Jeanie Scotland – of that ilk)
In the hut there by Eureka long ago –
Years agone –
Auld Lang Syne –
With her young dead digger sweetheart on Eureka long ago.
Oh! the prayer the diggers said,
With the Southern Cross o'erhead!
It is whispered by the dead –
In the graveyard by Eureka whispered still –
By the shades that haunt Eureka murmured still.
Oh! the brother and the mate,
In the bonds of love and hate,
Ah! the help that came too late,
When the diggers marched from Creswick to the dawn,
Long years gone,
Oh! the midnight march from Creswick to Eureka and the dawn!
Few, and taken by surprise,
Oh! the mist that hid the skies –
And the steel in diggers' eyes –
Sunday morning in September long ago;
And they grapple and they strike –
With the pick-handle and pike –
Twenty minutes freed Australia at Eureka long ago.
For the leader won his crown,
Though the flag was trampled down,
For it rose in Melbourne town,
Oh, it rose in Melbourne city that same year,
With a clear
Oh! it floated high in Melbourne that same year.
When the London strikers starved,
While old England's roast was carved,
And our loaf with them was halved,
Then they bore our flag through London wreathed in flowers,
Wreathed in flowers,
Wreathed in flowers,
In the dreary streets of London, brightest spot in those dark hours.
They have stained it mongrel red,
And the stars are dull and dead,
With a northern cross instead,
Oh. the bloodstain like a red star long ago,
Long ago –
Long ago –
Oh! the red star that was bloodstain on the goldfields long ago.
We're divided – we are curst,
By the paltriest and worst,
Parties striving to be first.
But the shots from far Eureka echo yet,
Echo yet, –
And they rattle round my window in the wet.
Flag and banner of my dreams!
The time is not as it seems,
And the tide of freedom streams
With the spirit of the people over all.
We shall raise the bright flag yet,
Ne'er to falter or forget,
And 'twill go through many battles ne'er to fall.
The Prime Of Life
OH, the strength of the toil of those twenty years, with father, and master, and men!
And the clearer brain of the business man, who has held his own for ten:
Oh, the glorious freedom from business fears, and the rest from domestic strife!
The past is dead, and the future assured, and I’m in the prime of life!
She bore me old, and they kept me old, and they worked me early and late;
I carried the loads of my selfish tribe, from seven to thirty eight:
I slaved with dad, in the dust and heat, that my brothers might enjoy—
But I rest to-day in the prime of life, and I’ll live and die a boy!
When the last crop failed, and the stock were gone, did the old man’s head go down?
No! he started business, on what was left, in the produce line in town.
They sent my brothers to boarding schools, when our way to the front we’d won—
They’d borrow, and borrow, but never had aught but contempt for the eldest son.
My brothers they went to the world away, and they left the home in strife.
They sowed wild oats in the pride of youth, and they pawned the prime of life.
They sowed too fast, and they sowed too far; and they came back one by one—
You couldn’t tell which is the eldest son and which is the youngest son.
Oh, I longed for a love that I could not claim, and a breath of the youth denied—
But I stuck to the store when the old man went, and the mater until she died:
With Job’s own sister and Satan’s aunt—good Lord! and the fiend’s own wife—
But I’m free of them now, it is no matter how, and I’m in the prime of life.
My brothers have turned respectable, and are steady as men can be:
The youngest and worst is a leading light—and he aims at reforming me!
But I lend and help, and I’ll fix them up, for I can’t but see with a sigh,
That the youngest, who left us a handsome boy, is an older man than I.
But it’s “Lord make us thankful” three times a day, before they eat their fill—
They can thank the Lord if they like, I say, but I reckon I pay the bill.
They feel independent, I’m glad to know, for if all I hear is true,
My brothers agree that I do no more than I have a right to do.
They’ll work in the store while I see the world, and I’ll let them share the till—
But I sail to-day, for a year away, to go wherever I will:
I sail with the woman who waited for me—old sweetheart; and brand new wife—
She is handsome and true, and she’s thirty-two—and I’m in the prime of life.
For Capetown, and London, and Norraway, for Germany, Holland, and France,
For Switzerland, Italy—anywhere—for Greece, and for Egypt a glance,
For India, China, and “strange Japan”, for the East with mystery rife—
I have made enough, and I have my love—and I’m in the prime of life!
Down the street as I was drifting with the city's human tide,
Came a ghost, and for a moment walked in silence by my side --
Now my heart was hard and bitter, and a bitter spirit he,
So I felt no great aversion to his ghostly company.
Said the Shade: `At finer feelings let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, has ever been the motto for the world.'
And he said: `If you'd be happy, you must clip your fancy's wings,
Stretch your conscience at the edges to the size of earthly things;
Never fight another's battle, for a friend can never know
When he'll gladly fly for succour to the bosom of the foe.
At the power of truth and friendship let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.
`Where Society is mighty, always truckle to her rule;
Never send an `i' undotted to the teacher of a school;
Only fight a wrong or falsehood when the crowd is at your back,
And, till Charity repay you, shut the purse, and let her pack;
At the fools who would do other let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.
`Ne'er assail the shaky ladders Fame has from her niches hung,
Lest unfriendly heels above you grind your fingers from the rung;
Or the fools who idle under, envious of your fair renown,
Heedless of the pain you suffer, do their worst to shake you down.
At the praise of men, or censure, let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.
`Flowing founts of inspiration leave their sources parched and dry,
Scalding tears of indignation sear the hearts that beat too high;
Chilly waters thrown upon it drown the fire that's in the bard;
And the banter of the critic hurts his heart till it grows hard.
At the fame your muse may offer let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.
`Shun the fields of love, where lightly, to a low and mocking tune,
Strong and useful lives are ruined, and the broken hearts are strewn.
Not a farthing is the value of the honest love you hold;
Call it lust, and make it serve you! Set your heart on nought but gold.
At the bliss of purer passions let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, shall ever be the motto of the world.'
Then he ceased and looked intently in my face, and nearer drew;
But a sudden deep repugnance to his presence thrilled me through;
Then I saw his face was cruel, by the look that o'er it stole,
Then I felt his breath was poison, by the shuddering of my soul,
Then I guessed his purpose evil, by his lip in sneering curled,
And I knew he slandered mankind, by my knowledge of the world.
But he vanished as a purer brighter presence gained my side --
`Heed him not! there's truth and friendship
in this wondrous world,' she cried,
And of those who cleave to virtue in their climbing for renown,
Only they who faint or falter from the height are shaken down.
At a cynic's baneful teaching let your lip in scorn be curled!
`Brotherhood and Love and Honour!' is the motto for the world.'
The Old, Old Story And The New Order
They proved we could not think nor see,
They proved we could not write,
They proved we drank the day away
And raved through half the night.
They proved our stars were never up,
They’ve proved our stars are set,
They’ve proved we ne’er saw sorrow’s cup,
And they’re not happy yet.
They proved that in the Southern Land
We all led vicious lives;
They’ve proved we starved our children, and—
They’ve proved we beat our wives.
They’ve proved we never worked, and we
Were never out of debt;
They’ve proved us bad as we can be
And they’re not happy yet.
The Daily Press, with paltry power—
For reasons understood—
Have aye sought to belittle our
Because we fought in days like these,
Where rule the upper tens—
Because we’d not write journalese,
Nor prostitute our pens.
They gave our rivals space to sneer—
The drunkard’s mind is pure and clear
Compared with minds like these.
They sought to damn with pitying praise
Or the coward’s unsigned sneer,
For honour in the “critics’” ways
Had never virtue here.
They’ve proved our names shall not be known
A few short years ahead;
They hied them back through years of moan,
And damned our happy dead.
A newer tribe of scribes we’ve got,
Exclusive and alone,
To prove our work was childish rot,
And none of it our own.
The cultured cads of First Gem cells,
Of Mansion, Lawn and Club,
Not fit to clean the busted boots
Of “Poets of the Pub.”
They prove the partners of the part,
The wholeness of the whole,
The gizzardness of gizzards, and
The Soulness of the Soul.
They’ve proved that all is nought—but there
Are things they cannot do—
The summer skies are just as fair
And just as brightly blue.
They’ve buried us with muddied shrouds,
When our strong hearts they’ve broke.
They can’t bring down yon fleecy clouds
And make them factory smoke.
They’ve proved the simple bard a fool,
But still, for all their pains,
The children prattling home from school
Go tripping down the lanes.
They’ve proved that Love is lust or hate,
True marriage is no more,
But Jim and Mary at the gate
Are happy as of yore.
These insects seeking to unloose
The Bards of Sympathy!
Who strike with the sledge hammer force
Of their simplicity.
(They cannot turn the world about,
Nor damp the father’s joy,
When some old doctor bustles out,
And nurse says “It’s a boy!”)
They want no God but many a god,
And many gods, and none—
The preacher by the upturned sod
Shall pray when all is done.
Amongst the great ’twas aye the same—
The envious crawler’s part—
The lies that blackened Byron’s name
And banished poor Brett Harte.
We’ve learnt in bitter schools to teach
Man’s glory and his shame
Since Gordon walked along the beach
In search of bigger game.
Maybe, our talents we’ve abused
At times, and ne’er been blind
Since Barcroft Boake went out and used
His stockwhip to be kind.
But laugh, my chums, in prose and rhyme,
And worry not at all,
They’re insects whom the wheels of time
Shall crush exceeding small.
Have faith, my friends, who stand by me,
In spite of all the lies—
I tell you that a man shall die
On the day that Lawson dies.
The Leader And The Bad Girl
Because he had sinned and suffered, because he loved the land,
And because of his wonderful sympathy, he held men’s hearts in his hand.
Born and bred of the people, he knew their every whim,
And because he had struggled through poverty he could draw the poor to him:
Speaker and leader and poet, tall and handsome and strong,
With the eyes of a dog for faith and truth that blazed at the thought of a wrong.
They thought in his country’s crisis that his time had come at last—
For they measured his brilliant future by the light of his brilliant past.
At every monster meeting the thousands called his name,
And a burst of triumphant cheering greeted him when he came.
They had faith in the strength of a single man, when their fighting lines were weak,
And a pregnant silence fell on all whenever he rose to speak.
But just when his power was greatest and the people’s cause went well,
And just as they needed their leader most, the leader stumbled and fell;
And his pitiful rivals exulted, for they thought that his star had set,
And the hearts of the people who worshipped him were filled with a keen regret;
The cowardly sneer was printed, and whispered the shameful word,
And the scandal was heard by thousands—the world and a bad girl heard.
Down in the frowsy alley, in a dark and narrow room,
On a mattress the shattered drunkard lay ghastly in his gloom;
And the bad girl nursed him and kept him from the drink for which he craved,
And she gave him broth and she watched him, and she soothed him when he raved,
For she’d heard the boast of his rivals and had sworn to lift him above—
And by day and by night she held him with the strength of a woman’s love.
They were holding a monster meeting, and the hour was close at hand
When his rivals would be triumphant and bad laws rule the land;
His people swayed and wavered and scattered like storm-swept birds,
For they needed his magical presence and the sound of his burning words.
But he heard the Drums of the Alley and the feeble answering cheer,
And he felt the strength to his limbs return, and his brain grow cool and clear.
He rose, and the bad girl dressed him well in the den where the lights were dim,
And her eyes grew bright as an angel’s might—for she knew the strength in him.
They had sneered when his name was mentioned in the hall with lights aglare.
But the crowd surged back to the platform when ’twas whispered that he was there.
Like the cry of a crowd from a sinking ship, his people called his name,
And gaunt and white but with eyes alight with the fire of old he came.
He spoke of the shameful sacrifice of the land where he was born;
Spoke with the burning words of truth and the withering words of scorn.
He spoke as he never had done before and his rivals were stricken dumb,
For the little men knew their master, and they knew that he had come;
His song of salvation went through the land in a loud, triumphant strain—
He held them all in the palm of his hand, and he was a king again.
So a man might fall to the gutter, though he be a king of men,
But a man might rise from the gutter with the strength of ten times ten;
And the people’s poet and leader for a long time led them all,
Wiser because of his weakness and stronger because of the fall.
They found the girl in the river—the river that flowed by the town—
She died that her spirit might strengthen him, where her love would drag him down.
The Ballad Of Mabel Clare
Ye children of the Land of Gold,
I sing a song to you,
And if the jokes are somewhat old,
The main idea is new.
So be it sung, by hut and tent,
Where tall the native grows;
And understand, the song is meant
For singing through the nose.
There dwelt a hard old cockatoo
On western hills far out,
Where everything is green and blue,
Except, of course, in drought;
A crimson Anarchist was he—
Held other men in scorn—
Yet preached that ev’ry man was free,
And also ‘ekal born.’
He lived in his ancestral hut—
His missus wasn’t there—
And there was no one with him but
His daughter, Mabel Clare.
Her eyes and hair were like the sun;
Her foot was like a mat;
Her cheeks a trifle overdone;
She was a democrat.
A manly independence, born
Among the trees, she had,
She treated womankind with scorn,
And often cursed her dad.
She hated swells and shining lights,
For she had seen a few,
And she believed in ‘women’s rights’
(She mostly got’em, too).
A stranger at the neighb’ring run
Sojourned, the squatter’s guest,
He was unknown to anyone,
But like a swell was dress’d;
He had an eyeglass to his eye,
A collar to his ears,
His feet were made to tread the sky,
His mouth was formed for sneers.
He wore the latest toggery,
The loudest thing in ties—
’Twas generally reckoned he
Was something in disguise.
But who he was, or whence he came,
Was long unknown, except
Unto the squatter, who the name
And noble secret kept.
And strolling in the noontide heat,
Beneath the blinding glare,
This noble stranger chanced to meet
The radiant Mabel Clare.
She saw at once he was a swell—
According to her lights—
But, ah! ’tis very sad to tell,
She met him oft of nights.
And, strolling through a moonlit gorge,
She chatted all the while
Of Ingersoll, and Henry George,
And Bradlaugh and Carlyle:
In short, he learned to love the girl,
And things went on like this,
Until he said he was an Earl,
And asked her to be his.
‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
‘Oh, say no more!’ she said;
‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
‘I wish that I was dead:
‘My head is in a hawful whirl,
‘The truth I dare not tell—
‘I am a democratic girl,
‘And cannot wed a swell!’
‘Oh love!’ he cried, ‘but you forget
‘That you are most unjust;
‘’Twas not my fault that I was set
‘Within the upper crust.
‘Heed not the yarns the poets tell—
‘Oh, darling, do not doubt
‘A simple lord can love as well
‘As any rouseabout!
‘For you I’ll give my fortune up—
‘I’d go to work for you!
‘I’ll put the money in the cup
‘And drop the title, too.
‘Oh, fly with me! Oh, fly with me
‘Across the mountains blue!
‘Hoh, fly with me! Hoh, fly with me!—’
That very night she flew.
They took the train and journeyed down—
Across the range they sped—
Until they came to Sydney town,
Where shortly they were wed.
And still upon the western wild
Admiring teamsters tell
How Mabel’s father cursed his child
For clearing with a swell.
‘What ails my bird this bridal night,’
Exclaimed Lord Kawlinee;
‘What ails my own this bridal night—
‘O love, confide in me!’
‘Oh now,’ she said, ‘that I am yaws
‘You’ll let me weep—I must—
‘I did desert the people’s cause
‘To join the upper crust.’
O proudly smiled his lordship then—
His chimney-pot he floor’d—
‘Look up, my love, and smile again,
‘For I am not a lord!’
His eye-glass from his eye he tore,
The dickey from his breast,
And turned and stood his bride before
‘Unknown I’ve loved you long,’ he said,
‘And I have loved you true—
‘A-shearing in your guv’ner’s shed
‘I learned to worship you.
‘I do not care for place or pelf,
‘For now, my love, I’m sure
‘That you will love me for myself
‘And not because I’m poor.
‘To prove your love I spent my cheque
‘To buy this swell rig-out;
‘So fling your arms about my neck
‘For I’m a rouseabout!’
At first she gave a startled cry,
Then, safe from care’s alarms,
She sigh’d a soul-subduing sigh
And sank into his arms.
He pawned the togs, and home he took
His bride in all her charms;
The proud old cockatoo received
The pair with open arms.
And long they lived, the faithful bride,
The noble rouseabout—
And if she wasn’t satisfied
She never let it out.
Over there, above the jetty, stands the mansion of the Vardens,
With a tennis ground and terrace, and a flagstaff in the gardens:
They are gentlemen and ladies—they’ve been ‘toffs’ for generations,
But old Varden’s been unlucky—lost a lot in speculations.
Troubles gathered fast upon him when the mining bubble ‘busted,’
Then the bank suspended payment, where his little all he trusted;
And the butcher and the baker sent their bills in when they read it,
Even John, the Chow that served him, has refused to give him ‘cledit.’
And the daughters of the Vardens—they are beautiful as Graces—
But the balcony’s deserted, and they rarely show their faces;
And the swells of their acquaintance never seem to venture near them,
And the bailiff says they seldom have a cup of tea to cheer them.
They were butterflies—I always was a common caterpillar,
But I’m sorry for the ladies over there in ’Tony Villa,
Shut up there in ’Tony Villa with the bailiff and their trouble;
And the dried-up reservoir, where my tears were seems to bubble.
Mrs. Rooney thinks it nothing when she sends a brat to ‘borry’
Just a pinch of tea and sugar till the grocer comes ‘temorry;’
But it’s dif’rent with the Vardens—they would starve to death as soon as
Knuckle down. You know, they weren’t raised exactly like the Rooneys!
There is gossip in the ‘boxes’ and the drawing-rooms and gardens—
‘Have you heard of Varden’s failure? Have you heard about the Vardens?’
And no doubt each toney mother on the Point across the water’s
Mighty glad about the downfall of the rivals of her daughters.
(Tho’ the poets and the writers say that man to man’s inhuman,
I’m inclined to think it’s nothing to what woman is to woman,
More especially, the ladies, save perhaps a fellow’s mother;
And I think that men are better—they are kinder to each other.)
There’s a youngster by the jetty gathering cinders from the ashes,
He was known as ‘Master Varden’ ere the great financial crashes.
And his manner shows the dif’rence ’twixt the nurs’ry and gutter—
But I’ve seen him at the grocer’s buying half a pound of butter.
And his mother fights her trouble in the house across the water,
She is just as proud as Varden, though she was a ‘cocky’s’ daughter;
And at times I think I see her with the flick’ring firelight o’er her,
Sitting pale and straight and quiet, gazing vacantly before her.
There’s a slight and girlish figure—Varden’s youngest daughter, Nettie—
On the terrace after sunset, when the boat is near the jetty;
She is good and pure and pretty, and her rivals don’t deny it,
Though they say that Nettie Varden takes in sewing on the quiet.
(How her sister graced the ‘circle,’ all unconscious of a lover
In the seedy ‘god’ who watched her from the gallery above her!
Shade of Poverty was on him, and the light of Wealth upon her,
But perhaps he loved her better than the swells attending on her.)
There’s a white man’s heart in Varden, spite of all the blue blood in him,
There are working men who wouldn’t stand and hear a word agin’ him;
But his name was never printed by the side of his ‘donations,’
Save on hearts that have—in this world—very humble circulations.
He was never stiff or hoggish—he was affable and jolly,
And he’d always say ‘Good morning’ to the deck hand on the ‘Polly;’
He would ‘barrack’ with the newsboys on the Quay across the ferry,
And he’d very often tip ’em coming home a trifle merry.
But his chin is getting higher, and his features daily harden
(He will not ‘give up possession’—there’s a lot of fight in Varden);
And the way he steps the gangway! oh, you couldn’t but admire it!
Just as proud as ever hero walked the plank aboard a pirate!
He will think about the hardships that his girls were never ‘useter,’
And it must be mighty heavy on the thoroughbred old rooster;
But he’ll never strike his colours, and I tell a lying tale if
Varden’s pride don’t kill him sooner than the bankers or the bailiff.
You remember when we often had to go without our dinners,
In the days when Pride and Hunger fought a finish out within us;
And how Pride would come up groggy—Hunger whooping loud and louder—
And the swells are proud as we are; they are just as proud—and prouder.
Yes, the toffs have grit, in spite of all our sneering and our scorning—
What’s the crowd? What’s that? God help us!—Varden shot himself this morning! . . . .
There’ll be gossip in the ‘circle,’ in the drawing-rooms and gardens;
But I’m sorry for the family; yes—I’m sorry for the Vardens.
The Good Samaritan
He comes from out the ages dim—
The good Samaritan;
I somehow never pictured him
A fat and jolly man;
But one who’d little joy to glean,
And little coin to give—
A sad-faced man, and lank and lean,
Who found it hard to live.
His eyes were haggard in the drought,
His hair was iron-grey—
His dusty gown was patched, no doubt,
Where we patch pants to-day.
His faded turban, too, was torn—
But darned and folded neat,
And leagues of desert sand had worn
The sandals on his feet.
He’s been a fool, perhaps, and would
Have prospered had he tried,
But he was one who never could
Pass by the other side.
An honest man whom men called soft,
While laughing in their sleeves—
No doubt in business ways he oft
Had fallen amongst thieves.
And, I suppose, by track and tent,
And other ancient ways,
He drank, and fought, and loved, and went
The pace in his young days.
And he had known the bitter year
When love and friendship fail—
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
That he had been in jail.
A silent man, whose passions slept,
Who had no friends or foes—
A quiet man, who always kept
His hopes and sorrows close.
A man who very seldom smiled,
And one who could not weep
Be it for death of wife or child
Or sorrow still more deep.
But sometimes when a man would rave
Of wrong, as sinners do,
He’d say to cheer and make him brave
‘I’ve had my troubles too.’
(They might be twittered by the birds,
And breathed high Heaven through,
There’s beauty in those world-old words:
‘I’ve had my sorrows too.’)
And if he was a married man,
As many are that roam,
I guess that good Samaritan
Was rather glum at home,
Impatient when a child would fret,
And strict at times and grim—
A man whose kinsmen never yet
Howbeit—in a study brown—
He had for all we know,
His own thoughts as he journeyed down
The road to Jericho,
And pondered, as we puzzle yet,
On tragedies of life—
And maybe he was deep in debt
And parted from his wife.
(And so ‘by chance there came that way,’
It reads not like romance—
The truest friends on earth to-day,
They mostly come by chance.)
He saw a stranger left by thieves
Sore hurt and like to die—
He also saw (my heart believes)
The others pass him by.
(Perhaps that good Samaritan
Knew Levite well, and priest)
He lifted up the wounded man
And sat him on his beast,
And took him on towards the inn—
All Christ-like unawares—
Still pondering, perhaps, on sin
And virtue—and his cares.
He bore him in and fixed him right
(Helped by the local drunk),
And wined and oiled him well all night,
And thought beside his bunk.
And on the morrow ere he went
He left a quid and spoke
Unto the host in terms which meant—
‘Look after that poor bloke.’
He must have known them at the inn,
They must have known him too—
Perhaps on that same track he’d seen
Some other sick mate through;
For ‘Whatsoe’er thou spendest more’
(The parable is plain)
‘I will repay,’ he told the host,
‘When I return again.’
He seemed to be a good sort, too,
The boss of that old pub—
(As even now there are a few
At shanties in the scru .
The good Samaritan jogged on
Through Canaan’s dust and heat,
And pondered over various schemes
And ways to make ends meet.
He was no Christian, understand,
For Christ had not been born—
He journeyed later through the land
To hold the priests to scorn;
And tell the world of ‘certain men’
Like that Samaritan,
And preach the simple creed again—
Man’s duty! Man to man!
‘Once on a time there lived a man,’
But he has lived alway,
And that gaunt, good Samaritan
Is with us here to-day;
He passes through the city streets
Unnoticed and unknown,
He helps the sinner that he meets—
His sorrows are his own.
He shares his tucker on the track
When things are at their worst
(And often shouts in bars outback
For souls that are athirst).
To-day I see him staggering down
The blazing water-course,
And making for the distant town
With a sick man on his horse.
He’ll live while nations find their graves
And mortals suffer pain—
When colour rules and whites are slaves
And savages again.
And, after all is past and done,
He’ll rise up, the Last Man,
From tending to the last but one—
The good Samaritan.
The Bards Who Lived At Manly
The camp of high-class spielers,
Who sneered in summer dress,
And doo-dah dilettante,
And scornful “venuses”—
House agents, and storekeepers,
All eager they to “bleed”—
The bards who tackled Manly,
Were plucky bards indeed!
With shops that feared to trust them,
And pubs that looked askance;
And prigs who read their verses,
But gave them not a glance;—
When all were vain and selfish,
And editors were hard—
The bard that stuck to Manly
Was sure a mighty bard.
What mattered floors were barren,
And windows curtainless,
And our life seemed to others
But blackguard recklessness?
We wore our clothes for comfort,
We earned our bread alway,
And beer and good tobacco
Came somehow every day.
Came kindred souls to Manly—
Outsiders that we knew,
And with them scribes and artists,
And low comedians too;
And sometimes bright girl writers—
Called “Tommy”, “Jack”, or “Pat”—
(Though each one had a sweetheart
The rest knew nought of that).
’Twas not the paltry village
We honoured unaware,
Or welcome warm, or friendship,
Or “tone” that took us there;
We longed to sing for mankind,
Where heaven’s breath was free
We only sought the grandeur
Of sea-cliff, sands and sea.
And we were glad at Manly,
All unaware of “swells”,
Of doctors and of nurses,
And private hospitals;
With little fear of bailiffs,
And great contempt for greed—
The bards who lived at Manly,
They were a healthy breed.
Oh! moonlit nights at Manly,
When all the world was fair!
In shirts and turned-up trousers
We larked like big boys there.
Oh! glorious autumn mornings—
The gold and green and blue—
We “stripped” as well as any,
And swam as strongly too.
The artist had a missus,
Who rather loved the wretch,
And so for days together
He’d stay at home and sketch.
And then—I fear ’twas only
When things were getting tight—
The bards would shun each other,
And hump themselves—and write.
When bailiffs came to Manly
They’d find no “sticks” to take,
We’d welcome them as brothers—
Their grimy hands we’d shake;
We’d send for beer in billies—
And straightway send for more—
And bailiff nights in Manly
Were merry nights of yore.
There are some things that landlords
And law can’t do at all:
They could not take the pictures
We painted on the wall;
They could not take the table—
The table was a door;
They could not take the bedsteads—
The beds were on the floor.
The door of some old stable—
We’d borrowed for a drink—
A page of rhymes and sketches,
And stained with beer and ink;
A dead hand drew the portraits—
And, say, should I be shamed,
To seek it out in Manly
And get the old door framed?
They left the masterpieces
The artist dreamed of long;
They could not take the gardens
From Victor Daley’s song;
They left his summer islands
And fairy ships at sea,
They could not take my mountains
And western plains from me.
One bailiff was our brother,
No better and no worse—
And, oh! the yarns he told us
To put in prose and verse,
And sorry we to lose him,
And sorry he to go—
(Oh! skeletons of Pott’s Point,
How many things we know)!
The very prince of laughter,
With brains and sympathy;
And with us on the last night
He spent his bailiff’s fee.
He banished Durkin’s gruffness,
He set my soul afloat,
And drew till day on Daley’s
Bright store of anecdote.
He said he’d stick to business—
Though he could well be free—
If but to save poor devils
From harder “bums” than he,
Now artist, bard and bailiff
Have left this vale of sin—
I trust, if they reach Heaven,
They’ll take that bailiff in.
The bards that lived in Manly
Have vanished one and one;
But do not think in Manly
Bohemian days are done.
They bled me white in Manly
When rich and tempest-tossed—
I’ll leave some bills in Manly
To pay for what I lost.
They’d grab and grind in Manly,
Then slander, sneer, and flout.
The shocked of moral Manly!
They starved my brothers out.
The miserable village,
Set in a scene so fair,
Were honester and cleaner
If some of us were there!
But one went with December—
These last lines seem to-night
Like some song I remember,
And not a song I write.
With vision strangely clearer
My old chums seem to be,
In death and absence, nearer
Than e’er they were to me.
Alone, and still not lonely—
When tears will not be shed—
I wish that I could only
Believe that they were dead.
With hardly curbed emotion,
I can’t but think, somehow,
In Manly by the ocean
They’re waiting for me now.
Years After The War In Australia
The Big rough boys from the runs out back were first where the balls flew free,
And yelled in the slang of the Outside Track: ‘By God, it’s a Christmas spree!’
‘It’s not too rusty’—and ‘Wool away!’—‘stand clear of the blazing shoots!’—
‘Sheep O! Sheep O!’—‘We’ll cut out to-day’—‘Look out for the boss’s boots!’
‘What price the tally in camp to-night!’—‘What price the boys Out Back!’
‘Go it, you tigers, for Right or Might and the pride of the Outside Track!’
‘Needle and thread!’—‘I have broke my comb!’—‘Now ride, you flour-bags, ride!’
‘Fight for your mates and the folk at home!’—‘Here’s for the Lachlan side!’
Those men of the West would sneer and scoff at the gates of hell ajar,
And oft the sight of a head cut off was hailed by a yell for ‘Tar!’
I heard the push in the Red Redoubt, irate at a luckless shot:
‘Look out for the blooming shell, look out!’—‘Gor’ bli’me, but that’s red-hot!’
‘It’s Bill the Slogger—poor bloke—he’s done. A chunk of the shell was his;
‘I wish the beggar that fired that gun could get within reach of Liz.’
‘Those foreign gunners will give us rats, but I wish it was Bill they missed.’
‘I’d like to get at their bleeding hats with a rock in my (something) fist.’
‘Hold up, Billy; I’ll stick to you; they’ve hit you under the belt;
‘If we get the waddle I’ll swag you through, if the blazing mountains melt;
‘You remember the night when the traps got me for stoushing a bleeding Chow,
‘And you went for ’em proper and laid out three, and I won’t forget it now.’
And, groaning and swearing, the pug replied: ‘I’m done . . . they’ve knocked me out!
‘I’d fight them all for a pound a-side, from the boss to the rouseabout.
‘My nut is cracked and my legs is broke, and it gives me worse than hell;
‘I trained for a scrap with a twelve-stone bloke, and not with a bursting shell.
‘You needn’t mag, for I knowed, old chum, I knowed, old pal, you’d stick;
‘But you can’t hold out till the reg’lars come, and you’d best be nowhere quick.
‘They’ve got a force and a gun ashore, both of our wings is broke;
‘They’ll storm the ridge in a minute more, and the best you can do is smoke.’
And Jim exclaimed: ‘You can smoke, you chaps, but me—Gor’ bli’me, no!
‘The push that ran from the George-street traps won’t run from a foreign foe.
‘I’ll stick to the gun while she makes them sick, and I’ll stick to what’s left of Bill.’
And they hiss through their blackened teeth: ‘We’ll stick! by the blazing flame, we will!’
And long years after the war was past, they told in the town and bush
How the ridge of death to the bloody last was held by a Sydney push;
How they fought to the end in a sheet of flame, how they fought with their rifle-stocks,
And earned, in a nobler sense, the name of their ancient weapons—‘rocks.’
In the western camps it was ever our boast, when ’twas bad for the kangaroo:
If the enemy’s forces take the coast, they must take the mountains, too;
‘They may force their way by the western line or round by a northern track,
But they won’t run short of a decent spree with the men who are left out back!’
When we burst the enemy’s ironclads and won by a run of luck,
We whooped as loudly as Nelson’s lads when a French three-decker struck—
And when the enemy’s troops prevailed the truth was never heard—
We lied like heroes who never failed explaining how that occurred.
You bushmen sneer in the old bush way at the new-chum jackeroo,
But ‘cuffs-’n’-collers’ were out that day, and they stuck to their posts like glue;
I never believed that a dude could fight till a Johnny led us then;
We buried his bits in the rear that night for the honour of George-street men.
And Jim the Ringer—he fought, he did. The regiment nicknamed Jim,
‘Old Heads a Caser’ and ‘Heads a Quid,’ but it never was ‘tails’ with him.
The way that he rode was a racing rhyme, and the way that he finished grand;
He backed the enemy every time, and died in a hand-to-hand!
I’ll never forget when the ringer and I were first in the Bush Brigade,
With Warrego Bill, from the Live-till-you-Die, in the last grand charge we made.
And Billy died—he was full of sand—he said, as I raised his head:
‘I’m full of love for my native land, but a lot too full of lead.
‘Tell ’em,’ said Billy, ‘and tell old dad, to look after the cattle pup;’
But his eyes grew bright, though his voice was sad, and he said, as I held him up:
‘I have been happy on western farms. And once, when I first went wrong,
‘Around my neck were the trembling arms of the girl I’d loved so long.
‘Far out on the southern seas I’ve sailed, and ridden where brumbies roam,
‘And oft, when all on the station failed, I’ve driven the outlaw home.
‘I’ve spent a cheque in a day and night, and I’ve made a cheque as quick;
‘I struck a nugget when times were tight, and the stores had stopped our tick.
‘I’ve led the field on the old bay mare, and I hear the cheering still,
‘When mother and sister and she were there, and the old man yelled for Bill;
‘But, save for her, could I live my while again in the old bush way,
‘I’d give it all for the last half-mile in the race we rode to-day!’
And he passed away as the stars came out—he died as old heroes die—
I heard the sound of the distant rout, and the Southern Cross was high.
Our Mistress And Our Queen
We set no right above hers,
No earthly light nor star,
She hath had many lovers,
But not as lovers are:
They all were gallant fellows
And died all deaths for her,
And never one was jealous
But comrades true they were.
Oh! each one is a brother,
Though all the lands they claim—
For her or for each other
They’ve died all deaths the same
Young, handsome, old and ugly,
Free, married or divorced,
Where springtime bard or Thug lie
Her lover’s feet have crossed.
’Mid buttercups and daisies
With fair girls by their side,
Young poets sang her praises
While day in starlight died.
In smoke and fire and dust, and
With red eyes maniac like,
Those same young poets thrust and—
Wrenched out the reeking pike!
She is as old as ages,
But she is ever young.
Upon her birthday pages
They’ve writ in every tongue;
Her charms have never vanished
Nor beauty been defiled,
Her lovers ne’er were banished—
Can never be exiled.
Ah! thousands died who kissed her,
But millions died who scorned
Our Sweetheart, Queen and Sister,
Whom slaves and Cæsars spurned!
And thousands lost her for her
Own sweet sake, and the world,
Her first most dread adorer,
From Heaven’s high state was hurled.
No sign of power she beareth,
In silence doth she tread,
But evermore she weareth
A cap of red rose red.
Her hair is like the raven,
Her soul is like the sea,
Her blue eyes are a haven
That watch Eternity.
She claimed her right from Heaven,
She claims her right from earth,
She claimed it hell-ward driven,
Before her second birth.
No real man lives without her,
No real man-child thrives,
Sweet sin may cling about her,
But purity survives.
She claims the careless girl, and
She claims the master mind;
She whispers to the Earl, and
She whispers to the hind!
No ruler knoweth which man
His sword for her might draw;
Her whisper wakes the rich man—
The peasant on his straw.
She calls us from the prison,
She calls us from the plain,
To towns where men have risen
Again, again, again!
She calls us from our pleasures,
She calls us from our cares,
She calls us from our treasures,
She calls us from our prayers.
From seas and oceans over
Our long-lost sons she draws,
She calls the careless rover,
She calls us from our wars.
The hermit she discovers
To lead her bravest brave——
The spirit of dead lovers,
She calls them from the grave!
We leave the squalid alley,
Our women and our vice,
We leave the pleasant valley,
Life-lust or sacrifice.
The gold hunt in the mountains,
The power-lust on the sea,
The land-lust by earth’s fountains,
Defeat or victory.
No means of peace discover
Her strength on “Nights Before”,
She has her secret lover
That guards the Grand Duke’s door.
No power can resist hers,
No massacre deter—
Small brothers and wee sisters
Of lovers, watch for her!
Old dotards undetected,
School boys that never tire,
And lone hags unsuspected
That drone beside the fire.
The youth in love’s first passion,
The girl in day-dream mood,
And, in the height of fashion,
The “butterfly” and “dude”.
The millionaire heart-broken,
The beggar with his whine,
And each one hath a token,
And each one hath a sign.
And when the time is ripe and
The hells of earth in power,
The dotard drops his pipe, and—
The maiden drops a flower!
Oh, bloody our revivals!
And swift our vengeance hurled,
We’ve laid our dear-loved rivals
In trenches round the world!
We’ve flung off fair arms clinging,
Health, wealth, and life’s grand whole,
And marched out to her singing,
A passion of our soul.
Her lovers fought on ice fields
With stone clubs long ago,
Her lovers slave in rice fields
And in the “’lectric’s” glow.
Her lovers pine wherever
The lust for Nothing is,
They starve where light is never,
And starve in palaces.
They’ve gathered, crowded and scattered,
With heads and scythe-blades low,
Through fir and pine clump spattered,
Like ink blots on the snow.
With broken limbs and shattered
They’ve crushed like hunted brute,
And died in hellish torture
In holes beneath the roof.
They’ve coursed through streets of cities
The fleeing Parliaments,
And songs that were not ditties
They’ve sung by smouldering tents.
And trained in caps and sashes
They’ve heard the head drums roll,
They’ve danced on kings-blood splashes
The dreadful carmagnole.
By mountains, and by stations,
Out where wide levels are,
They’ve baulked the march of nations
And ridden lone and far.
The whip stroke of the bullet,
The short grunt of distress—
The saddled pony grazing
Alone and riderless.
The plain in sunlight blazing—
No signal of distress,
Unseen by far scouts gazing,
And still, with wide eyes glazing:
Dead lover of our mistress,
Dead comrade of his rivals,
Dead champion of his country,
Dead soldier of his widow
And of his fatherless.
She pauses by her writers,
And whispers, through the years,
The poems that delight us
And bring the glorious tears.
The song goes on unbroken
Through worlds of senseless drones,
Until the words are spoken
By Emperors on their thrones.
Queen Hilda Of Virland
Queen Hilda rode along the lines,
And she was young and fair;
And forward on her shoulders fell
The heavy braids of hair:
No gold was ever dug from earth
Like that burnished there –
No sky so blue as were her eyes
Had man seen anywhere.
'Twas so her gay court poets sang,
And we believed it true.
But men must fight for golden hair
And die for eyes of blue!
Cheer after cheer, the long half mile
(It has been ever thus),
And evermore her winsome smile
She turned and turned on us.
The Spring-burst over wood and sea,
The day was warm and bright –
Young Clarence stood on my left hand,
Old Withen on the right.
With fifteen thousand men, or more,
With plumes and banners gay,
To sail that day to foreign war,
And our ships swarmed on the bay.
Old Withen muttered in his beard I listened with a sigh –
"Good Faith! for such a chit as that
Strong men must kill and die.
She'll back to her embroideree,
And fools that bow and smirk,
And we must sail across the sea
And go to other work.
"And wherefore? Wherefore," Withen said,
"Is this red quarrel sought?
Because of clacking painted hags
And foreign fops at Court!
Because 'tis said a drunken king,
In lands we've never seen,
Said something foolish in his cups
Of our young silly queen!
"Good faith! in her old great-aunt's time
'Twere different, I vow:
If old Dame Ruth were here, she'd get
Some sharp advising now!"
(At this a grim smile went about
For men could say in sooth
That none who'd seen her face could doubt
The fair fame of Dame Ruth.)
If Clarence heard, he said no word;
His soul was fresh and clean;
The glory in his boyish eyes
Was shining for his Queen!
And as she passed, he gazed as one
An angel might regard.
(Old Withen looked as if he'd like
To take and smack her hard.)
We only smiled at anything
That good old Withen said,
For he, half blind, through smoke and flame
Had borne her grandsire dead;
And he, in Virland's danger time,
Where both her brothers died,
Had ridden to red victory
By her brave father's side.
Queen Hilda rode along the lines
'Mid thundering cheers the while,
And each man sought – and seemed to get –
Her proud and happy smile.
Queen Hilda little dreamed – Ah, me! –
On what dark miry plain,
And what blood-blinded eyes would see
Her girlish smile again!
Queen Hilda rode on through the crowd,
We heard the distant roar;
We heard the clack of gear and plank,
The sailors on the shore.
Queen Hilda sought her "bower" to rest,
(For her day's work was done),
We kissed our wives – or others' wives –
And sailed ere set of sun.
(Some sail because they're married men,
And some because they're free –
To come or not come back agen,
And such of old were we.
Some sail for fame and some for loot
And some for love – or lust –
And some to fish and some to shoot
And some because they must.
(Some sail who know not why they roam
When they are come aboard,
And some for wives and loves at home,
And some for those abroad.
Some sail because the path is plain,
And some because they choose,
And some with nothing left to gain
And nothing left to lose.
(And we have sailed from Virland, we,
For a woman's right or wrong,
And we are One, and One, and Three,
And Fifteen Thousand strong.
For Right or Wrong and Virland's fame –
You dared us and we come
To write in blood a woman's name
And take a letter home.)
King Death came riding down the lines
And broken lines were they,
With scarce a soldier who could tell
Where friend or foeman lay:
The storm cloud looming over all,
Save where the west was red,
And on the field, of friend and foe,
Ten thousand men lay dead.
Boy Clarence lay in slush and blood
With his face deathly white;
Old Withen lay by his left side
And I knelt at his right.
And Clarence ever whispered,
Though with dying eyes serene:
"I loved her for her girlhood,.
Will someone tell the Queen?"
And this old Withen's message,
When his time shortly came:
"I loved her for her father's sake
But I fought for Virland's fame:
Go, take you this, a message
From me," Old Withen said,
"Who knelt beside her father,
And his when they were dead:
"I who in sport or council,
I who as boy and man,
Would aye speak plainly to them
Were it Court, or battle's van –
(Nay! fear not, she will listen
And my words be understood,
And she will heed my message,
For I know her father's blood.)
"If shame there was – (I judge not
As I'd not be judged above:
The Royal blood of Virland
Was ever hot to love,
Or fight.) – the slander's wiped out,
As witness here the slain:
But, if shame there was, then tell her
Let it not be again."
At home once more in Virland
The glorious Spring-burst shines:
Queen Hilda rides right proudly
Down our victorious lines.
The gaps were filled with striplings,
And Hilda wears a rose:
And what the wrong or right of it
Queen Hilda only knows.
But, be it state or nation
Or castle, town, or shed,
Or be she wife or monarch
Or widowed or unwed –
Now this is for your comfort,
And it has ever been:
That, wrong or right, a man must fight
For his country and his queen.
The Rhyme Of The Three Greybeards
He'd been for years in Sydney "a-acting of the goat",
His name was Joseph Swallow, "the Great Australian Pote",
In spite of all the stories and sketches that he wrote.
And so his friends held meetings (Oh, narrow souls were theirs!)
To advertise their little selves and Joseph's own affairs.
They got up a collection for Joseph unawares.
They looked up his connections and rivals by the score –
The wife who had divorced him some twenty years before,
And several politicians he'd made feel very sore.
They sent him down to Coolan, a long train ride from here,
Because of his grey hairs and "pomes" and painted blondes – and beer.
(I mean to say the painted blondes would always give him beer.)
(They loved him for his eyes were dark, and you must not condemn
The love for opposites that mark the everlasting fem.
Besides, he "made up" little bits of poetry for them.)
They sent him "for his own sake", but not for that alone –
A poet's sins are public; his sorrows are his own.
And poets' friends have skins like hides, and mostly hearts of stone.
They said "We'll send some money and you must use your pen.
"So long," they said. "Adoo!" they said. "And don't come back again.
Well, stay at least a twelve-month – we might be dead by then."
Two greybeards down at Coolan – familiar grins they had –
They took delivery of the goods, and also of the bad.
(Some bread and meat had come by train – Joe Swallow was the bad.)
They'd met him shearing west o' Bourke in some forgotten year.
They introduced him to the town and pints of Wagga beer.
(And Wagga pints are very good –- I wish I had some here.)
It was the Busy Bee Hotel where no one worked at all,
Except perhaps to cook the grub and clean the rooms and "hall".
The usual half-wit yardman worked at each one's beck and call.
'Twas "Drink it down!" and "Fillemup!" and "If the pub goes dry,
There's one just two-mile down the road, and more in Gundagai" –
Where married folk by accident get poison in the pie.
The train comes in at eight o'clock – or half-past, I forget,
And when the dinner table at the Busy Bee was set,
Upon the long verandah stool the beards were wagging yet.
They talked of where they hadn't been and what they hadn't won;
They talked of mostly everything that's known beneath the sun.
The things they didn't talk about were big things they had done.
They talked of what they called to mind, and couldn't call to mind;
They talked of men who saw too far and people who were "blind".
Tradition says that Joe's grey beard wagged not so far behind.
They got a horse and sulky and a riding horse as well,
And after three o'clock they left the Busy Bee Hotel –
In case two missuses should send from homes where they did dwell.
No barber bides in Coolan, no baker bakes the bread;
And every local industry, save rabbitin', is dead –
And choppin' wood. The women do all that, be it said.
(I'll add a line and mention that two-up goes ahead.)
The shadows from the sinking sun were long by hill and scrub;
The two-up school had just begun, in spite of beer and grub;
But three greybeards were wagging yet down at the Two-mile pub.
A full, round, placid summer moon was floating in the sky;
They took a demijohn of beer, in case they should go dry;
And three greybeards went wagging down the road to Gundagai.
At Gundagai next morning (which poets call "th' morn")
The greybeards sought a doctor – a friend of the forlorn –
Whose name is as an angel's who sometimes blows a horn.
And Doctor Gabriel fixed 'em up, but 'twas not in the bar.
It wasn't rum or whisky, nor yet was it Three Star.
'Twas mixed up in a chemist's shop, and swifter stuff by far.
They went out to the backyard (to make my meaning plain);
The doctor's stuff wrought mightily, but by no means in vain.
Then they could eat their breakfasts and drink their beer again.
They made a bond between the three, as rock against the wave,
That they'd go to the barber's shop and each have a clean shave,
To show the people how they looked when they were young and brave.
They had the shave and bought three suits (and startling suits in sooth),
And three white shirts and three red ties (to tell the awful truth),
To show the people how they looked in their hilarious youth.
They burnt their old clothes in the yard, and their old hats as well;
The publican kicked up a row because they made a smell.
They put on bran'-new "larstin'-sides" – and, oh, they looked a yell!
Next morning, or the next (or next), from demon-haunted beds,
And very far from feeling like what sporting men call "peds",
The three rode back without their beards, with "boxers" on their heads!
They tried to get Joe lodgings at the Busy Bee in vain;
They did not take him to their homes, they took him to the train;
They sent him back to Sydney till grey beards grew again.
They sent him back to Sydney to keep away a year;
Because of shaven beards and wives they thought him safer here.
And so he cut his friends and stuck to powdered blondes and beer.
Until the finish came at last, as 'twill to any "bloke";
But in Joe's case it chanced to be a paralytic stroke;
The soft heart of a powdered blonde was, as she put it, "broke".
She sought Joe in the hospital and took the choicest food;
She went there very modestly and in a chastened mood,
And timid and respectful-like – because she was no good.
She sat the death-watch out alone on the verandah dim;
And after all was past and gone she dried her eyes abrim,
And sought the head-nurse timidly, and asked "May I see him?"
And then she went back to her bar, where she'd not been for weeks,
To practise there her barmaid's smile and mend and patch the streaks
The only real tears for Joe had left upon her cheeks
I scorn the man—a fool at most,
And ignorant and blind—
Who loves to go about and boast
“He understands mankind.”
I thought I had that knowledge too,
And boasted it with pride—
But since, I’ve learned that human hearts
Cannot be classified.
In days when I was young and wild
I had no vanity—
I always thought when women smiled
That they were fooling me.
I was content to let them fool,
And let them deem I cared;
For, tutored in a narrow school,
I held myself prepared.
But Lily had a pretty face,
And great blue Irish eyes—
And she was fair as any race
Beneath the Northern skies—
The sweetest voice I ever heard,
Although it was unschooled.
So for a season I preferred
By Lily to be fooled.
A friend embittered all my life
With careless words of his;
He said I’d “never win a wife
With such an ugly phiz.”
I laughed the loudest at the wit.
Though loud the laughter rung—
So be it to his credit writ—
He never knew it stung.
As far as human nature goes,
The cynic I would teach
That fruit’s not always sour to those
For whom none hangs in reach.
I only gazed as captives might
Gaze through their prison bars—
Fair women seemed to me as bright
Though far away, as stars.
And Lily was to me a star
As fair as those above,
As beautiful but just as far
From my revengeful love.
The love I bore was not exempt
From hate, if this might be;
I hated her for that contempt
I thought she had for me.
The “sour grapes” are often sweet
To lips that cannot touch,
And it is soothing to repeat:
“It does not matter much.”
But O to think that fruit so dear
To me in manhood’s prime,
Though seeming far, was clustered near
And red-ripe all the time.
My fault, perhaps, in Heav’n above
May not be deemed a sin.
I never thought that she would love
Or I’d the power to win.
And even now it puzzles me—
The butt of station chaff,
For I was plain as man could be
And awkward as a calf.
I would have liked to break the bow
That Lily never bent—
I thought she’d only laugh to know
How well her shafts were sent.
If my contempt had power to gall
Or careless sneers to touch
The heart that loved me after all,
She must have suffered much.
Ah! I was blind, and could not see
The plain things in my way.
When Lily’s mistress twitted me
About the “wedding day”,
I answered with a careless word
And half-unconscious sneer—
I never thought that Lily heard,
Nor dreamed that she was near.
We talked of other things and joked,
Till tongues began to tire—
Then I and Lily’s master smoked
Our pipes beside the fire.
The day wore on, and then she brought
The kettle to the hob,
And as she turned to go I thought
I heard a stifled sob.
I spoke; she never answered me.
I sneered, “I’ll not forget;
Above all things I hate to see
A woman in a pet!”—
Those cruel words, that were the last
That Lily ever heard—
I’ve heard them shrieking in the blast
And twittered by the bird.
Deep in the creek that wandered near
There lay a grassy pool,
’Neath oaks that sighed through all the year
And kept the water cool.
The stars that pierced the reedy bower
Made water lilies bright,
And underneath her sister flower
Our Lily slept that night.
She’d brought a pole the pool to sound
(It must have tried her strength).
We found it lying on the ground
And wet for half its length.
We found it there upon the grass,
But ah! it was not all!
An open prayer book lay, alas!
Beside poor Lily’s shawl.
We drew her out and laid her down
Upon a granite ledge—
The water from her dripping gown
Went trickling o’er the edge.
Like drops into a pool of fears
I saw the crystals dart,
Or one by one like scalding tears
That plash upon the heart.
The circles died upon the shore,
The frogs began to croak.
The wind that passed to list once more
Went sighing through the oak—
The oak that seemed to say to me
(I think I hear it yet),
“Above all things I hate to see
A woman in a pet!”
The blackest thoughts are swift to fill
The evil minds of men—
I knew the meaning of the looks
They bent upon me then;
And then I did as cowards do:
I vanished like a cur;
For many years I never knew
Where they had buried her.
But, drawn by that same power that brings
The slayer to the slain,
Or driven like the bird that wings
Against the storm in vain,
I journeyed from another shore
Across the weary wave
And wandered by the creek once more,
And sought for Lily’s grave.
I rode across the ridges brown
And through a rocky pass,
And took the track that led me down
To great white flats of grass.
I passed the homestead’s skeleton
That rotted in the sun,
And by the broken stockyards on
The long-deserted run.
Whole beds of reeds were covered o’er
With coats of yellow mud,
And all along the creek I saw
The traces of a flood.
I reached the place where Lily died.
The banks were washed away;
Before me on the other side
There rose a wall of clay.
I saw a thing that seemed a weed
Outgrowing from the “face”;
I stood and marvelled that a seed
Had grown in such a place.
I climbed the bank, and with a rod
I pushed the weed about—
And from the dry and crumbling sod
I saw a skull roll out!
I started back from where I stood,
For she was buried there!
I’d seen the coffin’s rotting wood.
The weed was Lily’s hair!
They’d laid her in the rushes dank
Upon a sandy bend;
The floods had washed away the bank
And reached the coffin’s end.
Ah, coward heart and conscience, too!
Did I reclaim the dead?
Ah, no, I did as cowards do—
A second time I fled!
And still I see the flying form,
I see myself again—
A madman riding through the storm
With terror in his brain.
That night the rain in torrents dashed,
The sky seemed flushed with blood,
And here and there the she-oaks crashed
Beneath the yellow flood.
And still I see the murderous sky
That never seems to change,
And hear the flood go growling by
That thundered from the range.
My inner sight as years went o’er
Grew sharp instead of dull,
And nearly every night I saw
The coffin and the skull.
Three ghastly things, unaltered still,
I knew would haunt my night—
I knew would fill my dreams until
I buried them from sight.
I journeyed to the creek once more
When five long years had flown,
And buried in the sand I saw
A piece of fashioned stone:
And bit by bit and bone by bone
In those long years of rain,
The cruel creek had claimed its own
And buried it again!
I clambered down the bank and knelt
And scraped away the sand,
And graven on the stone, I felt
Her name beneath my hand;
And in the she-oak over me
The wind was sneering yet:
“Above all things I hate to see
A woman in a pet.”
When I Was King
The second time I lived on earth
Was several hundred years ago;
And—royal by my second birth—
I know as much as most men know.
I was a king who held the reins
As never modern monarch can;
I was a king, and I had brains,
And, what was more, I was a man!
Called to the throne in stormy times,
When things were at their very worst,
I had to fight—and not with rhymes—
My own self and my kindred first;
And after that my friends and foes,
And great abuses born of greed;
And when I’d fairly conquered those,
I ruled the land a king indeed.
I found a deal of rottenness,
Such as in modern towns we find;
I camped my poor in palaces
And tents upon the plain behind.
I marked the hovels, dens and drums
In that fair city by the sea.
And burnt the miles of wretched slums
And built the homes as they should be.
I stripped the baubles from the State,
And on the land I spent the spoil;
I hunted off the sullen great,
And to the farmers gave the soil.
My people were their own police;
My courts were free to everyone.
My priests were to preach love and peace;
My Judges to see justice done.
I’d studied men and studied kings,
No crawling cant would I allow;
I hated mean and paltry things,
As I can hate them even now.
A land of men I meant to see,
A strong and clean and noble race—
No subject dared kneel down to me,
But looked his king straight in the face
Had I not been a king in fact,
A king in council-hall and tent,
I might have let them crawl and act
The courtier to their heart’s content;
But when I called on other kings,
And saw men kneel, I felt inclined
To gently tip the abject things
And kick them very hard behind.
My subjects were not slaves, I guess,
But though the women in one thing—
A question ’twas of healthy dress—
Would dare to argue with their king
(I had to give in there, I own,
Though none denied that I was strong),
Yet they would hear my telephone
If anything went very wrong.
I also had some poets bright—
Their songs were grand, I will allow—
They were, if I remember right,
About as bad as bards are now.
I had to give them best at last,
And let them booze and let them sing;
As it is now, so in the past,
They’d small respect for gods or king.
I loved to wander through the streets—
I carried neither sword nor dirk—
And watch the building of my fleets,
And watch my artisans at work.
At times I would take off my coat
And show them how to do a thing—
Till someone, clucking in his throat,
Would stare and gasp, ‘It is the king!’
And I would say, ‘Shut up, you fools!
Is it for this my towns I burn?
You don’t know how to handle tools,
And by my faith you’ll have to learn!’
I was a king, but what of that?
A king may warble in the spring
And carry eggs home in his hat,
Provided that he is a king.
I loved to stroll about the town
With chums at night, and talk of things,
And, though I chanced to wear the crown,
My friends, by intellect, were kings.
When I was doubtful, then I might
Discuss a matter quietly,
But when I felt that I was right
No power on earth could alter me!
And now and then it was no sin
Nor folly to relax a bit—
I’d take my friends into an inn
And call for wine and pay for it.
And then of many things we’d clack
With loosened tongues and visions clear—
I often heard behind my back
The whispered ‘Peace, the king is here!’
The women harped about a queen,
I knew they longed to have a court
And flaunt their feathers on the scene,
But hitherto I’d held the fort.
My subjects wanted me, no doubt,
To give the throne a son and heir—
(There were some little kings about,
But that was neither here nor there).
I’d no occasion for a wife—
A queen as yet was not my plan;
I’d seen a lot of married life—
My sire had been a married man.
‘A son and heir be hanged!’ I said—
‘How dare you ask for such a thing,
‘You fight it out when I am dead
‘And let the best man be the king!’
‘Your Majesty, we love you well!’
A candid friend would say to me—
‘But there be tales that people tell
‘Unfitted to thy dignity’—
‘My dignity be damned!’ I’d say,
‘Bring me no women’s chattering!
‘I’ll be a man while yet I may—
‘When trouble comes I’ll be a king!
I’d kept my kingdom clean and strong
While other kingdoms were like ours—
I had no need to brook a wrong,
I feared not all the rotten Powers
I did not eat my heart out then,
Nor feebly fight in verse or prose
I’d take five hundred thousand men
To argue matters with my foes!
It thrilled me through, the mighty tramp
Of armëd men, the thundering cheer—
The pregnant whisper through the camp
At dead of night: ‘The King is here!’
And though we paid for victory
On some fields that were hard to hold,
The faith my soldiers had in me
Oft strengthened mine a hundredfold.
I’d chat with soldiers by the fires
On rocky heights and river banks,
I’d seek the brains that war requires,
And take my captains from the ranks.
And so, until the storm was by,
And came the peace just war can bring,
I bore me so that men might cry
With all their hearts, ‘God Save the King.’
When I was king the world was wide,
And I was strong and I was free.
I knew no hatred, knew no pride,
No envy and no treachery.
I feared no lies. I feared no truth,
Nor any storm that time might bring.
I had my love, I had my youth,
The world was mine when I was king.
Peace came at last—and strange is Fate—
The women begged just once alone
To see me robed in royal state
And seated on my father’s throne.
I thought, ‘Shall I this boon deny?’
And said—and ’twas a paltry thing:
‘I’ll show the fools just once that I
‘Can look, as well as be, a king.’
They dusted out the castle old,
And from the closet and the chest
They dug the jewels set in gold—
The crown and robes and all the rest.
They came with eyes like stars of night,
With diamonds set in raven hair,
They came with arms and bosoms white—
And, Oh my God! but one was fair!
They dressed me as the kings had been,
The ancient royal purple spread,
And one that was to be my queen,
She placed the circlet on my head.
They pressed their hearts and bowed to me,
They knelt with arms uplifted all.
I felt the rush of vanity—
The pride that goes before the fall.
And then the banquet and the wine
With Satan’s music and the glance
Of siren eyes. Those captains mine
Were reeling in the maddening dance:
A finger writing on the wall,
While girls sang as the angels sing—
A drunken boaster in the hall,
The fool that used to be a king.
I rose again—no matter how—
A woman, and a deeper fall—
I move amongst my people now
The most degraded of them all.
But, if in centuries to come,
I live once more and claim my own,
I’ll see my subjects blind and dumb
Before they set me on a throne
The Ballad Of The Elder Son
A son of elder sons I am,
Whose boyhood days were cramped and scant,
Through ages of domestic sham
And family lies and family cant.
Come, elder brothers mine, and bring
Dull loads of care that you have won,
And gather round me while I sing
The ballad of the elder son.
’Twas Christ who spake in parables—
To picture man was his intent;
A simple tale He simply tells,
And He Himself makes no comment.
A morbid sympathy is felt
For prodigals—the selfish ones—
The crooked world has ever dealt
Unjustly by the elder sons.
The elder son on barren soil,
Where life is crude and lands are new,
Must share the father’s hardest toil,
And share the father’s troubles too.
With no child-thoughts to meet his own
His childhood is a lonely one:
The youth his father might have known
Is seldom for the eldest son.
It seems so strange, but fate is grim,
And Heaven’s ways are hard to track,
Though ten young scamps come after him
The rod falls heaviest on his back.
And, well I’ll say it might be caused
By a half-sense of injustice done—
That vague resentment parents feel
So oft towards the eldest son.
He, too, must bear the father’s name,
He loves his younger brother, too,
And feels the younger brother’s shame
As keenly as his parents do.
The mother’s prayers, the father’s curse,
The sister’s tears have all been done—
We seldom see in prose or verse
The prayers of the elder son.
But let me to the parable
With eyes on facts but fancy free;
And don’t belie me if I tell
The story as it seems to me—
For, mind, I do not mean to sneer
(I was religious when a child),
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
That Christ himself had sometimes smiled.
A certain squatter had two sons
Up Canaan way some years ago.
The graft was hard on those old runs,
And it was hot and life was slow.
The younger brother coolly claimed
The portion that he hadn’t earned,
And sought the ‘life’ for which untamed
And high young spirits always yearned.
A year or so he knocked about,
And spent his cheques on girls and wine,
And, getting stony in the drought,
He took a job at herding swine,
And though he is a hog that swigs
And fools with girls till all is blue—
’Twas rather rough to shepherd pigs
And have to eat their tucker too.
“When he came to himself,” he said
(I take my Bible from the shelf:
There’s nothing like a feed of husks
To bring a young man to himself.
And when you’re done with wine and girls—
Right here a moral seems to shine—
And are hard up, you’ll find no pearls
Are cast by friends before your swine)—
When he came to himself, he said—
He reckoned pretty shrewdly, too—
‘The rousers in my father’s shed
‘Have got more grub than they can chew;
‘I’ve been a fool, but such is fate—
‘I guess I’ll talk the guv’nor round:
‘“I’ve acted cronk,” I’ll tell him straight;
‘(He’s had his time too, I’ll be bound).
‘I’ll tell him straight I’ve had my fling,
‘I’ll tell him “I’ve been on the beer,
‘“But put me on at anything,
‘“I’ll graft with any bounder here.”’
He rolled his swag and struck for home—
He was by this time pretty slim
And, when the old man saw him come—
Well, you know how he welcomed him.
They’ve brought the best robe in the house,
The ring, and killed the fatted calf,
And now they hold a grand carouse,
And eat and drink and dance and laugh:
And from the field the elder son—
Whose character is not admired—
Comes plodding home when work is done,
And very hot and very tired.
He asked the meaning of the sound
Of such unwonted revelry,
They said his brother had been ‘found’
(He’d found himself it seemed to me);
’Twas natural in the elder son
To take the thing a little hard
And brood on what was past and done
While standing outside in the yard.
Now he was hungry and knocked out
And would, if they had let him be,
Have rested and cooled down, no doubt,
And hugged his brother after tea,
And welcomed him and hugged his dad
And filled the wine cup to the brim—
But, just when he was feeling bad
The old man came and tackled him.
He well might say with bitter tears
While music swelled and flowed the wine—
‘Lo, I have served thee many years
‘Nor caused thee one grey hair of thine.
‘Whate’er thou bad’st me do I did
‘And for my brother made amends;
‘Thou never gavest me a kid
‘That I might make merry with my friends.’
(He was no honest clod and glum
Who could not trespass, sing nor dance—
He could be merry with a chum,
It seemed, if he had half a chance;
Perhaps, if further light we seek,
He knew—and herein lay the sting—
His brother would clear out next week
And promptly pop the robe and ring).
The father said, ‘The wandering one,
‘The lost is found, this son of mine,
‘But thou art always with me, son—
‘Thou knowest all I have is thine.’
(It seemed the best robe and the ring,
The love and fatted calf were not;
But this was just a little thing
The old man in his joy forgot.)
The father’s blindness in the house,
The mother’s fond and foolish way
Have caused no end of ancient rows
Right back to Cain and Abel’s day.
The world will blame the eldest born—
But—well, when all is said and done,
No coat has ever yet been worn
That had no colour more than one.
Oh! if I had the power to teach—
The strength for which my spirit craves—
The cant of parents I would preach
Who slave and make their children slaves.
For greed of gain, and that alone
Their youth they steal, their hearts they break
And then, the wretched misers moan—
‘We did it for our children’s sake.’
‘And all I have’—the paltry bribe
That he might slave contented yet
While envied by his selfish tribe
The birthright he might never get:
The worked-out farm and endless graft,
The mortgaged home, the barren run—
The heavy, hopeless overdraft—
The portion of the elder son.
He keeps his parents when they’re old,
He keeps a sister in distress,
His wife must work and care for them
And bear with all their pettishness.
The mother’s moan is ever heard,
And, whining for the worthless one,
She seldom has a kindly word
To say about her eldest son.
’Tis he, in spite of sneer and jibe,
Who stands the friend when others fail:
He bears the burdens of his tribe
And keeps his brother out of jail.
He lends the quid and pays the fine,
And for the family pride he smarts—
For reasons I cannot divine
They hate him in their heart of hearts.
A satire on this world of sin—
Where parents seldom understand—
That night the angels gathered in
The firstborn of that ancient land.
Perhaps they thought, in those old camps,
While suffering for the blow that fell,
They might have better spared the scamps
And Josephs that they loved so well.
Sometimes the Eldest takes the track
When things at home have got too bad—
He comes not crawling, canting back
To seek the blind side of his dad.
He always finds a knife and fork
And meat between on which to dine,
And, though he sometimes deals in pork,
You’ll never catch him herding swine.
The happy home, the overdraft,
His birthright and his prospects gay,
And likewise his share of the graft,
He leaves the rest to grab. And they—
Who’d always do the thing by halves,
If anything for him was done—
Would kill a score of fatted calves
To welcome home the eldest son.
Peter Anderson And Co.
He had offices in Sydney, not so many years ago,
And his shingle bore the legend `Peter Anderson and Co.',
But his real name was Careless, as the fellows understood --
And his relatives decided that he wasn't any good.
'Twas their gentle tongues that blasted any `character' he had --
He was fond of beer and leisure -- and the Co. was just as bad.
It was limited in number to a unit, was the Co. --
'Twas a bosom chum of Peter and his Christian name was Joe.
'Tis a class of men belonging to these soul-forsaken years:
Third-rate canvassers, collectors, journalists and auctioneers.
They are never very shabby, they are never very spruce --
Going cheerfully and carelessly and smoothly to the deuce.
Some are wanderers by profession, `turning up' and gone as soon,
Travelling second-class, or steerage (when it's cheap they go saloon);
Free from `ists' and `isms', troubled little by belief or doubt --
Lazy, purposeless, and useless -- knocking round and hanging out.
They will take what they can get, and they will give what they can give,
God alone knows how they manage -- God alone knows how they live!
They are nearly always hard-up, but are cheerful all the while --
Men whose energy and trousers wear out sooner than their smile!
They, no doubt, like us, are haunted by the boresome `if' or `might',
But their ghosts are ghosts of daylight -- they are men who live at night!
Peter met you with the comic smile of one who knows you well,
And is mighty glad to see you, and has got a joke to tell;
He could laugh when all was gloomy, he could grin when all was blue,
Sing a comic song and act it, and appreciate it, too.
Only cynical in cases where his own self was the jest,
And the humour of his good yarns made atonement for the rest.
Seldom serious -- doing business just as 'twere a friendly game --
Cards or billiards -- nothing graver. And the Co. was much the same.
They tried everything and nothing 'twixt the shovel and the press,
And were more or less successful in their ventures -- mostly less.
Once they ran a country paper till the plant was seized for debt,
And the local sinners chuckle over dingy copies yet.
They'd been through it all and knew it in the land of Bills and Jims --
Using Peter's own expression, they had been in `various swims'.
Now and then they'd take an office, as they called it, -- make a dash
Into business life as `agents' -- something not requiring cash.
(You can always furnish cheaply, when your cash or credit fails,
With a packing-case, a hammer, and a pound of two-inch nails --
And, maybe, a drop of varnish and sienna, too, for tints,
And a scrap or two of oilcloth, and a yard or two of chintz).
They would pull themselves together, pay a week's rent in advance,
But it never lasted longer than a month by any chance.
The office was their haven, for they lived there when hard-up --
A `daily' for a table cloth -- a jam tin for a cup;
And if the landlord's bailiff happened round in times like these
And seized the office-fittings -- well, there wasn't much to seize --
They would leave him in possession. But at other times they shot
The moon, and took an office where the landlord knew them not.
And when morning brought the bailiff there'd be nothing to be seen
Save a piece of bevelled cedar where the tenant's plate had been;
There would be no sign of Peter -- there would be no sign of Joe
Till another portal boasted `Peter Anderson and Co.'
And when times were locomotive, billiard-rooms and private bars --
Spicy parties at the cafe -- long cab-drives beneath the stars;
Private picnics down the Harbour -- shady campings-out, you know --
No one would have dreamed 'twas Peter --
no one would have thought 'twas Joe!
Free-and-easies in their `diggings', when the funds began to fail,
Bosom chums, cigars, tobacco, and a case of English ale --
Gloriously drunk and happy, till they heard the roosters crow --
And the landlady and neighbours made complaints about the Co.
But that life! it might be likened to a reckless drinking-song,
For it can't go on for ever, and it never lasted long.
. . . . .
Debt-collecting ruined Peter -- people talked him round too oft,
For his heart was soft as butter (and the Co.'s was just as soft);
He would cheer the haggard missus, and he'd tell her not to fret,
And he'd ask the worried debtor round with him to have a wet;
He would ask him round the corner, and it seemed to him and her,
After each of Peter's visits, things were brighter than they were.
But, of course, it wasn't business -- only Peter's careless way;
And perhaps it pays in heaven, but on earth it doesn't pay.
They got harder up than ever, and, to make it worse, the Co.
Went more often round the corner than was good for him to go.
`I might live,' he said to Peter, `but I haven't got the nerve --
I am going, Peter, going -- going, going -- no reserve.
Eat and drink and love they tell us, for to-morrow we may die,
Buy experience -- and we bought it -- we're experienced, you and I.'
Then, with a weary movement of his hand across his brow:
`The death of such philosophy's the death I'm dying now.
Pull yourself together, Peter; 'tis the dying wish of Joe
That the business world shall honour Peter Anderson and Co.
`When you feel your life is sinking in a dull and useless course,
And begin to find in drinking keener pleasure and remorse --
When you feel the love of leisure on your careless heart take holt,
Break away from friends and pleasure, though it give your heart a jolt.
Shun the poison breath of cities -- billiard-rooms and private bars,
Go where you can breathe God's air and see the grandeur of the stars!
Find again and follow up the old ambitions that you had --
See if you can raise a drink, old man, I'm feelin' mighty bad --
Hot and sweetened, nip o' butter -- squeeze o' lemon, Pete,' he sighed.
And, while Peter went to fetch it, Joseph went to sleep -- and died
With a smile -- anticipation, maybe, of the peace to come,
Or a joke to try on Peter -- or, perhaps, it was the rum.
. . . . .
Peter staggered, gripped the table, swerved as some old drunkard swerves --
At a gulp he drank the toddy, just to brace his shattered nerves.
It was awful, if you like. But then he hadn't time to think --
All is nothing! Nothing matters! Fill your glasses -- dead man's drink.
. . . . .
Yet, to show his heart was not of human decency bereft,
Peter paid the undertaker. He got drunk on what was left;
Then he shed some tears, half-maudlin, on the grave where lay the Co.,
And he drifted to a township where the city failures go.
Where, though haunted by the man he was, the wreck he yet might be,
Or the man he might have been, or by each spectre of the three,
And the dying words of Joseph, ringing through his own despair,
Peter `pulled himself together' and he started business there.
But his life was very lonely, and his heart was very sad,
And no help to reformation was the company he had --
Men who might have been, who had been, but who were not in the swim --
'Twas a town of wrecks and failures -- they appreciated him.
They would ask him who the Co. was -- that queer company he kept --
And he'd always answer vaguely -- he would say his partner slept;
That he had a `sleeping partner' -- jesting while his spirit broke --
And they grinned above their glasses, for they took it as a joke.
He would shout while he had money, he would joke while he had breath --
No one seemed to care or notice how he drank himself to death;
Till at last there came a morning when his smile was seen no more --
He was gone from out the office, and his shingle from the door,
And a boundary-rider jogging out across the neighb'ring run
Was attracted by a something that was blazing in the sun;
And he found that it was Peter, lying peacefully at rest,
With a bottle close beside him and the shingle on his breast.
Well, they analysed the liquor, and it would appear that he
Qualified his drink with something good for setting spirits free.
Though 'twas plainly self-destruction -- `'twas his own affair,' they said;
And the jury viewed him sadly, and they found -- that he was dead.
In Windsor Terrace, number four,
I’ve taken my abode—
A little crescent from the street,
A bight from City Road;
And, hard up and in exile, I
To many fancies yield;
For it was here Micawber lived
And David Copperfield.
A bed, a table, and a chair,
A bottle and a cup.
The landlord’s waiting even now
For something to turn up.
The landlady is spiritless—
They both seem tired of life;
They cannot fight the battle like
Micawber and his wife.
But in the little open space
That lies back from the street,
The same old ancient, shabby clerk
Is sitting on a seat.
The same sad characters go by,
The ragged children play—
And things have very little changed
Since Dickens passed away.
Some seek religion in their grief,
And some for friendship yearn;
Some fly to liquor for relief,
But I to Dickens turn.
I find him ever fresh and new,
His lesson ever plain;
And every line that Dickens wrote
I’ve read and read again.
The tavern’s just across the ‘wye,’
And frowsy women there
Are gossiping and drinking gin,
And twisting up their hair.
And grubby girls go past at times,
And furtive gentry lurk—
I don’t think anyone has died
Since Dickens did his work.
There’s Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
And Weevle—whom you will;
And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
Into the pawnshop still.
Go east a bit from City Road,
And all the rest are there—
A friendly whistle might produce
A Chicken anywhere.
My favourite author’s heroes I
Should love, but somehow can’t.
I don’t like David Copperfield
As much as David’s Aunt,
And it may be because my mind
Has been in many fogs—
I don’t like Nicholas Nickleby
So well as Newman Noggs.
I don’t like Richard Carstone, Pip,
Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
And for the rich and fatherly
I scarcely care a bit.
The honest, sober clods are bores
Who cannot suffer much,
And with the Esther Summersons
I never was in touch.
The ‘Charleys’ and the haggard wives,
Kind hearts in poverty—
And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too—
Are very near to me;
But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
And Madeline Bray divine,
And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
In a better world than mine.
The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
They do not stand the test;
And in my heart I don’t believe
That Dickens loved them best.
I can’t admire their ways and talk,
I do not like their looks—
Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
Through all the Master’s books.
They’re mostly selfish in their love,
And selfish in their hate,
They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
While Agnes Wickfields wait;
And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
When hard-up for a friend;
They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
To help them in the end.
And—well, maybe I am unjust,
And maybe I forget;
Some of us marry dolls and jilt
Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
We seek our friends when fortune frowns—
It has been ever thus—
And we neglect Joe Gargery
When fortune smiles on us.
They get some rich old grandfather
Or aunt to see them through,
And you can trace self-interest
In nearly all they do.
And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
In spite of all their crimes,
And crawlers like Uriah Heep
Told bitter truths at times.
But—yes, I love the vagabonds
And failures from the ranks,
And hard old files with hidden hearts
Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
And Jaggers had his ‘poor dreams, too,’
And fond hopes like the rest—
But, somehow, somehow, all my life
I’ve loved Dick Swiveller best!
But, let us peep at Snagsby first
As softly he lays down
Beside the bed of dying Joe
And Nemo’s wretched pauper grave—
But we can let them be,
For Joe has said to Heaven: ‘They
Wos werry good to me.’
And Wemmick with his aged P——
No doubt has his reward;
And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
Will be judged by the Lord.
And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
With laurels on his brow,
Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
In Bleeding Heart Yard now.
Tom Pinch is very happy now,
And Magwitch is at rest,
And Newman Noggs again might hold
His head up with the best;
Micawber, too, when all is said,
Drank bravely Sorrow’s cup—
Micawber worked to right them all,
And something did turn up.
How do ‘John Edward Nandy, Sir!’
And Plornish get along?
Why! if the old man is in voice
We’ll hear him pipe a song.
We’ll have a look at Baptiste, too,
While still the night is young—
With Mrs. Plornish to explain
In the Italian tongue.
Before we go we’ll ask about
Poor young John Chivery:
‘There never was a gentleman
In all his family.’
His hopeless love, his broken heart,
But to his rival true;
He came of Nature’s gentlemen,
But young John never knew.
We’ll pass the little midshipman
With heart that swells and fills,
Where Captain Ed’ard Cuttle waits
For Wal’r and Sol Gills.
Jack Bunsby stands by what he says
(Which isn’t very clear),
And Toots with his own hopeless love—
As true as any here.
And who that read has never felt
The sorrow that it cost
When Captain Cuttle read the news
The ‘Son and Heir’ was lost?
And who that read has not rejoiced
With him and ‘Heart’s Delight,’
And felt as Captain Cuttle felt
When Wal’r came that night?
And yonder, with a broken heart,
That people thought was stone,
Deserted in his ruined home,
Poor Dombey sits alone.
Who has not gulped a something down,
Whose eye has not grown dim
While feeling glad for Dombey’s sake
When Florence came to him?
(A stately house in Lincolnshire—
The scene is bleak and cold—
The footsteps on the terrace sound
To-night at Chesney Wold.
One who loved honour, wife, and truth,
If nothing else besides,
Along the dreary Avenue
Sir Leicester Dedlock rides.)
We’ll go round by Poll Sweedlepipe’s,
The bird and barber shop;
If Sairey Gamp is so dispoged
We’ll send her up a drop.
We’ll cross High Holborn to the Bull,
And, if he cares to come,
By streets that are not closed to him
We’ll see Dick Swiveller home.
He’s looking rather glum to-night,
The why I will not ask—
No matter how we act the goat,
We mostly wear a mask.
Some wear a mask to hide the false
(And some the good and true)—
I wouldn’t be surprised to know
Mark Tapley wore one too.
We wear a mask called cheerfulness
While feeling sad inside;
And men like Dombey, who was shy,
Oft wear a mask called pride.
A front of pure benevolence
The grinding ‘Patriarch’ bore;
And kind men often wear a mask
Like that which Jaggers wore.
But, never mind, Dick Swiveller!
We’ll see it out together
Beneath the wing of friendship, Dick,
That never moults a feather.
We’ll look upon the rosy yet
Full many a night, old friend,
And tread the mazy ere we woo
The balmy in the end.
Our palace walls are rather bare,
The floor is somewhat damp,
But, while there’s liquor, anywhere
Is good enough to camp.
What ho! mine host! bring forth thine ale
And let the board be spread!—
It is the hour when churchyards yawn
And wine goes to the head.
’Twas you who saved poor Kit, old chap,
When he was in a mess—
But, what ho! Varlet! bring us wine!
Here’s to the Marchioness!
‘We’ll make a scholar of her yet,’
She’ll be a lady fair,
‘And she shall go in silk attire
And siller have to spare.’
From sport to sport they hurry her
To banish her regrets,
And when we win a smile from her
We cannot pay our debts!
Left orphans at a tender age,
We’re happiest in the land—
We’re Glorious Apollos, Dick,
And you’re Perpetual Grand!
You’re king of all philosophers,
And let the Godly rust;
Here’s to the obscure citizen
Who sent the beer on trust?
It sure would be a cheerful world
If never man got tight;
You spent your money on your friends,
Dick Swiveller! Good night!
‘A dissolute and careless man—
An idle, drunken path;’
But see where Sidney Carton spills
His last drink on the hearth!
A ruined life! He lived for drink
And but one thing beside—
And Oh! it was a glorious death
That Sidney Carton died.
And ‘Which I meantersay is Pip’—
The voices hurry past—
‘Not to deceive you, sir’—‘Stand by!’
‘Awast, my lass, awast!’
‘Beware of widders, Samivel,’
And shun strong drink, my friend;
And, ‘not to put too fine a point
Upon it,’ I must end.
It was Peter the Barbarian put an apron in his bag
And rolled up the honoured bundle that Australians call a swag;
And he tramped from Darkest Russia, that it might be dark no more,
Dreaming of a port, and shipping, as no monarch dreamed before.
Of a home, and education, and of children staunch and true,
Like my father in the fifties—and his name was Peter, too.
(He could build a ship—or fiddle, out of wood, or bark, or hide—.
Sail one round the world and play the other one at eventide.)
Russia’s Peter (not my father) went to Holland in disguise,
Where he laboured as a shipwright underneath those gloomy skies;
Later on he went to England (which the Kaiser now—condemns)
Where he studied as a ship-smith by old Deptford on the Thames—
And no doubt he knew the rope-walk—(and the rope’s end too, he knew)—
Learned to build a ship and sail it—learned the business through and through.
And I’d like to say my father mastered navigation too.
(He was born across in Norway, educated fairly well,
And he grafted in a ship-yard by the Port of Arundel.)
“Peter Michaelov” (not Larsen) his work was by no means done;
For he learned to make a ploughshare, and he learned to make a gun.
Russian soldiers must have clothing, so he laboured at the looms,
And he studied, after hours, building forts and building booms.
He would talk with all and sundry, merchants and adventurers—
Whaling men from Nova Scotia, and with ancient mariners.
Studied military systems (of which Austria’s was the best).
Hospitals and even bedlams—class distinctions and the rest.
There was nothing he neglected that was useful to be known—
And he even studied Wowsers, who had no creed of his own.
And, lest all that he accomplished should as miracles appear,
It must always be remembered he’d a secret Fund for Beer.
When he tramped to toil and exile he was only twenty-five,
With a greater, grander object than had any man alive.
And perhaps the lad was bullied, and was sad for all we know—
Though it isn’t very likely that he’d take a second blow.
He had brains amongst the brainless, and, what that thing means I knew,
For before I found my kingdom, I had slaved in workshops too.
But they never dreamed, the brainless, boors that used to sneer and scoff,
That the dreamy lad beside them—known as “Dutchy Mickyloff”—
Was a genius and a poet, and a Man—no matter which—
Was the Czar of all the Russias!—Peter Michaelovich.
Sweden struck ere he was ready—filled the land with blood and tears—
But he broke the power of Sweden though it took him nine long years.
For he had to train his army—He was great in training men—
And no foreign foe in Russia have had easy times since then.
Then the Port, as we must have one—His a work of mighty drains—
(Ours of irrigation channels—or it should be, on the plains).
So he brought from many countries strong adventures with brains.
It was marshes to horizons, it was pestilential bogs;
It was stoneless, it was treeless, so he brought Norwegian logs.
’Twas a land without a people, ’twas a land without a law;
But the lonely Gulf of Finland heard the axe and heard the saw;
He compelled the population to that desert land and lone—
Shifted them by tens of thousands as we’ll have to shift our own.
He imported stone and mortar (he supplied the labouring gang),
Brought his masons from all Russia—let the other towns go hang;
Brought his carpenters from Venice—they knew how to make a port!
Till he heard the church bells ringing in the town of Petersfort!
Brought his shipbuilders from Holland, built his navy feverishly—
Till the Swedish fleet was shattered and the Baltic routes were free,
And his Port was on the Neva and his Ships were on the sea!
Petrograd upon the Neva! and the Man who saw it through!—
Stately Canberra on the Cotter!—and the men who build it too!
Russian Peter was “inhuman,” so the wise historians say—
What’s the use of being human in a land like ours to-day,
Till a race of stronger people wipe the Sickly Whites away?
Let them have it, who will have it—those who do not understand—
“Peter lived and died a savage”—but he civilized the land.
And, as it is at present, so ’twas always in the past—
’Twas his nearest and his dearest that broke Peter’s heart at last.
He was more than half a heathen, if historians are true;
But he used to whack his missus as a Christian ought to do—
And he should have done it sooner—but that trouble isn’t new.
We’d have saved a lot of bother had we whacked our women, too.
Peter more than whacked his subjects, ere the change was brought about.
And, in some form or another, we shall have to use the knout,
If we wish to build a nation—else we’ll have to do without.
And be wretched slaves and exiles, homeless in the Southern Sea,
When an Asiatic Nation hath “rough hewn” our destiny.
Things have been mixed up in Europe till there’s nothing in a name,
So it doesn’t really matter whence the Brandenburgers came;
But they did no pioneering as our fathers did of old—
Only bullied, robbed and murdered till they bought the land with gold.
And they settled down in Prussia to the bane of Germany,
With a spike upon the helmet where three brazen balls should be.
And they swaggered, swigged and swindled, and by bullying held sway,
And they blindly inter-married till they’re madmen to this day.
And the lovely nights in Munich are as memories of the dead;
Night is filled with nameless terrors, day is filled with constant dread.
But Bavaria the peaceful, ere the lurid star is set,
She shall lead her neighbours on to pluck the Prussian Eagles yet.
We’ll pass over little Denmark, as the brave historians can,
Austria suffered at Sadowa, France was sorry at Sedan.
And for England’s acquiescence in the crime she suffers too.
Meanwhile Denmark drained her marshes, planted grain and battled through.
(We, who never knew what war is—who had gold without the pain—
Never locked a western river that might save a western plain.)
You may say the Danes were pirates, and so leave them on the shelf?
Given youth and men and money, I would pirate some myself!
Why should I be so excited for another nation’s pains?
I am prejudiced and angry, for my forefathers were Danes.
What have I to do with nations? Or the battle’s lurid stars?—
I am Henry, son of Peter, who was Peter, son of Lars;
Lars the son of Nils—But never mind from whence our lineage springs—
Yes, my forefathers wore helmets, but their helmets wore the wings—
(There’s a feather for your bonnet, there is unction for your souls!)
And the wings bore us to England, and Australia and the Poles.
What did we for little Denmark? Well, we sent our thousands through;
But, without the guns or money, what could Scandinavia do?
(It is true of some Australians, by the sea or sandwaste lone,
That they hold their father’s country rather dearer than their own.
But the track is plain before them, and they know who blazed the track,
To the work our Foreign Fathers did in Early Days, Out Back.
As a mate can do no mean thing in the bushman’s creed and song,
So a fellow’s father’s country [seems to me] can do no wrong.)
Where was I? The Wrong of Denmark—or the chastening of her soul?
And perhaps her rulers “got it” where ’twas needed, on the whole.
’Twas the gentlemen of Poland crushed the spirit of the Pole,
Till he didn’t care which nation he was knouted by, and served;
So the gentlemen of Poland got wiped out, as they deserved.
Freedom shrieked (where was no freedom), and perhaps she shrieked for shame.
But let Kosciusko slumber—we’ve immortalised his name.
By the poets and the tenors have our tender souls been wrenched;
And, on many a suffering Christian, Polish Jews have been avenged.
The Blue Danube
Where the skies are blue in winter by the Adriatic Sea,
And the summer skies are bluer even than our own can be;
In the shadow of a murder, weak from war and sore afraid;
By the ocean-tinted Danube stood the city of Belgrade.
Danube of the love-lit starlight, Danube of the dreamy waltz—
And Belgrade bowed down in ashes for her crimes and for her faults.
And the Prussian-driven Austrians who’d been driven oft before,
From Vienna’s cultured city marched reluctantly to war.
Just to clear a path for Prussia, and her bloodhounds to the sea;
To the danger of the white world and the shame of Germany.
And a blacker fate than Belgium’s stared the Servians in the face.
But Belgrade had many soldiers of the old Slavonic race,
And her gun-crews manned the Danube, small and weak, but undismayed—
And Belgrade remembered Russia, and she called on her for aid.
And there came a secret message and a sign from Petrograd,
And the Servian arm was strengthened and the Servian heart was glad.
For the message in plain English, from the City of Snow,
Simply said: “I’m sending Ivan by the shortest route I know.”
So then Servia bid defiance, for she knew her friend was true;
And her guns along the Danube added blue smoke to the blue.
Who are these in rags and sheepskin, mangy fur-caps, matted hair?
Who are these with fearsome whiskers, black and wiry everywhere?
Who are these in blanket putties—canvas, rag, or green-hide shoes?
These with greasy bags and bundles grimy as the Russian flues?
Never song nor cheer amongst them, never cry of “What’s the News?”
Packed on cattle-trains and ox-carts, from the north and south and east;
Trudging from the marsh and forest, where the man is like the beast?
On the lonely railway platforms, bending round the village priest;
Here and there the village scholar, everywhere the country clowns?
They’re reservists of old Russia pouring in to Russian towns!
Women’s faces, gaunt and haggard, start and startle here and there,
White and whiter by the contrast to the shawls that hide their hair.
Black-shawled heads—the shrouds of sorrow! Eyes of Fear without a name!
Through the length and breadth of Europe, God! their eyes are all the same!
Famous Artist of the Present, wasting Art and wasting Life,
With your daughters for your models, or your everlasting wife—
With your kids for nymphs and fairies, or your Studies in “the Nood”—
Exercise imagination, and forget your paltry brood!
Take an old Bulgarian widow who has lost her little store,
Who has lost her sons in battle, paint her face, and call it “War.”
The Russian March
Russian mist, and cold, and darkness, on the weary Russian roads;
And the sound of Russian swear-words, and the whack of Russian goads;
There’s the jerk of tightened traces and of taughtened bullock-chains—
’Tis the siege guns and the field guns, and the ammunition trains.
There’s the grind of tires unceasing, where the metal caps the clay;
And the “clock,” “clock,” “clock” of axles going on all night and day.
And the groaning undercarriage and the king pin and the wheel,
And the rear wheels, which are fore wheels, with their murd’rous loads of steel.
Here and there the sound of cattle in the mist and in the sleet,
And the scrambling start of horses, and the ceaseless splosh of feet.
There’s the short, sharp, sudden order such as drivers give to slaves,
And a ceaseless, soughing, sighing, like the sound of sea-worn caves
When a gale is slowly dying and the darkness hides the waves,
And the ghostly phosphorescence flashes past the rocky arch
Like the wraiths of vanished armies. . . . It is Ivan on the march!
’Tis an army that is marching over other armies’ graves.
Clamp of bits and gathering silence—here and there a horse’s stamp;
Sounds of chains relaxed, and harness, like the teamsters come to camp.
Sounds of boxes moved in waggons, and of axes on a log—
And the wild and joyous barking of the regimental dog!
Sounds of pots and pans and buckets, and the clink of chain and hook—
And the blasphemous complaining of the Universal Cook.
Mist and mist and mellowed moonlight—night in more than ghostly robes;
And the lanterns and the camp fires like dim lights in frosted globes.
Silence deep of satisfaction. Sounds of laughter murmuring—
And the fragrance of tobacco! Are you Ivan? Ivan! Sing!
“I am Ivan! Yes, I’m Ivan, from the mist and from the mirk;
From the night of “Darkest Russia” where Oppression used to lurk—
And it’s many weary winters since I started Christian work;
But you feared the power of Ivan, and you nursed the rotten Turk.
Nurse him now! Or nurse him later, when his green-black blood hath laved
Wounds upon your hands and “honour” that his gratitude engraved;
Poison teeth on hands that shielded, poison fangs on hands that saved.
“No one doubted Ivan’s honour, no one doubted Ivan’s vow,
And the simple word of Ivan, none would dream of doubting now;
Yet you cherished, for your purpose, lies you heard and lies you spread,
And you triumphed for a Spectre over Ivan’s murdered dead!
You were fearful of my power in the rolling of my drums—
Now you tremble lest it fail me when To-morrow’s Morrow comes!
I had sought to conquer no land save what was by right my own—
I took Finland, I took Poland, but I left their creeds alone.
I, the greater, kindlier Tyrant, bade them live and showed them how—
They are free, and they are happy, and they’re marching with me now—
Marching to the War of Ages—marching to the War of Wars—
Hear the rebel songs of Warsaw! Hear the hymn of Helsingfors!
From the Danube to Siberia and the northern lights aflame.
Many freed and peaceful millions bless the day when Ivan came.
Travel through the mighty Russland—study, learn and understand
That my people are contented, for my people have their land.
“It was spring-time in Crimea, coming cold and dark and late,
When I signed the terms you offered, for I knew that I could wait;
When I bowed to stronger nations or to Universal Fate.
And the roofs of guiltless kinsmen blazed across my frontiers still,
Where the bloody hordes of Islam came to ravish, rob and kill;
And the lands were laid in ashes over many a field and hill;
And the groans of tortured peasants (dreaming yet and sullen-mad)—
And the shrieks of outraged daughters echoed still in Petrograd;
So we taught and trained and struggled, and we cursed the Western Powers,
While we suffered in the awful silence of your God, and ours.
“For the safety of the White Race and the memory of Christ,
Once again I marched on Turkey, only to be sacrificed,
To the Sea-Greed of the Nations, by the pandering of the weak,
And the treachery in Athens of the lying, cheating Greek.
Once again I forced the Balkans over snow and rock and moss,
Once again I saw the passes stormed with unavailing loss;
Once again I saw the Crescent reeling back before the Cross,
And the ships of many nations on the billows dip and toss.
Once again my grey battalions, that had come with Christian aid,
Stood before Constantinople! Ah, you wish that we had stayed!
But the Powers raised their fingers, fearful even once again,
With the jealous fear that lingers even now (and shall remain);
Frigid as the polar regions were your hearts to others’ pain—
So I dragged my weary legions back to Russia—once again.
“Thrice again they raised their fingers when I came with purpose true,
And I bowed and smirked and grovelled as I had been used to do.
Till my kin in bloody visions saw their homes in ruins laid
From the Danube to the ocean, from the ocean to Belgrade;
I was ready, for the last time, when they called on me for aid.
From the Dardanelles, denied me, shall my outward march be set;
And you’ll see my fleets of commerce sail the Adriatic yet.”
Daybreak on the world of Europe! Daybreak from the Eastern arch;
Hear the startling sound of bugles! Load and limber up and march!
On! for Ivan and his children, Peace and Rest and Morning Star!
On for Truth and Right and Justice. On for Russia and the Czar!