For want of bread to eat and clothes to wear — Because work failed and streets were deep in snow, And this meant food and fire — she fell so low, Sinning for dear life’s sake, in sheer despair. Or, because life was else so bald and bare, The natural woman in her craved to know The warmth of passion — as pale buds to blow And feel the noonday sun and fertile air.
And who condemns? She who, for vulgar gain And in cold blood, and not for love or need, Has sold her body to more vile disgrace — The prosperous matron, with her comely face — Wife by the law, but prostitute in deed, In whose gross wedlock womanhood is slain.
We present this work in honor of Western Australia Day.
We are sated of songs that drone the praise, Of a world beyond our ken; We are bored by the ballads of beaten ways And milk-and-water men; We are tired of the tales the lovers told To the cooing amorous dove; We have banned the minstrelsy of old, And the lyrics of languid love; We are done with the dirges cut and dried In the London square and slum; But we’re ripe for a rhyme whose metres stride Through salt-bush scrub and gum. Sing us a song unsung by men Of the narrow and cautious creed; Write with a strong and strenuous pen The rhymes our hearts can read.
While we stand where the ways of men have end, And the untrod tracks commence, We weary of songs the poets penned In pastoral indolence; The sleepy sonnet that lovers make Where weeping willows arch, Can not the passionate soul awake, Of men who outward march. Our harps are hung in the towering trees And the mulga low and grey; Our ballads are sung by every breeze That flogs the sea to spray. We want no lay of a moonlit strand, No idyll of daisied mead, For the rhymes that our hearts can understand Are the rhymes our hearts can read.
We need no monody planned and built, In the shade of an abbey grey, But the pulse and throb of a lusty lilt That quickens the human clay. Tell us of men whose axes bite The hearts of the mountain gum; Sing of the pioneers who fight To waken the desert dumb. We want to hark to the heart within, Of the men who feel and know; For only the men who’ve sampled sin Can write of its joy and woe. Give us a ballad that swings along With the bound of a striving steed; Give us — whether it’s right or wrong — The rhymes our hearts can read.
We want to travel from page to page Through dusty drive and stope, To catch the hiss of the rushing cage, The roll of the winding rope. Give us the rip-saw’s grind and scream As it sunders the giant log; The groan and the creek of the bullock team As it flounders across the bog; The swish and the crack of the stockmen’s whips In the roar of the night stampede. Give us the music that bites and grips — The rhymes our hearts can read!
Sing of the days of hasty camps, When Bayley blazed the track. Write of the shining starry lamps That beacon the wild out-back. Sing to the soul of the hardest case That bears his swag of sin; Of nights of wine and the bold embrace When revelry roped him in; Tell of the times we’ve fought for fun, A wearisome hour to wile, And whether we lost or drew or won Swung out with a cheery smile. Write of the men for whom God waits — Men of a Christ-like creed; Sing of the mates who die for mates, In the rhymes our hearts can read!
Friends will quickly leave you Slight you and deceive you, Or will not believe you, If you have a wrong. Those who hurt will hate you, Enemies will slate you, And with crams disrate you, If you have a wrong. But if you are righted Those who coolly slighted Will be so delighted, Said so all along. But you then can show them That you would forego them, As too well you know them Since you’ve had a wrong. But your friends, God bless them I Take their hands and press them, You’ll cot have to guess them If you’ve had a wrong.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.
Weep for this wounded desperate soul that never seems to heal, alone, vocalising to any passer by. Uncomfortable for some, they turn away, but that won’t stop her swaying, or mend her destructive pain
Pray for this tired old and embittered lady who fought courageously against the colonisers classified as ‘tribal’ whose love across the racial lines meant government sanctioned interference: the Bullyman, welfare, local school teacher – informant, would not relent till Ruby was removed
Three long years of hiding from the tentacles of institutionalised racism, till a moments lapse and then she’s gone Ruby’s gone, like she never existed, nor was ever loved. Rocking to and fro, she still dreams of little Ruby and of that fateful day and wonders what their life could’ve been like without this government sanctioned cruelty
To the Others
You once smiled a friendly smile,
Said we were kin to one another,
Thus with guile for a short while
Became to me a brother.
Then you swamped my way of gladness,
Took my children from my side,
Snapped shut the law book, oh my sadness
At Yirrakalas’ plea denied.
So, I remember Lake George hills,
The thin stick bones of people.
Sudden death, and greed that kills,
That gave you church and steeple.
I cry again for Warrarra men,
Gone from kith and kind,
And I wondered when I would find a pen
To probe your freckled mind.
I mourned again for the Murray tribe,
Gone too without a trace.
I thought of the soldier’s diatribe,
The smile on the governor’s face.
You murdered me with rope, with gun
The massacre of my enclave,
You buried me deep on McLarty’s run
Flung into a common grave.
You propped me up with Christ, red tape,
Tobacco, grog and fears,
Then disease and lordly rape
Through the brutish years.
Now you primly say you’re justified,
And sing of a nation’s glory,
But I think of a people crucified –
The real Australian story.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.
I know not why I love your baffling face, Or, lonely, to your cold caresses steal, Or what the charm persuades my wearied eyes Follow the clues that gleam and, wavering, go, Or spell the syllables of poems new I fancy floating through your gloom or grace! Sphinx of green riddles Time shall not unseal! Mystical knot no stratagem, unties! I do not comprehend you, but I know I am not happy long away from you!
Ardent we come, but that averted gaze Discrowns emotion, and your lips austere, Native to one in whom the gods confide, For us breathe only murmurs dim and lone As are the lullabies of crooning dew Or dwindling dirges of benighted fays For queen marooned in a forgotten mere; Yet though ’tis not for man your witch-words ride Forsaken winds that know not why they moan, I am not happy long away from you!
Do you ignore our presence, or disdain Our pert intrusion on your fettered trees? Is all our knowledge darkness to the light That through their woody crevices you pour, Garnered for them from suns we never knew? Or can it be your brooding peace is pain? Do sighs innumerable build the breeze That mournful walks the soughing waste to-night? But tell me why, if woe be all your store, I am not happy long away from you!
You sprawl your reticence of green and gray Over the no more mute basaltic deep, Below the sister deafness of the sky; Nor myriad boughs’ hypnotic undertones, Shadows in orgy, nor haphazard hue Of flower, nor green delirium will say One shining word to beacon us who creep Amid their bedlamry and forms awry: Yet, Miser, though for bread you give me stones, I am not happy long away from you!
Although we gather only in your glades The tasteless berries of monotony, Withering leaf, frustrated blossom, white Skeleton eucalypt’s unmeaning woe, Or wrack of huddled tea-trees, knouted all askew To serve an old wind’s whim, yet from wan shades Entities ambushed seem to bear to me, On a rhythm craftsman never tameth quite, The Song all poets soaring seek, and so I am not happy long away from you!
Are you the long-forgotten hermitage Wherein immortal cities crept to sleep? And do their rooted folk unresting try, With perfumes wild of some Atlantis old, To link our dormant hearts akin anew? Or young auspicious years do they presage To something watching in me cradled deep, That knows unknown to me the reason why, m an orb’s dim throes, by iron stars controlled, I am not happy long away from you!
Though fierce assault not pilgrim prayer avail, Nor shall we glimpse, however far we seek, The long importuned palace of your pride, Yet you-if darkly-to my faith disclose That duly will Hy-Brasil globe in view! Ay, can it be that glinting is the Grail? Do fairies gather ferns along that creek? Is very God the Merlin that you hide? Ah, can I wonder, necromantic Rose, I am not happy long away from you!
We listen long for words the world awaits, Nor quite lose hope that we shall overhear Strange Huntsmen faint hallooing, or surprise The filmy spears the dark earth-legions throw Across the void against the retinue Auroral of the solar potentates; Yet, though your tongues betray the expectant ear And dappled melancholy foils our eyes, Your trees of whispering knowledge call me so, I am not happy long away from you!
We present this work in honor of the 80th anniversary of the poet’s death.
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up-
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.
And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony – three parts thoroughbred at least –
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die –
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.
But so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, “That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop-lad, you’d better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So he waited sad and wistful – only Clancy stood his friend –
“I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.”
“He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.”
So he went – they found the horses by the big mimosa clump –
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”
So Clancy rode to wheel them – he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.
Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their sway,
Were mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side.”
When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.
He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.
He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.
And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound in their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.
And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 130th birthday.
I am type of singleness…
Dazzling breasts that never bless
With their bared surrendering
Amorous strengths that man may bring
To their conquest. They are free
As two wild white mares may be—
Two young mares that scream and rear
Should a stallion trample near—
Fierce as panthers, fair as doves,
Spurning yoke and curb of loves…
Loins and thighs and knees of snow
Never stress of love may know.
As far mountain-snows that lie
In a pallid, holy sky,
By a fainting wanderer seen
From a midnight-dark ravine,
Spur his thirst and hurt his soul,
So I stand—the hopeless goal
Of the finite world’s desire…
All the flowers of noonday’s fire
Fade before my sovereign white
(Hueless hue of death’s delight).
Tallest lilies round my knees
In their pallor seem to freeze.
‘Neath my huntress-sandalled feet
Bruised roses yield their sweet,
Like crushed hearts that redly wet
Love’s bare feet upon them set.
Am I crueller than Love—
I, the god no prayer can move,
I, the buried fountain sealed,
I, the beauty unrevealed,
I, the vase of unlipped wine,
I, the never-entered shrine,
I, the smooth, unridden steed,
I, the untrodden mountain-mead
Thick with starry, virgin flowers
Where the footless cliff uptowers?…
Love’s keen feet are bloody-red:
Round the fervent marriage-bed
Taloned roses, vine on vine,
Like fanged and lovely serpents twine—
A bed of tears and fever-drouth,
Striving limbs and sobbing mouth,
Famished flame and slain desire,
And the muted Orphic lyre…
Have I offered bitter bread?—
Though your hungers are unfed,
Though my feet you still pursue
Over glimmering leagues of dew,
Wonder is the wood before you,
Beauty is the planet o’er you…
Only to Endymion dead
Did I bow my long-tressed head—
Sealed his eye-lids with the kiss
Of inviolate Artemis.
I, th’immortal dream that flies
Ever from life-dazzled eyes;
I, the joy forever sought,
I, the quarry never caught
(Silver bird or pallid fawn
Fleeing through the dews of dawn)
I, the snow-white heart of heat
Where all colours ruse and meet,
I, the death wherein is life,
I, the unshaken core of strife—
When you grasp me, Hunter-soul,
God-like you have grasped the Whole!
We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.
So hungry-sensitive that he
craves day and night the pap of praise,
he’ll ease his gripes or fingerpaint
in heartsblood on a public page.
The ordinary world must be
altered to circumvent his rage.
He’ll tell, with stylish Angst of course,
the inmost secrets of our bed.
Words are far worse than drugs; there is
no hope of surfeit or remorse.
The world lies wide, and warm. No kiss,
no child, no prayer will keep him here.
I’ll wash the floors. He’ll watch the stars.
I’ll salt his life with common sense.
He’ll suck my sap and vigour down
the crude mouth of his private hell.
Visions have no equivalents.
He’ll die of drink and candy bars.