Ballade of Home

We present this work in honor of Canberra Day.

Enid Derham
1882 – 1941


Let others prate of Greece and Rome,
And towns where they may never be,
The muse should wander nearer home.
My country is enough for me;
Her wooded hills that watch the sea,
Her inland miles of springing corn,
At Macedon or Barrakee—
I love the land where I was born.
On Juliet smile the autumn stars
And windswept plains by Winchelsea,
In summer on their sandy bars
Her rivers loiter languidly.
Where singing waters fall and flee
The gullied ranges dip to Lorne
With musk and gum and myrtle tree—
I love the land where I was born.

The wild things in her tangles move
As blithe as fauns in Sicily,
Where Melbourne rises roof by roof
The tall ships serve her at the quay,
And hers the yoke of liberty
On stalwart shoulders lightly worn,
Where thought and speech and prayer are free—
I love the land where I was born.

Princes and lords of high degree,
Smile, and we fling you scorn for scorn,
In hope and faith and memory
I love the land where I was born.


L.K. Holt
b. 1982


At oldest moon the tanker is aimed at shore
and scuttled like a much smaller thing;
its prow cocked in the unnatural questioning
of a carcass head; its waterlines, doing marked done.
Empty oil-barrels thrown to sea, herded to shore,
then the loosest fittings, then steeliest ego-structure:
all parts can be turned to mutiny in the end.
In the hull’s darkness a man, as taken as Jonah,
falls off a girder and ends forty feet below,
straddling a crossbeam that splits his pelvis in two.

The Digger’s Daughter

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

Louisa Lawson
1848 – 1920


The waratah has stained her cheek,
Her lips are even brighter,
Like virgin quartz without a streak
Her teeth are, but far whiter.
Her eyes are large arid soft and dark,
And clear as running water;
And straight as any stringy bark
Is Lil, the digger’s daughter.

She’ll wash a prospect quick and well,
And deftly rise the ladle;
The weight of gold at sight she’ll tell,
And work with tub and cradle.
She was her father’s only mate,
And wound up wash and water,
She worked all day and studied late,
For all she knows he taught her.

She stood to wait the word below.
A test for woman, rather;
When I sprang to the windlass bow,
And helped her land her father,
She turned her pretty face on me
To thank me, and I thought her
The grandest girl of all her race
Sweet Lil, the digger’s daughter.

And when my luck began to change
I grew a trifle bolder,
And told my love, but it was strange
She knew before I told her.
She said that she would be my wife,
Then home I proudly brought her,
To be my loving mate for life,
But still the digger’s daughter.


We present this work in honor of Australia Day.

Eve Langley
1904 – 1974


In a white gully among fungus red
Where serpent logs lay hissing at the air,
I found a kangaroo. Tall dewy,dead,
So like a woman, she lay silent there.
Her ivory hands, black-nailed, crossed on her breast
Her skin of sun and moon hues, fallen cold
her brown eyes lay like rivers come to rest
And death had made her black mouth harsh and old
Beside her in the ashes I sat deep
And mourned for her, but had no native song
To flatter death, while down the ploughlands steep
Dark young Camelli whistled loud and long,
‘Love, liberty and Italy are all.’
Broad golden was his breast against the sun
I saw his wattle whip rise high and fall
Across the slim mare’s flanks, and one by one
She drew the furrows after her as he
Flapped like a gull behind her, climbing high
Chanting his oaths and lashing soundingly,
While from the mare came once a blowing sigh.
The dew upon the kangaroo’s white side
Had melted. Time was whirling high around,
Like the thin woomera, and from heaven wide
He, the bull-roarer, made continuous sound
Incarnate lay my country by my hand:
Her long hot days, bushfires, and speaking rains
Her mornings of opal and the copper band
Of smoke around the sunlight on the plains.
Globed in fire-bodies the meat- ants ran
to taste her flesh and linked us as we lay,
Forever Australian, listening to a man
From careless Italy, swearing at our day.
When golden-lipped, the eagle-hawks came down
Hissing and whistling to eat of lovely her
And the blowflies with their shields of purple brown
Plied hatching to and fro across her fur,
I burnt her with the logs, and stood all day
Among the ashes, pressing home the flame
Till woman, logs and dreams were scorched away
And native with the night, that land from whence they came.

Ship from the Thames

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.

Rex Ingamells
1913 – 1955


Stay, ship from Thames with fettered sails
in Sydney Cove, this ebb of tide;
your gear untangled from the gales,
imprisoned at your anchor ride.

The portly gentleman who are
the pillars of the land come down
and greet the Newcomes voyaged far
to make a name in Sydney town.

The Recoats, too with shouldered arms,
marshal pale wretches from the hold,
who, cramped in tempest and in calms
have learned to do as they are told.

Flash phaetons fill the streets to-day;
inn-tables rock to sailor fists;
the Governor, while the town is gay,
checks over new assignment lists.

Aloof, the slandered and abhorred
behold from of a quarried rise,
the cause of all the stir aboard
a fiercer glitter in their eyes.

Fire in the Heavens

We present this work in honor of the 90th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Christopher Brennan
1870 – 1932


Fire in the heavens, and fire along the hills,
and fire made solid in the flinty stone,
thick-mass’d or scatter’d pebble, fire that fills
the breathless hour that lives in fire alone.

This valley, long ago the patient bed
of floods that carv’d its antient amplitude,
in stillness of the Egyptian crypt outspread,
endures to drown in noon-day’s tyrant mood.

Behind the veil of burning silence bound,
vast life’s innumerous busy littleness
is hush’d in vague-conjectured blur of sound
that dulls the brain with slumbrous weight, unless

some dazzling puncture let the stridence throng
in the cicada’s torture-point of song.

Bound for the Lord-Knows-Where

We present this work in honor of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Henry Lawson
1867 – 1922


“Where are you going with your horse and bike,
And the townsfolk still at rest?
Where are you going, with your swag and pack,
And the night still in the West?
Your clothes are worn, and your cheques are gone,
But your eyes are free from care?”
“We’re bushmen down for a spree in town,
And we’re bound for the Lord-knows-where,
Old chap-we’re bound for the Lord-knows-where.”
(There are great dark scrubs in the Lord-knows-where,
Where they fight it out alone,
There are wide wide plains in the Lord-knows-where,
Where a man’s soul is his own.
There is healthy work, there is healthy rest,
There is peace from self-torture there,
And the glorious freedom from paltriness!
And they’re bound for the Lord-knows-where.)
“Now, where are you going in your Sunday suit,
And a bag for your second best?
Now where are you going with your chest of tools,
And the old togs in the chest?
With your six clean shirts and a pound of ‘weed’,
And enough for a third-class fare?”
“Oh! I’ll be afloat by the very next boat,
And I’m bound for the Lord-knows-where,
Old chap-I’m bound for the Lord-knows-where.”
(There are wide wide seas to the Lord-knows-where,
Where a man might have a spell,
The things turn up in the Lord-knows-where that
We waited for too well.
There’s a stranger land in the Lord-knows-where,
And a show for the stranger there.
There is war and quake more work to make,
And he’s bound for the Lord-knows-where.)
“Now where are you going with your Gladstone bag,
With your shirt-case and valise?
Now where are you going with your cap and shoes,
And your looks of joyful peace?
Now where are you going with your money belts,
And your drafts on the first bank there?”
“‘We have made a hit,’ or ‘we’ve made a bit,’
And we’re bound for the Lord-knows-where,
Old chap-we’re bound for the Lord-knows-where.”
(There are sinful ports in the Lord-knows-where,
There are marvellous sights to see,
There are high old games in the Lord-knows-where,
That were known to you and me.
There is love and music, and life and light from
The Heads to “Lester” Square,
There is more than space for their high young hearts
There is safety or danger there,
And they’ll come back wild, or they’ll come back tamed
When they’ve been to the Lord-knows-where.)
“Now where am I going with my whisky flask,
And with little else beside?
Now where am I going with my second shirt,
To wear while the first is dried?
I have marred my name, and I’ve lost my fame,
But my hope’s in good repair.
There are lies about, there are warrants out-
And I’m bound for the Lord-knows-where,
Old Chap-and I’m bound for the Lord-knows-where.”
(There’s a rise and fall of the sloping decks,
That is good for a soul in pain;
There’s the drowsy rest on the sunlight sea
Till your strength comes back again.
Oh, the wild mad spirit is hypnotized,
And nerves are tranquil there,
And the past is hushed in forgetfulness,
On the road to the Lord-knows-where.)


We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Dulcie Deamer
1890 – 1972


Cast back the doors! I stifle! Let the air
Of the outer night rush in and seize my hair
As with swift hands! My slender body bare

Stretches, and sighs, and tautens like a thong…
Oh, every hour of daylight does me wrong!

Why are the nights so brief, the days so long?

The days of mask-like faces, formalness.

Of downcast eyelid, pearl-entwisted tress;

I am the Emperor’s wife; the ceilings press

Downward trap-fashion; rafters sheathed in gold
Are as cross-beams of pits that take and hold—

Tall pits of marble, glassy-smooth and cold.

I am the Emperor s wife … I wore the hide
Of a she-leopard once; I rode the tide
Of splendid, savage seas, my glistening side

Compressed by triton-arms; I leapt and screamed
Where down the hill the naked Maenads streamed.
Beneath the droop of boughs, the faun’s eyes gleamed

Goat-golden. Oh, he found me where I lay!

I was a striving, but a laughing prey;

Crushed, conquered, wed—I knew not night or day.

Earth’s unmixed passion gorges all my veins—

The scourging suns, the blinding summer rains,

The breast-white mountains and the panting plains.

What do I know of templed gods, and laws,

Honour, and duty? All my essence draws
From older founts. I see the clamped, stark jaws

Of rearing centaurs in their mating-fights;

The smell of blood and sweat and love delights
My widened nostrils. Oh, those forest nights!—

The crying dark, the heavy blood-like dew,

The feet of Life and Death that doth pursue,

The lusty, rank, insatiate satyr-crew…

1 am the Emperors wife—no! I am I!

The hot Earth bore me: though I live or die
111 seek my old companions where they lie.

Stain both my lids with blue, my soles with red;
Sweeten with myrrh the black hair o’er me shed;

I will rise up and leave this empty bed.

A straight, thin, purple robe is all I’ll wear;

111 take no veil; unto my knees my hair
Falls. Am I pale and burning? Am I fair

As some lithe forest-thing with bloody lips?

Now—now to steal where the dark city dips
In reeking alleys, and the river slips…

My jungles! Quick with lawless, fearless life;

The teeth of love, the death-fang of a knife.

And satyr-brawls, and Maenad-women’s strife.

ril enter by some strait, scarce-lighted door,

Cross with bare feet the dank and wine-wet floor—
Ah! Now I am the Emperor’s wife no more!

Swordsman, Greek boxer, Goth—they wait for me;
Now does my body live—now am I free!

My shredded robe slips downward to my knee.

I am as naked as Life’s naked flame!

None ever spoke of law or coward shame
In that spring-fevered world from which I came
I fear no death. Let swift sleep end the game!

The Gumsucker’s Dirge

Joseph Furphy
1843 – 1912


Sing the evil days we see, and the worse that are to be,
In such doggerel as dejection will allow,
We are pilgrims, sorrow-led, with no Beulah on ahead,
No elysian Up the Country for us now.

For the settlements extend till they seem to have no end;
Spreading silently, you can’t tell when or how;
And a home-infested land stretches out on every hand,
So there is no Up the Country for us now.

On the six-foot Mountain peak, up and down the dubious creek,
Where the cockatoos alone should make a row,
There the rooster tears his throat, to announce with homely note,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Where the dingo should be seen, sounds the Army tambourine,
While the hardest case surrenders with a vow;
And the church-bell, going strong, makes us feel we’ve lived too long,
Since there is no Up the Country for us now.

And along the pine-ridge side, where the mallee-hen should hide,
You will see some children driving home a cow;
Whilst, ballooning on a line, female garniture gives sign,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Here, in place of emu’s eggs, you will find surveyors’ pegs,
And the culvert where there ought to be a slough;
There, a mortise in the ground, shows the digger has been round,
And has left no Up the Country for us now.

And across this fenced-in view, like our friend the well-sung Jew,
Goes the swaggy, with a frown upon his brow,
He is cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d, for the thought is on his mind,
That there is no Up the Country for him now.

And the boy that bolts from home has no decent place to roam,
No region with adventure to endow,
But his ardent spirit cools at the sight of farms and schools,
Hence, there is no Up the Country for him now.

Such a settling, spreading curse must infallibly grow worse,
Till the saltbush disappears before the plough,
But the future, evil-fraught, is forgotten in the thought,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

We must do a steady shift, and devote our minds to thrift,
Till we reach at length the standard of the Chow,
For we’re crumpled side by side in a world no longer wide,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.

Better we were cold and still, with our famous Jim and Bill,
Beneath the interdicted wattle-bough,
For the angels made our date five-and-twenty years too late,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 215th birthday.

06-26 Tompson
Charles Tompson
1807 – 1883

My Sylvia frowns on her love:
Ah! hope from this bosom is fled,
That syren that o’er my fond heart,
So lately her influence shed.

And must I for ever despair
To own the dear girl I adore?
And will the bright day-spring of love
Ne’er brighten my hemisphere more?

‘Tis past!—on the heart that is her’s
She frowns with contempt and disdain,
And seems to exult in the cause
That gives my fond bosom such pain.

Yet, trust me, dear Sylvia, this lip
That sighs nought but mis’ry and you,
Is the harbinger pure of a heart
That will ever—yes, ever prove true!