Artemis

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 130th birthday.

Dulcie Deamer
Australian
1890 – 1972

 

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!

Dichterliebe

We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Gwen Harwood
Australian
1920 – 1995

 

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.

You and Yellow Air

John Shaw Neilson
Australian
1872 – 1942

 

I dream of an old kissing-time
And the flowered follies there;
In the dim place of cherry-trees,
Of you, and yellow air.

It was an age of babbling,
When the players would play
Mad with the wine and miracles
Of a charmed holiday.

Bewildered was the warm earth
With whistling and sighs,
And a young foal spoke all his heart
With diamonds for eyes.

You were of Love’s own colour
In eyes and heart and hair;
In the dim place of cherry-trees
Ridden by yellow air.

It was the time when red lovers
With the red fevers burn;
A time of bells and silver seeds
And cherries on the turn.

Children looked into tall trees
And old eyes looked behind;
God in His glad October
No sullen man could find.

Out of your eyes a magic
Fell lazily as dew,
And every lad with lad’s eyes
Made summer love to you.

It was a reign of roses,
Of blue flowers for the eye,
And the rustling of green girls
Under a white sky.

I dream of an old kissing-time
And the flowered follies there,
In the dim place of cherry-trees,
Of you, and yellow air.

In a Southern Garden

Dorothea MacKellar
Australian
1885 – 1968

 

When the tall bamboos are clicking to the restless little breeze,
And bats begin their jerky skimming flight,
And the creamy scented blossoms of the dark pittosporum trees,
Grow sweeter with the coming of the night.

And the harbour in the distance lies beneath a purple pall,
And nearer, at the garden’s lowest fringe,
Loud the water soughs and gurgles ‘mid the rocks below the wall,
Dark-heaving, with a dim uncanny tinge

Of a green as pale as beryls, like the strange faint-coloured flame
That burns around the Women of the Sea:
And the strip of sky to westward which the camphorlaurels frame,
Has turned to ash-of-rose and ivory—

And a chorus rises valiantly from where the crickets hide,
Close-shaded by the balsams drooping down—
It is evening in a garden by the kindly water-side,
A garden near the lights of Sydney town!

Beach Burial

Kenneth Slessor
Australian
1901 – 1971

 

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin –

‘Unknown seaman’ – the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men’s lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

Ballad of the Totems

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

Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Australian
1920 – 1993

 

My father was Noonuccal man and kept old tribal way,
His totem was the Carpet Snake, whom none must ever slay;
But mother was of Peewee clan, and loudly she expressed
The daring view that carpet snakes were nothing but a pest.

Now one lived inside with us in full immunity,
For no one dared to interfere with father’s stern decree:
A mighty fellow ten feet long, and as we lay in bed
We kids could watch him round a beam not far above our head.

Only the dog was scared of him, we’d hear its whines and growls,
But mother fiercely hated him because he took her fowls.
You should have heard her diatribes that flowed in angry torrents,
With words you’d never see in print, except in D.H. Lawrence.

“I kill that robber,” she would scream, fierce as a spotted cat;
“You see that bulge inside of him? My speckly hen make that!”
But father’s loud and strict command made even mother quake;
I think he’d sooner kill a man than kill a carpet snake.

That reptile was a greedy guts, and as each bulge digested
He’d come down on the hunt at night, as appetite suggested.
We heard his stealthy slithering sound across the earthen floor,
While the dog gave a startled yelp and bolted out the door.

Then over in the chicken-yard hysterical fowls gave tongue,
Loud frantic squawks accompanied by the barking of the mung,
Until at last the racket passed, and then to solve the riddle,
Next morning he was back up there with a new bulge in his middle.

When father died we wailed and cried, our grief was deep and sore,
And strange to say from that sad day the snake was seen no more.
The wise old men explained to us: “It was his tribal brother,
And that is why it done a guy” – but some looked hard at mother.

She seemed to have a secret smile, her eyes were smug and wary,
She looked about as innocent as the cat that ate the pet canary.
We never knew, but anyhow (to end this tragic rhyme)
I think we all had snake for tea one day about that time.

Poppies

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Christopher Brennan
Australian
1870 – 1932

 

Where the poppy-banners flow
in and out amongst the corn,
spotless morn
ever saw us come and go

hand in hand, as girl and boy
warming fast to youth and maid,
half afraid
at the hint of passionate joy

still in Summer’s rose unshown:
yet we heard nor knew a fear;
strong and clear
summer’s eager clarion blown

from the sunrise to the set:
now our feet are far away,
night and day,
do the old-known spots forget?

Sweet, I wonder if those hours
breathe of us now parted thence,
if a sense
of our love-birth thrill their flowers.

Poppies flush all tremulous —
has our love grown into them,
root and stem;
are the red blooms red with us?

Summer’s standards are outroll’d,
other lovers wander slow;
I would know
if the morn is that of old.

Here our days bloom fuller yet,
happiness is all our task;
still I ask —
do the vanish’d days forget?

Burn the Bridges

Lionel Fogarty
Australian
b. 1958

 

You are vulnerable as glass are fall to peaces
When toiled of the stripping of our prides

You are restless in life
When we’ve born another to fight

All the bridges of your music will burn as soon
As you walk to the centre of our problems

You might have moved to our sacred rights
But your price is high in

Interest rates and then you prowl around
Unrespectful to all black familys homes

You are the dat watch protect and
Laugh as the blackfellas rise

The waiting for the sunrise is like waiting for a past
Of people to come and proclaim the land

But sitting here blocking out the unjustifiable sins
Sins are what you are doing

The Bush Rangers

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Edward Harrington
Australian
1895 – 1966

 

Four horseman rode out from the heart of the range,
Four horseman with aspects forbidding and strange.
They were booted and spurred, they were armed to the teeth,
And they frowned as they looked at the valley beneath,
As forward they rode through the rocks and the fern –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

Ned Kelly drew rein and he shaded his eyes –
‘The town’s at our mercy! See yonder it lies!
To hell with the troopers!’ – he shook his clenched fist –
‘We will shoot them like dogs if they dare to resist!’
And all of them nodded, grim-visaged and stern –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

Through the gullies and creeks they rode silently down;
They stuck-up the station and raided the town;
They opened the safe and they looted the bank;
They laughed and were merry, they ate and they drank.
Then off to the ranges they went with their gold –
Oh! never were bandits more reckless and bold.

But time brings its punishment, time travels fast –
And the outlaws were trapped in Glenrowan at last,
Where three of them died in the smoke and the flame,
And Ned Kelly came back – to the last he was game.
But the Law shot him down (he was fated to hang),
And that was the end of the bushranging gang.

Whatever their faults and whatever their crimes,
Their deeds lend romance to those faraway times.
They have gone from the gullies they haunted of old,
And nobody knows where they buried their gold.
To the ranges they loved they will never return –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

But at times when I pass through that sleepy old town
Where the far-distant peaks of Strathbogie look down
I think of the days when those grim ranges rang
To the galloping hooves of the bushranging gang.
Though the years bring oblivion, time brings a change,
The ghosts of the Kellys still ride from the range.

After All

Henry Lawson
Australian
1867 – 1922

 

The brooding ghosts of Australian night have gone from the bush and town;
My spirit revives in the morning breeze,
though it died when the sun went down;
The river is high and the stream is strong,
and the grass is green and tall,
And I fain would think that this world of ours is a good world after all.

The light of passion in dreamy eyes, and a page of truth well read,
The glorious thrill in a heart grown cold of the spirit I thought was dead,
A song that goes to a comrade’s heart, and a tear of pride let fall —
And my soul is strong! and the world to me is a grand world after all!

Let our enemies go by their old dull tracks,
and theirs be the fault or shame
(The man is bitter against the world who has only himself to blame);
Let the darkest side of the past be dark, and only the good recall;
For I must believe that the world, my dear, is a kind world after all.

It well may be that I saw too plain, and it may be I was blind;
But I’ll keep my face to the dawning light,
though the devil may stand behind!
Though the devil may stand behind my back, I’ll not see his shadow fall,
But read the signs in the morning stars of a good world after all.

Rest, for your eyes are weary, girl — you have driven the worst away —
The ghost of the man that I might have been is gone from my heart to-day;
We’ll live for life and the best it brings till our twilight shadows fall;
My heart grows brave, and the world, my girl, is a good world after all.