January 26th

Bush & National Poetry

For more dinky-di, classic Australian poems, visit Poetry.com.au

My Country
Dorothea Mackellar

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft, dim skies -
I know but I cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding plains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold rush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back three-fold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...

A opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

The Vagabond
Henry Lawson

White handkerchiefs wave from the short black pier
As we glide to the grand old sea —
But the song of my heart is for none to hear
If one of them waves for me.
A roving, roaming life is mine,
Ever by field or flood —
For not far back in my father's line
Was a dash of the Gipsy blood.

Flax and tussock and fern,
Gum and mulga and sand,
Reef and palm — but my fancies turn
Ever away from land;
Strange wild cities in ancient state,
Range and river and tree,
Snow and ice. But my star of fate
Is ever across the sea.

A god-like ride on a thundering sea,
When all but the stars are blind —
A desperate race from Eternity
With a gale-and-a-half behind.
A jovial spree in the cabin at night,
A song on the rolling deck,
A lark ashore with the ships in sight,
Till — a wreck goes down with a wreck.

A smoke and a yarn on the deck by day,
When life is a waking dream,
And care and trouble so far away
That out of your life they seem.
A roving spirit in sympathy,
Who has travelled the whole world o'er —
My heart forgets, in a week at sea,
The trouble of years on shore.

A rolling stone! — 'tis a saw for slaves —
Philosophy false as old —
Wear out or break 'neath the feet of knaves,
Or rot in your bed of mould!
But I'd rather trust to the darkest skies
And the wildest seas that roar,
Or die, where the stars of Nations rise,
In the stormy clouds of war.

Cleave to your country, home, and friends,
Die in a sordid strife —
You can count your friends on your finger ends
In the critical hours of life.
Sacrifice all for the family's sake,
Bow to their selfish rule!
Slave till your big soft heart they break —
The heart of the family fool.

Domestic quarrels, and family spite,
And your Native Land may be
Controlled by custom, but, come what might,
The rest of the world for me.
I'd sail with money, or sail without! —
If your love be forced from home,
And you dare enough, and your heart be stout,
The world is your own to roam.

I've never a love that can sting my pride,
Nor a friend to prove untrue;
For I leave my love ere the turning tide,
And my friends are all too new.
The curse of the Powers on a peace like ours,
With its greed and its treachery —
A stranger's hand, and a stranger land,
And the rest of the world for me!

But why be bitter? The world is cold
To one with a frozen heart;
New friends are often so like the old,
They seem of the past a part —
As a better part of the past appears,
When enemies, parted long,
Are come together in kinder years,
With their better nature strong.

I had a friend, ere my first ship sailed,
A friend that I never deserved —
For the selfish strain in my blood prevailed
As soon as my turn was served.
And the memory haunts my heart with shame —
Or, rather, the pride that's there;
In different guises, but soul the same,
I meet him everywhere.

I had a chum. When the times were tight
We starved in Australian scrubs;
We froze together in parks at night,
And laughed together in pubs.
And I often hear a laugh like his
From a sense of humour keen,
And catch a glimpse in a passing phiz
Of his broad, good-humoured grin.

And I had a love — 'twas a love to prize —
But I never went back again...
I have seen the light of her kind brown eyes
In many a face since then.

The sailors say 'twill be rough to-night,
As they fasten the hatches down,
The south is black, and the bar is white,
And the drifting smoke is brown.
The gold has gone from the western haze,
The sea-birds circle and swarm —
But we shall have plenty of sunny days,
And little enough of storm.

The hill is hiding the short black pier,
As the last white signal's seen;
The points run in, and the houses veer,
And the great bluff stands between.
So darkness swallows each far white speck
On many a wharf and quay.
The night comes down on a restless deck, —
Grim cliffs — and — The Open Sea!

The Man from Snowy River
A.B. Paterson College

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 still 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 stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the 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 way,
Where 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 timber 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 stringy barks 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 on 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 reedbeds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

A Cricket Casualty
C J Dennis

My dear, I'm awful shorry
   'Bout gettin' home sho late.
I orra been in hoursh ago;
   But you know how I hate
To biss a crit of micket -
   (Shuse me) I mean to say,
To criss a mit of bicket -
   Cricket! Ash right. Hooray!

In-toshicated? Nonshense!
   Just need a lirrle rest.
I shush been round to Johnson's place
   Lish'nin' to the Test.
Great game! It's nervish teshion
   Has made me feel like thish.
You know how I like cricket -
   I wouldn't bit a mish.

Hooray for Misher Bra'man!
   Anurraa fourer hit!
Hoo - what? Don't be inshultin'!
   I'm norra leash bit lit!
Not even s'ightly shrozzled.
   Jush had a lirrle spot
Each time they hirra fourer -
   Mean to call tharra - lot?

My dear, don't get - hic - cited,
   I wouldn't hissa mit.
Three sheers for good old Washaname!
   Anurra boun'ry hit! ...
Hic! Struse me, love. Per-haps you're right,
   I berra gessum rest.
Jush beein - Hum! You know, Jolson's place -
   Lish'nin' to - the Test.

Australian Federation (Sonnet)
William Gay

FROM all division let our land be free,
   For God has made her one: complete she lies
   Within the unbroken circle of the skies,
And round her indivisible the sea
Breaks on her single shore; while only we,
   Her foster children, bound with sacred ties
   Of one dear blood, one storied enterprise,
Are negligent of her integrity.—
Her seamless garment, at great Mammon’s nod,
   With hands unfilial we have basely rent,
   With petty variance our souls are spent,
And ancient kinship underfoot is trod:
   O let us rise, united, penitent,
And be one people,—mighty, serving God!