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Australia

Poetry

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Index

  1. ANZAC
  2. The Australian Sunrise
  3. Bell-Birds
  4. September in Australia
  5. The Last of His Tribe
  6. Waratah and Wattle
  7. My Country
  8. The Man from Snowy River
  9. ANZAC
  10. Out Back
  11. The Old Bush School
  12. Laughing Mary
  13. The Women of the West


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The ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) tradition is very important to the Australian psyche. It relates to a "glorious" defeat which commenced on April 25, 1915. The Australian troops, under the command of British generals, began an assault on Turkish positions at Gallipoli. The campaign was poorly organised, troops landed at the wrong spot, the Turkish soldiers in very well defended positions etc. The Australian and New Zealand "diggers" fought bravely but eventually had to withdraw. The bravery of the men in attempting to achieve the ultimately impossible task, set the standard for bravery and fortitude throughout Australasia.

Anzac Cove

ANZAC Day, April 25th is a public holiday and is the most emotionally celebrated holiday in the country. Every city and town will have a Dawn Remembrance Service and a march through the streets. Almost every hotel in the country will have an organised game of Two-Up after the march. That is the one day of the year when it is legal.

The movie "Gallipoli" is a moving tribute to this important part of our history.

Light Horsemen

ANZAC


by Bartlett Adamson

By purple hills and opalescent sea
And sunlit leagues of plain they lived, and they
Were summery-hearted all, and life was gay,
And peace was theirs, and love, and liberty.
And when the clarion sounded suddenly,
They went, a rollicking band of boys at play
Tilted at doom, and there, at Anzac Bay,
Died...but they taught the world what men they be.

And Anzac now is an enchanted shore;
A tragic splendor, and a holy name;
A deed eternity will still acclaim;
A loss that crowns the victories of yore;
A glittering golden dome for evermore
Shining above the minarets of fame.

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The Australian Sunrise


by James L Cuthbertson

The Morning Star paled slowly, the Cross hung low to the sea
And down the shadowy reaches the tide came swirling free.
The lustrous purple blackness of the soft Australian night
Waned in the grey awakening that heralded the light;
Still in the dying darkness, still in the forest dim
The pearly dew of the dawning clung to each giant limb,
Till the sun came up from ocean, red with the cold sea mist,
And smote on the limestone ridges, and the shining tree-tops kissed;
Then the fiery Scorpion vanished, the magpie's note was heard,
And the wind in the sheoak wavered and the honeysuckles stirred;
The airy golden vapour rose from the river breast,
The kingfisher came darting out of his crannied nest,
And the bulrushes and reed-beds put off their sallow grey
And burnt with cloudy crimson at the dawning of the day.



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The Bell Bird is a small Australian bird with a very distinctive call. It sounds like tinkling bells. It is very beautiful to hear as you walk through the bush. You don't hear them in the cities at all. These are just a couple of verses from a longer poem.

Bell-Birds


by Henry Kendall

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountain, where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;
Through brakes of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers.
And softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.


The silver-voiced bell-birds, the darlings of day-time,
They sing in September their songs of the May-time.
When shadows wax strong, and the thunder-bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather,
And straightway the hues of the feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.

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Just a few verses.

September in Australia


by Henry Kendall

Grey Winter hath gone like a wearisome guest,
And, behold, for repayment,
September comes in with the wind from the west
And the spring in her raiment!
The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers,
While the forest discovers
Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours,
And the music of lovers.

September, the maid with the swift silver feet!
She glides and she graces
The valleys of coolness, the slopes of the heat,
With her blossomy traces;
Sweet month, with a mouth that is made of a rose,
She lightens and lingers
In spots where the harp of the evening glows,
Attuned by her fingers.

We, having a secret to others unknown,
In the cool mountain mosses,
May whisper together, September alone
Of our loves and our losses.
One word for her beauty, and one for the grace
She gave to the hours;
And then we may kiss her, and suffer her face
To sleep with the flowers.


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Aboriginal Elder

The Last of His Tribe


by Henry Kendall

He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,
Or think of the loneliness there-
Of the loss and the loneliness there.

The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
And turn to their coverts for fear;
But he sits in the ashes and lets them pass
Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear-
With the nullah, the sling and the spear.

Uloola, behold him! The thunder that breaks
On the tops of the rocks with the rain,
And the wind which drives up with the salt of the lakes,
Have made him a hunter again-
A hunter and fisher again.

For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought;
But he dreams of the hunts of yore,
And of foes that he sought, and of fights that he fought
With those who will battle no more-
Who will go to the battle no more.

It is well that the water which tumbles and fills
Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an echo rolls out from the side of the hills,
And he starts at a wonderful song-
At the sound of a wonderful song.

And he sees, through the rents of the scattered fogs,
The corroboree warlike and grim,
And the lubra who sat by the fire on the logs,
To watch, like a mourner, for him-
Like a mother and mourner for him.

Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face-
Like a marvelous dream in his face?

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Wattle

Waratah and Wattle


by Henry Lawson

Though poor and in trouble I wander alone,
With a rebel cockade in my hat;
Though friends may desert me, and kindred disown,
My country will never do that!
You may sing of the Shamrock, the Thistle, the Rose,
Or the three in a bunch if you will;
But I know of a country that gathered all those,
And I love the great land where the Waratah grows,
And the Wattle-bough blooms on the hill.

WaratahAustralia! Australia! so fair to behold-
While the blue sky is arching above;
The stranger should never have need to be told,
that the Wattle-bloom means that her heart is of gold,
And the Waratah's red with her love.

Australia! Australia! most beautiful name,
Most kindly and bountiful land;
I would die every death that might save her from shame,
If a black cloud should rise on the strand;
But whatever the quarrel, whoever the foes,
Let them come! Let them come when they will!
Though the struggle be grim, 'tis Australia that knows
That her children shall fight while the Waratah grows,
And the Wattle blooms out on the hill.

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This is perhaps the most well known of all Australian poems. At some time during their primary school education, all children will be required to commit the poem to memory. This has often meant that phrases such as "where lithe lianas coil", have been remembered as "where nice bananas boil"! There is also continuing controversy over whether our mountain ranges are "ragged" or "rugged".

Country scene

My Country


by 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 cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
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 hush 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 threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
That filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze...

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

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Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson has become a symbol of the outback for many Australians. He was born in country NSW in 1864 and later educated in Sydney. He became a lawyer, war correspondent, soldier and sportsman as well as a poet. His poems capture the spirit of the bush. His two most famous are "The Man from Snowy River" and "Waltzing Matilda". Waltzing Matilda is the unofficial Australian National Anthem! The Man from Snowy River has been made into both films and television series. It is a long narrative but the excitment builds and the climax will have you in tears.

Snowy Mountains scene

The Man from Snowy River


by Banjo Paterson

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 from 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 learned 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 tred;
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.

Mountain scenery"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 ride,
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 tred,
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 hill side at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle til he landed safe and sound
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther 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 hill side the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed til their side were white with foam;
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Til 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 head 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.

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Lonesome Pine was just one of the battlefields at Gallipoli where ANZACs fought and fell.

The Man with the Donkey

ANZAC


by John Sandes

Say not that they are dead who fell
By Anzac's storied Cove.
The better of them shall dwell
Within the land they love.
And though they fell by Lonesome Pine
'Neath Northern stars, apart,
Their home lies southward of the Line,
In Australasia's heart.

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Henry Lawson is often called "The People's Poet". He was born in 1867, raised in country NSW and moved to Sydney in his late teens. He was politically aware and his writings exposed both social injustice and life in the bush. The poem "Out Back" graphically depicts the life of a swagman during the depression of the 1890's. Men walked from homestead to homestead hoping for either a feed or work - often shearing sheep or working in the shearing shed. Sometimes there was simply not enough work to go around.

Country scene

Out Back


by Henry Lawson

The old year went, and the new returned, in the withering weeks of drought;
The cheque was spent that the shearer earned, and the sheds were all cut out;
The publican's words were short and few, and the publican's looks were black-
And the time had come, as the shearer knew, to carry his swag Out Back.

p For time means tucker, and tramp you must, where the scrubs and plains are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the dust and heat- when summer is on the track-
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, they carry their swags Out Back.

He tramped away from the shanty there, when the days were long and hot,
With never a soul to know or care if he died on the track or not.
The poor of the city have friends in woe, no matter how much they lack,
But only God and the swagman know how a poor man fares Out Back.

He begged his way on the parched Paroo and the Warrego tracks once more,
And lived like a dog, as the swagmen do, til the western station shore;
But men were many, and sheds were full, for work in the town was slack-
The traveller never got hands in wool, though he tramped for a year Out Back.

In stifling noons when his back was wrung by its load, and the air seemed dead,
And the water warmed in the bag that hung to his aching arm like lead.
For in times of flood, when plains were seas and the scrubs were cold and black,
He ploughed in mud to his trembling knees, and paid for his sins Out Back.

And dirty and careless and old he wore, as his lamp of hope grew dim;
He tramped for years, til the swag he bore seemed part of himself to him.
As a bullock drags in the sandy ruts, he followed the dreary track,
With never a thought but to reach the huts when the sun went down Out Back.

He chanced one day when the north wind blew in his face like a burnace-breath.
He left the track for a tank he knew- twas a shorter cut to death;
For the bed of the tank was hard and dry, and crossed with many a crack.
And, oh! it's a terrible thing to die of thirst in the scrub Out Back.

A drover came, but the fringe of law was eastward many a mile:
He never reported the thing he saw, for it was not worth his while.
The tanks are full, and the grass is high in the mulga off the track,
Where the bleaching bones of a white man lie by his mouldering swag Out Back.

For time means tucker, and tramp they must, where the plains and scrubs are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the flies and heat the men of the outside track,
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, must carry their swags Out Back.

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The Old Bush School


by John O'Brien

'Tis a queer old battered landmark that belongs to other years;
With the dog-leg fence around it, and its hat about its ears,
And the cow-bells in the gum-tree, and the bucket on the stool,
There's a motley host of memories round that old bush school -
With its seedy desks and benches, where at least I left a name
Carved in agricultural letters - 'twas my only bid for fame;

And the spider haunted ceilings, and the rafters firmly set,
Lined with darts of nibs and paper (doubtless sticking to them yet),
And the greasy slates and blackboards, where I oft was proved a fool
And a blur upon the scutcheon of the old bush school.
There I see the boots in order - "lastic-sides" we used to wear -
With a pair of "everlastin's" cracked and dusty here and there;

And we marched with great "high action" - hands behind and eyes before -
While we murdered "Swanee River" as we tramped around the floor.
Still the scholars pass before me with their freckled features grave,
And a nickname fitting better than the name their mothers gave;
Tousled hair and vacant faces, and their garments every one
Shabby heirlooms in the family, handed down from sire to son.

Ay, and mine were patched in places, and half-mastered, as a rule -
They were fashionable trousers at the old bush school.
There I trudged it from the Three-mile, like a patient, toiling brute,
With a stocking round my ankle, and my heart within my boot,
Morgan, Nell and Michael Joseph, Jim and Mary, Kate and Mart
Tramping down the sheep track with me, little rebels at the heart;

Shivery grasses round about us nodding bonnets in the breeze,
Happy Jacks and Twelve Apostles hurdle-racing up the trees,
Peewees calling from the gullies, living wonders in the pool -
Hard bare seats and drab grey humdrum at the old bush school.
Early rising in the half-light, when the morn came, bleak and chill;
For the little mother roused us ere the sun had topped the hill,

"Up, you children, late 'tis gettin'." Shook the house beneath her knock,
And she wasn't always truthful, and she tampered with the clock.
Keen she was about "the learnin'," and she told us o'er and o'er
Of our luck to have "the schoolin'" right against our very door.
And the lectures - Oh, those lectures to our stony hearts addressed!
"Don't be mixin' with the Regans and the Ryans and the rest" -

"Don't be pickin' up with Carey's little talkative kanats" -
Well, she had us almost thinking we were born aristocrats.
But we found our level early - in disaster, as a rule -
For they knocked "the notions" sideways at the old bush school.
Down the road came Laughing Mary, and the beast that she bestrode
Was Maloney's sorry piebald she had found beside the road;

Straight we scrambled up beside her, and as many as could fit
Clung like circus riders bare-back, without bridle-rein or bit,
On that corrugated backbone in a merry row we sat -
We propelled him with our school-bags; Mary steered him with her hat -
And we rolled the road behind us like a ribbon from the spool,
"Making butter," so we called it, to the old bush school.

What a girl was Mary Casey in the days of long ago!
She was queen among the scholars, or at least we thought her so;
She was first in every mischief and, when overwhelmed by fate,
She could make delightful drawings of the teacher on her slate.
There was rhythm in every movement, as she gaily passed along
With a rippling laugh that lilted like the music of a song;

So we called her "Laughing Mary," and a fitful fancy blessed
E'en the bashful little daisies that her dainty feet caressed.
She had cheeks like native roses in the fulness of their bloom,
And she used to sing the sweetest as we marched around the room;
In her eyes there lurked the magic, maiden freshness of the morn,
In her hair the haunting colour I had seen upon the corn;

Round her danced the happy sunshine when she smiled upon the stool -
And I used to swap her dinners at the old bush school.
Hard the cobbled road of knowledge to the feet of him who plods
After fragile fragments fallen from the workshop of the gods;
Long the quest, and ever thieving pass the pedlars o'er the hill
With the treasures in their bundles, but to leave us questing still.

Mystic fires horizons redden, but each crimson flash in turn
Only lights the empty places in the bracken and the fern;
So in after years I've proved it, spite of pedant, crank and fool,
Very much the way I found it at the old bush school.

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Laughing Mary


by John O'Brien

With cheeks that paled the rosy morn

And romped with us among the corn
When we were kids together.
Her mother's help, her mother's mate,
Her mother's darling daughter,
When riper mind and more sedate
The rapid years had brought her.

As pure as air from mountain snows,
As dainty as a fairy,
As fetching as the native rose,
And always - Laughing Mary.
A little mother round about,
The happy sunshine bringing -
You'd see her bustle in and out,
A-working and a-singing;

And then the soul of Casey's place,
The love, the light, the laughter,
When friendship showed its cheery face,
And music shook the rafter;
And many a lad went home to find
A haunting sweet vagary
Was rambling softly through his mind
Because of Laughing Mary.

But when the smiling stars were blurred,
And someone's heart was bleeding,
She flew as flies the homing bird,
With balms of comfort speeding.
An angel in a sweet disguise,
She filled the measure over,
While tears stood sparkling in her eyes
Like raindrops on the clover;

And many a head bowed low to pray,
Howe'er her skies might vary,
The years would bless her on her way
And keep her Laughing Mary.

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This poem is a tribute to the sacrifices made by the women, who often left the comforts of the city to work alongside their husbands, in the loneliness of the Out Back.


Old country cottage

The Women of the West


by George Essex Evans

They left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,
The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,
The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best:
For love, they faced the wilderness - the Women of the West.

The roar, the rush, and fever of the city died away,
And the old-time joys and faces - they were gone for many a day;
In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock chains,
O'er the everlasting sameness of the everlasting plains.

In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately taken run,
In the tent beside the bankment of the railway just begun,
In the huts on new selections, in the camps of manís unrest,
On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.

The red sun robs their beauty, and, in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;
And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say-
The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away


The wide Bush holds the secrets of their longings and desires,
When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar-fires,
And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast-
Perchance He hears and understands, the Women of the West.

For them no trumpet sounds the call, no poet plies his arts-
They only hear the beating of their gallant, loving hearts.
But they have sung with silent lives the song all songs above-
The holiness of sacrifice, the dignity of love.

Well have we held our father's creed. No call has passed us by.
We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent our sons to die.
And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet, o'er all the rest,
The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.

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