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'Bellbirds' by Henry Kendall - another Australian poem.

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  • Bellbirds
    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 breaks 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 daytime!

  • 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 their feathers unfolden
    Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.
    October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
    Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
    Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses, to listen,
    Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
    Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
    Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
    Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
    Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning.
    Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
    Are the voices of bell-birds to the thirsty far-comers.
    When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
    And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
    Pent in the ridges for ever and ever
    The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
    With ring and with ripple, like runnels who torrents
    Are toned by the pebbles and the leaves in the currents.
    Often I sit, looking back to a childhood,
    Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
    Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion,
    Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion; -
    Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
    Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest-rafters;
    So I might keep in the city and alleys
    The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys:
    Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
    With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.


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One of my favourites is Earth Visitors by Kenneth Slessor - he wrote some lovely poems. Fell off the back of a ferry whilst drunk and drowned in Sydney harbour from memory.







(To N.L.)

THERE were strange riders once, came gusting down

Cloaked in dark furs, with faces grave and sweet,

And white as air. None knew them, they were strangers—

Princes gone feasting, barons with gipsy eyes

And names that rang like viols—perchance, who knows,

Kings of old Tartary, forgotten, swept from Asia,

Blown on raven chargers across the world,

For ever smiling sadly in their beards

And stamping abruptly into courtyards at midnight.

Post-boys would run, lanterns hang frostily, horses fume,

The strangers wake the Inn. Men, staring outside

Past watery glass, thick panes, could watch them eat,

Dyed with gold vapours in the candleflame,

Clapping their gloves, and stuck with crusted stones,

Their garments foreign, their talk a strange tongue,

But sweet as pineapple—it was Archdukes, they must be.

In daylight, nothing; only their prints remained

Bitten in snow. They'd gone, no one knew where,

Or when, or by what road—no one could guess—

None but some sleepy girls, half tangled in dreams,

Mixing up miracle and desire; laughing, at first,

Then staring with bright eyes at their beds, opening their lips,

Plucking a crushed gold feather in their fingers,

And laughing again, eyes closed. But one remembered,

Between strange kisses and cambric, in the dark,

That unearthly beard had lifted. . . . 'Your name, child?'

'Sophia, sir—and what to call your Grace?'

Like a bubble of gilt, he had laughed 'Mercury!'

It is long now since great daemons walked on earth,

Staining with wild radiance a country bed,

And leaving only a confusion of sharp dreams

To vex a farm-girl—that, and perhaps a feather,

Some thread of the Cloth of Gold, a scale of metal,

Caught in her hair. The unpastured Gods have gone,

They are above those fiery-coasted clouds

Floating like fins of stone in the burnt air,

And earth is only a troubled thought to them

That sometimes drifts like wind across the bodies

Of the sky's women.

There is one yet comes knocking in the night,

The drums of sweet conspiracy on the pane,

When darkness has arched his hands over the bush

And Springwood steams with dew, and the stars look down

On that one lonely chamber. . . .

She is there suddenly, lit by no torch or moon,

But by the shining of her naked body.

Her breasts are berries broken in snow; her hair

Blows in a gold rain over and over them.

She flings her kisses like warm guineas of love,

And when she walks, the stars walk with her above.

She knocks. The door swings open, shuts again.

'Your name, child?'

A thousand birds cry 'Venus!'

Flush the turd on November the third!

Pomsinoz is censored by fascists!

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But this is my favourite


Ballad of the Drover


Across the stony ridges,

Across the rolling plain,

Young Harry Dale, the drover,

Comes riding home again.

And well his stock-horse bears him,

And light of heart is he,

And stoutly his old packhorse

Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle

He's travelled regions vast,

And many months have vanished

Since home-folks saw him last.

He hums a song of someone

He hopes to marry soon;

And hobble-chains and camp-ware

Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado

Against the lower skies

And yon blue line of ranges

The station homestead lies.

And thitherward the drover

Jogs through the lazy noon,

While hobble-chains and camp-ware

Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens

With storm-clouds inky black;

At times the lightning trickles

Around the drover's track;

But Harry pushes onward,

His horses' strength he tries,

In hope to reach the river

Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder, pealing o'er him,

Goes rumbling down the plain;

And sweet on thirsty pastures

Beats fast the plashing rain;

Then every creek and gully

Sends forth its tribute flood

The river runs a banker,

All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,

The best dog on the plains,

And to his hardy horses,

And strokes their shaggy manes:

"We've breasted bigger rivers

When Hoods were at their height,

Nor shall this gutter stop us

From getting home tonight!"

The thunder growls a warning,

The blue, forked lightning's gleam;

The drover turns his horses

To swim the fatal stream.

But, oh! the flood runs stronger

Than e'er it ran before;

The saddle-horse is failing,

And only half-way o'er!

When flashes next the lightning

The flood's grey breast is blank;

A cattle-dog and packhorse

Are struggling up the bank.

But in the lonely homestead

The girl shall wait in vain

He'll never pass the stations

In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment

Lies panting on the bank,

Then plunges through the current

To where his master sank.

And round and round in circles

He fights with failing strength,

Till, gripped by wilder waters,

He fails and sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands

And slopes of sodden loam

The packhorse struggles bravely

To take dumb tidings home;

And mud-stained, wet, and weary,

He goes by rock and tree,

With clanging chains and tinware

All sounding eerily.

Henry Lawson

Flush the turd on November the third!

Pomsinoz is censored by fascists!

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