AUSTRALIAS DAY: 1942
In Memoriam W.J. Miles
IF EVER it were time for the dead to ride
then surely that time is now:
From the Leeuwin’s cliffs to the roar of Sydney-side,
from Wyndham to the Howe
call up your ghosts, Australia, call up your many dead;
your Kelly and your Lalor and the shirted men they led;
call up your brave, your Stuart, your Wentworth, your
your men who dared Hashemy with its bitter slavish wrong.
Call up your quietened singers from the silence of the grave,
who sang your latent spirit to the complaining wave.
Call up your myths and your legends, your men of song and tale,
men from the Snowy, the Centre, and lakes where Bunyips wail,
your seekers, your finders, your fighters, your men who with
Lawson’s men from the western creeks, and a thousand more
Call up your ghosts, Australia, and set them riding far
to rouse a sleeping nation to its seven-pointed star.
Call up your dead, Australians, and bid them ride with you
to set your rivers brimming with Eureka’s flood anew.
Call up your hosts, Australia, to strive with you amain,
to fight, to sting, to honor, your Flag of Stars again.
Then, when the day is over, whether to shout or to weep,
keep ever your dead alive in you, oh, never let them sleep,
for the nation that forgets its dead, that lets its heroes lie
dust-deep in its mind forever is surely ripe to die.
And only those go on, in glory their story to make,
who ever keep their dead alive, and their songs and heroes awake
Now is the time for the nation’s urgent dead to ride,
so set them riding here and now –
from the Leeuwin’s cliffs to the roar of Sydney-side,
from Wyndham to the Howe.
GLORY OF THE SUN
THESE are my people, these are the nationless
caught between blackness and the undreamt dawn;
these are my people, their stars unseen
bright-burning in unfound Alcheringa.
Yet these my people fight and ride
from the nearest shore to the furthest tide.
These are my people, their souls possessed
by myths that slaver from Europa’s bull
while Europe rides her lover-beast through mire
of all her thousand years of infamy.
Yet – these my people – their wild vitality
ploughed upwards in one page of history.
These are my people, who unknowing starve
for all that strength with which their country’s breasts
stretch taut and full; dry tongues and parching lips
thirst for the milk of loveliness which she
holds for their mouths that scorn to touch her flesh.
Yet these my people when they wander far
dream of the wattle and the waratah.
These are my people, each one idly drifts
on his own creek or his own billabong
heading nowhere; the Murray’s single flow
points no swift moral for meandering hearts
nor marches its strong vigor through their verse.
Yet these my people, unity their dream,
once flowed one instant in a single stream.
These are my people, who let vision slip
back to the stubble-land of last year’s crop;
glory they let slip for gold, wisdom for ease
and self-reliance for dull luxury’s pursuit;
making this land vassal, they proclaimed
culture subservient to alien trade.
Yet these my people have produced such sons
as history shall remember while it runs.
These are my people, only by the earth
that seeks to suckle them shall attain
to nationhood, only by living dreams
built of the air they breathe shall they escape
the trap between the blackness and the dawn;
only by following their seven stars
Shall these my people reach Alcheringas.
These are my people, these the nationless
caught between blackness and the undreamt dawn;
these are my people, their stars unseen
bright-burning in unfound Alcheringa.
These are my people, how many years shall run
before they drink the glory of the sun?
IN their looking backward is a twisted vista;
light bends for them, perspective takes a kink
and swings to the Europe-world.
For them the English trees have grown, and choked
with barrier the avenue of gums.
Colour-blind, or like the cave-blind fish
that lives so long in dark it cannot see in sun,
they stare to the dark cave of the northern skies
and will not see the colours of our scene.
For them there are no ghosts in this our land,
only the weary migrant few that rode
in English minds to the Australian shore.
For them there is no oldness in this land,
the polished axe made no long roads of trade
from north to south, man did not watch
fire mountains rise and glaciers flow,
rivers give up their waters to the sand,
mountains wear down to plain.
For them there is no oldness in this land –
white flesh, for them, and Europe tales,
wiped out the stories of our earth.
HERE HISTORY LIVES
NO DREAR depressing depth covers our earth;
no depth of history clutters our land.
Here history lives; here crimes and cities
lie not – souring by heritage – in earth.
Here no vast encumbrances of age,
of old and dreary wars, boredoms of princes,
famines, hates, fears, lies, eternal shames,
bear down their weight upon our vital day.
History is here no toothless, peevish fool
In nightcap, piling grave upon grave,
Tombstone on tombstone, above ambition.
Here history lives; here history
- a lusty stripling soon to his prime –
races beside us, hurrying us along
with crowded memories of a changing speed
from spear to plane in what was built a day’s
long, fog-grey, depression in those lands
where history died before Australian shores
dawned in men’s visions. Here history lives;
history is ours to make. – Shall we import
some imitative past to bury all our dreams
in history’s grave, or shall we write
upon the page that waits for dawning tale
of nationhood, of unity, of looking
forward to the day when we shall be
the living sword of stars that some now dream.
THIS IS AUSTRALIA
THIS is Australia, this is the wide continent
that holds the gate of the world for men and warmth
against icy immensities of emptiness
- cold light and great darkness – of the southern seas.
This is Australia, this is the new-old land
where conflict breeds, where even now (as always
since de Quiros gilded its image in men’s thoughts)
man has his choice to make between the high
banner-flame of allegiance to his land
and the shop-sign of rabbit-burrowing blindness
that gnaws at roots, and, plague-like, kills
all that will never fill his purse nor stretch his bellyskin.
This is Australia, this is each one’s earth
that is Australian, this soil is sacred
now and forever for each one for whom
the vision of this land resurgent ever stirs
in every landscape, for each one that sees
in every town and township, every house
and paddock, every street and track
each patch of untouched bush, each wasted acre
that the greed of sheep or wheat or axe
has furrowed and scarred and swept
and ploughed to barrenness, for each that sees
as his own body and as mighty all this land.
This is Australia, not even the close slums
which greed, transplanting with itself – and them –
from colder earths the huddling timid minds
of driven sheep, has set like cankerous disease
close to each city’s heart, can stint or limit
the wide magnificence of this land’s vision,
that men – slum-minded all, in city or in vastness –
seek in their living death of mind to cramp and set
in pocket-handkerchief-size dreams of northern lands,
each one afraid, knowing himself too small
to see as one, forever unified and great,
this mighty land that seeks its dedicated sons.
This is Australian, each tree and bush, each hill,
each mountain, each vast plain where dust-storms
ride the ancient beds of ancient seas,
each headland set to face the surf,
each creek, long dry, that thunders when the rains
break their all-feeding benediction on the earth,
each rock that carving bears or tribal myth explains,
each billabong the heron’s grey reflection shows,
each jungle-patch along the north-east shores,
each valley and each gully where the euro runs,
each foot of earth, each stick, each grain of dust,
makes, and is ever part of, each Australian.
This is Australia, this is the land
whose sons and daughters are forever blind
and deaf to all its mystery; this is the land
barren of lovers; this is the land defiled
by those who flesh is quarried from its earth;
this is the land whose sons and daughters turn
their faces form it, holding always
vain dreams in their small minds of their own greatness
greater then it; this is the land whose children
fear it, being so small and petty-mean
that never in their hearts is courage great enough
for them to love its beauty and immensity.
This is Australia. This is the land
now raising new spirit of its earth;
this is the land that now a few do love
fiercely and fearlessly; this is the land
than now has found a few to call
its vision from the cupboard of neglect
and set it up for every man to see.
This is the land preparing for those sons
who shall acknowledge their full fellowship
with every fistful of its soil, sons who shall hold
that soil as their own flesh, sons who shall be
fanatic and consecrated in their loyalty.
THESE many years, dreaming we loved the land,
we have drowsed in sunshine,
watching with sluggish hearts to deep-drugged minds
that which we thought we loved destroyed.
We have loved but self – naught else.
To no swift endurance,
to no long labor of love have we roused;
torpor has drugged our dull colonial minds.
We have lain in ease, dreaming we loved this land,
letting thieves steal
and traitors greedily deface with purse-bound hands
all honor, beauty, glory, that is hers.
What spears we had have lost their keenness;
weapons our minds knew are destroyed;
what light our eyes shone with is dimmed with languor;
Alcheringa is far beyond our knowing.
But we shall arise from our sloth;
the spears shall be reshaped;
all honor, glory, beauty, that is hers
soon shall return to possess us wholly.
TO THIS LAND DEDICATED
THIS is my continent, this is my land,
and yet the living dead that walk its streets
and till its soil are not my people nor this land’s.
Each day they walk and do not see the skies,
each night they sleep, and waking are too dead
ever to dream save when they seek to hear
in dreams some petty profit’s rattling coin.
And yet we could so easily awake and dream,
and feel in every stick and stone and leaf,
in the whole earth and air of this our land,
a nation’s fire smouldering for the need
of wind to set the flames alight and leaping high
to sweep and stir our hearts at bushfire speed
and kindle in our minds firesticks of nationhood.
Once we have seen the sun through eucalypt leaves
with not one thought of oaks or pines behind the mind;
once we have drunk the scents of all the bush
with no book-coloured smell of woodlands in the draught:
once we have felt this land, this land alone,
as our whole world, our wealth, our strength, our life,
then living blood shall course our veins anew.
This land shall then know patriots worthy
of its vast soil; no more shall petty slaves
- each in his puny separate mind intent
on his immediate ends – forever dance
colonial puppet jigs to distant tunes;
no more shall this our people be divided,
half-blind and wholly dead, blind to their destiny.
Then shall each one stand, Australian, mighty
in unity beneath Australian skies,
to this land dedicated, all thought and strength
bent to the building here in nationhood
of new life in this south – new life, indeed,
mighty with national purpose,
strong with Australian need.
THE ROLLING OF THE DRUMS
STAND fierce to your coasts, Australians,
stand fierce to cock-eyed bobs of war,
guard full your flame and your future
as never you have before.
Wake from the pit and the paddock,
wake from the lathe and the shop,
stand one and united forever
past the hour when this war shall stop.
Wake, my fellow Australians,
the fire and the fury comes;
now comes you hour of nationhood,
with the rolling of the drums.
CAUSE FOR SONG
THERE’s singing in the hills tonight,
With all the stars ashine;
A lad goes whistling homewards,
"Dear land, dear land of mine."
In his heart new heroes ride;
(Hear Clancy’s footsteps there?);
Sturt’s oars dip in the Murray tide;
Blaxland storms at the Divide;
Through deserts strides the lonely Eyre;
And pioneers are at his side.
He has seen the Southern Cross at last
There’s lit within his eyes tonight
A fire no force shall tame.
He has found his own Alcheringa,
And a cult-path for his feet;
Now he marches to a deeper tune
Than alien drums may beat.
The flood of all our rivers
Is running in his veins;
Bone of his bone is every hill
And soil of all our plains.
Deep is his love and deep his rage –
The scars have marked his flesh.
If need should call his fate to test
He’ll light Eureka fires afresh.
Now every day with spear-keen eyes
This vital earth he’ll view;
His shall be the enterprise
To write new dream-time on our skies,
To rouse within this folk anew
Such loyalty as never dies.
For this land who’s whistling homewards
With the Southern Cross above
Has found within his heart tonight
A continent to love.
IF THIS BE TREASON
SO THIS is treason, that a love of land
strengthen and circle in our hearts
through every hour of every day?
So this is treason, that our minds
should stir to none but native breeze,
that we should dream of unity
and our land’s high purpose,
that we should see
a national future
triumphant in our song,
that we should be
of Australia’s dream?
If this be treason, then let every tree
fall to the axe, let all brave flowers
wither in traitorous disgrace.
If this be treason, then the very earth
offends against the state,
and every stick and stone
plots order’s overthrow,
in every waratah, the wattle’s sabotage
broods on each golden hill.
If love of land a dastard treason be,
then black glows the sun and solid is the sea.