An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament [poem by Charles Harpur]

[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]

An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament.

O I would further fly, my child, to make thee safer yet
From the unsparing White Man’s dread hand all murder wet,
Yet bear thee on as I have borne so stealthily and fleet,
But darkness shuts the forest and thorns are in my feet.
O moan not — I would give this braid that once bound Hibbi’s brow,
But for a single palmful of water for thee now!

Ah! spring not to his name, no more to glad us may he come! —
Afar his ashes smoulder beneath the blasted gum,
All charred and blasted by the fire the White Man kindled there,
To burn our murder’d kindred and scorch us to despair.
O moan not — I would give this braid that once bound Hibbi’s brow,
But for a single palmful of water for thee now!

And but for thee I would their fire had eaten me as fast:
Hark, do I hear his death-cry yet lengthening up the blast?
But no, when his bound hands had signed the way that we should fly,
Thrown on the pyre fresh bleeding I saw thy father die.
O moan not — I would give this braid, his first fond gift to me,
But for a single palmful of water now for thee!

No more shall his loud tomahawk be plied for our relief,
The streams have lost for ever the shadow of a Chief,
The fading track of his fleet foot may guide not as before,
And the echo of the mountains shall answer him no more!
O moan not — I would give this braid, thy father’s gift to me,
But for a single palmful of water now for thee!



Source:
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 113-114

Editor’s notes:
The “Notes” section at the end of the book includes the following statement:

An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament (p. 113.)

It will be remembered that, a few years back, a party of Stockmen (several of whom were afterwards executed for the crime) made wholesale massacre of a small tribe of defenceless Blacks — to the number, it is believed, of more than a score — heaping their bodies as they slaughtered them, upon a large fire kindled for the purpose. Of this doomed tribe, one woman only, with her infant, as it appeared subsequently on evidence, escaped the White man’s vengeance. The poem is supposed to describe the ejaculations of the mother after having fled to a considerable distance from the scene of the massacre, and when wearied and overtaken by the night.

Old spelling in the original text:
thee (you)
thy (your)

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