An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament [poem by Charles Harpur; in an anthology of poetry, 1888]

[Editor: A poem by Charles Harpur. Published in Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand (1888).]

An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament.

Still farther would I fly, my child,
To make thee safer yet,
From the unsparing white man,
With his dread hand murder-wet!
I’ll bear thee on as I have borne
With stealthy steps wind-fleet,
But the dark night shrouds the forest,
And thorns are in my feet.

O moan not! I would give this braid —
Thy father’s gift to me —
But for a single palmful
Of water now for thee.

Ah! spring not to his name — no more
To glad us may he come!
He is smouldering into ashes
Beneath the blasted gum!
All charred and blasted by the fire
The white man kindled there,
And fed with our slaughtered kindred
Till heaven-high went its glare!

O moan not! I would give this braid —
Thy father’s gift to me —
For but a single palmful
Of water now for thee.

And but for thee, I would their fire
Had eaten me as fast!
Hark! Hark! I hear his death-cry
Yet lengthening up the blast!
But no — when his bound hands had signed
The way that we should fly,
On the roaring pyre flung bleeding —
I saw thy father die!

O moan not! I would give this braid —
Thy father’s gift to me —
For but a single palmful
Of water now for thee.

No more shall his loud tomahawk
Be plied to win our cheer,
Or the shining fish pools darken
Beneath his shadowing spear;
The fading tracks of his fleet foot
Shall guide not as before,
And the mountain-spirits mimic
His hunting call no more!

O moan not! I would give this braid —
Thy father’s gift to me —
For but a single palmful
Of water now for thee.

Charles Harpur.



Source:
Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 91-92

Also published in:
Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), A Century of Australian Song, London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 205-206

[Editor: Corrected “Harper” to “Harpur” (Charles Harpur’s surname as was spelt incorrectly as “Harper” on page 92, although his name was spelt correctly in the book’s contents list on page ix); the poem is entitled “An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament”, although the title was given incorrectly in the book’s contents list as “The Aboriginal Mother’s Lament”.]

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