By an Old Gum [poem by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This poem by Rex Ingamells was published in Gumtops (1935).]

By an Old Gum

With half-closed eyes I saw by an old gum
Black gleaming-bodied men stalk shadowily
To trap the kangaroo, then others come,
Loud with the zest of wild corroboree.
I saw men flashing in the fire’s weird glow,
Painted, and decked with the white down of birds,
Stooping and crawling and leaping, row on row,
Shattering the night with charmed fantastic words.
Under that gum I saw bark wurlies stand;
Beside them in the noon the lubras sat,
While picaninnies tumbled on the sand,
And warriors hunted wildfowl on the flat.
I caught the echo of faint coo-ee crying;
I glimpsed a vision of a people dying.

Rex Ingamells. Gumtops, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1935, page 24

Editor’s notes:
coo-ee = a prolonged call used by Australian Aborigines to attract attention; the call of “coo-ee” was adopted by Europeans in Australia

lubras = Aboriginal women

picaninnies = black children

wurlies = plural of “wurly”: an Aboriginal shelter, made from tree branches, bark, and leaves (also spelt as “wurley” or “wurlie”); also known as a “humpy”

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