Change [poem by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This poem by Rex Ingamells was published in Forgotten People (1936).]


Ages of time had idled by
Under this temperate southern sky.
Time that the white man put in mould
Had been the black man’s age of gold:
White man had records, sered and torn,
Of all the parts that he had borne;
But the aborigines
Had only their corrobories.

When a southern night gleamed cool and clear
And blacks’ camps twinkled far and near,
A pale day saw some sails unfurled
Of ships in port across the world;
And, while succeeding southern days
Saw lyric life in bushland ways,
Those ships, with bobbing lantern-lights,
Swung southward in the northern nights.

Southward they voyaged week on week,
Sails full, shrouds singing, masts a-creak,
Till the sun at zenith saw piccaninnies playing,
And slantwise rayed ships’ canvas swaying;
And the same stars watched corroboree
And the phosphorous-glow round ships at sea . . .
Yet, in the bush, no faltering
Marked the magpie’s song, far-echoing.

Then the same dawn lit a vessel’s bunting,
As saw the black men home from hunting;
The same hues flushed a ship astrain,
And the great gums on the coastal plain;
The same rays ruddied the brown necks
Of English seamen sweeping decks,
As bronzed the supple shining backs
About the campfires of the blacks.

A native standing on the shore
Beheld, with sudden fear and awe . . .
Another, climbing in a gum,
Saw, with a dread that held him dumb . . .
A strange white cloud upon the sea,
Rolling, advancing steadily.
The Duke of York sailed in that day,
And anchored in Nepean Bay.

Kingscote stands, a seaport town,
Where wilderness was when the sails furled down.
Adelaide spreads on the coastal plain,
Where the tribesmen will not go again.
Roads and railways link the land,
Where cities, towns, and homesteads stand . . .
Only dreams of the blacks live on:
The coo-ee is silent, the last tribe gone.

Rex Ingamells, Forgotten People, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1936, pages 21-22

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