Deserted [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]


No welcome smoke uprearing
Blue spirals in the sun,
No axes down the clearing
Announce a day begun.
The noontide shadows find it
In wearing silence still;
Dark fall at eve behind it
The shadows of the hill.

A rosebush, vainly seeking
Some presence evermore,
Has clambered round the creaking,
Half-opened, low front door:
And from the straggling creepers
The falling dew appears
To mourn departed keepers
With ever-constant tears.

Like fleshless bones unburied,
Grey sundered trunks lie low,
Their dead leaves swept and harried
By sere winds to and fro.
Its roof-bark slipped and rotten
’Mid weeds and fallow lands,
Unkempt, decayed, forgotten,
The lone selection stands.

Yet here were hopes, ambitions,
And efforts freely shed,
To win from harsh conditions
A household meed of bread.
Here love and labor mated;
Here children’s laughter rang;
And in dead days undated
A Woman worked and sang.

Here winter firelight brightened
Rough walls and fixtures rude;
And cares increased, or lightened,
With summer’s wayward mood;
Here Bushland charm and glory —
The wealth of wood and sky —
Brought pictures, song and story
To human ear and eye.

The Spring her bounty showered,
On paddocks fresh with rain;
The climbing rose-bush flowered
Across the window pane.
Glad days with wings extended
In blue procession sped;
Glad nights came clear and splendid
With cloudless stars o’erhead.

But here Misfortune tarried
Amid the ricks and sheaves,
Until their hopes were harried
And driven like the leaves;
They fought their fight ill-fated
In that heroic past,
With courage unabated
Unto the bitter last.

Grim Failure for their guerdon,
Who might have known success,
They bore the heavy burden
Of drought and red distress;
They fared as many others, —
The brave defeated band,
Of Southern sires and mothers
Who pioneered the land.

No more, by morn or noontime,
Here Joy and Sorrow walk.
No more a longed-for boontime
With ripe grain bends the stalk.
No more with songs of Labor
The lonely hills resound;
The winds with flute and tabor
Their forest marches sound.

When now the veil asunder
Of Night is loudly torn,
Amid a city’s thunder
They meet a city morn.
In dreams they hear it calling,
Their Bushland fresh with dew;
They see cloud-shadows falling
Along the hills of blue.

And clear in recollection,
And fair in Fancy’s eyes
Outstands the old selection
Beneath the morning skies;
While in their hearts, half-broken,
The restless mem’ries roam
In treasured thought and token
Of this deserted home.

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 39-42

Editor’s notes:
eve = evening (can also mean: the day preceding or a period of time immediately before an event or an occasion)

guerdon = reward or recompense; or to give a reward or recompense to someone

meed = a fitting recompense

mem’ries = (vernacular) memories

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

morn = morning

o’erhead = overhead

paddock = a field, pasture, or plot of land which is surrounded by fencing or a defined boundary

rude = primitive, raw, or rough, or in an unfinished state or natural condition (distinct from the modern usage of “rude” as someone being discourteous or ill-mannered)

selection = an area of land obtained by free-selection; land owned by a “selector”

sunder = apart, especially forced apart; separated; into separate parts, into separate pieces; part, divide

tabor = a small drum which is played with a single drumstick, thus leaving the player’s other hand free to play a three-holed pipe (traditionally, the two instruments were used together)

[Editor: Changed “bountry” to “bounty”.]

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