Gerringong [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


I wonder if the red blood dances through some young heart like wine
As, in the green Shoalhaven springtime it pulsed a-fire through mine?
I wonder if, when Morning marches his cohorts brave along
The purple hills of Cambewarra, they echo to the song
Of some gay lad whose “love lies dreaming” down there in Gerringong?

Oh, I have wandered o’er the borders, and many lands I’ve seen —
The valleys of New England shining, the Queensland canefields green,
The black-soil plains in brown leagues rolling, the plains of Riverine.
But though in visions, wide and splendid, Australian pictures throng,
The fairest star of all my dreaming still burns o’er Gerringong.

Yea, I have answered to the longing. It lured me far and wide,
Where dusty swagsmen plod the Distance, where bearded bushmen ride.
I’ve heard, along the Gippsland ranges, the magpie’s morning song;
I’ve seen the sunset shadows lengthen through woods of Dandenong —
But ah, the dew upon the clover that shines by Gerringong!

And now in dreams I see the palm trees, high waving to the breeze,
And hear, on curved Shoalhaven beaches, a surf-song of the seas,
The creeks, from silver harps outpouring their constant symphonies;
And all the glory of the southland and all her fervid song
Of love and youth, in recollection, come back from Gerringong.

I wonder if some boy is yearning beneath the fig trees brown,
As Fancy paints in pictures tempting the pleasures of the town,
If in his soul the distant bugles with onward marches strong
Of Glory and Achievement call him to join the city throng,
While Love and Faith, alas, lie dreaming in drowsy Gerringong!

I wonder if a girl is waiting beneath the coral red,
That like a wounded heart is bleeding in flowers overhead;
While all the marvel of the morning, before her eyes outspread
The green delight of pastures gleaming, the picture and the song
Have grown to her but ghosts of Fancies — that died in Gerringong.

No more — though summer follow summer, and spring trip after spring,
Though clear among the scented lilies the joyous blue-caps sing,
Though from the little painted chapel a cynic shrill ding-dong
Of wedding bells at last may gladden the gossips in the throng —
That Coral Tree shall be their trysting in green, old Gerringong.

* * * * * * *

I wonder if, when Life’s rich dishes pall one by one on him,
Among the aloes and the ashes, in day-dreams faint and dim,
That boy will watch the sun uprising across the water’s rim;
And in the clear Shoalhaven morning, heart-wearied, hear the song
Of Youth that long ago lay buried for aye in Gerringong.

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 71-73

Editor’s notes:
aloe = any plant belonging to the genus Aloe (which includes over 550 species of flowering succulent plants, the most well-known of which is “Aloe vera”)

aye = always, forever

gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)

Gippsland = a region of south-eastern Victoria, which encompasses Bairnsdale, Drouin, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha, Mallacoota, Moe, Morwell, Omeo, Sale, Seaspray, the Strzelecki Ranges, Traralgon, Walhalla, Warragul, Wilsons Promontory, Wonthaggi, and Yarram; the region was named after George Gipps (1790-1847), who was Governor of New South Wales (1838-1846)

o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

Riverine = the Riverina: a region of south-western New South Wales, which encompasses the Murrumbidgee River, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Deniliquin, Finley, Griffith, Gundagai, Jerilderie, Junee, Leeton, Narrandera, Temora, Tocumwal, Wagga Wagga, and West Wyalong

swagsmen = an alternative spelling of “swagmen”, plural of “swagman”: a roaming labourer who carries his personal belongings in a swag, or bundle, whilst traveling about in search of casual work; especially used to refer to itinerant labourers travelling around the country areas of Australia in the late 1800s to early 1900s (also known as a “swaggie”)

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