In the Bush [poem by Rex Ingamells]

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

In the Bush

Far is the city. For a sojourn brief,
Heart-free, I sleep and wake and wander here,
Where Time, the busy thief,
Becomes a guileless charmer,
A most sweet disarmer.

Around the homestead now the dogs career,
And, with freshened spirits, bark.

Pink, the dawn
Broke in the star-flicked field of dark.

Now, borne
Along with bushland breezes, come the clear,
Far-ranging notes of magpies to my ear,
From gums that cleave the sun-shot mists of morn.
What sheer vitality is in each strain!
What beauty is flung wide from every throat!
The melodists sing on and sing amain
Of magic ways where Murray waters glide
And limpid lights of billabongs remote.

A child, I often dreamed
Of waters sleeping through the blue-bright noon,
Of waters calm but wakeful to the moon,
Upon whose surface mystically gleamed
Soft white clouds or sharp white stars:
There paddled I with Fancy’s oars,
In Fancy’s boat, by pebbly shores
And long, low, silver sand-bars,
And by shores of over-sweeping gums;
While all the time the tune
Of ever-so-soft ripples was acroon.

Swift and vivid comes
The image of a beauteous scene
I later saw about a Murray lake:
The blazing sun had set
And taken with him all the glare of day, and yet
A lingering haze of gold he did not take,
Nor the dim, dark green
Of bank-side gums so old,
Which flung their shadow-screen
Of venerable boughs and windy leaves
Over shore waters, so that I could hear,
But could not see, those murmuring waves in gloom.
Even now, in memory, my dinghy heaves
Far out upon that wind-swept lake ere night;
Again I see the wild-duck wheel in flight
Above the lignum flats
And clumps of native broom.

Last night I stood upon this hill to view
The passage of bright Evening. I saw her
Reluctantly depart, most lovely dame,
As though my love might draw her
Back, despite the cheeky stars that mocked.
Yet they were very beautiful, and flocked
About all heaven; and I stood for long,
When day was dead,
And wondered which was lovelier, the throng
Of naiad stars or Evening’s golden head . . . .

The mists have risen and dispersed;
The day is clear and blue.
A lovelier day I have not known.
The soul of Nature is immersed
In happiness, and mine is, too.
There’s not a bird that in my sight has flown
Since dawn, but it has made my heart
Leap with a glorious freedom like its own.

The magpies pour their rich atonal notes:
Ah! Music’s soul upon the warm air floats.
There is no trained musician who could capture
So well the pristine soul of rapture.

I see yon agéd royal gum
Lift his tremendous limbs with grace;
But there is sadness on his brow;
Forlorn appears each shaggy bough.

The sire of all these bushland ways
Cares not that I should write his praise.
He mourns for nights long gone,
When, jubilantly ranged upon
The sward beneath his branches tall,
The land’s forgotten people whirled and yelled
In wild corroboree. . . .

The morning hastens on. Now go I down
By that long path I came. The day for me
Is full of magic. Where great trees are felled,
As I go down I shall tread mournfully.

Ah, God! I hear the magpie’s ringing call.

Rex Ingamells. Gumtops, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1935, pages 27-30

Editor’s notes:
acroon = crooning (i.e. to hum or sing softly; also, to sing popular songs in a soft and sentimental manner)

atonal = music which has no established key; music which does not use the traditional musical tonality

broom = any of various leguminous shrubs with long slender branches, particularly from the genera Cytisus, Genista, and Spartium

corroboree = an Aboriginal gathering, primarily for the ceremonial or festive purposes, often including religious rituals and dancing

ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

lignum = Latin for wood, or woody (lignum may also refer to plant tissue); in Australia, it is also refers to the Muehlenbeckia Florulenta shrub, bearing the common name of “Lignum” or “Tangled Lignum”, which is native to inland Australia

naiad = in Greek mythology, naiads were nymphs living in creeks, fountains, lakes, rivers, and springs (also, “Naiad” is the name of one of the moons of the planet Neptune)

sward = a lawn or meadow; land covered with grass

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