[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]
In the Sand.
The tugging railway engines pant
Past Karrakatta’s marbled mile;
Their pistons pulse, their whistles chant
Along the steel and sleepered aisle.
Their fierce exhaust the gums bedew
Beside the lonely graveyard lane,
The scattered sparks the bank bestrew,
A rich and phosphorescent rain.
From city unto seaport town,
From seaport town to city grey,
Uncaring crowds go up and down
To work and worship, pain and play.
Yet while the hammered flanges fling
Their song of steel from curve and grade,
We hear a roaring requiem ring
For them within God’s Garden laid,
An In Memoriam gloria grand
For those who sleep within the sand!
From dawn to dark, from dark to dawn,
The goods and passengers go by;
The idle rich who idle yawn,
The pinched and suffering poor who sigh,
The smug suburbanite and they
Who travel by luxurious Trans.,
The men who Mammon’s beck obey,
The men of projects and of plans.
By speedy steam go by all these,
Unthinking as the space is spanned,
There lie beside the cypress trees
The shrouded souls of Shadowland.
And O, how ghostly white arise
The monuments beneath the moon,
When half the world has veiled its eyes
And sweet caressing zephyrs croon.
Closer, dear God, we seem to stand
To those who sleep within the sand!
When it shall come that you and I
Shall slumber in the sacred soil,
When overhead no sunny sky
Shall smile upon our daily toil;
Still there shall roar along the rail
The panting monster strong with steam,
In rosy dawn and moonlight pale,
In glad high-noon and gloaming gleam.
The flow’rs will be as fair as when
We watched the world alert, alive!
Strong rhyming hands will hold the pen
Sweethearts will woo and sweethearts wive;
Gay crowds will saunter by the shore,
The lips will laugh the song arise;
Youth and the youthful as of yore,
Will pluck the self-apportioned prize.
Light hearts will listen to the band
When we are sleeping in the sand!
Picture yourself to one grown cold
You’d treasured in your sweetheart’s hours,
And that one gathered to the fold
Of mossy mounds and faded flow’rs.
The whirring wheels to you would sing
The tender notes you uttered not,
That mournful mile to you would bring
The radiant phrase by you forgot.
You still would hear the bush-bird call,
You still would smell the wattle sweet,
About the eucalyptus tall
The grass would glisten at your feet.
But as you walked the scenes alone,
Where you had sauntered side by side,
Ten thousand sighs could not atone
For one caress to her denied.
Mem’ry would lay an icy hand
On one not sleeping in the sand!
Yet where is better resting place
Than near the sound of steam and steel
Though flame and force that by them race
They do not hear, they do not feel?
They sleep beneath God’s splendid skies,
A league from His eternal waves;
The ocean sends a thousand sighs,
The gum-trees whisper o’er their graves.
The fire-box burning clinker-clean,
With pressure growling at the gauge;
Illumes the gradients brown and green
Without a wilt, without a wage.
And so from city to the sea,
And from the seaport back again,
In crashing compound harmony,
The loco. lifts its loud refrain,
Speeding at steam’s supreme command
Past those who sleep within the sand.
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 24-25
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 25 September 1921, p. 4
There are some minor differences between this version and the one published in The Sunday Times on 25 September 1921; however, the main difference is the positioning of the last two stanzas, which have been swapped over with each other.
flange = a protruding edge, collar, or rim that sticks out from an item (such as a pipe shaft or wheel), and used for strengthening or attachment, or for guiding or maintaining position on a rail; also may refer to a projecting piece of cloth used for decoration on clothing
gloaming = dusk, twilight
loco. = locomotive, train
Shadowland = the land of the dead
Trans. = the Trans-Australian railway, a 1036 mile railway line that was built to link Port Augusta in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, by crossing the Nullarbor Plain, so as to lessen the isolation of Western Australia and its capital city, Perth, from the eastern states, thus enabling rail travel between all of the capital cities of the mainland states of Australia (construction of the line commenced on 14 September 1912 and was completed on 17 October 1917) [See: Alison Painter, “17 October 1917 Transcontinental Railway”, Professional Historians Association (South Australia) (accessed 20 May 2014)]
zephyr = a breeze from the west, especially a gentle breeze (from Zephyrus, or Zephyr, god of the west wind in Greek mythology)
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