Outposts [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


Beyond the noisy railway; outside the postal roads,
Where swing no swaying coaches, no coaster wharfs her loads;
Where brood dark-gullied ranges, where brown plains meet the sky —
In scrub and bush and jungle the lone bush Outposts lie.

The vanguard lags behind them; the rearguard rests at ease;
The city-fed battalion doth bivouac in peace;
But constant is their vigil, their duty long and keen
Who keep the distant Outposts through fatted years and lean.

They read no current cables; no inky herald brings
To them each morning early the news of men and things.
The policies of nations; the world, both grave and gay,
Is but a formless shadow — an echo far away.

They face the raging summer and pray a cooling change —
Dust-reddened in the desert; fire-haunted on the range:
They nurse the stock to water, fly-pestered through the haze
And heat and desolation of dry, drought-devilled days.

They toil through trying winters, foregoing present needs,
For misty future chances — for tools, or stock, or seeds.
They walk in homely raiment; coarse fare the cupboard fills
Of those who keep the Outposts along the plains and hills.

Blazed tracks through forests gloomy — steep, stony trails they know;
By flooded fords and marshes, and gullies white with snow,
The thunder on the hillside, the loud tornado’s flight;
Bruised flesh and strong limbs shattered, and sickness in the night.

Aye, doubts and dreads uncertain, child-bearings, fevers, chills,
Long, sleepless nights of watching, all human griefs and ills,
Are theirs to bear and battle when hard the burdens press,
Of solitary trouble and pain in loneliness.

Their dead lie buried near them; the loved they might not save,
A panel and a paling to mark the quiet grave,
White stars their tapers burning, the wind among the trees
To sing above the sleepers its soft bush melodies.

The creaking of the saddles, the stockwhips sounding clear
And gaily in the morning, the gallant Outposts hear;
The bell-birds in the bloodwoods, or, from the pale lagoon,
Green frogs in rain-time croaking hoarse greetings to the moon.

Great pictures spread before them; the sky’s unfathomed arch;
Dark clouds like feudal ramparts, white clouds upon the march,
Red mornings on the mountain, red sunsets o’er the plain,
The moonlit river windings, the paddocks wet with rain;

The Canvas of Creation, whose thousand tints and shades
On endless prairies linger and dwell in everglades,
With all its form and colour, its desert and its dew —
While pass the changing seasons — is ever theirs to view.

Bare, ring-barked patches standing like white bones far away;
Bark walls and roofs that mirage to castles ’neath the play
Of mocking suns down-pouring their heat-waves o’er the land;
The flats below the gullies, the sweet soaks in the sand —

These mark in turn the Outposts. By lonesome trail and track
Ye may, so suited, seek them by Far and Farthest Back.
Warm hearts will give ye greeting, strong hands will freely grasp
Your hands in hearty welcome with honest, friendly clasp.

Through sunshine and through starshine, through failure and success,
In fair and flowing seasons, in seasons of distress;
Beyond the touch of culture, without the ways of ease,
These soldiers of the Outposts their vigils never cease.

Lank heroes clothed in moleskin, brown heroines in print;
Although you gain no medals nor in the social mint
Are stamped with high approval, not all that silken crew
Of snobs and city loafers can boast the worth of you.

Ye have your faults and failings; the pressure of your need
Forbids angelic sweetness and bars the saintly breed;
But ye are Men and Women and fit and worthy peers
Of them who hold the Outposts through all the fighting years.

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 17-20

Editor’s notes:
bloodwood = any of several Australian trees of the genus Corymbia (formerly of the genus Eucalyptus), which have a reddish coloured wood, such as Corymbia gummifera (known as red bloodwood), Corymbia intermedia (pink bloodwood), Corymbia ptychocarpa (swamp bloodwood or spring bloodwood), Corymbia opaca (desert bloodwood), Corymbia eximia (yellow bloodwood)

doth = (archaic) does

’neath = (vernacular) beneath

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

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

vanguard = in the lead, at the front; the advance unit of a military force; the forefront in an area, field, movement, profession, or science; the leaders of a cultural, intellectual, political, or social movement

ye = (archaic) you

Speak Your Mind