[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]
Portland Bay (Victoria)
“Has any man beheld, by cliff or coast,
The Ships of My Desire — their pennons streaming ?
Here at mine Open Gate
I dwell alone, and wait
Where is Prosperity ? — long dead and lost —
In vain I pray for statesmen and redeeming !”
I hear the Harbour sighing for the Ships That Never Come —
The ships that pass her by with smoke-wreaths trailing ;
Sings the Seaport so to me,
And the protest of the sea
Thunders loudly, but none heareth — all the hearts of men are numb,
And . . . Portland Bay is shipless and her yearnings unavailing !
Her waters wait for Commerce in the South —
Her mile-long piers, that call in vain for Argos ;
The people dream and die,
For sail and steam go by —
Greed, alas ! and ancient Cunning — they have stopped the Statesman’s mouth,
And a Single Seaport swallows ships and cargoes !
One over-crowded City, where Too Many People dwell —
One octopus that battens on its plunder ;
Crowded piers and water-way —
Silent, shipless Portland Bay,
O Lord, will ne’er a Statesman ring the Vampire City’s knell,
And wake the Nation’s soul ere All Goes Under ?
The Lighthouse flashes lonely o’er the sea —
Strange rays, that gleam in vain and surely wasted ;
The passing of the years,
And the rotting of the piers —
Lord, are men crazed, and under ban of Thee ? —
What does this Sea-Lamp here — what madman’s jest has placed it ?
For the shipless Harbour slumbers, and its piers exist in vain —
Thrice-damned is Portland Bay by “statesmen’s” orders ;
Who will avenge the crime ? —
Swift comes the Voting-Time,
Pass, “statesmen” all, with scurvy gods of Gain —
This Land, in place of ye, needs more Asylum-Warders !
“Has any man beheld a madder host —
Are These the Land’s Desire, their jawbones waving ?
A crazed Asylum-Team,
So . . . I slumber here, and dream —
My Ocean Gate is Empty, and the ancient ghost
Of Vanished Trade is stalking ’midst their Raving !”
Who hears the Sea-Gate’s Question ? — for the Ships of Her Desire
Still pass far-off, with smoke-wreaths trailing ;
From the howling M.L.A.
This is certain — Portland Bay
Calls for Justice, but that brain-disordered choir
Still continues wrecking seaports — Prayers Like
Hers Are Naught Availing !
Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 144-146
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