Sheedy was Dying [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Heart of Spring (1919) and Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

Sheedy was Dying

Grey as a rising ghost,
Helpless and dumb;
This he had feared the most —
Now it had come:
Through the tent door,
Mocking, defying,
The Thirsty Land lay,
— And Sheedy was dying!

Why should he ever
Keep turning, keep turning
All his thoughts over
To quicken their burning?
Why should the North wind speak,
Creeping and crying?
— Who else could mourn for him?
Sheedy was dying!

Ay! he had travelled far —
Homeless, a rover;
Drunk his good share and more
Half the world over;
So now had ended
All toiling and trying:
Out in his tent alone
Sheedy was dying!

Never a priest to say
Where he is going:
Ah, he shall take the road,
As he is knowing.
So! — to his rest —
And the North wind is crying:
Who else should mourn for him?
— Sheedy was dying!

Kind, in a surly way;
Somewhat rough-spoken;
Truth to his fellow-men
Keeping unbroken;
With a strong man’s contempt
For the world and its lying —
Now, on his bunk alone,
Sheedy was dying!

Birds of the Thirsty Land
In the dull grey . . .
Mist of the even-time
Floating away . .
Still did the North wind speak,
Creeping and crying:
White, with his mouth agape,
Sheedy was dying!



Source:
Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, The Bookfellow, Sydney, 1919, pages 34-35

Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Lothian Publishing Company, Melbourne, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 30-31

Editor’s notes:
There are some differences of note when this poem is compared to its appearance in Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson:

1) The fourth stanza is significantly different in Collected Poems:
Never a priest to make
Prayer to his travel
Out to that mist of things
None may unravel.
Steering out, staring out,
And the wind crying,
Who else could mourn for him?
Sheedy was dying.

2) The 5th and 6th lines of the fifth stanza are significantly different in Collected Poems:
Kind, in a surly way;
Somewhat rough-spoken;
Truth to his fellow-men
Keeping unbroken;
A strong man, he stood without
Flinching or sighing —
Now, on his bunk alone,
Sheedy was dying!

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