The Flame Tree [poem by E. J. Brady]

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

The Flame Tree.

Drab-feathered birds of sorrow
Droop no dull wings of Care;
Nor doth a sere To-morrow,
Red droughts, malign, prepare
When Spring with Illawarra
Makes compact green and fair.

The sun, in harness splendid,
His chariot of gold
Through azure fields unended,
Drives forth; a hero bold,
As when o’er Hellas bended
Idyllic skies of old.

Its ringed, round, column Doric
The slender palm tree sways,
Though no wild wood-nymphs choric
A-down green shaded ways
Of tree-fern unhistoric,
Give Dionysius praise.

With shoreward sapphires laden,
And landward leaf and vine,
The vestal South arrayed in
Bejewelled raiment fine,
Burns forth a fire-eyed maiden
Of Roses, Love and Wine.

And, where her mountains yearning,
Turn eastward towards the seas —
Their coal-seams darkly urning
Dead forest mysteries —
Out-stands in vesture burning
This Cardinal of Trees.

Flame-capped, in scarlet glory;
With fiery plumes, upflung,
Like some Rose Knight of story
By courtly minstrels sung,
A proud Conquistadore
He shines his peers among.

Where sounds his clear reveille
The whip-bird in the morn;
Where cradled by the valley
Triumphant day is born,
And on the hillsides rally
The clouds of Night forlorn;

’Mid green-robed rivals, claiming
The rapt beholder’s view,
In scarlet pride outflaming
Against the skyline blue,
Afar he stands, proclaiming
The royal Richelieu.

With parasitic clinging,
To him no servile vine —
Its trailing minions bringing —
Be-mirks his royal line,
In leafless pride upspringing,
A king by right divine.

But loyal ferns, unflowered,
That kiss his feet of state,
With benisons are dowered
From his o’er-rich estate,
In red abundance showered
From high pontificate.

Nor do they homage falter
Bird choristers a-wing,
But high a fluted psalter
O’er festooned transepts sing,
When red before her altar
He lights the Torch of Spring.

The glory of Australia,
This floral hierarch cries.
In sunlit rose regalia
Beneath her summer skies,
The Genius of Australia,
Full-bloomed, he typifies.

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 119-121

Editor’s notes:
azure = the blue of a clear unclouded sky

benison = a blessing, a benediction (a bestowing of good wishes, especially in a religious context)

doth = (archaic) does

Illawarra = a region on the coast of New South Wales, south of Sydney and north of Shoalhaven; the region includes Kiama, Lake Illawarra, Port Kembla, Shellharbour, and Wollongong

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

nymph = in Greek and Roman mythology, nymphs were young beautiful nubile women, with a propensity to dance, sing, and frolic; they were a class of deity who were not immortal but had very long lives; the dwelling places of most nymphs were generally depicted as being forests, groves, and mountains, and in or nearby lakes, springs, and streams, although there were also sea nymphs

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

psalter = a musical instrument consisting of a flat soundboard with numerous strings, played by plucking the strings with the fingers or by using a plectrum, similar to a dulcimer or zither (also known as a “psaltery”; plural “psalteries”) (can also refer to the biblical Book of Psalms, published in a separate volume)

raiment = (archaic) clothing, garments

reveille = a musical signal played in the morning to wake up military personnel for the first formation of the day (usually played on a bugle, drum, pipes, or trumpet); the time when the reveille signal is usually played; the military formation called by a reveille signal [in the context of this poem, “reveille” refers to the call of a bird]

sere = dried up or withered

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