The Land Where I Was Born [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).]

The Land Where I Was Born

Have you ever been down to my countree
where the trees are green and tall?
The days are long and the heavens are high,
but the people there are small.
There is no work there: it is always play:
the sun is sweet in the morn;
But a thousand dark things walk at night
in the land where I was born.

Have you ever been down to my countree
where the birds made happy Spring?
The parrots screamed from the honey-trees
and the jays hopped chattering.
Strange were the ways of the water-birds
in the brown swamps, night and morn:
I knew the roads they had in the reeds
in the land where I was born.

Have you ever been down to my countree
have you ridden the horses there?
They had silver manes, and we made them prance,
and plunge and gallop and rear.
We were knights of the olden time
when the old chain-mail was worn:
The swords would flash! and the helmets crash!
in the land where I was born.

Have you ever been down to my countree?
it was full of smiling queens:
They had flaxen hair, they were white and fair,
but they never reached their teens.
Their shoes were small and their dreams were tall:
wonderful frocks were worn;
But the queens all strayed from the place we played
in the land where I was born.

I know you have been to my countree
though I never saw you there;
I know you have loved all things I loved,
flowery, sweet and fair.
The days were long — it was always play;
but we, — we are tired and worn:
They could not welcome us back again
to the land where I was born.



Source:
Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, Sydney: The Bookfellow, 1919, pages 8-9

Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Melbourne: Lothian Publishing Company, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 8-9

Editor’s notes:
countree = an archaic spelling of “country” (another variation is “countrie”)

[Editor: Corrected “were tired” to “are tired” (in line with Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, 1934).]

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