The Present and the Past [poem by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This poem by Rex Ingamells was published in Forgotten People (1936).]

The Present and the Past


I have wandered all about the land, and seen
The present and the past; and I have known
Sorrow, when standing where the blacks have been,
By a totem-rock or a humpy earthward blown.

The tribes have vanished or dwindled to a few
Bewildered warriors. Inexorably does
Progress progress. Before long we shall view
But sandhill-skulls and shattered tjurungas.

To-day bush-parsons go with shining faces,
Translating hymns, dispensing swift salvation;
While, keenly interested in stone-age races,
A scientific crowd gets information.

Or tired tourists, camped by motor-cars,
See a lone red fire through mulga under stars.


The loneliness of sun-gold on the hills
As summer days end is a requiem
For vanished tribes. When evening distils
A variant haze, the bushland dreams of them.

Memories seem to stir, as daylight comes,
Of nomad-folk that wandered unafraid;
And memories are aroused among the gums,
By the echoless call of winds in noon-day shade.

The limber warrior, and his dog with him,
Stalk through the grey-lit grass. . . Dark boughs, above
Corroboree, take grotesque fires . . . The slim,
Dim maids of fourteen summers burn with love . . .

Sometimes the bushland seems in dream to be
Pang-choked, still listening for the clear coo-ee.

Rex Ingamells, Forgotten People, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1936, pages 13-14

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