[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]
When Watts Went Out to Yugilbar.
The summer days, through heat and haze,
Had browned the meadow lands,
And in its flow sang soft and low
The river on its sands —
The river wide that once in pride
Poured out its high commands.
And so we went, on peace intent,
That golden Eastertide,
With ample store of “providore,”
And liquid stock beside;
And, trotting free, ’twas good to see
The pack-horse in his stride.
God gave us hills to cure our ills;
And where the river rolls
His splendid length of mountain strength
Along the pebbled shoals,
Long leagues from town, we sat us down
To rest our weary souls.
The dweller in the streets, whose thin,
White ghosts of pleasures pall —
He little deems what halcyon dreams,
What visions fair and tall,
From leaf and vine with songs divine,
In Bushland shadows call.
The spoil hard won by rod and gun,
Abroad in Nature’s ways;
The kind surcease from toil, and peace
Beside the camp fire’s blaze;
The Dawn’s young rose, the Evening’s close,
Made perfect all our days.
Then in the late, dim dusk my mate
(As Orpheus long ago)
The strings would sweep and clear and deep,
In joy — perchance in woe —
Love, Peace and War — all things that are
Fell out beneath the bow.
I’ve heard the grand massed fun’ral band
Behind a warrior’s pall,
In weird notes roll through heart and soul
The slow “Dead March in Saul;”
In youth’s wild days The Marseillaise
To arms all peoples call;
But when I dream by slope and stream,
Where upland glories are;
Or, if my feet tread alien street
In alien lands afar,
Still will I hold those hours of gold
’Way out on Yugilbar.
First night went by; but, bearded, shy,
Unskilled of tongue or pen;
Next night from camp, a starlit tramp,
They came, rough miner men.
The fiddler knew, and slyly drew
The music of their ken.
My Bushland fair, let fools declare
Thee barren of sweet things;
Deep in thy heart there throbs apart
A harp of golden strings;
And to its chords, in wondrous words,
A wooing siren sings.
The dark range o’er, with wondrous store
Of silver from the moon
Was slowly filled, while ached and thrilled
Those kind bush hearts in tune
To Love and War — all things that are
Within the player’s boon.
Of “Home, Sweet Home” ’neath star-spread dome,
The dark hills heard the story;
“St. Patrick’s Day” once more away
The wild Celt called to glory;
Or sweet and sad the raw Scots lad
Dreamed of his “Annie Laurie.”
Brave, simple souls; as backward rolls
Time’s curtain, from afar
That scene I dream of hill and stream
’Neath cloudless moon and star;
In fancy hear the echoes clear —
’Way out on Yugilbar.
And, Watts, when you are passing through
That Vale the preachers tell,
Just lift your bow and he will know
The song-lord Israfel.
And loud and clear, “Musicians here!”
He’ll cry — and ’twill be well.
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 51-54
Annie Laurie = a popular Scottish song, also known as “Maxwelton Braes”, based upon a poem by William Douglas (1672?–1748); Lady Alicia Scott, in about 1835, set the poem to music, modifying the first and second verses and adding a third of her own creation
boon = something which is beneficial, helpful or useful; a blessing, a godsend (may also refer to a favour or request)
fun’ral = (vernacular) funeral
halcyon = carefree, happy, joyful; prosperous, successful, wealthy; calm, peaceful
ken = knowledge, perception, understanding (also means “know”, particularly as used in Scotland)
The Marseillaise = La Marseillaise: the national anthem of France, written by Rouget de L’Isle in April 1792, when France was at war with Austria; it was originally entitled the “Chant de Guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” (“War Song for the Army of the Rhine”), however, following the song’s use by volunteers from Marseille who marched into Paris in July 1792, it received the nickname of “La Marseillaise”; it was chosen as the French national anthem by the National Convention (the first government of the French Revolution) in 1795
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
Orpheus = in Greek mythology, Orpheus was a great musician, whose music could charm any living creature
pall = a heavy cloth draped over a coffin, hearse, or tomb; a coffin; a cloak, a mantle (can also refer to: a feeling of gloom; a negative mood; a thick cloud of smoke or dust)
siren = in Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous island creatures who lured sailors to them, by using magically-enhanced beautiful singing voices and enchanting music, so that ships would be shipwrecked on the rocky coast of their island, with the sailors being so enraptured by their singing that they would forget all else, even failing to eat, so that any shipwrecked survivors would die of starvation whilst listening to the Sirens (alternatively, it was said that the Sirens would kill any surviving sailors); the Sirens were described as being part-human and part-bird, although they were also portrayed as part-human and part-fish (perhaps a forerunner of the mermaids of mythology)
thee = (archaic) you
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”
’twill = (archaic) a contraction of “it will”
’way = (vernacular) away
[Editor: Changed “soft and and low” to “soft and low”.]
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