[Editor: A poem by Dorothea Mackellar.]
She is a woman tall and brown
And supple as a swaying vine;
The blood that races through her veins
Is red and fierce like southern wine.
Her lazy arms are strong as steel,
She has the gladiator’s grace,
The panther’s undulating tread
And tireless velvet-footed pace.
Soft shadows play around her mouth
Swift curved to smiles, in laughter slow;
Her eyes have that deep tranquil look
Which far horizons can bestow;
And all things good are hers to give,
So men will follow anywhere —
Through deserts grim as friendless death —
The gleaming of her copper hair.
For who has gazed into her eyes
Is hers while life is in his veins,
She leads him stumbling on beyond
The dancing heat haze on the plains;
And most she leads to happiness,
But some to stark defeat, and they
May curse her but they love her still,
So lasting is her careless sway.
For subtle is her spell and change
And unawares in sorcery
Enmeshed they stand, while that still witch
Aloof, smiles half disdainfully.
Since it is not for everyone
Her lure is cast; not always kind
Her ways, and those rich gifts she has
Chance flung, a man must seek to find.
My lady of the wilderness,
With venture in her blood astir!
She bears no gift of peace as yet;
The lean wild dogs are slave to her.
And secrets hide behind her eyes
Of buried rivers no man knows,
Wastes, where one year the lizard starves
That next year blossom as the rose.
She has no easy calm to give,
Nor heavy slumber poppy-fed,
The tang of restlessness, the thirst
Of youth sunslaked are hers instead;
And some men do not find her fair,
But he to whom she once has bent
Her curving, kissing, mocking lips
Is her sworn soldier, well content
To serve her through the muttering flood
Through hungry fire and aching drouth,
Because he never can forget
The wild-fruit savour of her mouth.
She does not like to show herself,
But in some traceried forest aisle
Between the writhen branches pale,
Warm glintings of her sudden smile
Will break on you, or as you lie
Beside a camp-fire on the plain
Where the throned silence is so huge
The clanking of the hobble-chains,
The whisper of the flame, the jar
And crackle as the charred logs fall
But serve to make it stiller yet —
Then you may hear a dream-dove call,
And, waking, you will see her eyes
Ashine and sweet and wondering,
Among the stars , and from that night
You will forgive her anything.
* * * *
Let others praise the rose-and-white,
For rose-and-white is fair to see,
Her smooth brown skin and scarlet mouth
And tawny hair is life to me.
Dorothea Mackellar. My Country and Other Poems, W.H. Honey, Sydney, [1945?], [pages 13-16] [illustrated by Rhys Williams]
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