Cool dews lie on the lilies yet that ride in purple ranks,
Like galleys from the Isles of Sleep, along the river banks.
As lifted souls from Earth set free, pale swamp-mists slowly rise
To white-winged clouds of mystery, and vanish in the skies.
Their soft out-going stainless leaves those blue-robed skies to hold
A sun that lifts above the green his glowing disc of gold:
But ere his banner in the East proclaims this pleasant strife
Of tropic day begun anew, all Nature wakes to life.
Fat dusky coots swim through the reeds; the red-bills from the maize —
Crop-heavy debauches — stalk home. Now blithe a reed birds plays,
In notes like feathers by young winds on airy dances borne,
Mock matins to a stooping crane, phlegmatic and forlorn.
A spurwing patters through the grass, a sleek white ibis frees
His priestly wing in leisured flight, and from the ring barked trees
A magpie yodels forth his joy; while, weary from their night —
Long journey towards the pleasant south, migrating snipe alight.
Brown eyes alert, wing feathers preened, self-conscious as she feeds,
The black duck like a widow plump floats gaily through the weeds.
High-poised upon his bending rush, a bluecap warbles clear,
A song of corn and sugarcane and Summer all the year.
From farmyards near and farmyards far, in promise loud is plied,
The axe that heralds morning tea and later breakfast-tide.
Till standing in their paddocks green, or clustered in the town,
A pleasant smoke of promise waves from each tall chimney crown.
Loud milk carts rattle down the lanes; their sleepy drivers sway
With swollen eyelids blinking yet owl-fashion at the Day,
Till at the puffing creamery, with gleaming cans they stand,
To yield as tribute, each in turn, the Fatness of the Land.
With parted waters at her bow and curling waves astern,
A river steamboat, trailing smoke, comes churning round the turn;
Her wash breaks loudly on the banks. Slim reeds their tassels shake,
And nod in saucy petulance along her noisy wake.
Now glossy gleams the sunlit maize, and on the jointed cane
A Northern sun, rich profligate, pours down his golden rain;
Enrichens thus, the fruitful gourd with benefaction kind;
And reds the melon’s ripening heart beneath its mottled rind.
In umbrage cool of tree and vine the rambling houses doze.
Magnolias at their porches bloom and by their gates the rose,
Guavas in their gardens grow; the smooth banana spreads
Its tropic shade and bunched delight above the milking-sheds.
The farmer in his hammock smokes a morning pipe at ease:
The farmer’s son his stomach gluts beneath the mango trees;
The farmer’s daughter, whitely frocked, with patience labors on
The wailing keys that mourn aghast the griefs of Mendelssohn.
So, through this land of wealth and tilth comes Morning like a bird
Of Paradise in plumage rare. From jungle depths, unstirred,
Night’s ling’ring coolness flies at length, and o’er the maize and cane
The Sun, despotic overlord, triumphant reigns again.
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 77-80
ere = (archaic) before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
ling’ring = (vernacular) lingering
Mendelssohn = Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), a German composer
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)