[Editor: This poem by W.E. Carew was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]
’Twas in the Fraser country, where the coast is wild and strange ;
And swagging up the long divide that leads to Daybreak Range
We came, and reached the saddle where the steep rise starts to slow ;
Then dropped our loads and, resting, gazed upon the gorge below.
And out beyond we looked towards the faintly-gleaming sea,
Along the dim horizon-line where forests cease to be ;
And from the white-fringed coast there came the soft, persistent sound
Of countless sighs that dying waves breathed o’er their burial-ground.
And then, in strangest humour, borne on Fancy’s winsome feet,
Far, far away from Daybreak Range I paced the crowded street ;
The countless thousands passed along with loads that bent the back —
They carried more than “eighty” as they struggled up the track !
Some were, alas ! so feeble that they fainted by the way ;
And some rushed wildly through the throng with gestures of dismay ;
And some there were of giant strength who seemed to walk in sleep,
And slowly crept with crushing loads in trance unconscious, deep.
And some I saw whose faces held no human destiny —
Pale spectres of the men that once they fondly hoped to be ;
And some there were but young in years, yet from whom Hope had fled,
To leave them, careless of their chains, in all but seeming dead !
Then suddenly a sound was heard that thrilled that toiling band —
A voice that, clear as trumpet-call, went speeding o’er the land ;
And men whose ears were longtime dulled by Labour’s iron knell
Stopped still with leaping hearts, to hear the cry of “Spell oh ! Spell !”
Then loads were dropped, and weary forms sank panting on the ground,
And Care a moment ceased to brood as respite sweet was found ;
Whilst haggard faces, in the flush of rest, shone almost fair,
And silent tongues were loosed, and babbled music on the air !
And then I woke, or seemed to wake, and on the column pressed,
Whilst at its head some unseen band played softly hymns of rest ;
And in their homes the women of that dumb and awful crowd
With wasted fingers swiftly sewed another worker’s shroud.
But oft at night, when heaven hangs close, there echoes strangely clear
Some semblance of that clarion-call that speaks the good time near
When voice of man, or voice of God, in accents all may tell,
Shall waken every deadened soul with cry of “Spell oh ! Spell !”
W. E. Carew.
A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 5-7