The Bell-Bird [poem by Philip Durham Lorimer]

[Editor: This poem by Philip Durham Lorimer was published in Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, 1901.]

The Bell-Bird

Where the myall trees are growing
On the soil that’s sooty black,
Where the salt-bush lines the border
Of the long, forbidding track ;
From a clump of boxwood timber
That is stretching o’er the plain,
I can hear the horse-bell tinkle ;
But I look for tracks in vain.

On the flat, between the ridges,
Lies a calm and clear lagoon,
Where the lilies shade the water
That is coolest in the noon ;
Where the cattle, after drinking.
Are in camp around the trees —
And a bell is out there tinkling,
For I hear it on the breeze.

Round the rosewood and the yarrahs,
Where their shades in silence wait
Till their boughs reach out the richness
Of their feathered choral freight,
I can hear the horse-bell ringing —
Just a sound, and nothing more ;
For its tone is in my hearing,
As it oft has been before.

But I look for traces only,
Yet no horses can I see,
Still the ring of that bell ever
Brings a fresh hope unto me ;
And my nag is getting weary,
For since early morn I’ve been
In the hearing of a ringing
In a wild, yet open scene.

I am now a myall nearing
In the glow of setting sun,
And I look into the branches,
And I see a bird — just one !
While its mouth is pouting, slowly
Falls a loud yet mimic song —
’Tis the horse-bell of the morning
That I’ve heard the whole day long !

Gunnedah, June 10, 1893.

E. A. Petherick (editor). Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, William Clowes and Sons, London, 1901, pages 211-212

Editor’s notes:
myall = an acacia tree (wattle tree), especially the Acacia pendula (weeping myall) which has gray or silver foliage, drooping branches, and which can grow up to 10 metres in height (with a hard heavy fine-grained wood that is especially used for carving and fine woodworking); in another context “myall” can refer to an uncivilized or wild person (from the Aboriginal word “miyal” for stranger)

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