The Call of London.
I have heard the Call of London,
Yea, the savor rising sweet
Of its fleshpots, down in Fleet-street
When success is at your feet.
Now the mail hath brought a missive,
And its writer’s pen of grace
Bids me hasten to the struggle
Ere I’m “distanced in the race.”
“There’s a wider field in Britain,
Or in Boston or New York;
Better chances for your effort,
Better payment for your work.
“Sell your socks and sling Australia
There is nothing in the game.
I am doing well in London,
You can surely do the same.
“Look at other scribes and artists —
All the clever chaps we know,
Who have left their blithered country,
Where they never got a show!
“Raise the money for a passage,
Let Australia go to — Hay.”
So he puts the matter to me
From his fleshpot far away.
* * * *
As I wrestle with temptation
On this clear October morn,
I can hear the bell-birds chiming
Through the bush, where I was born.
I can see the old gums waving
To the pressure of the wild,
Warm winds of golden summer
That I longed for as a child.
And the spirit of Australia —
They must suffer who would love —
In my heart has found a nesting;
Now she coos, a Cushat dove:—
“For a mess of foreign pottage
Would you sell to feed your mouth,
All the golden dreams I bring you
From my Love-land in the South?
“Go! and hunger in a suburb
’Grimed with sooty London rain,
For the splashing of the showers
Through the clover and the cane!
“Though your years were richly gilded —
If by Chance your Fortune smiles,
You will languish for your Bushland
And her free, unfettered miles.
“Like dry mud upon her gilgas
Will your thirsty spirit gape,
For the haze along the mountain,
For the spindrift on the cape.
“You have watched the blue wave shoreward,
You have tramped the yellow sand,
You have wandered, you have gloried
By Australian Sea and Land.
“Will a passing Fame content you,
Or a little wealth repay
All this heritage of Freedom
That your hand would cast away?”
* * * *
Now the Soul within me sickens
As old Illawarra green
And the meadows of Shoalhaven,
With her blue hills in between;
From their films of sunlit Fancy
On a screen of Mem’ry gleam;
And a train of glowing pictures
Lies before me in a dream:—
Lo! high Gippsland ranges greet me,
Where the young creeks at their play
Give the dripping ferns in passing
Saucy greeting and Good-day.
Lo! the level Plains unended
Of a wondrous Riverine
Roll before me to the sunset;
And by magic strange, unseen,
I behold a wide Monaro,
With her mountains in the snow;
And her shadow-haunted gorges,
Where the fearless riders go.
And the rivers! Oh, my rivers,
How ye call me from afar,
Where the sugar-cane is waving,
And the mammoth melons are!
I am back in sunny Queensland,
Where the custard-apples fruit;
I am driving down the Logan,
Where they grow the arrowroot.
All my tracks of travel glamor,
All my camp-fires fondly glow —
As Temptation waits an answer;
And my answer shall be, “No!”
So — I fling his missive fire-ward,
And I make reply in verse:
“I am married . . . to Australia,
Friend, for better or for worse.
“Yea, the call of mine ain country
Is a louder call to me
Than the lure of any far-land
Where the flesh-pots smoking be.
“You may hunt your golden guineas
In the gloom of London town . . .
I am staying in the sunlight,
And I turn temptation down.”
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 66-70
ain = (Scottish) own (in the context of belonging, e.g. “my ain folk” means “my own folk”)
ere = (archaic) before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
gilga = (also spelt: ghilgai, gilgaay, gilgai, gilgay, gilgi, gilgie) a type of waterhole; “a saucer-shaped depression in the ground which forms a natural reservoir for rainwater … Ghilgais vary from 20 to 100 yards in diameter, and are from five to ten feet deep … regular in outline and deeper towards the centre … their formation is probably due to subsidence” [Morris]; (gilga country; in the gilgas) generally low-lying terrain which includes a lot of weather-caused depressions and hollows (along with deep cracking of the earth during dry periods); (usually spelt “gilgie”, although also spelt “gilga”) a type of freshwater crayfish which can be found in rivers and gilga holes; the town of Gilgai (historically, also spelt Gilga), in New South Wales, located south of Inverell
See: 1) “Meanings and origins of Australian words and idioms: G”, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University (entry: “gilgai”)
2) G. A. Wilkes, A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1978, p. 155 (entry: “gilgai, gilgie”)
3) Edward E. Morris, Morris’s Dictionary of Australian Words, Names and Phrases, South Yarra (Vic.): Currey O’Neil Ross, 1983 (first published 1898), p. 160 (entry: “ghilgai”)
4) “Life and lore of the bush”, Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 28 April 1935, p. 18 (First Section)
5) “word “gilga””, Institute of Australian Culture (list on Trove website, National Library of Australia)
’grimed = (vernacular) begrimed; grimy, dirty, soiled
hath = (archaic) has
Hay = a euphemism for Hades or Hell (Hay is also the name of a town in the western Riverina region of New South Wales)
mem’ry = (vernacular) memory
missive = a letter, memorandum, note, or written message
morn = morning
Riverine = the Riverina: a region of south-western New South Wales, which encompasses the Murrumbidgee River, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Deniliquin, Finley, Griffith, Gundagai, Jerilderie, Junee, Leeton, Narrandera, Temora, Tocumwal, Wagga Wagga, and West Wyalong
show = a chance to do well; a fair hearing
sling = throw, fling; throw away, get rid of, be done with
ye = (archaic) you
yea = yes; indeed; truly; an affirmation (especially an affirmative vote), an indication of assent