The Rhymes Our Hearts Can Read.
We are sated of songs that drone the praise,
Of a world beyond our ken;
We are bored by the ballads of beaten ways
And milk-and-water men;
We are tired of the tales the lovers told
To the cooing amorous dove;
We have banned the minstrelsy of old,
And the lyrics of languid love;
We are done with the dirges cut and dried
In the London square and slum;
But we’re ripe for a rhyme whose metres stride
Through salt-bush scrub and gum.
Sing us a song unsung by men
Of the narrow and cautious creed;
Write with a strong and strenuous pen
The rhymes our hearts can read.
While we stand where the ways of men have end,
And the untrod tracks commence,
We weary of songs the poets penned
In pastoral indolence;
The sleepy sonnet that lovers make
Where weeping willows arch,
Can not the passionate soul awake,
Of men who outward march.
Our harps are hung in the towering trees
And the mulga low and grey;
Our ballads are sung by every breeze
That flogs the sea to spray.
We want no lay of a moonlit strand,
No idyll of daisied mead,
For the rhymes that our hearts can understand
Are the rhymes our hearts can read.
We need no monody planned and built,
In the shade of an abbey grey,
But the pulse and throb of a lusty lilt
That quickens the human clay.
Tell us of men whose axes bite
The hearts of the mountain gum;
Sing of the pioneers who fight
To waken the desert dumb.
We want to hark to the heart within,
Of the men who feel and know;
For only the men who’ve sampled sin
Can write of its joy and woe.
Give us a ballad that swings along
With the bound of a striving steed;
Give us — whether it’s right or wrong —
The rhymes our hearts can read.
We want to travel from page to page
Through dusty drive and stope,
To catch the hiss of the rushing cage,
The roll of the winding rope.
Give us the rip-saw’s grind and scream
As it sunders the giant log;
The groan and the creek of the bullock team
As it flounders across the bog;
The swish and the crack of the stockmen’s whips
In the roar of the night stampede.
Give us the music that bites and grips —
The rhymes our hearts can read!
Sing of the days of hasty camps,
When Bayley blazed the track.
Write of the shining starry lamps
That beacon the wild out-back.
Sing to the soul of the hardest case
That bears his swag of sin;
Of nights of wine and the bold embrace
When revelry roped him in;
Tell of the times we’ve fought for fun,
A wearisome hour to wile,
And whether we lost or drew or won
Swung out with a cheery smile.
Write of the men for whom God waits —
Men of a Christ-like creed;
Sing of the mates who die for mates,
In the rhymes our hearts can read!
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 83-84
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 27 March 1909, p. 12
Dryblower, Jarrahland Jingles: A Volume of Westralian Verse, Perth (W.A.): R.S. Sampson for Sunday Times, 1908, pages 99-103
Bayley = Arthur Bayley (1865-1896) was a gold prospector who discovered gold at Fly Flat (also known as Bayley’s Find), Western Australia on 17 September 1892, sparking a gold rush to the area, which led to the establishment of the town of Coolgardie
clay = in the context of mankind, a reference to the idea that God made man out of clay; from Genesis 2:7 in the Old Testament of the Bible, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”, which has sometimes been referred to as God making man out of clay
ken = knowledge, perception, understanding (also means “know”, as particularly used in Scotland)
[Editor: Added a full stop after “woe” (in line with the rest of the poem and as published in The Register, 27 March 1909).]