E. C Morrice.

The river and other verses online

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C. morrlce

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Melbourne :


The Author's acknowledgments are due to the
proprietors of the following papers, who have kindly
given permission to reprint verses thnt have pre-
viously been printed in their columns: —

" Sydney Mail,"
"Town and Country Journal,"
"Sydney Morning Herald,"
"Goulburn Herald,"
"Wollondilly Press,"
" Band of Mercy Advocate,"
Etc., etc.


At ^3/^




The River - - - ^

Old Wallaroo - - - - - 10

The Bunyip - - - - - - 12

The Charm of the Bush - - - - 15

The Harvesting Horses - - - - 18

On the Plains - - - - - 20

Women Workers - - - - - 22

The Legend of the Pleiades - - - 25

The Passing of Summer - - - - 27

The Egrets - - - - - - 29

The Southern Cross - - - - 31

- 32

- 33

Our Country - - - -

To the Evening Star - - -

Autumn Days - - - - - 34

Remember the Toilers - - - - 36

An Australian Girl's Letter - - - 38

The Selector's Boy - - - - 40

Mailboy Jim's Ride - - - - 42

The Last of His Tribe - - - - 44

The Bushranger - - - - - 46

The Bushman's Child - - - - 48

A Reminiscence - - - - - 50


Transcendental Love - - - - 53

Black Barney - - - - - 55

The Drover's Christmas Eve - - - 61

The Hanging Rock, 1891 - - - - 64

The Butcher Bird - - - - - 66

For Sydney, 1889 - - - - - 68

The Calling of the Sea - - - - 70

The River

In the springtime, when the wattles

All their golden glory strewed,
Where the North wind, soft and faithless,

With his kiss their blossoms wooed,
Then the River, bright and tranquil,

Flowed with silver-rippUng tide
Past the town and ever onward

Till it reached the ocean wide.

Here the joys of life ran riot

By the river's mazy ways.
Youth and age, and merry childhood,

Revelled in those vernal days.
Wedding-bells pealed o'er the water,

Music gay and sounds of glee
Came across the sparkling river

In those days of jubilee.

When the night crept o'er the ranges,

Blotting out the sunset gleam,
Myriad lights from happy households

Glittered on the placid stream ;


And when all was steeped in slumber,
And the Cross shone out on high,

Then the river to the sheoaks
Sang a tender lullaby.

From the arid West now summer

Came, and all the gardens sweet,
All the fruitful fields and pastures,

Shrivelled in the scorching heat;
Plaintively the river murmured,

Shrunken from its lordly flow,
Hazy were the skies at noontide,

Red at eve with fiery glow.

But when sultry days were waning,

Glacier-like the storm clouds came.
From their gloomy caverns flashing

Lurid streaks, and sheets of flame.
O'er the dark'ning earth went sweeping

Warningly. a long-drawn sigh.
And the thund'rous tempest loosened "

Smote the land with raging cry.

Then up from the seas the South wind
Drove with gusts and floods of rain


O'er their banks the waters rising
Overflowed the sodden plain ;

And upon that town the river,
Roaring in the midnight gloom,

Bringing death, and swift destruction
Came with unrelenting doom.

Now no longer by the river

Smiles the gay and busy town.
Where it stood are swamps and marshes

Overgrown with rushes brown.
Here the joy-bells ring no longer,

But the startled plover cries,
And the sad and eerie curlew

Wails beneath the lonely skies.

But at midnight, if you listen.

By that river cold and bright,
You may hear the dirges chanted

Softly, sadly, through the night;
You may hear a soimd of mourning

Through the reeds and rushes sere,
And a slow and solemn tolling

In those river marshes drear.

Old Wallaroo

The evening of my life has come,

The few friends I have known
Are scattered far and wide, and I,

An old man, am alone.
Yet still through all the changeful years

One steadfast friend and true
Has ever shared my roving life,

My horse, Old Wallaroo.

When journeying over desert wastes

In Never-Never lands,
With nought in sight but earth and sky,

Across the burning sands ;
The last drop in my water-bag

We've shared, for well I knew
Together we should live or die,

My faithful Wallaroo.

Full many joys we two have known.

That ne'er will come again ;
We've chased wild cattle in the scrub

And brumbies on the plain ;



We've won a stockman's race, we've worn

With pride the ribbon blue
For rides and jumps at country shows,

^ly staunch old Wallaroo.

We've gone a-droving on the roads.

And camped on flat and hill,
In feast or famine, shine or rain.

We've stuck together still ;
'Mid flood and fire and hostile blacks

You've safely brought me through,
And many a time have saved my life.

My brave old Wallaroo.

Now we are old, and like to spend

Our life in easy ways,
He dozes in the sun. I smoke

And dream of bygone days;
But when our last great journey comes.

Ah, may it be that you
And I together cross that bourne.

My dear old Wallaroo !


The Bunyip

In lonely swamps, where through the night

The widowed curlew cries,
Where wings the hoarse-voiced cranes, and where

The mopoke's voice replies ;
Where through the ooze and slimy reeds

The deadly adder glides,
Heard, but unseen, a mystery,

The ghostly bunyip hides.

His mighty, roaring voice resounds

Through tangled bush and brake.
The drovers hear it in their camp.

The dusky natives quake.
As crouching in their gunyah's shade,

With trembling lips they pray
The evil spirit to pass by,

And spare them on his way.

At times a legend strange is heard

How 'neath the waning moon
Some wand'rer saw a grisly shape

Rise from the dark lagoon;



l^ut all such records fanciful

Are fairy tales, I ween.
:\o mortal eye from age to age

The bunyip's form has seen.

Is he a friend or foe to man,

Malignant or benign ?
Or does he, doomed to solitude,

For vanished comrades pine?
A freak of prehistoric days,

When proudly he might reign
O'er creatures weird that swam the stream

Or sported on the plain?

Or is he but a spectral voice.

Devoid of life and form.
Like to the banshee wailing in

The raging midnight storm?
It is not know-n, but on some day

Perchance that it may be
Some strong and clear-eyed brain may solve

The bunyip's mystery.

In every human heart there dwells
Some secret, unknown power.



We hear at times its mighty voice

Rise in a thrilling hour.
Is it malevolent or kind,

Destined for weal or woe
To shape our lives? Heaven grant us strength

And vision clear, to know.


The Charm of the Bush

Oh! bushlands wild and lonely

When sick with worldly care
I turn to you, and only

Find peace and comfort there,
Where fragrant gum-trees rustle

Their gracious hymn of praise,
Far from the roar and bustle

Of crowded city ways.

Down where the ripples shimmer

The whispering oaks among.
And where the tea-trees glisten

Resounds the thrushes' song,
And where the waters dreaming

Reflect cerulean skies.
A flash of sapphire gleaming

The swift kingfisher flies.

Here are the fairy bowers
Where wild clematis sweet,

Its creamy petals showers
Before my straying feet.



And here, in purple glory,

Sarsaparilla twines
Around a box-tree hoary

Her slight and graceful vines.

A-down the gully leaping

The silvery cascades fall,
'Mid palm and fern-trees sweeping

The mocking lyre-birds call,
The wonga-wonga's cooing

Comes softly through the trees,
Where sly mimosas wooing

Is murmuring low the breeze.

How wond'rous are the changes

All through that summer day.
When over distant ranges

The light and shadows play ;
Cool greys at dawn, warm blushings

Rose-red at sunrise bright,
Noon's golden haze, pink flushings

In evening's crimson light.

Then as the last faint glowing
Fades over western woods,



Comes moonlight overflowing

These silent solitudes.
Mysterious shadows darken,

And where the night-winds roam,
To solemn songs I hearken

Within the leafy dome.

Oh! bushlands, calm and holy,

Beneath your arches wide,
I learn with spirit lowly

How small is human pride ;
And from your leafy portals

I come with broader mind
To join my fellow-mortals

And mingle with my kind.


The Harvesting Horses

Oh! brave is the soldier's horse that brings

His rider into war,
When the shrapnel shrieks, and bullet sings,

And cannon booms afar ;
With trembling nostril, fiery eye,

And wildly tossing mane,
Though riderless, at bugle-call

He breasts the fight again.

Oh ! grand is the racer as he leads

The field amid the roar
Of a thousand voices, when he needs

Nor spur, nor whip-lash more
To make him win the prize that day,

As past the post he flies,
A thing of beauty and of pride.

The joy of many eyes.

But more than gallant battle-steed.

Or sportsman's joy, I hold
In honour supreme that friend in need

Who in those fields of gold.



The yellow vvheatfields. works for man
With meek and patient toil,

To gather in the precious grain,
The bounty of the soil.

Oh ! not for glory, and not for play,

But for our daily bread,
Those harvesting horses strive all day.

From dawn till evening red.
And well I love those sturdy teams

As one by one they come,
All glorified by sunset glow,

To bring the Harvest Home.


On the Plains

Away, away, across the sunny plains.

The dewdrops glisten on the waving grass,

Our curb-chains jingle as we touch the reins.
The morning breezes greet us as we pass.

No hills to break the illimitable view^s.

No trees, alone the frosted salt-bush grows,

The gleaming tanks reflect the heavens blue,
A silv'ry streak the distant river flows.

Along the line where earth and heaven meet
Like carded wool the fleecy cloudlets lie.

Far in the south a flock of emus fleet

Move like black specks against the pearly sky.

The browsing flocks are scattered far and near.
And solitude reigns o'er these levels grey.

We are alone, dear love, with none to hear

The farewell words that part our lives to-day.

Let us forget that sorrow lurks behind,
Let us forget the lonely days to be.



This day is ours, for once the fates are kind,
Let us enjoy our short-lived ecstacy.

Away, away, out-riding pain and grief.

Our horses' hoofs with rhythmic music ring.
Let us rejoice, although our joy be brief,

To share these hours whate'er the future bring.


Women Workers

A heritage of work is theirs,

For, since remotest ages past.
Have not the women ever toiled

Where'er their lot in Hfe w-as cast?
The high-born lady of the hall

In tapestry fair legends wove.
The cottage maiden turned her w'heel,

And spinning sang her songs of love.
Their sphere was narrow, but their hands

Were diligent in household ways,
And still-room, pantry, linen chests

Bore witness to their busy days.

But now they have a wider scope,

And, foremost in the stir and strife,
Shoulder to shoulder with the men

The W'Omen face the fight of life.
For daily bread, for fame, or power,

For love of science or of art.
With pen or brush, or sculptor's tools,

Man's rival throngs the crowded mart.



She tends the sick, she trains the young,
Her voice is heard in pubhc hall.

To right the wrongs that mar our world
Her challenge rings with trumpet call.

Yet think not woman's broader ways

And greater knowledge will despise
The claims of motherhood and wife,

The care that in the household lies.
For ever this her perfect work

Will be, though not on all bestowed.
Some fail, and others tread alone,

With yearning soul, their barren road.
Oh, lonely ones, there may be found

Congenial tasks for you, that lie
Beside your door, where little feet

Of homeless waifs are straying by.

And far from strenuous life of town,

The outback woman, brave and strong.
Toils with her man to make a home.

Nor spares herself the whole day long.
Here, with work-hardened hands, she rears

Her children, who, a sturdy band
Of young Australians, well may prove

A safeguard to their native land.



And many gifted ones have come
From out that forest-nurtured race

To take among- the various calls
For brain and hand a worthy place.

Thus in the surge of cities, or

The solitude of bush and plain.
For weal or woe, still women's work

A mighty factor shall remain.
Ah! if from every rank of life

United women could believe
That power for good lies in their grasp,

What noble deeds they might achieve.
Perchance some day will realise

Long cherished hopes, when she who reigns
Beneficent o'er hearts and homes

May raise the world to higher planes.


The Legend of the Pleiades


In the days long since departed.

On the summer meadows bright,
Wandered seven beauteous sisters

Seeking yams from morn till night.
But the cockatoos had eaten

All the roots upon the plain,
And the seven little maidens

Wandered far and sought in vain,
Feared to come home empty-handed

When the shades of evening came.
For they knew Schingal, the Emu,

Sore would beat them, to their shame.
Then they wept and cried, " Biime,

Great, Ancestral Spirit, hear,
Help your little friendless daughters,

For they call in trembling fear."
Then Bame, the great spirit.

Looked and saw the lovely maids,



Said, " Their eyes are like Girala*

Shining in the midnight shades,
Soon their beauty will have faded,

Soon they will be weak and old.
Left alone to die of hunger,

Or to perish in the cold.
. will take them to my heavens,

Make each one a sparkling star,
There, where glow the red Karambeel**

They shall shed their light afar."
And Bame, in his pity

Sent a whirlwind from on high,
And it caught the seven sisters.

Swept them up into the sky.
There at night we see them shining,

Veiled in soft and lustrous haze,
J'Jright V/anggatti. the sweet sisters

Bringing back the springtide days.

* Stars. ** Aldebaren.


The Passing of Summer

Summer is passing, ripe with fulfilment,

Weary with ruins of many a joy,
Deep in our heart its golden remembrance

Time and departure can never destroy.
Summer is passing. Hark to the dirges

Murmured by swamp-oaks, where brown waters
List to that throstle, Autumn's precursor,

W^arbling its greetings to woodland and stream.

Summer, thou hast been gracious to many,

Cruel to others, with varying mood.
Oft has thou vexed us, often delighted.

Lavish with evil, as bounteous with good.
Now, at thy parting, only thy sweetness.

And thy enchantment remain in our mind,
As w'hen a friend at whom we have cavilled,

Leaves us, and only his virtues we find.

Dewladen mornings, when from the river
Rang the reed-warbler's melodious refrain;

Crimson-flushed evenings, when o'er the ranges
Rumbled the thunder with promising rain ;



Sunflooded noon, when perfume of gum leaves
Filled the hot air. and the brushwood was still.

Save for some drowsy lilt of a magpie.
Or for the silver-eye's elfin-voiced trill.

Oh I and the nights in rose-scented gardens.

Love strayed enraptured 'neath star-silvered skies,
^^^^ile great Canopus glowed high in the heavens,

And through the palms swept mysterious sighs.
All this, and more, in thoughts we may treasure.

As slowly fading thou passest from sight.
And if thy harshness we should remember,

Deem it a lesson, and read it aright.

Farewell, O Summer, all thou hast brought us

Soon will be merged in the dim long ago.
When thou returnest, how shall we find thee —

Coming in friendship, or else as a foe?
We shall be ready, una wed by mischance.

Welcoming thee as in shimmering haze,
Over the violet crests of the mountains.

Comes the enchantress with fate-laden days.


The Egrets

High in the red-gum's leafy crown

The egrets build their home,
Amid the rippling greenery,

Like flakes of milky foam.
Their mother-birds upon their nest
In innocence and sweetness rest,
Rain-drenched or tempest-tossed, they cling
To their young brood with shelt'ring wing.

Ah ! Nature may be ruthless,

But with more relentless hand
Man sends death-dealing messengers

Across the peaceful land.
Are those white blooms of wind-swept flowers,
Or falls of snow in summer hours?
Alas ! beneath a smiling sky
God's fairest creatures slaughtered lie.

These denizens of wood and mere

For greed and folly died.
To satisfy man's avarice

And pleasure woman's pride.



Can tender-hearted women wear
These ravished spoils upon her hair,
Nor reaUse their caprice brings
A cruel doom to harmless things?

My sisters, could you but behold

The wanton misery
Inflicted on these lovely birds

Whose plumes so thoughtlessly
You flaunt, and hear in helpless pain
The starving nestlings cry in vain.
Those egrettes proudly worn to-night
Would grow abhorrent to your sight.

A gentle queen, whom we revere.

Has shown us how to stay
The fiat of destruction sent

Forth under fashion's sway.
Then let us follow her, and fling
From us these rifled crests that bring.
Unless our will the fates control,
The stain of cruelty on our soul.


The Southern Cross

Far o'er the Southern ranges when the night

Her star-gemmed mantle spreads o'er land and sea,

The jewelled Cross shines out in majesty

Among the hosts of heaven, serene and bright.

Oh! emblem of a love supreme, whose light

Should guide our steps through life's mysterious ways,

Whene'er to thee our troubled eyes we raise.

Teach us to choose the path that leads aright.

Cross of the South ! How joyfully we greet

Thy welcome stars above the ocean's rim.

When homeward bound, their radiance pure and clear

Awakefts hope, beloved ones to meet,

Our pulses throb, and tears our visions dim,

For thou art linked with all that life holds dear.


Our Country

Can it be true that we Australians know

Not love of country? That our hearts are cold

To that home-spell which these bright shores enfold,

And that we are too ready to bestow

Our light affections on strange lands? Oh, no!

It cannot be ; thy children still do hold

Thee dear, my country, and with spirit bold

And ready arm would meet the invading foe.

We love thy harbour shores, thy azure hills,

Thy woods primeval, and thy boundless plains,

The golden waters of thy mountain rills,

Thy Alpine ranges, where the snow-king reigns,

Thou art our land, which all our pulses thrills.

Not e'en thy rugged wastes our heart disdains.


To the Evening Star

Star of the Evening, rising o'er the deep,

Beyond the long roll of Australian seas.

When over harbour shores a fragrant breeze

From summer gardens come, and white sails sweep

To sheltered havens. On this headland steep

In former times perhaps some dusky chief

Might see the rise beyond the coral reef.

Before the white man roused him from his sleep,

And brought him gifts that drove him to his doom.

Oh ! gentle star, in past and present days,

Thy radiancy illumined twilight's gloom,

Like faithful Love, who sheds her cheering rays

O'er youth and age, and lights us to the tomb,

A lamp from heaven to guide our darkened ways.


Autumn Days

The last bright days of Autumn are welcome to my

Ere over skies cerulean the wintry storm-clouds roll.
Warm are the sun's caresses like some dear friend's

And of December's gladness the wand'ring breezes


In Autumn's wind-swept gardens pale flowers, white

and red,
Still bloom ; but, ah ! their sisters in fields and woods

are dead.
No more the blue lobelia peeps from the waving grass,
The pink-tipped heath no longer sheds fragrance as I


Where late the wild clematis a summer palace made
Dead leaves and withered petals lie heaped within the

And where the wattles quiver above the sparkling

The native bee may vainly for honeyed blossoms seek.



The speckled diamond sparrow, the wren with azure

No longer trill and twitter above their fairy nest;
But through the hazy bushlands, and on the hillside

Ihe weird goburra's laughter still rings with mocking


Oh. full of tender sadness are these last >\utumn days.

The past and future mingling beneath their short-
lived rays,

For summer's golden mem'ries yet seem to linger

Alread}- overshadowed by winter drawing near.


Remember the Toilers

Oh, maiden, in thy youthful prime,

That view'st thy mirrored form entranced
Declced with the spoils of many a clime.

Thy beauty by their charms enhanced,
Pause for a moment ere thou pass

To where thy social triumphs wait.
And, gazing in the flatt'ring glass,

Remember those less blest by fate,
Whose toil makes thee so fair.

That silken gown that round thee gleams

Its fabric woven in distant lands,
While thou wert wrapped in happy dreams,

Was wrought for thee by weary hands.
A barren livelihood to gain.

The flowers that thou dost wear to-night,
With many a sigh of want and pain.

Were fashioned delicate and bright
To twine among thy hair.

Oh, mother, clasping to thy heart

Thy bright-eyed baby boy, whose smile



Such perfect gladness can impart,
'Mid thy caresses pause awhile

And think of mothers toiling hard
To give their hungry children bread,

Whose tenderness knows no reward
Save this, to see them clothed and fed,
Toil without hope of rest.

Warm is thy darling's nursery,

And strewn with many gaudy toys.
Made in far lands across the sea

By little toiling girls and boys.
His laugh is music to thine ear.

But, ah ! the low and plaintive wail
Of other babes thou dost not hear.

Rocked by their mothers, wan and pale,
Upon her shiv'ring breast.

Oh. happy maids and mothers, think

Sometimes of those who toil and strive
To keep with work from which you shrink

Perchance those dear to them alive ;
Give from the time in pleasure spent

A fragment to the toiling poor.
And with the gifts by Fortune sent.

The struggling workers at your door
Relieve as seemeth best.


An Australian Girl's Letter

I am writing this scrawl of a letter

In a hurry before 1 go out,
To tell you I never felt better,

And to ask how you got through the drought?
To say that 1 always remember

The dear home 'neath Australia's bright sky,
And that moonlight night in September

When we plighted our troth, you and I.

We've been to the Palace and Tower,

Done the Abbey, the Temple. St. Paul's,
At Goodwood were caught in a shower,

And have danced at the notable balls.
I think it is all very jolly ;

You should just see the frocks that I wear.
But (this is a secret) your Polly

Keeps on wishing that you could be there.

And now for that rumour unfounded
Of Sir Freddie that came on to you,

Believe me, your fears are not grounded,
Though we're parted I'll ever be true.



The family think 1 am crazy,

And declare his intcnt'ons are clear;

For my part J think the}' are hazy,
lUit Id never accept him, my dear.

For were he a perfect Apollo

Not a feeling he ever could move ;
My own inclinations I'll follow.

And they lead to the one that 1 love.
Good-bye, now, the motor car's ready.

We are ofif for a spin in the " Row,"
And here, oh, of course, is Sir Freddie,

But he's perfectly harmless, you know.

I long for the plains where the cattle,

Ah ! those happy things, wander at will.
For rides through the scrub where the wattle

The warm air with fragrance doth fill.
I long for the realisation

Of the dream that has brightened our life,
That some day to your Queensland station

You will bring me, dear boy, as your wife.


The Selector's Boy

He is a smartish little lad,

Gets up at break of day,
And milks the cows and feeds the pigs,

And helps to make the hay.

He knows a fat beast from a lean,
With one glance of his eye

Can spot a stranger sheep among
Our flock when passing by.

He's not a new chum on a horse.
Barebacked it's all the same.

Buckjumpin' is a lark to him,
Jim knows that little game.


Online LibraryE. C MorriceThe river and other verses → online text (page 1 of 2)