Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
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Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
 
136. The Australian
 
By Arthur Adams
 
 
ONCE more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
  Parturient of another type.
 
While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future’s verge.
 
They watch him, as they huddle, pent,        5
Striding a spacious continent,
 
Above the level desert’s marge
Looming in his aloofness large.
 
No flower with fragile sweetness graced—
A lank weed wrestling with the waste;        10
 
Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,
The sweetness withered out of him;
 
Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.
 
A little weary from his birth,        15
His laugh the spectre of a mirth,
 
Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.
 
Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?        20
 
So drab and neutral is his day,
He finds a splendour in the grey,
 
And from his life’s monotony
He draws a dreary melody.
 
When earth so poor a banquet makes        25
His pleasures at a gulp he takes;
 
The feast is his to the last crumb:
Drink while he can…the drought will come.
 
His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.        30
 
Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside;
 
He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of the years;
 
Rearing his cities in the sand,        35
He builds where even God has banned;
 
With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns;
 
With paths the distances he snares;
His gyves of steel the great plain wears.        40
 
A child who takes a world for toy,
To build a nation or destroy,
 
His childish features frozen stern,
His manhood’s task he has to learn—
 
From feeble tribes to federate        45
One white and peace-encompassed State.
 
But if there be no goal to reach?…
The track lies open, dawns beseech!
 
Enough that he lay down his load
A little farther on the road.        50
 
So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries.
 

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