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.
 
145. A Christ-Child Day in Australia
 
By Ethel Turner
 
 
A COPPER concave of a sky
  Hangs high above my head.
Vague thunder sullenly goes by
  With dragging, muffled tread.
 
The hot air faints upon the grass,        5
  And at its bitter breath,
Ten thousand trembling flower-souls pass,
  With fragrant sighs, to death.
 
There comes no breeze. No breeze has sprung
  And sweetly blown for days.        10
Dead air in silent sheets has hung,
  Smooth wavering sheets of haze.
 
The very birds that erstwhile soared
  Hide hushed in haunts of trees.
Nature no longer walks abroad,        15
  But crouches on her knees.
 
Crouches and hides her withered face,
  Above her barren breast,
And I forget her yester grace
  And the clustering mouths she blessed.        20
 
’Tis in no alien land I sit,
  Almost it is mine own.
Its fibres to my fibres knit,
  Its bone into my bone.
 
These are no alien skies I know,        25
  Yet something in my blood
Calls sharp for breath of ice and snow
  Across the wide, salt flood.
 
Calls loud and will not be denied,
  Cries, with imperious tears,        30
And mem’ries that have never died
  Leap wildly o’er the years:
 
The thrill of England’s winter days,
  Of England’s frost-sharp air,
The ice along her waterways,        35
  Her snowfields stretching fair,
 
Her snowfields gleaming through the dark,
  Her bird with breast aglow,
On the white land a crimson mark,
  —Ah England, England’s snow!        40
 
Fair as a queen, this far south land,
  A wayward bride, half won,
Her dowry careless flung like sand,
  Her royal flax unspun.
 
And if beneath her ardent glance        45
  Her subjects faint and reel,
Does she but melt, stoop to entrance,
  They kiss her hem and kneel.
 
And I—I kneel. For oft her hand
  Has gently touched my hair.        50
Then with a throb I rise and stand,
  —A Queen!—why should she spare!
 
Yet when the Christ-Child mem’ries steal,
  Some ebb-tide swells to flood.
Ah, England—just once more to feel        55
  Thy winter in my blood!
 

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