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Bernard O'Dowd

Australia

LAST sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space,
Are you a drift Sargasso, where the West
In halcyon calm rebuilds her fatal nest?
Or Delos of a coming Sun-God’s race?
Are you for Light, and trimmed, with oil in place,
Or but a Will o’ Wisp on marshy quest?
A new demesne for Mammon to infest?
Or lurks millennial Eden ’neath your face?

The cenotaphs of species dead elsewhere
That in your limits leap and swim and fly,
Or trail uncanny harp-strings from your trees,
Mix omens with the auguries that dare
To plant the Cross upon your forehead sky,
A virgin helpmate Ocean at your knees.

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Envy

Black drips the ooze that you secrete on all
That Honour's burin graves or Love holds dear:
At sacrifice you laugh, at virtue sneer,
And sour rebellion's must, the waking thrall
Would ripen into Freedom, with the gall
Of green suspicion. God of drones, you hear
Mutter of plots in all Success: on seer
And saint behold your own foul motives crawl.
O Gluttony that would but dare not gorge!
Theft of the heart that dreads the handcuff! Hate,
Too cowardly to hurl the bolts you forge!
And Lust that fears to pluck the flowers you smell!
Too low your lintel to seduce the great!
The meanest of the Seven doors of Hell!

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True America's Message

OUR manlier spirits hear and will obey
The Word YOU waft Australia o’er the sea—
‘Be true, be brave, be merciful, be free!’
Not you, who, braggart, sent this wan array
Of hell-ships vomiting their Will-to-Slay, 5
These armoured Hates and pallid Envies we,
’Mid rattled mobs and flags hysteric, see
Tarnish the chaste horizon of our Bay:

But YOU we hear, our Comrades of the Cause,
Who face hyæna Mammon in his den: 10
And YOU, who dared your seas of blood to spill
To drag the swooning slave from vampire jaws:
Yea, YOU who freed unborn Australia, when
You singed King George’s beard at Bunker’s Hill.

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The Cow

THIS is a rune I ravelled in the still,
Arrogant stare of an Australian cow—
‘These prankt intruders of the hornless brow,
Puffed up with strange illusions of their skill
To fence, to milk, to fatten and to kill,
Once worshipped me with temple, rite and vow,
Crowned me with stars, and bade rapt millions bow
Before what abject guess they called my will!

‘To-day, this flunkey of my midden, Man,
Throws child-oblations in my milking byre,
Stifles in slums to spare me lordly fields,
Flatters with spotless consorts my desire,
And for a pail of cream his birth-right yields,
As once in Egypt, Hellas, Ind, Iran!’

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Our Duty

Yet what were Love if man remains unfree,
   And woman's sunshine sordid merchandise:
If children's Hope is blasted ere they see
   Its shoots of youth from out the branchlets rise:
   If thought is chained, and gagged is Speech, and Lies
Enthroned as Law befoul posterity,
   And haggard Sin's ubiquitous disguise
Insults the face of God where'er men be?

Ay, what were Love, my love, did we not love
   Our stricken brothers so, as to resign
   For Its own sake, the foison of Its dower:
That, so, we two may help them mount above
   These layers of charnel air in which they pine,
   To seek with us the Presence and the Power?

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Love's Substitute

This love, that dares not warm before its flame
   Our yearning hands, or from its tempting tree
Yield fruit we may consume, or let us claim
   In Hymen's scroll of happy heraldry
   The twining glyphs of perfect you and me --
May kindle social fires whence curls no blame,
   Find gardens where no fruits forbidden be,
And mottoes weave, unsullied by a shame.

For, love, unmothered Childhood wanly waits
   For such as you to cherish it to Youth:
   Raw social soils untilled need Love's own verve
That Peace a-flower may oust their weedy hates:
   And where Distress would faint from wolfish sleuth
   The perfect lovers' symbol is "We serve!"

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Sloth (I) & (II)

Sloth (I)
Too many a Samsan lip your teeth indent:
Too many a Sybil girl you lure to make
The Great Refusal for a fireside sake:
And glamoured poet many a look has sent
Into those eyeballs bear-brown, somnolent,
Nor dreamed that devils in each muddy lake
Were sucking his devotion in to slake
The furrowed belly of your fanged content!
Religion's bane and Freedom's subtlest foe!
Behold the poppied freight your barges bring
The dim-lit souls that crave the prophet's gleam,
Or fettered people's writhing 'neath their woe--
Gossamer clips and thriftless harvesting
Of phantom flocks and shadowy tilth of dream!

Sloth (II)
My dreams dissolve the day's illusive net:
While crested Action's billows blinding beat,
Omniscient Eyes in troughs of Faith I meet:

[...] Read more

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Love and Sacrifice

CAN we not consecrate
To man and God above
This volume of our great
Supernal tide of love?

’Twere wrong its wealth to waste
On merely me and you,
In selfish touch and taste,
As other lovers do.

This love is not as theirs:
It came from the Divine,
Whose glory still it wears,
And print of Whose design.

The world is full of woe,
The time is blurred with dust,
Illusions breed and grow,
And eyes’ and flesh’s lust.

[...] Read more

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The Poet

THEY tell you the poet is useless and empty the sound of his lyre,
That science has made him a phantom, and thinned to a shadow his fire:
Yet reformer has never demolished a dungeon or den of the foe
But the flame of the soul of a poet pulsated in every blow.

They tell you he hinders with tinklings, with gags from an obsolete stage,
The dramas of deed and the worship of Laws in a practical age:
But the deeds of to-day are the children of magical dreams he has sung,
And the Laws are ineffable Fires that from niggardly heaven he wrung!

The bosoms of women he sang of are heaving to-day in our maids:
The God that he drew from the Silence our woes or our weariness aids:
Not a maxim has needled through Time, but a poet had feathered its shaft,
Not a law is a boon to the people but he has dictated its draft.

And why do we fight for our fellows? For Liberty why do we long?
Because with the core of our nerve-cells are woven the lightnings of song!
For the poet for ages illumined the animal dreams of our sires,
And his Thought-Become-Flesh is the matrix of all our unselfish desires!

[...] Read more

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May Day

Come Jack, our place is with the ruck
On the open road today,
Not with the tepid "footpath sneak"
Or with the wise who stop away.

A straggling, tame procession, perhaps,
A butt for burgess scorn;
Its flags are ragged sentiments,
And its music's still unborn.

Though none respectable are here,
And trim officials ban,
Our duty, Jack, is not with them,
But here with Hope and Man.

Nor have we cause for shame, who see,
In the glory-lighted street,
The Old Brigade of Liberty
The partial ranks complete.

[...] Read more

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