The Ruined Homestead
White birds, frightened from silver grass,
whose blood-rose breasts and wings are thrown
like petals settling down the pass,
flower the ruined homestead’s stone.
Rise from the fallen walls and scream,
crested, from the stark dead gum;
shatter the crystal of the morning’s dream
where I, across your landscape, come.
Roofless, the broken stonework frames
red arid hills, a valley where
the ghost-gums writhe like whitened flames
and desert-oaks droop their dark hair.
And when, in the crucible of the hills
the molten day has died, there stands
under the blaze of stars that fills
its night, a house not made with hands.
Over the plains of the whitening grass
and the stunted mulga the drovers pass,
and in the red dust cloud, each side
of the cattle, the native stockmen ride.
And day after day lays bare the same
endless plains as the way they came,
and ever the cloven ranges lie
at the end of the land and the opal sky.
With creak of pack and saddle leather,
and chink of chain and bit together,
with moan of the herd with hobble and bell
they come to the tanks at the tea-tree well.
And through corroding blood-red hills
by sanded rivers the Gulf-rain fills,
far, where the morning star has shone
and paled above, their tracks are gone.
From the hollow trees in their native home
them old fellows cut the honeycomb.
On honey and little white grubs they fed,
'cause them young bees was blackfeller's bread.
That's why they was so mighty and strong
in their native home in Currarong.
An' them old fellers' drink was honey-bul;
honey and water, a coolamon full.
Naked through the bush they went,
an' never knew what sickness meant,
them native bees could do you no harm,
they'd crawl all over your honey-smeared arm.
But them Eyetalian bees, they'd bung
your eyes right up. When we was young
we used to rob their honey-trees,
Savage! they'd fetch your blood, Them bees
would zoom an' zing an' chase a feller
from Bombaderry to Bodalla
Well Old Uncle Ninah, and Billy Bulloo
Old Jacky Mumbulla, King Merriman too,
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The Sermon of the Birds
I was clearing thirty or forty acres once
Out in the western range near Nightcap Mountain.
And as I was working, I heard a gathering of the crows
Singing out in a jungle gully. Their clamorous cries
Drawed the attention of all the other birds.
Jackass and butcher-bird, soldier-bird, sparrow-bird,
Scrub-robin, magpie, and the black and white cockatoo,
They all flew down to the crows in the jungle-gully.
And I followed after their clamour, and in the midst
Of all the splendid excitement of the birds
I heard one feller was singing above them all.
It was the lyre-bird, the mimic of all the scrub,
And they held this beautiful sermon or half an hour.
The birds would stop and listen a while but still
That beautiful voice, the lyre-bird, would keep on singing
And draw then and join them all to a chorus again.
And as I stood there and listened, the Scriptures was
Hitting me all the time. The sermon seemed
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