Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems


Their breath is warm and sweet. It holds the smell

Of wind-brown grass and little fragrant flowers:

Their supple knees have brushed the drowsy blue

Of dancing harebells as they wandered through

Some little quiet sun-touched forest dell.

From dawn till dusk, through all the lovely hours,

These dwellers of the scrub tread free as wind,

Browsing the burnished blossoms of gorse,

Or lingering down fair groves that end in blind

White tangled avenues of flowering box

Where the soft air blows warm and manna-sweet;

And some still bolder than the others force

Narrow and twisted trails out for themselves

Through wild green weays, where 'neath their questing feet

The fallen brown leaves whisper like bush elves.

When thunder rolls its drums among the hills,

And purple clouds loom low, rich fold on fold,

The cattle call until the hot wind spills

Their wild deep-throated music far and far;

While at each flash of menacing keen gold

The sleek calves cower near the parent flank,

Their soft eyes grown dark with sudden fright.

The rain beats on the boles and splashes down

On thigh and shoulder, trickling like dun veins

Down the warm hides, until the softer hair

Breaks into little curls of dusky brown.

Then sullenly the thunder dies away,

The swift rain ceases, and, all sweet and fair,

The wet pools in the grass glow like gold stains:

The cattle move and sigh, then slowly stray

Upon their way again. The brindle cows

Crop the wet grass, or halt and patiently

Suckle their offspring with heads turned to stare

At yellow sunshine laughing through drenched boughs,

Then as dusk veils the glades in violet,

The cattle gather in some hollow there

Deep in the musk, and, lying close and still

They chew their fragrant cuds that smell of wet,

Crushed forest things; while from a distant hill

Ghostly, and thin as wisps of blue-grey smoke

Blown from a witch's fire, there comes a cry,

A poignant call that thrills into a sigh,

Mopoke! Mopoke!


Norma L Davis


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