I see him sit, wild-eyed, alone,
Amidst gaunt, spectral, moonlit gums---
He waits for death: not once a moan
From out his rigid fixt lips comes
His lank hair falls adown a face
Haggard as any wave-worn stone,
And in his eyes I dimly trace
The memory of a vanished race.
The lofty ancient gum-trees stand,
Each grey and ghostly in the moon,
The giants of an old strange land
That was exultant in its noon
When all our Europe was overturned
With deluge and with shifting sand,
With earthquakes that the hills inurned
And central fires that fused and burned.
The moon moves slowly through the vast
And solemn skies; the night is still,
Save when a warrigal springs past
With dismal howl, or when the shrill
Scream of a parrot rings which feels
A twining serpent's fangs fixt fast,
Or when a grey opossum squeals,
Or long iguana, as it steals
From bole to bole disturbs the leaves:
But hush'd and still he sits--who knows
That all is o'er for him who weaves
With inner speech, malign, morose,
A curse upon the whites who came
And gather'd up his race like sheaves
Of thin wheat, fit but for the flame--
Who shot or spurned them without shame.
He knows he shall not see again
The creeks whereby the lyre-birds sing--
He shall no more upon the plain,
Sun scorch'd, and void of water-spring,
Watch the dark cassowaries sweep
In startled flight, or, with spear lain
In ready poise, glide, twist, and creep
Where the brown kangaroo doth leap.
No more in silent dawns he'll wait
By still lagoons, and mark the flight
Of black swans near: no more elate
Whirl high the boomerang aright
Upon some foe: he knows that now
He too must share his race's night--
He scarce can know the white man's plough
Will one day pass above his brow.
Last remnant of the Austral race
He sits and stares, with failing breath
The shadow deepens on his face,
For 'midst the spectral gums waits death.
A dingo's sudden howl swells near--
He stares once with a startled gaze,
As half in wonder, half in fear,
Then sinks back on his unknown bier.
Deep in the forest-depths,the tribe
A mighty blazing fire have made:
Round this they spring with frantic yells
In hideous pigments all arrayed--
One barred with yellow ochre, one
A skeleton in startling white,
There one who dances furiously
Blood-red against the great fire's light,--
With death's insignia on his breast,
In rude design, the swart chief springs
And loud and long each echoes back
The savage war-cry that he sings.
Within the forest dark and dim
The startled cockatoos like ghosts
Flit to and fro, the mopokes scream,
And parrots rise in chattering hosts;
The gins and lubras crouch and watch
With eager shining brute-like eyes,
And ever and again shrill back
Wild echoes of the frantic cries:---
Like some infernal scene it is---
The forest dark, the blazing fire,
The ghostly birds, the dancing fiends,
Whose savage chant swells ever higher.
Afar away gaunt wild-dogs howl,
And strange cries vaguely call: but white
The placid moon sails on, and flame
The silent stars above the night.
(Uncivilised and Civilised)
Ling-Tso Ah Sin, on Murderer's Flat
One morning caught an old grey rat:
"Ah, white man, I have got you now!
But no---Dust be upon my brow
If needless blood I cause to fall---
So go, there's world-room for us all!'
That night Ah Sin was somehow shot---
By accident! For he had got
From earth a little gold---black sin
For thee, though not for us, Ah Sin!