The window of my sick room fronts
A screw-tormented bay,
Where porcine Commerce squeals and grunts,
And wallows day by day.
Fat, vulgar tramps, in moving cloud
Of smoke, encircled round,
With bull-voiced sirens bellow loud
For pilots—outward bound.
Gay liners, sleek with paint and brass,
Like youths in evening-dress,
Between the looming headlands pass
In patent haughtiness.
The lusts of travel, like a net,
My sick-bed fancies snare;
My thoughts on outward currents set
To glories otherwhere.
The liner's but a huge hotel;
She holds no charm for me;
My Soul demands the heave and swell
Of decks that lip the Sea.
I lie and muse a while, and so,
Like pictures in a dream,
Australian coasts I love and know
Through mist and sunburst gleam.
Palm-clad and fringed by sleepy hills,
With snuggled towns between,
Where aye the horn of Plenty fills,
The Illawarra green
Throws out her curving arms of sand;
From garden slopes, recline
She calls, a Queen of Fairyland,
A Bride of fern and vine.
'Twas here in Youth's deep-buried day,
With all the World a song,
Beside me on the headland lay
My maid of Gerringong.
So blue were then the seas and skies,
So red the heart of Spring,
So gay the painted butterflies,
And swallows all a-wing!
(Oh take, dear heart, the golden bowl,
And drink while yet you may.
Time's river will not backward roll,
Nor Youth nor Love delay!)
My Memory Ship is sailing slow—
A magic coast it seems,
Where I have idled to and fro,
And dreamed my idle dreams.…
Good, fighting, red fat schnapper strain
The dripping lines to-day
Where lately was the cow-whale slain
And towed to Twofold Bay.
On Mallacoota pipes the swan,
And calls the mating teal,
And black-finned mullet shoals dart on
Before the coming keel.
Come South'ard where the lobsters spawn
In green Cape Conran weed!
Come South and watch, on seas of Dawn,
The whale calf play and feed!
The Gippsland Lakes are deep and wide,
The Gippsland trees are tall;
And on the long, lone beach the tide
For ninety miles doth call.
But south of “Wilson's” rolls the swell
Of greyer, colder seas;
And fronting for'ard you may smell
A sharp Antarctic breeze.
I close my eyes, and lo! the room
Is heavy with the scent
Of lemon and magnolia bloom,
And odors orient.
Now sweet as lovers' words there falls—
And softly as the leaf,
A hymn of Capricorn that calls
The sunlight o'er the Reef.
Cape Byron lifts his drowsy head;
The Yamba lights burn low;
And gaily grows the morning red
Along Don Dorrigo.
With tropic dews are wet the tall,
Green fields of cane and corn;
The jack snipe and the ibis call
A welcome to the Morn.
From brush and scrub and wide lagoons,
From reed beds, swamps, and brakes,
On shoreward slopes and seaward dunes
The fertile North awakes.
This young sultana from her bed
Of sandal, pearl, and gold,
Steps forth to meet the Day with tread
Imperious and bold.
The mango and guava send
A fruity fragrance forth;
A hundred scents, commingled, blend
The attar of the North.
Who breathes its subtleness a time,
Shall walk divorced from peace;
And pine in ev'ry alien clime
Until his life days cease.…
Alas! a lotos-eater, I
Its opiate sweetness knew,
And to my sickroom, as I lie,
It steals the window through.
Aye! surely as all flesh is grass,
The far lands fairer seem,
So roving hearts for e'er must pass
Adown the Coasts of Dream.