The Women of the West

They left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,
The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,
The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best:
For love they faced the wilderness – the Women of the West.

The roar, and rush, and fever of the city died away,
And the old-time joys and faces – they were gone for many a day;
In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock chains,
O'er the everlasting sameness of the never ending plains.

In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately-taken run,
In the tent beside the bankment of a railway just begun,
In the huts on new selections, in the camps of man's unrest,
On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.

The red sun robs their beauty, and, in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;
And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say –
The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away.

The wide Bush holds the secrets of their longings and desires,
When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar-fires,
And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast –
Perchance He hears and understands the Women of the West.

For them no trumpet sounds the call, no poet plies his arts –
They only hear the beating of their gallant, loving hearts.
But they have sung with silent lives the song all songs above –
The holiness of sacrifice, the dignity of love.

Well have we held our father's creed. No call has passed us by.
We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent out sons to die.
And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet, o'er all the rest,
The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.
 

                                                           George Essex Evans (1901)
 

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The Shepherd's Last Sleep

Typical Bark Hut
Bark Hut (SLQ Neg 214311)

                                         by George Essex Evans (1891)

In the old log hut the shepherd lay,
His fevered cheek by the hot wind fanned;
And he dreamt of the dear ones far away,
And the fields and the flowers of his native land.

And o'er his face crept a tender smile
As he dreamt of one who was dearer still,
And the stately home in his native isle.
Ah! if dreams could only their vows fullfil!

To the old log hut by the lonely creek
With naked sword came the Angel of Death;
Pale grew the sleeper's hectic cheek
As he felt the touch of that icy breath.

In the lonely bush in a far-off land,
Where the wattles bloom and the brigalows wave;
Laid to his rest by a stranger's hand,
The exile sleeps in his nameless grave.

                          George Essex Evans (1891)

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 How's that Umpire?

Brisbane Courier, 5 January 1901

 
Well done, Queensland! How's that, Umpire?
More we may not say,
"Kruger and the Mauser rifle" ,
Are not well to-day,
For the armoured God of Battles,
Watching either host,
Spied our little band in khaki-, 
And they pleased Him most.
Cleared 'em out like sheep before you ! 
(Was it change of hat,
Or the wire our maidens sent you,
Made you fight like that?)
Hardly ! 'Twas the grand old spirit,
Stern through storm and stress, 
That has wrested sunny Queensland
From the Wilderness.

From the tumult of her cities ,
To her furthest runs, 
All the heart of Queensland rises
To salute her sons.
All the heart of Queensland bleedeth
To salute her dead
Gently fold the flag around them
In their lonely bed
Eyes that weep and hearts that sicken
In the bitter night,
Holier death can no man suffer
Dying for the Right ! 

Europe, flaunting crimson signals,
Danger-bugles blown,
Loudly whispers: " Britain's Empire
Cannot hold its own."
Safe is she on every frontier,
Safe by shore or brine,
Who can call such whelps around her
On the fighting line!
Give our fondest love to Kruger,
Tell him to repent;
Tell him we have thirty thousand
Like the boys we sent!
 

                 George Essex Evans
                 (Brisbane Courier, 5 January 1901)

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 The Nation Builders

Music to 'A Federal Song' by Essex Evans (SLQ Neg 425592)

A handful of workers seeking the star of a strong intent –
A handful of heroes scattered to conquer a continent-
Thirst, and fever, and famine, drought, and ruin, and flood,
And the bones that bleach on the sandhill, and the spears that redden with blood;
And the pitiless might of the molten skies, at noon, on the sun-cracked plain,
And the walls of the northern jungles, shall front them ever in vain,
Till the land that lies like a giant asleep shall wake to the victory won,
And the hearts of the Nation Builders shall know that the work is done.

To North, on the seas of summer, where the pearl flotillas swim,
To East, where the axe is ringing in the heart of the ranges grim,
On the plains where the free wind bloweth by never a tree or shrub,
On the pine-topped slopes where the settler carves a home in the tropic scrub,
On fields where the miner sleeps unstirred by the ceaseless monotone
And crash of the stampers night and day at work on the milk-white stone,
'Tis war and stress, with never a pause to mourn for a stout heart gone,
Till the souls of the Nation Builders shall know that the work is done.

On the deck of the lonely light-ship, in the sand of the new-found West,
Where strong men fall and die like sheep in the thirst of the golden quest,
By the dry stock routes, by the burnt-up creeks, where the cattle sink and fail,
By the coral reefs, where the bêching boats swing 'neath the sun-tanned sail,
In the wild ravine where the searcher's gold is bought with his own heart's blood,
In the dark of the drive where the miner's life goes out with the swirling flood,
'Tis war and stress, with never a pause to mourn for a stout heart gone,
Till the lies of the Nation Builders have paid for the victory won.

In the glare and steam of the cities, the thunder and clatter of wheel,
By the teeming wharves, where the liners lie at rest on an even keel,
In the strife of a swelling commerce, at the desk in the dull routine
Where the soul of a man is warped and sunk to the soul of a mere machine,
In the flash of the wire to west and north, in the hum of the restless street,
In the pulse of the toiling press that beats all night in a fever heat,
Where the weary brain and the pen plod on 'neath the white electric light –
Tho's we fail and fall still the fight goes on; and ever our sons shall fight,
Till the land that lies like a giant asleep shall wake to the victory won,
And the hearts of the Nation Builders shall know that the work is done.

We are but the hands of the Builder, who toileth and frameth afar;
System, and order, and sequence; sun, and planet, and star-
Faint sparks of a Mighty Genius, a breath of the Over Soul,
Who shapes the thought of the workers whenever his worlds may roll.
On! tho' we grope and blunder, the trend of our aim is true!
On! there is death in dalliance whilst yet there is work to do,
Till the land that lies like a giant asleep shall wake to the victory won,
And the eyes of the Master Worker shall see that the work is done.

                                               George Essex Evans (1906)

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The Average Man

                              by George Essex Evans (1894)

Brisbane Horse Drawn Tram,1888
Average Man, Horse Drawn Tram, SLQ 67155

His hat looks worn, and his coat-sleeves shine,
As I see him step from his 'bus at nine;
His boots are pieced and his tie home-made,
And his trousers patched where the edge was frayed,
And his face is lined by the stress of life
Where a man must fight for his bairns and wife.
"Who's that?" I ask, as his face I scan.
And the answer comes – "O, an average man."

He has not got notes, he has not got gold,
But his homely lunch, in his handbag old;
And day by day, as the seasons go,
He follows his duty to and fro,
And shadows follow him everywhere –
Grim want, and worry, and dread are there,
For life is not on a gorgeous plan-
Far, far from it – to the average man.

The floods, the banks, and the curtailed screw ,
The weekly bills, and the grasping Jew,
The servant's wage and the doctor's fee,
And the needful change by the breezy sea,
And the pent-up hours at the desk, which mean
A man's brain changed to a mere machine,
And a wife's tired eyes and the children wan,
All press like lead on the average man.

When the blood is up 'tis a simple thing
To charge where the bombs and the bullets sing.
But he is worthy a higher place
Who fronts his woes with a smiling face,
For the noblest strife in our life to-day
Is the humdrum fight in the humdrum way.
O, wealth and genius may lead the van,
But the hero is often an average man.

                         George Essex Evans (1894)
 

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