Ten of Us

Ten of us, eager as men may be,
Rode through the night to the distant sea.

One of us riding with reins held slack,
Stumbled and fell on the stone-strewn track;

And one of us turned by his side to stay,
But eight of us carelessly galloped away.

Eight of us, eager as men may be,
Rode through the night to the distant sea.

Where the track led over the black-soil loam,
One of us slackened, and turned for home;

And one of us rested his galloping beast
To join in the dance of the bridal feast.

But six of us, eager as men may be,
Rode through the night to the distant sea.

Lured by the lights and the cheer within,
Two of us paused at a wayside inn;

And three of us stayed at the edge of a wood,
Where the bevy of beckoning women stood:

Leaving of all the ten, but me,
Riding alone to the distant sea.

                                        Francis Kenna (1895)

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The Dead Lagoon

Never glint of sunlight settles
On its walls of granite grey;
Dreary, in the glow of sunset;
Gloomy, in the rising day.

Never echo wakes the stillness,
Singing birds or ripping rills;
Waveless in its lonely hollow,
In its circling, granite hills.

Never wing of sportive wildfowl
Splashes 'neath the silver moon,
On the black unfathomed waters
Of the dismal Dead Lagoon.

Charmed circle, void of vesture,
Flowering shrub or clinging vine;
Waters void of cooling lilies,
Rocky slopes, of hardy pine.

Never comes the lonely swagman,
Here to quench his thirsty pangs;
Never comes the prowling dingo,
Here to cleanse his gory fangs.

In his firelit camp at night-time,
While the winds are blowing wild,
Oft the dusky native father
Sitting by his trembling child,

Sings the legend, raught with terror,
In a dreary chanting croon,
Of the shunned and dreaded region,
Round about the Dead Lagoon.

Pictures shapes, uncouth, distorted,
Sporting there at midnight hours,
Rending night with sounds of horror,
Cries of fell unearthy powers.

Faster speeds the traveller onward
At the closing of the day,
Resting not his wayworn footsteps,
Till beyond those hills of grey;

Fearful of the lowering darkness,
And the dread unearthly moans,
O'er that pool of stagnant water,
With its cold encircling stones.

               L'Envoi.


Hasten onward, weary traveller,
Bodeful night is coming soon,
Pray to God it may not find thee,
Near the dismal Dead Lagoon.

                        Francis Kenna (1895)

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In the Bush

A thousand miles and more to the westward,
Somewhere the city lies,
I strain mine eyes for the glare reflected
Up in the starlight skies.

I strain mine ears for the roll and roaring,
The laugh of the passers by,
But only the trees on the far horizon,
Only the open sky.

A plover’s call in the stillness rises,
A lamb in the marshes bleats-
But O! for the lights and the passing faces!
And O! for the city’s streets!

                                   Francis Kenna (1915).
 

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Man Digging in Queen Street.

                               by Francis Kenna (1930) Francis Kenna

I OFTEN wonder what they see
The crowd of people in the street,
Who stand around a man at work,
With pick and shovel in the heat.

You see them gazing goggle-eyed,
And deeply interested mien,
As if the sight were something that
No one before had ever seen.

They do not miss a stroke he makes,
But stand and gape beside the way,
As if the digging up of earth
Were not as old as Adam's day.

They seem to be a decent lot,
It's hard to know what work they do,
But probably they write in books,
In offices, warehouses, too.

The workman lifts his busy pick,
And swings it high and drives it in,
And who and what the gazers are
It matters not to him a pin.

The sweat is on his face in beads,
His jaw is set, his look is grim,
Six kiddies, and a wife at home,
Depend upon his pick and him.

                                 Francis Kenna  (Brisbane Courier 27 December 1930, p6.)

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Banjo, of the Overflow

Banjo Paterson (SL NSW Image)

                                   by Francis Kenna (1891)


My request was not requited, for an answer came indited
On a sheet of scented paper, in an ink of fancy blue;
And the envelope, I fancy, had an 'Esquire' to the Clancy
And it simply read, 'I'm busy; but I'll see what I can do!'

To the vision land I can go, and I often think of 'Banjo' --
Of the boy I used to shepherd in the not so long ago,
He was not the bushman's kidney, and among the crowds of Sydney
He'll be more at home than mooning on the dreary Overflow.

He has clients now to fee him, and has friends to come and see him,
He can ride from morn to evening in the padded hansom cars,
And he sees the beauties blending where the throngs are never ending,
And at night the wond'rous women in the everlasting bars.

I am tired of reading prattle of the sweetly-lowing cattle
Stringing out across the open with the bushmen riding free;
I am sick at heart of roving up and down the country droving,
And of alternating damper with the salt-junk and the tea.

And from sleeping in the water on the droving trips I've caught a
Lively dose of rheumatism in my back and in my knee,
And in spite of verse it's certain that the sky's a leaky curtain --
It may suit the 'Banjo' nicely, but it never suited me.

And the bush is very pretty when you view it from the city,
But it loses all its beauty when you face it 'on the pad;'
And the wildernesses haunt you, and the plains extended daunt you,
Till at times you come to fancy that the life will drive you mad.

But I somehow often fancy that I'd rather not be Clancy,
That I'd like to be the 'Banjo' where the people come and go,
When instead of framing curses I'd be writing charming verses --
 Tho' I scarcely think he'd swap me, 'Banjo, of the Overflow'.


Francis Kenna  (The Bulletin, 27 August 1891) 

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