Arthur Henry Adams

6 December 1872 – 4 March 1936 / Lawrence / New Zealand

The Australian

ONCE more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
Parturient of another type.

While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future’s verge.

They watch him, as they huddle, pent,
Striding a spacious continent,

Above the level desert’s marge
Looming in his aloofness large.

No flower with fragile sweetness graced—
A lank weed wrestling with the waste;

Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,
The sweetness withered out of him;

Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.

A little weary from his birth,
His laugh the spectre of a mirth,

Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.

Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?

So drab and neutral is his day,
He finds a splendour in the grey,

And from his life’s monotony
He draws a dreary melody.

When earth so poor a banquet makes
His pleasures at a gulp he takes;

The feast is his to the last crumb:
Drink while he can…the drought will come.

His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.

Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside;

He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of the years;

Rearing his cities in the sand,
He builds where even God has banned;

With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns;

With paths the distances he snares;
His gyves of steel the great plain wears.

A child who takes a world for toy,
To build a nation or destroy,

His childish features frozen stern,
His manhood’s task he has to learn—

From feeble tribes to federate
One white and peace-encompassed State.

But if there be no goal to reach?…
The track lies open, dawns beseech!

Enough that he lay down his load
A little farther on the road.

So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries.
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