Dead in the Queensland Bush

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Where the trailing boughs of the tea trees droop,
Where the vines hang festooned in curve and loop,
Where lilies float, and the tall reeds stoop
   'Neath the tread of the lonely crane,
There's a human form on the bare, hot sand,
That the sun in its fury has scorched and tanned,
That a pitying zephyr at times has fanned —
   It feels neither pleasure nor pain.

Poor, lost, and forgotten! No mourner's wail
Was heard when you parted, no face grew pale
With weeping and watching. To tell the tale
   But a festering body lies there.
Those rotting lips, did they ever press
A mother's lip? Did a kind caress
From a woman's hand ever smooth a tress
   Of that bleached and tangled hair?

To flee from Death had he vainly tried;
Across the broad plains, ever side by side,
They had walked together, and, stride for stride,
   Death kept up with him still.
He drank of the water he so had craved,
He dipped his bonds in the stream, and laved
His heated face; and he shouted, "Saved!"
   Death sate there, waiting to kill.

Down on the sand in a careless heap
He cast himself for a welcome sleep,
Not thinking the unseen presence did keep
   Its watch beside him there.
Strange, tender dreams of his boyhood's days
Shone brightly and clearly through memory's haze;
His face — as he slumbered beneath Death's gaze
   It grew almost young and fair.

Then Death had great pity. Thought he, "It were sweet,
If instead of awaking, once more to meet
Fresh toil to-morrow, on aching feet,
   He should slumber all care away."
He arose — and his face was an angel's face;
He bent his head — in an instant's space
The soul of that sleeper had passed to grace;
   Death kissed him there, where he lay.

Category:Australian literature Category:Australian poetry Category:Poems

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.