The Wander-Light

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   And they heard the tent-poles clatter,
      And the fly in twain was torn –
   Tis the soiled rag of a tatter
      Of the tent where I was born.
   And what matters it, I wonder?
      Brick or stone or calico –
   Or a bush you were born under,
      When it happened long ago?

And my beds were camp beds and tramp beds and damp beds,
And my beds were dry beds on drought-stricken ground,
Hard beds and soft beds, and wide beds and narrow –
For my beds were strange beds the wide world round.

   And the old hag seemed to ponder
      ('Twas my mother told me so),
   And she said that I would wander
      Where but few would think to go.
   'He will fly the haunts of tailors,
      'He will cross the ocean wide,
   'For his fathers, they were sailors
      'All on his good father's side.'

Behind me, before me, Oh! my roads are stormy –
The thunder of skies and the sea's sullen sound,
The coaster or liner, the English or foreign,
The state-room or steerage the wide world round.

   And the old hag she seemed troubled
      As she bent above the bed,
   'He will dream things and he'll see things
      'To come true when he is dead.
   'He will see things all too plainly,
      'And his fellows will deride,
   'For his mothers they were gipsies
      'All on his good mother's side.'

And my dreams are strange dreams, are day dreams, are grey dreams,
And my dreams are wild dreams, and old dreams and new;
They haunt me and daunt me with fears of the morrow –
My brothers they doubt me--but my dreams come true.

   And so I was born of fathers
      From where ice-bound harbours are –
   Men whose strong limbs never rested
      And whose blue eyes saw afar.
   Till, for gold, one left the ocean,
      Seeking over plain and hill;
   And so I was born of mothers
      Whose deep minds were never still.

I rest not, 'tis best not, the world is a wide one –
And, caged for an hour, I pace to and fro;
I see things and dree things and plan while I'm sleeping,
I wander for ever and dream as I go.

   I have stood by Table Mountain,
      On the Lion at Capetown,
   And I watched the sunset fading
      From the roads that I marked down;
   And I looked out with my brothers
      From the heights behind Bombay,
   Gazing north and west and eastward,
      Over roads I'll tread some day.

For my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways,
And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low;
I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not,
And restless and lost on a road that I know.

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 is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1922, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.