Where the Dead Men Lie

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Where the Dead Men Lie - Barcroft Boake.jpg






With Memoir by A. G. Stephens
And 32 Illustrations by F. P. Mahoney, G. Lambert
and A. J. Fischer


Printed by W. C. Penfold & Co., 183 Pitt Street, Sydney
Angus & Robertson Limited

London : The Oxford University Press
Amen Corner, E.C.

First edition, 1897; Second edition revised and enlarged, 1913.


WHEN preparing these verses for the press, the first question which met me was this: Should Boake be treated from a literary standpoint or from a personal standpoint—as poet or as man and poet? I chose the personal standpoint. To consider Boake as a literary figure, with an eye chiefly to his literary reputation, meant omission of whatever herein is crude or weak, in order that readers should judge him only by his best. Such a course implied loss and discontent to many persons who care little for the niceties of style, and find in vigorous picturing and natural emotion ample amends for bad rhymes and false accents. And, what is more important, such a course would have given a wrong impression of Boake. Some of his most valuable work lies in fragments of poems which as wholes seem comparatively ineffective. These fragments could not be divorced from the context, yet were not lightly to be discarded. Further, Boake's least remarkable compositions, with two or three exceptions, are as characteristic of Australia and of himself as are the most remarkable. So, instead of trying to exalt the Poet by his work, I have tried rather to show the Man in his poetry.

This decision brought an easy answer to the second question: How far was it justifiable to prune or polish Boake's verses: how far was it desirable? Plainly, the less trimming the better; since his errors are a part of Boake, and every one removed helps to misrepresent him. Nor was it certain that a foreign hand would not mar as much as it mended. Sometimes Boake has gained variety and force at the expense of metre and rhyme; and to alter is to plunge deep in the old controversy whether gain of mechanical correctness balances loss of picturesque vigour. So I have not attempted to patch Boake's garment with alien cloth. I have carefully compared the printed poems with available originals, correcting errors of the press and adopting a few alternative readings sanctioned by MS.; and occasionally I have strengthened a line or changed a word where the advantage seemed obvious or the necessity great.

The order of the verses is that of convenience. There is in many cases no clue to the precise dates of composition, which did not coincide with the dates of publication: hence exact chronological order is unattainable. And Boake's poetic harvest was reaped in so brief a time—some eighteen months—that there is little material difference of merit between his earlier and his later verses.

Of the thirty-one indexed poems which follow, twenty-five were printed in The Bulletin, and three in The Sydney Mail: four have not appeared elsewhere. In the present edition “The Phantom Moorings” has been included: some corrections have been made without varying the author’s text of the verses; the notes and memoir have been revised; and as an appendix are added three pieces of verse that the author's friends have found interesting.

A. G. S.


Beyond where farthest drought-fires burn,
By hand of fate it once befell,
I reached the Realm of No-Return
That meets the March of Hell.

A silence crueller than Death
Laid fetters on the fateful air:
She holds no hope; she fights for breath—
The Land of Dumb Despair!

Here fill their glasses, red as blood,
The victims of fell Fortune's frown;
They drink their wine as brave men should,
And fling the goblets down.

They crowd the board, red wreaths of rose
Across their foreheads drooped and curled,
But in their eyes the gloom that knows
The grief of all the world.

The poison lies behind their wine
So close, the trembling hands that take
Might well be doubted to divine
Which draught such thirst would slake.

The bows beside their hands are strung;
The blue steel glitters, bare of sheath:
’Tis wonder tired Life drags among
So many ways to Death!

They may not whisper, one to one,
The stories of their fancied fall:
The words that ring beneath the sun
Would faint in such a pall.

In silence, man by man, they reach
For cup, for arrow, or for sword,
And still the grey world fills the breach
Each leaves beside the board.



Preface v
Introductory Verses ix
From the Far West 1
Jack’s Last Muster 4
A Memory 9
Josephus Riley 13
A Vision Out West 19
Jim’s Whip 26
The Demon Snow Shoes 29
A Valentine 35
The Box Tree’s Love 39
A Wayside Queen 48
Fogarty’s Gin 52
A Song From a Sandhill 58
The Babes in the Bush 60
The Digger’s Song 65
How Polly Paid for Her Keep 67
An Allegory 73
Kitty McCrae 74
’Twixt the Wings of the Yard 80
A Song 84
Skeeta 86
On the Boundary 93
Babs Malone 95
At the ‘J.C.’ 104
Jack Corrigan 106
Down the River 113
Kelly’s Conversion 116
On the Range 122
At Devlin’s Siding 128
Fetherstonhaugh 132
Desiree 136
The Phantom Moorings 140
Where the Dead Men Lie 156
Notes 161
Memoir 169
Appendix 219