At Devlin's Siding

Original Text: 
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, ed. A.G. Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1897): 52. Internet Archive. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/oztexts
1What made the porter stare so hard? what made the porter stare
2And eye the tall young woman and the bundle that she bare?
3What made the tall young woman flush, and strive to hide her face,
4As the train slid past the platform and the guard swung in his place?
5What made her look so stealthily both up and down the line,
6And quickly give the infant suck to still its puny whine?
7Why was the sawmill not at work? why were the men away?
8They might have turned a woman from a woeful deed that day.
9Why did the pine-scrub stand so thick? why was the place so lone
11Why doth the woman tear the child? why doth the mother take
12The infant from her breast, and weep as if her heart would break?
13Why doth she moan, and grind her teeth, and weave an awful curse
14To fall on him who made of her a harlot--ay, and worse?
15Why should she fall upon her knees and, with a trembling hand,
16Clear off the underbrush and scrape a cradle in the sand?
17Why doth she shudder as she hears the buzz of eager flies,
18And bind a handkerchief across the sleeping infant's eyes?
19Why doth she turn, but come again and feverishly twine,
20To shield it from the burning sun, the fragrant fronds of pine?
21Why, as she strides the platform, does she try hard not to think
22That somewhere in the scrub a babe is calling her for drink?
23Why, through the alleys of the pine, do languid breezes sigh
24A low refrain that seems to mock her with a baby's cry?
25Seek not to know! but pray for her, and pity, as the train
26Carries a white-faced woman back to face the world again.

Notes

10] soldier-birds: birds with a bright scarlet colour. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1892
Publication Notes: 
Posthumously in The Bulletin, December 17, 1892.
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2011
Form: