The Bushrangers: A play in five acts

And other poems


Charles Harpur

A HEAVY and desolate sense of life
        Is all the Past makes mine—and still
A cold contempt of Fortune’s strife,
        Despite the dread
        Of want of bread,
’Numbs, clogs like ice, my weary will.

How little is there on the earth
        That I at length can venerate?
I see at most one world-wide dearth
        Of wisdom free,
        True piety,
Of noble love, of honest hate.

With little hope of higher good
        For Man, for me, of earthly bliss,
Yet I withstand as I’ve withstood,
        The evil plan
        Man teaches man
Of valuing all things amiss.

There’s nothing under the godlike sun
        Worth loving to be bought or sold!—
The only wealth by labour won
        Besides the food
        Supplying blood,
Is human excellence—not gold!

All other things designed or done
        Their only real value miss,
But in so far as this—each one
        And all sustain,
        Adorn, explain,
Secure and enter into this.

Beauty itself were nothing—no,
        But for Love’s golden heart and eye;
Nay Truth were dead but for the glow
        Around its shrine
        Of minds divine,
Of martyr minds that may not die.

Why pile we stone on stone to raise
        Jail, fane, or public hall—why plan
Fortress or tower for future days,
        Yet leave unbuilt
        To wrong or guilt
That nobler pile—the Mind of Man?

With finer wool the land to dower,
        Behold how strongly we are moved—
Even while a Nation’s thinking power
        Unvalued, yet
        Unnamed, we let
All bestial grow, being unimprov’d!

Can then the seed in God’s right hand
        Of Happiness, when shed below,
Find fitting nurture in a land
        Of wilding soil
        And selfish toil?
I tell ye Time shall answer, No!

I tell ye that all public good,
        All individual worth and peace,
All youthful nobleness of mood,
        Like rose-leaves thin
        Must wither in
The sordid breath of days like these.

O for a prophet’s tongue to teach
        The truths I cannot else reveal,
O for a conqueror’s power to reach
        The holy aim
        That doth inflame
And nerve me with a martyr’s zeal!

’Tis vain—the sacred wish is vain!
        Men but renew the strifes of old:
But value with a greed insane
        All devilish skill,
        All splendid ill
That fetters Truth with chains of gold!

The Bushrangers - Contents

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