“On the Summit of Mount Clarence”


Henry Lawson

“ON the top of Mount Clarence, Albany, W.A., stands a tall flagstaff, which was erected for signalling purposes before the telephone was laid from the town to Breaksea Island.”

ON the summit of Mount Clarence rotting slowly in the air
Stands a tall and naked flagstaff, relic of the Russian scare—
Russian scare that scares no longer, for the cry is “All is well”—
Yet the flagstaff still is standing like a lonely sentinel.
And it watches through the seasons—winter’s cold and summer’s heat,
Watches seaward, watches ever for the phantom Russian fleet.

In a cave among the ridges, where the scrub is tall and thick
With no human being near him dwells a wretched lunatic:
On Mount Clarence in the morning he will fix his burning eyes,
And he scans the sea and watches for the signal flag to rise;
In his ears the roar of cannon and the sound of battle drums
While he cleans his gun and watches for the foe that never comes.

And they say, at dreary nightfall, when the storms are howling round
Comes a phantom ship to anchor in the waters of the “Sound”,
And the lunatic who sees it wakes the landscape with his whoops,
Loads his gun and marches seaward at the head of airy troops—
To the summit of Mount Clarence leads them on with martial tread,
Fires his gun and sends the Russians to the mustering of the dead.

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