John Boyle O'Reilly

(28 June 1844 - 10 August 1890 / Dowth Castle, County Meath)

Prologue To Western Australia - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

Nor gold, nor silver are the words set here,
Nor rich-wrought chasing on design of art;
But rugged relics of an unknown sphere
Where fortune chanced I played one time apart.
Unthought of here the critic blame or praise,
These recollections all their faults atone;
To hold the scenes, I’ve writ of men and ways
Uncouth and rough as Austral ironstone.

It may be, I have left the higher gleams
Of skies and flowers unheeded or forgot;
It may be so,— but, looking back, it seems
When I was with, them I beheld them not.
I was no rambling poet, but a man
Hard pressed to dig and delve, with naught of ease
The hot day through, save when the evening's fan
Of sea-winds rustled through the kindly trees.

It may be so; but when I think I smile
At my poor hand and brain to paint the charms
Of God’ s first-blazoned canvas! here the aisle
Moonlit and deep of reaching gothic arms
From towering gum, mahogany, and palm,
And odorous jam and sandal; there the growth
Of arm-long velvet leaves grown hoar in calm,—
In calm unbroken since their luscious youth.

How can I show you all the silent birds
With strange metallic glintings on the wing ?
Or how tell half their sadness in cold words,—
The poor dumb lutes, the birds that never sing?
Of wondrous parrot-greens and iris hue
Of sensuous flower and of gleaming snake,—
Ah! what I see I long that so might you,
But of these things what picture can I make?

Sometime, maybe, a man will wander there,—
A mind God-gifted, and not dull and weak;
And he will come and paint that land so fair,
And show the beauties of which I but speak.
But in the hard, sad days that there I spent,
My mind absorbed rude pictures: these I show
As best I may, and just with this intent,—
To tell some things that all folk may not know.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 21, 2012

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