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Zora Bernice May Cross

(18 May 1890 – 22 January 1964 / Brisbane)

Elegy On An Australian Schoolboy


I would not curse your England, wise as slow,
Just as unjust in deed.
I can believe that from her heart may flow
The truest human creed.
She sounded one high call of Liberty
That despots heard with dread;
I know not what high purpose to be free
Crowns yet her starry head.

Do I but raise a ghost? Is England dead?
Lies she in lands forlorn?
Shall Kentish orchards never hear the tread
Of eager life at morn?
Is she but memories of old men and sad
Since youth has left her side?
Has that vast glory that you dreamed she had
But perished crucified?

England! Though all her vaunted heroes rise
From Nile to Flanders red
Calling you from the long, red sunset skies
You shall remain still dead.
You shall not touch her woods and flowers again,
You shall not sail her Thames,
You shall not see in her soft April rain
The fairy diadems.

She cannot honour you. You do not feel
Her tears and pity deep.
Though all her multitudes in homage kneel,
That cannot break your sleep,
That cannot give you back the dew of earth
The light upon the sea,
The soft, sweet ripple of your child’s first mirth—
Your immortality.

In every man there is a great, new world—
Perhaps a glorious race.
How can we tell the hero that war hurled
To death bore not Christ’s face?
How can we tell what nobler nations lie
Now on the fields of France,
What unborn masters of creation cry
Through murdered, white romance?

I only know you, brother of my blood,
Have gone; and many a friend,
Trampled and broken in the Flanders mud,
Found Youth’s most bitter end.
God! You are not yet one with the kind dust
Before new war-horns blow
And sleek-limbed statesmen in their halls break trust
To tell of other woe.

I speak as if you heard me, O my dear,
From England’s far-off shore,
As if that land fills me with such fear
Held you not evermore.
I live too much to feel that death must be,
Though men make death to-day;
I will not set the blame on Deity
Of murder tunes they play.

And yet you have not uttered one poor word
While these harsh thoughts I weave.
Silent as God! No murmur have I heard;
’Tis I, not you, who grieve.
How should I move that vast eternity,
Enough loud my cries and wild?
No more am I regarded than the sea
Regards a brawling child.

Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Edited: Monday, May 09, 2011

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