Dead in the Queensland Bush
Where the trailing boughs of the tea trees droop,
Where the vines hang festooned in curve and loop,
Where lilies float, and the tall reeds stoop
'Neath the tread of the lonely crane,
There's a human form on the bare, hot sand,
That the sun in its fury has scorched and tanned,
That a pitying zephyr at times has fanned —
It feels neither pleasure nor pain.
Poor, lost, and forgotten! No mourner's wail
Was heard when you parted, no face grew pale
With weeping and watching. To tell the tale
But a festering body lies there.
Those rotting lips, did they ever press
A mother's lip? Did a kind caress
From a woman's hand ever smooth a tress
Of that bleached and tangled hair?
To flee from Death had he vainly tried;
Across the broad plains, ever side by side,
They had walked together, and, stride for stride,
Death kept up with him still.
He drank of the water he so had craved,
He dipped his bonds in the stream, and laved
His heated face; and he shouted, "Saved!"
Death sate there, waiting to kill.
Down on the sand in a careless heap
He cast himself for a welcome sleep,
Not thinking the unseen presence did keep
Its watch beside him there.
Strange, tender dreams of his boyhood's days
Shone brightly and clearly through memory's haze;
His face — as he slumbered beneath Death's gaze
It grew almost young and fair.
Then Death had great pity. Thought he, "It were sweet,
If instead of awaking, once more to meet
Fresh toil to-morrow, on aching feet,
He should slumber all care away."
He arose — and his face was an angel's face;
He bent his head — in an instant's space
The soul of that sleeper had passed to grace;
Death kissed him there, where he lay.