A Wife’s Protest – Ada Cambridge

A Wife’s Protest
1.

Like a white snowdrop in the spring
From child to girl I grew,
And thought no thought, and heard no word
That was not pure and true.

2.

And when I came to seventeen,
And life was fair and free,
A suitor, by my father's leave,
Was brought one day to me.

3.

“Make me the happiest man on earth,”
He whispered soft and low.
My mother told me it was right
I was too young to know.

4.

And then they twined my bridal wreath
And placed it on my brow.
It seems like fifty years ago —
And I am twenty now.

5.

My star, that barely rose, is set;
My day of hope is done —
My woman's life of love and joy —
Ere it has scarce begun.

6.

Hourly I die — I do not live —
Though still so young and strong.
No dumb brute from his brother brutes
Endures such wanton wrong.

7.

A smouldering shame consumes me now —
It poisons all my peace;
An inward torment of reproach
That never more will cease.

8.

O how my spirit shrinks and sinks
Ere yet the light is gone!
What creeping terrors chill my blood
As each black night draws on!

9.

I lay me down upon my bed,
A prisoner on the rack,
And suffer dumbly, as I must,
Till the kind day comes back.

10.

Listening from heavy hour to hour
To hear the church- clock toll —
A guiltless prostitute in flesh,
A murderess in soul.

11.

Those church- bells chimed the marriage chimes
When he was wed to me,
And they must knell a funeral knell
Ere I again am free.

12.

I did not hate him then; in faith
I vowed the vow “I will;”
Were I his mate, and not his slave,
I could perform it still.

13.

But, crushed in these relentless bonds
I blindly helped to tie,
With one way only for escape,
I pray that he may die.

14.

O to possess myself once more,
Myself so stained and maimed!
O to make pure these shuddering limbs
That loveless lust has shamed!

15.

But beauty cannot be restored
Where such a blight has been,
And all the rivers in the world
Can never wash me clean.

16.

I go to church; I go to court;
No breath of scandal flaws
The lustre of my fair repute;
For I obey the laws.

17.

My ragged sister of the street,
Marked for the world's disgrace,
Scarce dares to lift her sinful eyes
To the great lady's face.

18.

She hides in shadows as I pass —
On me the sunbeams shine;
Yet, in the sight of God, her stain
May be less black than mine.

19.

Maybe she gave her all for love,
And did not count the cost;
If so, her crown of womanhood
Was not ignobly lost.

20.

Maybe she wears those wretched rags,
And starves from door to door,
To keep her body for her own
Since it may love no more.

21.

If so, in spite of church and law,
She is more pure than I;
The latchet of those broken shoes
I am not fit to tie.

22.

That hungry baby at her breast —
Sign of her fallen state —
Nature, who would but mock at mine,
Has made legitimate.

23.

Poor little “love- child” — spurned and scorned,
Whom church and law disown,
Thou hadst thy birthright when the seed
Of thy small life was sown.

24.

O Nature, give no child to me,
Whom Love must ne'er embrace!
Thou knowest I could not bear to look
On its reproachful face.
Ada Cambridge (1844 – 1926)

This ballad style with alternating eight/six iambic syllable lines is typical of poems created in early Australia. Poetic structure was adhered to by the poets of the day. Why each stanza is numbered I do not know but this is how it is represented in her work on the Internet.

In much of her later writing a predominant theme was the proper basis of marital choice. Quite clearly this poem is a sad lamentation when that choice turns sour to the extent of slave proportions. And in stanza 15 we see there can be no restoration from such a predicament –

But beauty cannot be restored
Where such a blight has been,
And all the rivers in the world
Can never wash me clean.

I could not help feeling wounded inside at the likely fate of Afghanistan women and girls under the repressive Taliban regime. And doubt whether the strong sentiments expressed in this poem are in anyway an adequate expression of feelings.

Details of Ada Cambridge from the Australian Dictionary of Biography …Biography – Ada Cambridge – Australian Dictionary of Biography (anu.edu.au)

Ada Cambridge, later known as Ada Cross, was an English-born Australian writer. She wrote more than 25 works of fiction, three volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works. Many of her novels were serialised in Australian newspapers but never published in book form. While she was known to friends and family by her married name, Ada Cross, her newspaper readers knew her as A.C.

And on Wikipedia –   Ada Cambridge – Wikipedia

A Mother’s Answer – Louisa Lawson

A Mother’s Answer

You ask me, dear child, why thus sadly I weep
For baby the angels have taken to keep;
Altho’ she is safe, and for ever at rest,
A yearning to see her will rise in my breast.
I pray and endeavour to quell it in vain,
But stronger it comes and yet stronger again,
Till all the bright thoughts of her happier lot
Are lost in this one — my baby is not.
And while I thus yearn so intensely to see
This child that the angels are keeping for me,
I doubt for the time where her spirit has flown —
If the love e’en of angels can fully atone
For the loss of a mother’s, mysterious and deep.
I own that thought sinful, yet owning it — weep.

Louisa Lawson (1848 – 1920)

She was the mother of Henry Lawson and she bore five children. Henry Lawson is well known and his short stories on early Australian life are exemplary (refer to the collection – ‘While the Billy Boils’)

The passion exhibited in Louisa Lawson’s sonnet was due to the death of an infant daughter. This poem was published  in the Mudgee Independent and brought recognition to her poetic skill.

The first part of the sonnet stresses the inescapable loss, independent of any angels keeping her safe. Then there is a clear change at the volta; after the first eight lines. Atonement is not possible even the love of all the angels is insufficient. She regards her thought sinful, but it is only a thought. She is quite willing to own it; but it makes no difference. Nothing can appease her grief.

Louisa Lawson had a very hard life. She was a long-suffering bush-woman. After her husband Peter left, she worked tirelessly to secure income for the family. A very gifted person who was a prominent suffragette working for the emancipation of women. She setup the publication Dawn and used this to promote emancipation.

For full details on her life see – Biography – Louisa Lawson – Australian Dictionary of Biography (anu.edu.au)

And a link to Henry Lawson.

The Poetry Cat – Neva Kastelic – Comments

Matilda
The Poetry Cat
Janne's tabby cat sat not on the mat 
She preferred the top of the sofa back
She purred now and then, not often, though –
a brindled enigma, this cat in the know.
Sometimes I'd catch her watching us
her eyes open thin, with a look just
this side of smugness. Call that poetry?
Those marks on the page? Without trying
I could show you that the real poem is a body curled into herself then 
stretched out then curled in then arched high as the sky then curled
in and the sun on soft fur and a purr and a hiss and a shiver as the
shadow of the tenth life draws near
but I won't
She yawns with a smile, I think it's a smile 
Our sweet poetry cat. Was it a smile?
Neva Kastelic

If you read the context below you will see that the cat ‘Matilda’ is watching the work of a poetry workshop from her vantage point. In fact, she has been part of many of the sessions. Neva uses her presence as fuel for writing at the same time using her photographic skills to create this ekphrastic presentation. I do like the strength of eye intensity caught in the photograph.

The eye focus of the cat looking down on the writers marries so well with the smug arrogance of her words – ‘this side of smugness. Call that poetry’. And as she is a tabby with distinctive markings she is more special. Perhaps cats are naturally smug unlike dogs.

And Matilda is of course a very knowledgeable cat. She will tell you what poetry is all about with cat authority, if you care to listen. And words on paper, those markings, they are totally redundant stuff. The projection of her italic cat speech is all cat, as it should be, as any cat will tell you without hesitation – and that is true poetry.

And that inward cat smile, if it is there, is an appropriate end line, engaging a sense of subtle humour.

This had me thinking of the poem The Orange Tree – John Shaw Neilsen – Analysis | my word in your ear in which any attempt at description of an event destroys the appreciation of that event by removing focus.

Context –

Neva was one of five ladies associated with the University of the Third Age Poetry Appreciation group in Canberra. They met on a regular basis to workshop their poetry creations. The outcome of their deliberations was a book of poetry entitled ‘The Moorings’ (published by the Interactive Press, Brisbane).

‘Matilda’ was a tabby cat who sat in for many of the meetings. She used to climb up on the back of the couch to survey the proceedings after the visitors took her usual spot. So she was entitled to be a little indignant.

This poem is a very apt introduction piece to the book.

What I particularly like about this publication is the great variety of poetic form used across the selection of poems presented, including ekphrastic, journals, Japanese traditional structure, and the playing of shape in the visual representation of words.

My heart leaps up … Wordsworth – comments

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man
So be it when I grow old
  Or let me die!
The chid is father of the man
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

When you see the word ‘behold’ you know it is vintage literature. But what a strong word; far greater than see or observe. You are instructed to hold in your mind and contemplate. You must be still and hold for awhile in deepest consideration. And perhaps this is very appropriate in today’s constant 24 by 7 business rush.

This is a clear statement that Wordworth’s religion was nature. And that if he could not appreciate nature then life is just not worth living.

I came across the line – the chid is father of the man when at school not knowing the context and not understanding the meaning. I could not see the child growing to become a man. And I definitely could not see a child as father to the man. It does enforce the natural progression of humanity and the importance of children.

William Wordsworth on Wikipedia

I was lucky to be in the right place for the following heart leap photo –

The rising of the moon at Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma NSW on 24 July 2021
caught between two rocks
out of the unknowing deep
her sorrowful face

‘Get Real Man’ – The Christmas Gift

Get Real Man

we are talking about God
the creator of the universe
we are talking about real power!
you have absolutely no idea man
beyond your understanding!

apart from making miracles happen
he showed us in like fashion that
even in the most horrendous injustice
he was here to support our lives
no matter the pain

what an unbelievable gift
isn’t it just wonderful -
that he came here, today, for you and me!
and that he is a little crazy,
get real man!

Richard Scutter Christmas 2020

‘Some Crazy God’ – A Christmas Poem

Some Crazy God

did he cry when he was born?
did he know he was different?
did he get one big shock?
if not in the cradle in the stable
but it would sure come later!

I guess not from Mars
with a green spike on his head
but what galactic storm brought an invisible seed?
and how did it appear for Mary?
did she think she was dreaming?

why did he choose the Earth?
and why didn’t he send a daughter?
or for that matter a naughty angel?
we are told he only had one son,
some crazy God!

Richard Scutter

Clancy of the Overflow – Banjo Paterson

Clancy of the Overflow
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow".
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".
Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864 - 1941)

Lachlan – a river in New South Wales
Overflow – the name of a sheep and cattle station in central New South Wales
droving – to move sheep or cattle long distances by walking them
Cooper – refers to the Cooper Basin a geological region in south-western Queensland and north-eastern South Australia.
stringing – the spreading out of animals in single-file as they walked.
Bush – Australians refer to any part of the country outside the major cities and towns as ‘the bush’. And there are truly vast areas of bush in Australia.

Banjo Paterson is monumental in early Australian bush poetry. This was his first poem to be published in the Bulletin Magazine in 1889 and was an immediate success. Many bush ballads abound depicting early Australian settlement and the hardship of establishing life in the severe environment. This poem does romanticize the life of the drover; a person on horseback moving cattle.

And today life in the City is compared with life in the Country by those wishing to move away from City life in such popular TV Programs as ‘Escape to the Country’.


Apparently, the poem was based on a chance experience when he sent a letter to a man named ‘Clancy‘ at a sheep station (ranch) named ‘Overflow’. The short simple reply ‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are’ inspired Paterson to create ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This poem has become well known throughout Australian and is often included in school literature.


Here is some historical detail from the Internet where there is plenty of material …

Andrew Barton Paterson was born on the 17th February 1864 on the property called Narambla, New South Wales. His Father, Andrew a Scottish farmer from Lanarkshire. Young Andrew spent his formative years living at a station called “Buckenbah’ in the western districts of New South Wales. The land was unfenced; Dingo infested and was leased by his Father and Uncle from the Crown for a few pennies an acre.

His career as a journalist is well documented. His despatches from the Boer War and later the Boxer Rebellion in China were to provide invaluable details of the hardships of the men he travelled with. He travelled to London at the invitation of Rudyard Kipling and returned to Sydney in 1902. Later that year he travelled to Tenterfield NSW where he was to meet Alice Walker whom he was later to marry.

His home base was Binalong a rural community near Yass, NSW. And from the Banjo Paterson Statue in a Park of the same name in Yass you will see that ‘Banjo’ was the name of a favourite horse which he used as a pseudonym for his writing. And he is very well known for another famous poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’ .

Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson on Wikipedia.

Skinnydipping – Murray Hartlin – Humour

The problem with humour in short poems is that poetic structure is often ignored, but not so in the following poem which has nice rhyme and flowing rhythm. And, of course, many short poems are dependent on the last line for a twist to generate a smile. And often, like a joke, once you have heard it you seldom want to read it again as all impact dissipates. Well, you might want to share with a few friends until it recedes from the mind. And many say ‘I can’t remember jokes’ and many jokes are not worth remembering.

But I do like the repartee developed in the last two lines of this poem, so here it is …

Skinnydipping
The temperature was soaring, the sun was beating down,
Matt walked by the river the other side of town.
He had a look around and there was no-one there but him,
So he ripped off all his clothes and jumped in for a swim.
The water cooled his sweaty hide, he swam and splashed all about,
He felt a whole lot better and he started to get out.
He headed for his clothes and was reaching for his jocks,
When two young girls came walking from behind a pile of rocks.
Matty quickly grabbed his hat and covered up his front
The girls just stood and giggled, so Matt became quite blunt.
‘If you two girls were ladies, you’d turn around’ said Matt.
'And if you, sir, were a gentleman, ‘you’d bow and raise your hat!’
Murray Hartlin (

Taken from ‘An Australian Heritage of Verse’ by Jim Haynes. Murray Hartlin is an Australian bush poet, author and entertainer. He likes a good yarn! Here is a link to his website.