Sunday, January 30, 2011


Arboricide Down Under

John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942), Golden Fugitive: To a Departing Smoker Parrot, in The Collected Verse: A Variorum Edition, ed. Margaret Roberts (Canberra: Australian Scholarly Editions Centre, 2003), pp. 978-980:
Moonlight and sunrise ran about your wing,
Lightning and sundown, every joy in yellow
Came for your raiment and your comforting,
    Oh most victorious fellow.

Beauty was yours, all beauty folly fed,
Quickening for love with every old misgiving,
Deep as the faint remembrance of the Dead
    Called half-way to the living.

Joy was upon you, that of old was planned
Over the gentle hill, the flowery hollow;
Lightly you gave enchantment to the land
    Where no dull man could follow.

Down the green honey you came out in gold,
You could not see the tempest of tomorrow
Nor the approach of man, tyrant of old,
    With espionage and sorrow.

Man with his axe, his old contentious plough,
Grieves in the dust, a grey ungracious fellow:
He who has warred with Heaven, can he allow
    Faint emperors in yellow?

NOTE. The wholesale destruction of timber in the Mallee, which has brought about terrific dust-storms now almost threatening to drive the settlers off the land, has also been the cause of the departure of many birds.
Judith Wright (1915-2000), A Document, in Collected Poems 1942-1970 (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1971), p. 244 (non vidi):
"Sign there." I signed, but still uneasily.
I sold the coachwood forest in my name.
Both had been given me; but all the same
remember that I signed uneasily.

Ceratopetalum, Scented Sandlewood:
a tree attaining seventy feet in height.
Those pale-red calyces like sunset light
burned in my mind. A flesh-pink pliant wood

used in coachbuilding. Difficult of access
(those slopes were steep). But it was World War Two.
Their wood went into bomber-planes. They grew
hundreds of years to meet those hurried axes.

Under our socio-legal dispensation
both name and woodland had been given me.
I was much younger then than any tree
matured for timber. But to help the nation

I signed the document. The stand was pure
(eight hundred trees perhaps). Uneasily
(the bark smells sweetly when you wound the tree)
I set upon this land my signature.
Michael Dransfield (1948-1973), Hole in the Forest, in Michael Dransfield: A Retrospective, ed. John Kinsella (University of Queensland Press, 2002), p. 43:
when the tree is felled
the bark is made into a boat
the sweetest wood into a lute
the branches roof a house

the hole
where the tree grew
soon greens with fern
the hole in the forest
remains the colour of the sky

and people have
no way of
hiding the tree’s huge death
Thanks to David Kelly for introducing me to the poem by Judith Wright.


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