Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
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Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
 
50. The Earth-Mother
 
By John Sandes
 
 
COMETH a voice:—‘My children, hear;
  From the crowded street and the close-packed mart
I call you back with my message clear,
  Back to my lap and my loving heart.
Long have ye left me, journeying on        5
  By range and river and grassy plain,
To the teeming towns where the rest have gone—
  Come back, come back to my arms again.
 
‘So shall ye lose the foolish needs
  That gnaw your souls; and my touch shall serve        10
To heal the ills that the city breeds,
  The pallid cheek and the fretted nerve.
Treading the turf that ye once loved well,
  Instead of the stones of the city’s street,
Ye shall hear nor din nor drunken yell,        15
  But the wind that croons in the ripening wheat.
 
‘Yonder, beneath the smoke-smeared sky,
  A city of half a million souls
That struggle and chaffer and strive and cry
  By a sullied river that seaward rolls.        20
But here, blue range and full-filled creek,
  And the soil made glad by the welcome rain
Waiting the plough. If peace ye seek,
  Come back, come back to my arms again.
 
‘I that am old have seen long since        25
  Ruin of palaces made with hands
For the soldier-king and the priest and prince
  Whose cities crumble in desert sands.
But still the furrow in many a clime
  Yields softly under the ploughman’s feet;        30
Still there is seeding and harvest time,
  And the wind still croons in the ripening wheat.
 
‘Where is Persepolis? Ask the Wind
  That once the tresses of Thais kissed.
A stone or two you may haply find        35
  Where Night and the Desert keep their tryst.
But the broken goblet is cast away,
  And to seek for the lights that are lost is vain.
The city passes; the green fields stay—
  Come back, come back to my arms again.        40
 
‘The works of man are but little worth;
  For a time they stand, for a space endure;
But turn once more to your mother—Earth,
  My gifts are gracious, my works are sure.
Green shoot of herbage for growing herd,        45
  And blossoming promise of fruitage sweet,
These shall not fail, if ye heed my word,
  Nor the wind that croons in the ripening wheat.
 
‘Would ye fashion a nation, whole and true,
  Goodly-proportioned, sound at core?        50
Then this, my sons, ye must surely do—
  Give city less, and country more.
Would ye rear a race to hold this land
  From foemen steering across the main?
Then, children, listen and understand—        55
  Come back, come back to my arms again.
 
‘Your coastwise cities are passing fair—
  Jetty and warehouse and banking-hall,
Tower and dome and statued square—
  But who is to guard when the blow shall fall?        60
The men who can shoot and ride are found
  Not where the clerks and the shopmen meet,
But out, where the reaper hears the sound
  Of the wind that croons in the ripening wheat.
 
‘Ye know, who have long since left the loam        65
  For a city job in some crowded works,
That sorrow abides in the straitened home,
  And Death in the stifling factory lurks.
And some, who are out of a job, must sleep
  On a city bench in the driving rain.        70
Of happier days are ye dreaming deep?
  Come back, come back to my arms again.
 
‘There in the city, by jungle law,
  Each fights for his meat till set of sun.
By the deadliest fang and the sharpest claw        75
  The right to the largest share is won.
But here there is neither strife nor guile,
  The brazen robber nor smooth-tongued cheat.
Your gold is safe—where the harvests smile,
  And the wind still croons in the ripening wheat.        80
 
‘I mind me once, in a sunlit land,
  Lancer, Hussar, and fierce Uhlan
Came galloping in on every hand,
  And poppied cornfields over-ran.
And many a sabre was stoutly plied,        85
  And many a hero kissed the plain,
And many a hero’s mother cried,
  “Come back, come back to my arms again!”
 
‘But when no longer the trumpets pealed,
  And the stricken land was at rest once more,        90
They found a peasant who sowed his field
  Nor knew that France had been at war.
E’en so, instead of the strife and pain
  I give you peace, with its blessing sweet.
Come back, come back to my arms again,        95
  For the wind still croons in the ripening wheat.’
 

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