Bernard O'Dowd (1866-1952)

From The Seven Deadly Sins

The Cow

This is a rune I ravelled in the still,
Arrogant stare of an Australian cow--
"These prankt intruders of the hornless brow,
Puffed up with strange illusions of their skill
To fence, to milk, to fatten and to kill,
Once worshipped me with temple, rite and vow,
Crowned me with stars, and bade rapt millions bow
Before what abject guess they called my will!
Today this flunkey of my midden, Man,
Throws child-oblations in my milking-byre,
Stifles in slums to spare me lordly fields,
Flatters with spotless consorts my desire,
And for a pail of cream his birthright yields,
As once in Egypt, Hellas, Ind, Iran!"


Last sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space,
Are you adrift Sargasso, where the West
In halcyon calm rebuilds her fatal nest?
Or Delos of a coming Sun-God's race?
Are you for light, and trimmed, with oil in place,
Or but a Will o' Wisp on marshy quest?
A new demesne for Mammon to infest?
Or lurks millennial Eden 'neath your face?
The cenotaphs of species dead elsewhere
That in your limits leap and swim and fly,
Or trail uncanny harpstrings from your trees,
Mix omens with the auguries that dare
To plant the Cross upon your forehead sky,
A virgin helpmate Ocean at your knee.

True America's Message

Our manlier spirits hear and will obey
The Word YOU waft Australia o'er the sea--
'Be true, be brave, be merciful, be free!'
Not you, who, braggart, sent this wan array
Of hell-ships vomiting their Will-to-Slay,
These armoured Hates and pallid Envies we,
'Mid rattled mobs and flags hysteric, see
Tarnish the chaste horizon of our Bay:

But YOU we hear, our Comrades of the Cause,
Who face hyaena Mammon in his den:
And YOU, who dared your seas of blood to spill
To drag the swooning slave from vampire jaws:
Yea, YOU who freed unborn Australia, when
You singed King George's beard at Bunker's Hill.

Love's Substitute

This love, that dares not warm before its flame
Our yearning hands, or from its tempting tree
Yield fruit we may consume, or let us claim
In Hymen's scroll of happy heraldry
The twining glyphs of perfect you and me --
May kindle social fires whence curls no blame,
Find gardens where no fruits forbidden be,
And mottoes weave, unsullied by a shame.

For, love, unmothered Childhood wanly waits
For such as you to cherish it to Youth:
Raw social soils untilled need Love's own verve
That Peace a-flower may oust their weedy hates:
And where Distress would faint from wolfish sleuth
The perfect lovers' symbol is "We serve!"

Our Duty

Yet what were Love if man remains unfree,
And woman's sunshine sordid merchandise:
If children's Hope is blasted ere they see
Its shoots of youth from out the branchlets rise:
If thought is chained, and gagged is Speech, and Lies
Enthroned as Law befoul posterity,
And haggard Sin's ubiquitous disguise
Insults the face of God where'er men be?

Ay, what were Love, my love, did we not love
Our stricken brothers so, as to resign
For Its own sake, the foison of Its dower:
That, so, we two may help them mount above
These layers of charnel air in which they pine,
To seek with us the Presence and the Power?

("Love's Substitute" and "Our Duty" from An Anthology of Australian Verse (1907?) from Project Gutenberg.)

Sloth (I)

Too many a Samsan lip your teeth indent:
Too many a Sybil girl you lure to make
The Great Refusal for a fireside sake:
And glamoured poet many a look has sent
Into those eyeballs bear-brown, somnolent,
Nor dreamed that devils in each muddy lake
Were sucking his devotion in to slake
The furrowed belly of your fanged content!
Religion's bane and Freedom's subtlest foe!
Behold the poppied freight your barges bring
The dim-lit souls that crave the prophet's gleam,
Or fettered people's writhing 'neath their woe--
Gossamer clips and thriftless harvesting
Of phantom flocks and shadowy tilth of dream!

Sloth (II)

My dreams dissolve the day's illusive net:
While crested Action's billows blinding beat,
Omniscient Eyes in troughs of Faith I meet:
I wait with ancient stars until they set
Lest forward progress should their runes forget:
I am the rest that makes the bar complete:
And, in the shackled body of Defeat,
The womb of Baby Triumph living yet!
I am the blende of sleeping radiance:
The Siding where belated Industry
Draws from a Silent Tank tomorrow's zest:
Prophetic Art's preparatory Trance:
Dilating Force's Sabbath systole:
The Night of Brahm when worn Creators rest!


Black drips the ooze that you secrete on all
That Honour's burin graves or Love holds dear:
At sacrifice you laugh, at virtue sneer,
And sour rebellion's must, the waking thrall
Would ripen into Freedom, with the gall
Of green suspicion. God of drones, you hear
Mutter of plots in all Success: on seer
And saint behold your own foul motives crawl.
O Gluttony that would but dare not gorge!
Theft of the heart that dreads the handcuff! Hate,
Too cowardly to hurl the bolts you forge!
And Lust that fears to pluck the flowers you smell!
Too low your lintel to seduce the great!
The meanest of the Seven doors of Hell!