On Cathedral Mountain

                                     I.

This mountain means discovery, since the day
I climbed it first in boyhood and alone,
Scanned forested folds imperious to be known,
Then up, through wattle and stringybark, scrub, burnt clay,
Loose rock, boot-twisting and scarring, then bare sheer stone
To the knife-edged summit; and saw, beyond, my own,
The valley, virgin since Creation Day.

What new lands of the mind we are given to know
This, more than worlds seen since, abides for me
Their parable. This, not the Alps nor Atlas, no
Not Vineland nor Columbus’ Carribee,
Not peaks in Iceland faint with smouldering snow
Nor Pernambuco gleaming from the sea.

                                    II.

Man craves a permanence patent as this rock
That breaks the edge of time’s eroding tooth,
Wears out his years to build a temple of youth
Proofed against slow decay or lightning shock.
Tireless he toils to hew from granite block
Or bronze-outlasting language his own truth,
To breed for future ages, tongues uncouth,
Immortal scions from his mortal stock.

Only the Son of Man left all in doubt
Unknown he came, and known of few went hence.
His words were spilt on air, cut short, by a shout
Drowned. But winds bear them through the world, immense:
Hearts heal, and in the desert streams break out,
The Signs of that Divine improvidence.

Poems of the Spirit

  • Life and Death

    Look where he lies, a clod of earth at best,
    Yet colder than a clod, for where there shone

  • After

    Out of this questioning, eventual truth;
    Out of this doubt, faith rooted in the rock;

  • The Old Convict Church, Port Arthur

    ..By a blue winking sea,
    The church stands in a green place,
    Green as Calvary.

  • Relativity

    “Boy killed on Bicycle”; smallest print, four lines
    Islanded in a tossing sea of type,

  • Easter Hymn

    Out of the cloud my Lord the Sun,
    Out of the earth my Lady Spring,

  • Milton Blind

    That dreaming day it was, the bell-like air
    Unclosed the naked admirable heaven,

  • Come Death Suddenly

    Come death suddenly from the sea or cloud,
    With the blast of thunder and the blinding shroud,

  • If I should die

    If I should die, grieve not for youth
    Blighted, and towers of hope that fell

  • To J.S. Bach

    Now, when the smoking ruins smoulder low
    Of what was Europe once

  • On Cathedral Mountain

    This mountain means discovery, since the day
    I climbed it first in boyhood and alone,

  • The Prodigal Son

    The ancient art of story-telling charms
    The ear, keeps its first hold on men
    The whole world over.

  • The Last Enemy

    Could we locate the enemy of mankind
    (I mean the GHQ, the Centre itself,

  • Post-mortem

    When a man dies
    We find that suddenly there’s time to praise him.

  • Space Window

    Waylaid by Handel’s theme, I think of you
    Now half a world away, and hear you say
    ‘His music always seems like coming home.’

  • Christmas Tree

    You hold the timeless in your brief green boughs
    The cardboard angels, home-made crib, the straw,
    The new-born baby older than Abraham

  • Passover

    Between the tumult of crucifixion
    and the diapason of resurrection
    that bar of absolute silence.

  • Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto

    …Listening,
    I am bereft, lost in the mystery
    of music leaping quenchless, undefiled

  • Astronomy

    ‘The love that moves the sun and all the stars’ –
    When Dante wrote there was no telescope:

  • The Honey Man

    Like liquid silk in golden eddies
    the honey laps into my tin.

  • Last Stand

    These trees reached up for light
    when Jesus walked on earth,

  • The Child and the World

    It was a terrible world
    And into it came a child

  • For Australia

    Lord of earth and all creation
    let your love possess our land;

  • Last Post

    Heard how often, still the notes compel
    Unused to awe, we stand listening.

  • Christmas Gift

    ..stamped with a star, but posted beyond the stars,
    marked ‘No Commercial Value’, signed, with a cross,

  • Farewell

    Fare well. We come to send you on the way
    we all must walk, so final, secret, strange.

  • The Word

    The greatest word in the greatest book
    is that conjunction, ‘Nevertheless’,

  • Extraterrestrial Report

    Arrived at the heavenly mansions, the blessed Saint
    (female on earth) was welcomed by St Peter

  • Canberra Autumn

    Land of the singing light
    Light that first I saw
    Eighty years and more

Poems of Australia

Poems of Nature

  • Lines written in meditation upon the recent moth plague

    Moths! Moths! Moths!
    In trouser-leg, singlet and shirt..

  • Timber

    “Up here the schooners used to come
      For timber, years ago,

  • Forestry

    My love and I in all agree
       As one, save this thing only:

  • Acknowledgements…

    Not vile, body, nor foe, flesh,
    Your joys deluding, triumphs trash,
    Fit to be foiled your every wish.

  • Sleeping out in the Mountains

    The host of hills encamped around,
    The sleepless army of the stars,

  • Easter Hymn

    Out of the cloud my Lord the Sun,
    Out of the earth my Lady Spring,

  • The Tactician

    Spring held her fire
    So long, the long pursuit, the watchers wondered
    Would there be ever an end

  • Barometric Man

    Twelve foot’s the rise and fall
    Of barometric Man

  • On Cathedral Mountain

    This mountain means discovery, since the day
    I climbed it first in boyhood and alone,

  • Flying to New Zealand

    Hauled headlong starward by the quadruple conviction
    Of lion-lunged engines in their pride of power

  • Point Lonsdale

    Dark sea dark land lie close beneath
    The muffling guilt of night,

  • Watershed

    From this rock spine, not three feet wide,
    Rivers of a continent divide

  • Autumn Song

    The sun like a centaur leaping the ranges
    Shoots to the heart my garden, shatters
    The dew in a volley of wild carillons

  • The Gull

    Riding the wind, in planetary sweep,
    The gull wheels on the radius of a wing.

  • Creation

    Straggling off the highway in search of firewood
    Past the tins and bottles, through the rusty wire,

  • Address to Mount Bogong

    Stentorian mountain, resonant as your name,
    I greet you with joy, I greet you, I give you thanks

  • Shoreham Morning

    The rousing sun’s sea-dance and dazzle
    Burnishes grassy cape and cliff,

  • Rain after Drought

    Waking to a diapason in the downpipe
    I peer through curtained panes to a curtained sky

  • Christmas Tree

    You hold the timeless in your brief green boughs
    The cardboard angels, home-made crib, the straw,
    The new-born baby older than Abraham

  • A Talk to the Willow

    When you were caught red-rooted in the drain
    You wept of course, but did the same again

  • Sea Change

    Down the cliff path, in morning sun
    Sliding, we stopped. The beach had gone,

  • Last Stand

    These trees reached up for light
    when Jesus walked on earth,

  • Metamorphosis

    The young magpie, as large as either parent,
    Piteously pleads the pathos of his need.

  • Splitting the Red Box

    The tree-trunk rounds, a fallen Doric column,
    are tumbled on the grass beside my gate.

  • Sea Waif

    No dolphin it was, but a six-month suckling whale
    gashed and shark-mauled, tribeless, motherless,

  • Farewell to Skye

    Little death of a little dog
    In a death-wish world of news by body-count

  • Uluru

    At first it seemed a trek of migrant ants
    climbing the skyline of this great red rock

  • A Lambeth Garland

    A garden gracious, serene and spacious at Lambeth –
    This is the dream, the vision that shall be its crown

  • Cultural Interface

    ..Three kangaroos, grey eminences, rose
    staring, paws crossed, with worried faces fixed,

  • The Sun Ringing

    I heard a man of science tell:
    The sun is ringing like a bell,

  • Equal Rights for Emus

    Come down from that Crest! It’s Australia Day, Emu –
    We just want to say, mate, how much we esteem you.

  • Tsunami

    … obliterating in instant mini-time
    a universe of suns and planets
    with or without their myriad forms of life,

  • Mousetrap

    With joyless spade I dig the tiny grave
    Asking, who made me lord of life or death?

  • Stumpy-tail Spring

    He lies unblinking, back and corpulent,
    first lizard from his hibernation sleep