Heavy at heart I felt that sombre story
Close in a creeping numbness on my brain;
Here was a misery cold as mountain rain,
Forked by no lightnings of heroism or glory.
How shall we mask the measure of our disgrace?
They were foredoomed and fatal, do we aver?
Not felled, not murdered? Let it be so: they were
Manslaughtered children, they were a ringbarked race.
Whether they fought – through tribal bush and plain
Hunted – or fled to hills that did not save,
Or whether from Flinders Island, their exiled grave,
Gazed to the shore they would not walk again,
They are fled, as a catspaw wind flees over the grass,
They are gone, as the shadow of a cloud gone over the hill.
There was some trouble and fighting, but now they are still,
Stilled: we have seen a voiceless people pass.
No voice, no word, but a wild cavernous cry
From man’s dim infancy of primal gloom,
No echoing protest, no prophetic doom
Why it was written a race of men must die.
Why it was written? But we to answer why
With the whole wheeling Universe must stand,
And they with still-born suns, and worlds ill-planned,
And stiff cold fledglings fallen before they fly.