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The Poems of Lesbia Harford (Text)

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Introduction by Drusilla Modjeska Edited by Drusilla Modjeska and Marjorie Pizer Lesbia Harford
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University of Sydney Library
The Poems of Lesbia Harford
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   To Muir Holburn 1920-1960   
 Help with this book has come from many sources and over many years. In particular we are indebted to the late Guido Baracchi, Norman Jeffery and Esmond Keogh. More recently we have been helped by Gilda Baracchi, Mrs Margaret Berry, Bob Brodney, Ray Evans, Mrs A. Boyce Gibson, Paul Gillen, David Hill, Michael Hurley, Nancy Jeffery, Sir George Lush, Lesley Parsons, Barrett Reid and Betty Roland. In particular we would like to acknowledge the contribution of the late Anne Spencer Parry who was involved in this book from the beginning. 
 We would also like to thank the staffs of the Melbourne University Archives and the State Library of Victoria, National Library and Mitchell Library. We would like to thank those libraries for permission to quote from their holdings, the Equity Trustees for permission to quote from the Palmer papers, and Melbourne University Press for permission to use poems first published in  The Poems of Lesbia Harford . Finally we would like to thank the Literature Board of the Australia Council for a grant to help in the preparation of this book. 
 Bibliographical references to Lesbia Harford 
 Index of first lines 

  The Poems of Lesbia Harford 
   Introduction by Drusilla Modjeska 
  Yes, there will come a time when 
 These clever, friendly, 
 Angry, hopeful people 
 Who wrote, sitting on the bare ground, 
 Surrounded by the poor and struggling 
 Will be publicly acclaimed. 
          Bertolt Brecht   
   1 If you have loved a brave story/Tell it but rarely 
 Lesbia Harford, poet and feminist, died in 1927 at the age of thirty-six. After her death Nettie Palmer wrote that “her life had always hung on a fine thread, which perhaps made her words seem all the more poignant as if final”. 1  In so far as Lesbia Harford has been remembered at all, it is too often in the light of her early death. And as Walter Benjamin reminds us, such a death casts a retrospective authority across a life: “A man who died at thirty-five,” he writes, “will appear to remembrance at every point in his life as a man who died at the age of thirty-five.” 2  And so it has been with Lesbia Harford; it has cast a gloss on her life that is far from accurate. Rather than frail and poignant, her poetry is tough and clear minded. Living with a heart condition, she always knew that her life was likely to be short, but she did not trade on it. Rather than finality, Lesbia Harford's poetry insists on the constancy of change. Her voice, unmistakably her own, speaks as part of the multiplicity of voices speaking about social injustice, hope for revolution and the contradictory experiences of women. Far from being final, Lesbia Harford's poetry is partial both in the sense of being unfinished and of taking sides. She lived her life as if she would have seventy years or more to engage with it both politically and aesthetically. There were sides to be taken and she took them; but she did not have the time to finish many of her poems, a task she assigned to the future. 
 Lesbia Harford graduated in law from Melbourne University, but she never practised. Instead she worked in textile and clothing factories and joined the International Workers of the World, the radical labour movement better known as the Wobblies. As a hard working woman, her poetry could be seen more as a by-product of her life than a centre to it. Yet she wrote a lot and well. Her clear and courageous voice takes as its subject the factory and the varied experiences of women in work as well as love, and the painful contradictions between the need for love and the desire for independence. In form her poetry moves from an early emphasis on the lyric towards the ballad and the song; from the personal expression of individual experience towards a more proletarian mode, representing the collective life experience and viewpoint of a group. But conditions in Australia in the 1920s were not sympathetic to a protest poet like Lesbia Harford, who gave voice both to her own silence and to the silence of working women. 
 Despite the current rather reductive fascination with the lives of women writers, frequently in preference to their work, Lesbia Harford is barely known. She has been anthologised off and on since her death. But until now there has been only one slim volume of her work. She is known more or less dimly to some poets and critics, beyond that barely at all, although one of her poems, “Periodicity” is sung by the Adelaide band Redgum on their album Virgin Ground: “Women, I say,/ Are beautiful in change,/ Remote, immortal, like the moon they range.” (June 1917.) Her poems, many of them written as songs, raise critical questions about the relationship between popular and literary traditions of writing, the forms of protest poetry and the interconnections between histories of writing, class and feminism. These issues and the necessary re-readings that accompany them, have become central to contemporary critical debates. Rescuing Lesbia Harford and reconstructing something of her life and experience is not simply an act of feminist restoration. Perhaps the overriding reason for her obscurity for so many years is not that she is a poet who speaks with a woman's voice, though I am sure that has something to do with it, but that her writing does not sit comfortably in the perceived traditions and discourses of Australian poetry. “The great stone wall,” as Ken Worpole has recently written in another, though not dissimilar context, “which separates ‘Literature’ from ‘Writing’, then as now, cuts a swathe through any possibility of a common discourse of writing and creates many more cultural blockages and difficulties than it solves.” 3  Writers who have been obscured cannot simply be fitted into existing canons and histories. The fact of their obscurity challenges those histories. 
 I first became interested in Lesbia Harford when I was researching Nettie Palmer. Nettie Palmer edited the one slim volume of Lesbia Harford's poetry which has been published.  The Poems of Lesbia Harford  appeared in 1941 and was one of the first projects to be funded by the Commonwealth Literary Fund in its reconstructed and expanded form. Impressed by the poems, I was also surprised that the C.L.F. had published in wartime a volume of poems clearly by the hand of a revolutionary woman. As Flora Eldershaw and Nettie Palmer's husband Vance were on the advisory board I put it down to their influence despite the conservatism of the rest of the board. Then I came across a letter from Nettie Palmer to Guido Baracchi, a friend and one time lover of Lesbia Harford. Guido Baracchi, along with Nettie Palmer and Miss Clark — the last a friend of Lesbia's who worked in the library at Prince Henry hospital in Sydney — had been pushing to get the poems published since the C.L.F. was expanded in 1939. Nettie Palmer told Guido that the poems were given the grant only because Professor Osborne, S. Talbot Smith and George Mackaness, “three old gentlemen of the censor type … have no time to  read , which sometimes prevents them from fulfilling their natural function, which is to obstruct. Professor Osborne now says … that if he had read Lesbia's  Poems  beforehand he would never have consented to their publication. Fortunately Flora is a strong enough character to take all such back-kicks quite calmly and the Board carries on.” Nettie Palmer complained that Professor Osborne was then obstructing a selection of Price Warung's stories. “You see,” she continued, “after the advisory board sits, its findings have always to run the gauntlet of the political committee — Curtin, Scullin, Menzies, and Osborne's veto (of Price Warung) seems to have caught their ear. It's a good thing he hadn't read Lesbia in advance, or he'd have passed on his horror to them.” 4  
 Well might Nettie Palmer have worried about Menzies for he and Lesbia Harford read law together at Melbourne University during the turbulent years leading up to the first conscription debate. Lesbia had been publicly involved in the Victorian Socialist Party, the anti-conscription campaigns and, after 1916, in the I.W.W. But the poems slipped through, and just as well. Or they might have met the same fate as her novel. She tried to get it published in the early twenties. In 1939, after her death, her mother tried again; but nobody was interested. It was considered “too unsympathetic” and has now disappeared. 
 Intrigued by this glimpse of Lesbia Harford and at a dead end with my casual inquiries, I asked Marjorie Pizer what she knew of her. I knew Marjorie would know something. She is a poet herself, a one-time member of the C.P.A. who with her husband Muir Holburn had edited  Freedom on the Wallaby , that excellent anthology of Australian poetry. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she had the original manuscript books from which Nettie Palmer had made her selection. In the three thick exercise books there were dozens of poems. Marjorie and Muir had been lent them many years before by Guido Baracchi and were given them after Nettie's death by Helen Palmer, Nettie's daughter. Having discovered Lesbia Harford while preparing the anthology, they had bought up the last copies of the  Poems  as they were remaindered. After  Freedom on the Wallaby  was published in 1953, Marjorie and Muir decided to edit a new collection of Lesbia Harford's poems as the 1941 edition had been a small and rather cautious selection. With two small children and a living to earn, progress was slow, and then in 1960 Muir died suddenly. It was not until 1964 that Marjorie had the heart to return to the project. During 1964 she collected biographical material from people who had known her. Lesbia Harford's fellow student R. G. Menzies, then Prime Minister, sent a formal note through a private secretary merely saying that her health seemed poor. Guido Baracchi was much more helpful with detailed reminiscences and the script of a long lecture he had given to the Fellowship of Australian Writers in November 1941. Another fruitful source was her brother, Esmond Keogh, who had briefly joined the I.W.W. in 1916 or 1917, at Lesbia's instigation, the family always said. He subsequently became a doctor and was prominent in cancer research. 
 In mid 1964 Marjorie Pizer sent a new selection of the poems to Angus & Robertson but it was rejected: “Of course there's no doubt about the quality of the best of them,” Douglas Stewart, the poetry editor, wrote to her, “but others would be ahead of her on the list for the Australian Poets series, and we don't feel the time is ripe for a general ‘rediscovery’ edition.” 5  He suggested she write about Lesbia for one of the literary magazines. Not surprisingly Marjorie was discouraged and the project lapsed to a back shelf. As she pointed out, writing about her was not as easy as it sounded: there was very little relevant cultural and political history written in the mid sixties. Ian Turner's study of the I.W.W.,  Sydney's Burning , was published in 1967 but David Walker's  Dream and Disillusion , which sets the context of left liberalism in Melbourne during the First World War and just after, was not published until 1976. Most of Lesbia's papers had vanished and even with Esmond Keogh and Guido Baracchi's help, Marjorie had only fragments and clues to work from. Ian Turner, probably through his work on the I.W.W., was also interested in Lesbia Harford at about this time. He too considered a new edition of her poems, but nothing came of it: another busy person, he also died too young. 
 It was in the mid seventies that Marjorie and I discovered our mutual interest in Lesbia Harford and in response to my urging that she take up the project again, Marjorie asked me to work with her. We have made the selection together with surprisingly little disagreement. We have chosen about a third of the poems in the manuscript collection. A large proportion of the poems we have not included are fragments, earlier workings of poems we have selected, or poems which were started and abandoned and which do not come together as poetry. As Lesbia Harford did not expect to publish more than occasionally and as the time she was able to give to reworking the poetry was itself fragmentary, it has been difficult to know where to draw the line. Where Marjorie Pizer and I have differed has been on its drawing. As a poet Marjorie has been much more confident than I have in the assessment of which poems succeed and which fail as poetry; as a poet she is sensitive to the risk of publishing poems that might detract from the overall impact and worth of the collection. She herself would not want her first attempts and near-misses published. In this she has Lesbia Harford on her side. In June 1926, a year before she died, Lesbia wrote to Percival Serle who wanted to include a poem she did not like in his  An Australian Anthology : 
  Your anthology will be read in many places for many years. I would not care to be recalled to the memory of distant friends by the poem you have chosen. It was written one evening in the public library and is merely a versification of a fragment of Heracleitus. The thought, as you say, is eternal but the poem is marked for me by an absence of spontaneity because it was deliberately derivative.
  I have only three or four poems in type and they are not favourites of mine. Beside I would not wish any selection to be made from a small body of poems by a person not conversant with my work, even if William Hazlitt himself were to be the selector. You see, I take my poetry seriously, and I am in no hurry to be read. 6   
 As a historian and not a poet I am more brazen and argued for the inclusion of poems which, had she lived, she would undoubtedly have reworked. In a subsequent letter to Percival Serle after she had sent him some other poems she wrote: “Personally I hope old age will bring me leisure for more sustained effort. A poet should still be good at seventy or eighty.” 7  But she was dead within the year. Unlike Marjorie I am not confident of my assessment of a poem's worth; as a historian I am perhaps too aware of changes in taste and literary evaluation and in the historically and politically charged nature of the seemingly innocent activity of selection. While these differences may explain any lapses and inconsistencies in this selection, in the end we agreed to err on the side of too many rather than too few and let readers make their own evaluations. We also decided on a chronological arrangement of the poems. Thematic approaches proved impossibly misleading as any choice of theme ultimately became arbitrary. Too many of her poems bridge too many themes, and to force the poems into categories would be to deny their many-voiced strengths. We did not want to set up divisions, far less hierarchies, in her poetry. A chronological arrangement, it seemed to us, would best allow a sense of her development as a poet, her struggle with poetic form as well as a glimpse of a biographical portrait, the interaction of style, voice and ways of living, without limiting the possible readings of her poetry. 
 Marjorie Pizer has done most of the hard work of matching the various versions of the poems against each other, and matching the published with the unpublished versions. She has kept to the original version where there are differences between unpublished and posthumously published poems, and to the latest manuscript version where there is more than one. In preparing the poems for this edition, she has tried to make as few alterations to the original punctuation as possible. Sometimes Lesbia Harford forgot stops at the end of verses; occasionally she over-punctuated. She had a habit of using a comma and a dash together. Marjorie has added punctuation to make the meaning clear when necessary. She has removed unnecessary commas, and with the comma/dash combination has deleted either a dash or a comma, whichever seemed appropriate. Basically the punctuation is Lesbia Harford's. 
 I have taken over responsibility for the introduction, a task I could not have undertaken without the groundwork done by Marjorie in the early sixties, in particular her correspondence with Esmond Keogh and Guido Baracchi. We are indebted to their executors for permission to quote from this correspondence. Another debt I should acknowledge here is to Lesley Parsons for permission to use and quote from her B.A. thesis at Melbourne University, “The Quest for Lesbia Harford”. Lesley Parsons made her very interesting study in 1976 without knowing of Marjorie Pizer and the manuscript poems. Coming to this project with the scantiest of information, I have been generously helped in my subsequent researches. What I have made of the materials is, of course, my own responsibility. It should be said, however, that few traces remain of the life and even the work of this remarkable woman. My attempt to reconstruct something of her experience is very hesitant. My research has been dogged by silences and dead ends. Yet despite the necessarily unfinished nature of this task, I hope these poems will speak to contemporary interests and contribute to a socialist and feminist re-reading of Australian cultural history. 
   2 I do hate the folk I love/They hurt so 
 Lesbia Venner Keogh was born in Brighton, Victoria, on 9 April 1891, the first child of Edmond Joseph and Helen Beatrice Keogh. This much is known from her birth certificate. For an outline of the family history beyond these bare facts we have to rely on her brother Esmond's account; it was an account given late in his life, forty years after Lesbia had died, by a man who confessed himself “woefully ignorant of family history”. 8  For a more intimate reading of this troubled history we have to rely on the clues within the poetry, in silences and between the lines. 
 Lesbia Harford's mother, born Helen Beatrice Moore, was the granddaughter of a Church of England clergyman, the Rev. Henry Moore, who was a grandson of the Earl of Drogheda. According to Esmond, Lesbia was neither interested in nor impressed by this fact although from time to time proofs came from  Debrett's  for her mother to correct. The 1908 edition of  Debrett's  lists Helen Moore and her children as a collateral branch of the family. Their address is given as Wangrabell, Malvern, Victoria. This last piece of information was incorrect. By 1908 the elegant Malvern home had been sold and Helen Moore abandoned with four children. Several decades earlier her own mother had been widowed and left with nothing. She became postmistress at Bruthen, a tiny town in Gippsland. Esmond thought that his grandmother got the job through some sort of influence or patronage because she was “a very amateurish telegraphist, shaky on morse code, before telephones existed”. He remembers reading to her during her last years and described her as a “cultured woman”. Clearly she was resourceful too, a talent she passed on to her daughter, along with confidence in education as the way out of such difficulties and in the arts as a way of enduring them. It is hardly surprising that Lesbia Harford was unimpressed by her aristocratic heritage. She was more interested in another of her mother's relatives, Benjamin Kidd, a Victorian social philosopher. “This irritated me,” says Esmond Keogh, “because I thought that sort of thing was rubbish, that Benjamin Kidd was most likely as big a bore as Herbert Spencer, and that Lesbia as a socialist ought to think so too.” Benjamin Kidd was a conservative but not simply a bore. He was a British social philosopher who made a name for himself outside the universities where he was never really accepted, with his  Social Evolution  in 1894. Apart from Lesbia Harford's curiosity about philosophy, politics and morality, she would have been interested in his argument about the religious versus the rational and his somewhat bizarre treatment of the woman question in  The Science of Power  (1918). 
 Edmond Joseph and Helen Beatrice Keogh had four children in quick succession: after Lesbia in 1891, Esmond was born in 1895, Estelle in 1897 and Gerald in 1898. They were born to a comfortable existence in a respectable bourgeois suburb of Melbourne: “There were maids and nurses,” Esmond tells us, “and a nursery, and I remember a movie of a train being shown at a children's party.” The money, while it lasted, came from Edmond Joseph Keogh. He was the son of a wealthy man who lived in a mansion on St Kilda Road. On Lesbia's birth certificate, Edmond Keogh's occupation was given as financial agent. He survived the depression of the early 1890s, but in 1900 was bankrupt and lost everything. There was no help to be found from the grandfather on St Kilda Road. He died at about the same time, leaving a large estate and a large number of warring beneficiaries. The result was that the lawyers made a lot of money, but not Edmond Joseph Keogh: “My mother,” wrote Esmond, “whom my grandfather apparently did not like, probably because she was not a Roman Catholic, though she turned before marriage, was left £2000, a considerable sum in those days. She was regarded by the others as having been cut off with a shilling, but as she got the cash, did better than most of them. In any case, my father got nothing, and took to drink, leaving my mother with four children to support. He cleared off to Western Australia, where for years he had a labourer's job on the rabbit proof fence… I think occasionally he would send a few pounds to mother. He enlisted in the Camel Corps in the first war and thereafter would appear very occasionally, always mildly sozzled, but never in any way objectionable.” 
 And so, in 1900 or soon after, Helen Keogh was left alone with four children, no house, no income and very probably debts. It is not clear exactly when her husband left. The photo of him with Lesbia suggests he may not have left immediately after his bankruptcy. Or perhaps it was taken on a visit. The drama of the separation has begun. She is twelve perhaps, maybe younger. In any case neither the marriage nor the £2000 lasted long. Helen Keogh supported herself and the children through a variety of jobs. According to Esmond one of her first jobs was looking after four children whose parents had been killed in an accident. The children, Esmond remembers, were roughly the same age as the Keogh children and came from a family which was well enough off to afford seaside holidays. Esmond remembers it cheerfully; but for Helen Keogh it meant eight children to mother, one of them with a debilitating heart condition. 
 The glimpse we get of Helen Keogh is of a strong, resourceful and self sacrificing woman. She told Esmond that she was determined  the children would get the education they would have got had they stayed at Malvern. It was through education that they were to hold onto the class advantages she had expected for them in marrying Edmond Keogh, and which her own mother had had to struggle to give her. But in her day, of course, there were fewer opportunities for women to gain professional qualifications, and she was living the consequences of that. At least three of the children got the education she hoped for: Lesbia qualified in law, Esmond in medicine and Estelle in nursing. Nothing is known of what happened to Gerald. But in the case of Lesbia the heightened awareness of class during her adolescence was undoubtedly a factor in her radicalism, her unease in accepting what she saw as bourgeois privilege and her decision to work in the clothing industry. There is no record of Helen Keogh's reaction to this; perhaps it was enough to know that Lesbia would have the option of returning to a professional career—which she did. In the last year of her life she was articled to a firm of solicitors in Melbourne. After Lesbia died, her mother was proud of the tributes from the Trades Hall. 
 In April 1900 Lesbia Keogh began school at Clifton, a Brigidine convent in Glen Iris, but she was withdrawn almost immediately, presumably because of her father's bankruptcy. There is no further record of her schooling until 1903, when she returned to Clifton, remaining there until 1906. In 1907 she moved to the Loreto convent, Mary's Mount in Ballarat, where she boarded until her matriculation year in 1909. Estelle was also sent to Loreto convent in 1907 while, according to Esmond, the boys went to a “small convent boarding school”. Esmond speculated about the fees. He did not think it likely that relatives paid, though Miss Winifred Keogh, a first cousin whom Lesley Parsons interviewed in 1976, thought that one of the Keogh uncles, a doctor in South Yarra, helped Helen out. She remembered that the children were sent to various paternal relatives in the holidays. Esmond suggested that Helen might have managed to organise some fee reduction; as the two girls and Esmond were clever and came from a large Catholic family this could well have been the case. According to Winifred Keogh one of the Loreto nuns at St Mary's Mount was a Keogh cousin. 
 “About 1912,” Esmond's narrative continues, “mother managed to gather us together again. She established what was called a ‘Nurses Home’, a combined employment agency and boarding house for trained nurses. It was better than a boarding house because most of the time the nurses were away looking after patients—they boarded in the ‘Home’ only between cases. Still it was, in effect, a boarding house and my mother did all the work, including the cooking, except for a char and a washerwoman. It wasn't, I am sure, a very profitable business. I was then a day boy at Melbourne Grammar, on a scholarship which didn't cover all the fees, and each quarter would have to go to an Uncle with the money for the bill to ask him to write a cheque for the amount (to have paid the school in cash would have been unthinkable). This only to show that there was nothing in the bank, and mother managed from week to week.” Helen Keogh was apparently still running a boarding house in 1939 when she was corresponding with Nettie Palmer about Lesbia's poems and the now lost novel. By then it seems to have become a modestly successful venture. 
 Lesbia Keogh's early family experience is reminiscent of Henry Handel Richardson's. Richardson's father died when she was nine; the family had already moved from wealth to poverty and her mother ran a post office to support the children. It was a common tale during the years of unstable development of capitalism in late nineteenth century Australia and little social welfare. But unlike Henry Handel Richardson, Lesbia Harford has left only the obliquest record of her response. Esmond comments in passing that their father's occasional visits were, he suspected, “a bit of a nuisance” to Lesbia, as they were to him. His silence on the subject suggests he did not consider it an issue. Lesbia has only one poem which makes direct reference to her father. “Fatherless” begins: “I've had no man/ To guard and shelter me,/ Guide and instruct me/ From mine infancy.” (1916–17.) Reading this at the most superficial level, one could point out that she was about ten when her father left. A clever sensitive child, and frail, she was remembered by Winifred Keogh as the favoured daughter. As a child she had a sense of herself as an intellectual being, winning a prize in 1901 for an essay in an English children's magazine. Later, according to Winifred Keogh, Lesbia's father boasted about her poems and sent copies of them to his friends. Whatever his domestic role, he had lived with her during the formative years of her childhood and at that age she would have been very much aware of the loss and its impact on her mother and the younger children. Of the unconscious effects we can only speculate. “Fatherless” ends: 
   I have gone free 
 Of manly excellence 
 And hold their wisdom 
 More than half pretence    For since no male 
 Has ruled me or has fed 
 I think my own thoughts 
 In my woman's head.   
 This seemingly simple poem throws up a number of possible readings. It can be read as a comic comment on the posturings of men, the gap between ideology and reality. But there are less comic possibilities. When her poetry was at its most concerned with love and sexuality in 1914 and 1915 the only response to her father is one of silence. What is not said can be as significant as what is said. Her pain at her rejection by him turned, perhaps, into her rejection of him. Even Guido Baracchi, a lover and a friend, thought that he was dead. And in a very real sense she had had to negotiate the terms of her emerging adulthood without reference to a father. Worse, she had to make that negotiation in the knowledge of a father who had abandoned her. The poem suggests that no father would have been easier, allowing her to speak from beyond that emotional entanglement and the needs and desires it throws up. And of course the fact that she and her mother and the younger children managed as well as they did, in a household focused on women, did give her an enormous strength and a wry, slightly detached amusement: “I think my own thoughts/ In my woman's head.” But also a bravado which thinly disguises the pain, for no relationship, least of all one as complex as that between father and daughter, is unambiguous. In Lesbia Harford's case the real father failed to come anywhere near the symbolic ideal. Whatever his actual role in the family before 1900, Lesbia's realisation of this failure came abruptly and traumatically at the approach to puberty. Look at the photo of the two: her eyes straight ahead, his cast down at the hand he is holding. The oblique testimony of her poetry is that this break and the accompanying sense of betrayal and abandonment was dizzyingly painful. From it she developed a certain toughness, but also a vulnerability that dogged her all her life. Guido Baracchi remembers her as “very straightforward indeed. She would never concede anything that she did not thoroughly agree, she'd just contradict it.” He also described her as “very Irish-Australian, you know, very warm and romantic”, and these two aspects of her personality and the contradiction they represent speak throughout the poems. 
 As a young woman Lesbia Harford took a stand for free love and for many years she lived an exemplary independence with various lovers. Since adolescence she had been interested in feminism and the woman question. Her earliest poems use the image of love as a tyrant ripping her from the safety of childhood. Heterosexual love is linked with abandonment and betrayal. Other poems long for “flight from home and friends/ And sweet desire” (27.7.17). Her first love affair, or at least what seems to have been her first, serious love affair, was with a woman, an intense and absorbing relationship which lasted in some form until her death. But in her poems to Katie Lush, as much as to Guido Baracchi, she works and reworks that contradictory set of desires and emotions between love and independence. Such contradictory needs and the relentless pushing at them are to be found in the work of many women writers. Their appearance in Lesbia Harford's work owes something of their specificity to those crucial early experiences: the desertion of the favoured daughter by the father in the years leading up to the menarche, forcing the adolescent girl who had already identified herself with intellectual and hence masculine interests into closer identity with the mother whom, day after day as she approached her own womanhood, she saw bravely enduring the unendurable yet also the source of love and of continuity, and of education, a strong indomitable character. All her adult life she was sensitive to the intersecting oppressions of class and gender. Her friends were mostly women; her most constant support came from her mother and from Katie Lush. She championed her mother, always, yet experienced herself, in another poem that can be read ambiguously, “sun-darkened by the shining of her love” (14.6.25). Little wonder that she hated the boarding house. Esmond was puzzled by this, seeing it perhaps as an unaccustomed snobbery rather than as a reaction to a symbol, an ever present reminder of that painful conflict between identity with and a never acknowledged rejection of her imperfect mother. 
 For Lesbia Harford these conflicts and the accompanying struggle for independence were heightened by her physical condition. She was born with a defect of the heart valves. She was what would now be called a blue baby, a condition these days remedied with fairly straightforward surgery. But the technique was not developed until the mid 1940s. Her blood was never fully oxygenated and she became breathless with only moderate exertion. It was a condition that grew worse as she grew older. Even as a child her mobility was severely restricted. Nettie Palmer, six years older than Lesbia, remembers her at a children's party in the days of Wangrabell: 
  I remember seeing her at a children's party with her sister. The sister ran about like the rest of us; but the dark-eyed little girl who sat quite still, looking on, her dark hair waving round her like a cape — that was Lesbia. We were too shy to talk to her, and we never guessed she might be lonely. 9   
 The most immediate effects of her condition were her restricted mobility and, as a child, a greater than usual dependence on home. She could not walk far without resting, she was dependent on help with physical tasks which would barely be noticed by a person with normal health. Yet as an adult Lesbia Harford worked for months on end in the clothing industry. Her mother told Nettie Palmer in 1939: “Her will to overcome her delicate health and to do just as others did was so strong that for months she left home at a little after seven in the morning and spent the long day at a Power Machine.” 10  She often worked with May Brodney, a close friend and another activist in the radical labour movement. May's husband, Bob Brodney, remembers that May sometimes covered for Lesbia and kept her rate up with some of her own work. 11  That she may have been dependent on help from sister workers does not detract from the achievement. Contrast her to Beatrice Webb who worked in a clothing factory in the East End of London in 1888 to a fanfare of admiration from the London press and London society. Miss Beatrice Potter, as she was then, a healthy woman of just thirty, lasted, even on the most generous estimate, barely three weeks. My estimate from the diaries is that she worked for two days. Her diary for those two days is graphic in its description of the exhaustion of an admittedly longer working day. 12  Lesbia Harford, in contrast, worked over several years, not continuously but often for months at a stretch. Even Guido Baracchi, inspired by her example, found a job in a boot factory but couldn't take more than a few weeks, “the conditions”, he said, “being far less to my liking than those of Pentridge gaol”. 13  
 Lesbia's determination not to give in to her ill health emerges from every account of her adult life. She never hid behind her illness, or used it as a defence against the conflicts and crises of a social and public life. If she hid anywhere it was in her poetry which, particularly before 1917, was intensely personal and which she was reluctant to publish more than occasionally, and then under a watchful eye. There she both spoke her feelings and kept them under wraps in three neatly ruled exercise books. It was the novel, not the poems, that she was anxious to publish. The novel with its narrative structure, its plots and gendered characters, offers a mode of writing which allows the woman writer to speak while maintaining a certain distance from the text. With poetry there are no such veils. The relationship between the writer and her writing is more exposed. The poet speaks, however ambiguously, in her own voice. 
 Lesbia Harford's poetry voices her struggle with her heart condition and the consequent sense of confinement: “Open my window/ And look at the stars./ Then my heart breaks through/ These prison bars” (December 1911). Her physical flaw was in her heart, the symbolic site of love and courage. Her vulnerability lay in the space that was left for doubt. She spoke of herself with the “heart of a bird” and she used the image of the fuchsia, the hedgerow flower with the blueish tinge frequently noticeable on her hands and lips, never the alluring rose, traditional image of female sexuality: “No loveliness of mine/ That comes and goes/ Wildfuchsia-like,/ Need blind you to the rose.” (6.9.17.) The other side of the image of doubt is one of strength; the flawed heart must be guarded and itself protects an image of a self that cannot be touched by the merely physical: 
   And my heart is a stream that seems asleep 
 But the tranquil waters run strong and deep; 
 He may come, my lover, and lie on the brink 
 And gaze at his image and smile and drink 
 While the hidden waters run strong and free 
 Unheeded, unguessed at, the soul of me. 
 She lived in the shadow of her illness: “Terror crouches always at the heart of things.” (4.10.15.) In the end, of course, it killed her. She did not rest enough, she fought against her condition despite the possibility of “brief years of pain”. After the failure of her short-lived marriage, which proved no solution to insoluble problems, she moved back to her mother. It was becoming harder to work and keep house. In 1926 she was articled to Paul Noonan's chambers in Melbourne. Her mother wrote to Nettie Palmer: “that last year completely tired her out as she had to attend regularly or lose the year. She finished the year on Friday and on the following Monday developed an attack of pneumonia from which she died, the strain had been too great.” 14  She died on 5 July 1927 in St Vincent's Hospital. The death certificate records phthisis and myocardial failure as the cause of death. 
 Esmond was in his last year of medicine and was constantly with her in the ward. According to him she developed acute bacterial endocarditis due to infection in the damaged heart valves. It was very painful. “Her death was very distressing,” Esmond wrote to Marjorie Pizer, “but I won't inflict the distressing details on you.” Another person who stayed with her to the end was Katie Lush. Guido Baracchi reports that “Katie was knocked rotten when Lesbia died … I think life for her without Lesbia would be not nearly so good.” 15  Katie Lush herself died eight years later, in 1935, after a long illness. Lesbia Harford is buried in the Methodist section of Booroondara cemetery, Kew. Neither Lesley Parsons nor I could find any sign of a headstone. 
   3 My every act has reference to man/Some human need 
 When Lesbia Keogh enrolled at Melbourne University in 1912, Katie Lush had just started as philosophy tutor at Ormond College. There is no record of where they met; possibly through philosophy which Lesbia took in 1912 and 1913 as part of her law degree; possibly through the Princess Ida Club, the University women's club which met regularly for discussions and social events. Lesbia certainly joined the club which included feminism among its discussions. The first of Lesbia's poems to Katie Lush appears in the manuscript book at the end of 1912. In one of her longer poems, dated December 1912, she describes Katie in the public library. It is an ambitious poem exploring the contradictory experiences of a successful academic woman. Always aware of her position, on the one hand privileged, on the other precarious, the woman as scholar is daily confronted with the images of women and sexuality which are a backbone of the liberal arts: “Tales of an uncrowned queen who fed her child/ On poisons,” images which raise for a woman problems of a sort that were not then admitted to academic discourse: 
   Suddenly afraid 
 She seemed to see her beauty in a flare 
 Of light from hell. A throng of devils swayed 
 Before her, devils that had learned to wear 
 The shape of scholar, poet, libertine. 
 They smiled, frowned, beckoned, swearing to estrange 
 Kate from reflection that her soul had been 
 Slain by her woman's body or would change 
 From contact with it to a thing unclean. 
 Woman was made to worship man, they preached, 
 Not God, to serve earth's purpose not to roam 
 The heavens of thought.… A factory whistle screeched. 
    Xmas, 1912   
 It is also a poem that foreshadows the love poems to Katie Lush, the erotic glimpse as Lesbia watched her sleeve slide up, “Standing on tiptoe, head back, eyes and arm/ Upraised”. 
 Lesbia Harford's academic record is at Melbourne University. She did well in philosophy and English. She passed all her law subjects except equity which she failed in 1915. Not many women read law at that time. Joan Rosanove who read law with Lesbia estimates that five went through with them. 16  A few others, including Christian Jollie-Smith, had just graduated. Esmond Keogh thought she read law because she had friends who were reading law. Nettie Palmer attributed it to her political commitment; Lesley Parsons to the scarcity of women in the profession. Esmond's suggestion seems rather flighty for Lesbia, and besides she probably had as many or more friends in the Arts faculty. It is much more likely that it was a decision influenced by her feminism and her interest in social reform which were already evident while she was at school. Her mother's aspirations for her were probably another factor in the decision. Both Helen Keogh's daughters were professionally trained. Her confidence in education was typical of that generation of women whose class position had been affected by the instability of colonial capitalism at the turn of the century. Helen Keogh also knew the instability of marriage. Her confidence in education for her daughters was not, as her mother's had been for her, based on class and marriage, on making a “good marriage”, but on a notion of professional independence. When it came to supporting four children, a genteel education in the liberal arts was not much help. 
 Lesbia Harford's academic results are the most concrete record of her years at the university. Her poems speak another more equivocal testimony. The first poems in the manuscript books are dated 1910, the year after she left school. They increase slowly in number during 1912, 1913 and 1914, reaching a quantitative peak in 1915. Although she did not publish until 1921, poetry had become an important part of her life. The Melbourne poems, written between 1914 and 1918, speak of her evolving radicalism and its interconnection with the social and psycho-social experiences of gender. The two relationships which touched her the most deeply, emotionally and intellectually, during those years of war and class conflict were with Katie Lush and Guido Baracchi. Guido Baracchi has left his account of Lesbia Harford, but in this narrative Katie Lush is almost entirely silent. Although she is well remembered, the only words of hers that I could find are in the  Socialist  of August 1917, in a letter defending Guido against the Professorial Board. The Board was censuring him for an article in the  Melbourne University Magazine . Subtitled “Capital and the State”, the article was on Guild Socialism which was popular among Melbourne's left intelligentsia at the time. What offended was his statement that the war was not Australia's concern: “Essentially it is a European war, fought by the Allies against Germany to maintain the balance of European power.” 17  There was a storm of protest in the  Argus  and at the university. 
 Katie Lush's long and elegant letter was one of the few voices from the university public in his support. 18  In a period of wartime patriotism and acute paranoia within the university and the bourgeoisie about the increase in radical activism, it was courageous to challenge the Professorial Board. As a tutor and a woman, Katie Lush's position would not have been secure. Alexander Boyce Gibson, Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne University from 1935 to 1966, was an undergraduate there in 1917. He remembered Katie Lush as “a very tall rather dominating woman with red hair and a mind like a knife.… She was fairly prominent in University left wing politics. She had any amount of courage … in espousing unpopular causes.” 19  Katie and Lesbia made a striking pair, the one tall and red headed, the other small and dark. Together they were members of the Victorian Socialist Party, of Frederick Sinclaire's Free Religious Fellowship and the anti-conscription campaigns. Mrs J. H. Warren who took over Katie Lush's teaching when she died in 1934 also remembers her as an impressive teacher. She too commented on the striking contrast between the two women. Katie Lush was rather reserved, she said, “but I think had a quiet fund of good humour and joy which she would share with intimate friends”. 20  Her reputation as an inspired teacher is mentioned by most people who remember her. Her nephew Sir George Lush says that it was commonly thought that Katie's students were the only ones who really understood the difficult subject of logic. 21  
 While the relationship between Katie and Lesbia lasted Lesbia's lifetime, their affair seems to have been brief. It was intense and passionate but dogged by the social difficulties of a lesbian relationship in a conservative town at a conservative time. “Would that I were Sappho,/ Greece my land, not this!” (4.4.15.) The poems speak the pain of social constraint and the inevitable hesitations which seem to have come more from Katie than from Lesbia. For Lesbia, Katie was enormously important. She arrived at the university with a strong but naive interest in politics and philosophy. Her adolescence had aroused this interest through the immediacy of experience, but had kept her isolated from intellectual influences that could satisfy her. The nuns had failed her; her mother was not an intellectual; Esmond was too young. She was exactly ready for Katie Lush. 
 The first glimpse we get of Lesbia Keogh as an intellectual is in 1908 at the Loreto convent when an essay of hers appears in the school magazine. Despite its adolescent fervour, the essay is recognisably Lesbia. It is a tribute to the founder of the order of Loreto sisters, an Elizabethan nun named Mary Ward. Lesbia was attracted to Mary Ward's struggle for the emancipation of women from the purely contemplative orders for pastoral work. It was a story that combined the struggle for social reform with personal bravery and moral conviction: 
  How one loves her true feminism shown in this zealous defence of her sex.… Fervour is not placed in feelings, but in a will to do well, which women may have as well as men. And I hope in God it will be seen that women in time to come will do much. 22   
 It is telling that Lesbia Keogh admired Mary Ward for her will, her ability to act on intellectual conviction. While Lesbia Harford's poetry testifies to a powerfully experienced emotional life, it also speaks, as does her life, of an intellectual and moral decisiveness. She lived out the intellectual implications of her politics, as she assessed them, by working in the clothing industry despite the danger to her health. 
 In March 1915 she gave the weekly sermon to the Free Religious Fellowship, a group set up around the socialist unitarian minister Frederick Sinclaire: “We are people who are dominated by theories of life,” she said. “We think that certain ways of living are wrong. The life of a typist, the life of a clerk, the life of a merchant, a doctor, a lawyer, seem to some of us pretty well immoral.” Later she did modify this rather reductive view of the professions and class collaboration. But in 1915 it was of pressing importance to her. She was speaking to a group of people who did, on the whole, make too easy an accommodation between their way of life and their politics. Sinclaire's Free Religious Fellowship was attended by Fabians, Guild Socialists and Melbourne's literary and intellectual groups disillusioned with the Labour Party. It was a left liberal and predominantly bourgeois association. “Our interest in morality is inclined to be intellectual, and is not translated into action,” she warned. 23  At the end of that year she graduated into the clothing factory and the I.W.W. 
 The Free Religious Fellowship made an impact on her brother who thought it equally influential on Lesbia; but Guido Baracchi said that she “did not go much for the Fellowship” and Esmond admitted that she was mostly interested in the play readings. Certainly by the time Guido and Lesbia were lovers she had moved a considerable distance from it. However in 1915 she was still concerned with the philosophical bases of morality rather than direct industrial action. Her sermon indicates that while she had given up her faith in Catholicism, opposing the oppressive hierarchies of the Church and its denial of sexuality, she maintained an interest in the philosophy and spirituality of early Christianity. Religious imagery runs through all her poetry, an ambiguous vein. The sermon argues for the necessity of two sorts of morality — one coming from Tolstoy whom she admired as “the most striking example of a man who let his theories govern his mode of life”, the other from Christ. Tolstoy offered a private code of morality while Christ offered a universal morality. Both, she argued, were necessary for a moral and spiritual life. She maintained this balance of oppositions incorporating it into her practice of socialism. In many ways she echoed an ideal of feminism and socialism that had been dominant among Owenite groups earlier in the nineteenth century. As Barbara Taylor suggests in  Eve and the New Jerusalem , it was not an inheritance which sat comfortably with later Marxist socialisms. 24  
 Guido Baracchi's recollections of Lesbia Harford between 1916 and 1918 cover the period of her move towards Marxism and socialism. The conjuncture of her move from the university to the factory and his influence resulted in her greater emphasis on economic and class analysis. Guido Baracchi returned to Melbourne University to read law in 1914 after a year at the London School of Economics where he studied the economic bases of capitalism. He remembers reading Marx's  Capital  to Lesbia in 1916, the year they became lovers. He “quickly conceived a profound respect for the original mind and revolutionary spirit of this law graduate”. 25  She had already experienced the factory, working between school and university and during holidays to pay her way. 
 Guido Baracchi's recollections of Lesbia Harford are interesting because he has left two versions separated by the differing perspectives of twenty years. The first was a speech to the Fellowship of Australian Writers in 1941 just after the  Poems  were published, the other an interview with Marjorie Pizer in 1964. The details remain much the same; her involvement in the conscription campaigns, her work in the factories, her personal courage and energy. He remembers her speaking night after night against conscription until “her exhausted heart and throat finally landed her in a Melbourne hospital”. There she was ordered to bed for total rest. But, Guido continues, “she bribed a maid to bring her clothes, donned them and, like the Arabs, silently stole away, only to break the silence the very next night from a soap box”. 26  But in his analysis there are marked differences. In 1941 Guido Baracchi claimed Lesbia Harford as a Marxist, even a Leninist. In 1964 he admitted that she would never have joined the C.P.A., that she was certainly not a Leninist. He told Marjorie Pizer that she was attracted to the anarchism and syndicalism of the I.W.W. and could never have accepted party hierarchies and authoritarianism. In 1941 Guido Baracchi was speaking immediately after the poems had been published and he wanted to correct the imbalance created by Nettie Palmer's introduction to the  Poems . Nettie Palmer had chosen the more respectable poems and was at pains to insert Lesbia into a view of Australian literature concerned more with nationalism than with class. She does not mention the I.W.W., referring vaguely to post-war “struggles for a better world” that engaged Lesbia. Guido Baracchi in contrast tried to claim her as part of the Communist tradition and a radical cultural history. Although she might have had doubts about the theory of surplus value, he said, “she had already realised … the far reaching implications of Marx's words about the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and with this, the international character of the capitalist regime”. In 1941 he took this to mean that she was really a Leninist whereas in 1964 he admits that it was equally an underpinning of her membership in the I.W.W.: “She was a sort of wobbly type of girl. The idea of a strictly disciplined organisation did not really appeal to her.” He had called his 1941 paper Rebel Girl after the Wobbly song writer Joe Hill's famous song. To him she was, “like a lot of us then, a romantic revolutionary”. 27  
 Guido Baracchi credits Lesbia Harford with making a Wobbly of him. He joined the I.W.W. in 1917. In 1918 he was convicted of making statements against recruiting in a speech on the Yarra Bank. He was given a £50 fine on each charge or three months gaol. Lesbia, he said, “took great pains to see that I should go to gaol … She was quite right … so I went to gaol. She was a great help to me.” 28  Betty Roland, who later lived with Guido for many years, says that his father, the government astronomer, brought him roast chicken but he wouldn't accept it, an advantage over the other prisoners. 
 When Guido came out of gaol, Lesbia had moved to Sydney. Their affair had already ended, painfully for Lesbia when he married someone else. He was married by Frederick Sinclaire just before the second referendum. His wife had opposed his going to gaol and when he came out she had left for Sydney. Guido followed her and there he also saw Lesbia. After that they lost touch, meeting only occasionally; “Old memories waken old desires/ Infallibly.…, But we'll not think/ When some stray gust/ Relumes the flicker of desire,/ That fuel of circumstance could make/ A furnace of our fire.” (24.3.22.) It was a relationship in which he had benefited far more than she from the ethos of free love. “My loves are free to do the things they please/ By day, or night” (19.10.17), she wrote in one poem as the relationship was ending. Two weeks later, distanced from her confident self, bitter with self doubt and the pain of rejection, she wrote of herself in the third person: “And all her joy is blackest pain,/ And all her love is bitter woe” … “She held her womanhood in scorn.” (30.10.17.) 
 The precise dates of Lesbia Harford's membership of the I.W.W. are not clear. She does not appear on the files of members  which were seized by police in mid 1917, although Guido Baracchi counts her membership much earlier. Whatever the formal date of her membership, she was moving in those circles in 1916. The I.W.W., which had had only a handful of members in 1914, gained considerable support during 1916 and 1917 as the radical labour movement became increasingly hostile to the compromises and retreats of the Labour Party. Australia had entered the war with comparatively little dissent, but by mid war the shaky semblance of unity broke into bitter and overt class conflict fuelled by the suppression of the Easter Rebellion in Ireland, by the attempts to introduce conscription, by worsening economic conditions and, later, by the revolutions in Russia. By 1916 the I.W.W.'s refusal to be implicated in a bloody and imperialist war and their call for direct action was attracting working class activists and disaffected working people. 
 Lesbia Harford joined the I.W.W. on this upsurge through Percy Laidler, a friend who ran a bookshop in Melbourne. Her Tolstoian principle of living her beliefs in action had taken her back into the workshops and factories exactly as the I.W.W. slogan for Direct Action was at its most powerful. She too had experienced the political compromise of the Labour Party and the inertia of a left liberalism floundering on nationalism. In this context her membership cannot be considered remarkable but it was certainly courageous. Under the  Unlawful Association Act , introduced after the 1916 conscription referendum, membership in the I.W.W. was punishable by six months imprisonment with hard labour. The clothing factories took their toll, but for Lesbia Harford six months hard labour could well have been fatal. 
 In 1916 Lesbia Keogh and Percy Laidler ran a discussion group above Laidler's shop. Among the Wobblies who attended was Norman Jeffery who wrote to Marjorie Pizer about Lesbia in 1964. He was clearly ambivalent about a woman like Lesbia being involved in a revolutionary movement. He described “listening to Lesbia on how to write and discerning good from bad writing. With this was mixed our personal views on the content of the socialist trade union and I.W.W. press … It didn't do any of us much good but it was interesting for a bloke like me.” But, he said, she “was liked by the Melbourne I.W.W. boys who knew her”. 29  In 1918 she moved to Sydney where she lived with Tom Glynn's wife. Tom Glynn was one of the twelve Wobblies on long sentences in Long Bay gaol. They had been convicted of arson in a case in which most of the evidence against them was on the word of men who later confessed themselves perjurers. Lesbia corresponded with another of the twelve, Bob Besant, also doing ten years, and taught French to another. “We'll mourn each other at prison  gates,” she wrote. “These boys are splendid as mountain eagles,/ But mountain eagles have eagle mates.” (18.7.17.) She continued working in clothing factories, part of the “invisible people” who go to work at seven each day making skirts “for great big women/ Amazons who've fed and slept/ Themselves inhuman”: 
   There must be tremendous tucks 
 On those round bellies. 
 Underneath the limbs will shake 
 Like wine-soft jellies. 
 In Sydney she also worked in domestic service, including, she said, a job with the Fairfax newspaper family. In a poem entitled “Miss Mary Fairfax” she describes Miss Mary checking the maids' work: “If the table's white, she does not see/ Roughened hands that once were ivory.” (4.7.19.) 
 At the 1920 N.S.W. state election, the radical labour movement had sufficient strength to make the imprisonings an election issue and force the new Labor government to appoint a royal commission to investigate the charges of perjury. The release of all but two was recommended and on 3 August 1920 Bob Besant and Tom Glynn were among the ten released. It had been thought that Lesbia and Bob would marry, but instead, on 23 November 1920, she married Pat Harford, an unsuccessful artist on the fringe of the I.W.W. and bohemian groups. According to Esmond he could be extremely charming. Norman Jeffery described him as a “cynical sectarian socialist of the old type”. Jeffery didn't like Harford and couldn't understood why Lesbia married him. The source of his antagonism seems to have been that Pat enlisted in the war. He refers to this several times: “He was to debate with me at the Australian Socialist Party hall on a matter relating to interpretation and significance of the class struggle. Night before the debate I met him in uniform at a restaurant … So no debate.” 30  The Keogh family disapproved of the marriage; Pat Harford was working class, lived in Redfern, was a drunk and prone to violence, factors which seem to have upset them in varying degrees. Guido approved of the marriage, although he admitted Pat had a taste for liquor. She got him out of a “very low state”, he said. “Lesbia said that her two chief achievements in the working class movement were to bring me from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat, and Pat Harford from the proletariat to the bourgeoisie.” 31  
 The marriage seems to have been happy for a while, but within a few years Lesbia returned to Melbourne. In 1925 she was living with her mother and was articled to a firm of solicitors. Most reports of the marriage say that it foundered on his alcoholism. Esmond and Norman Jeffery both report that he knocked her about. He was “too big and brutal for her, exhausted her and wore her out”, Jeffery said. Pat Harford has left no account of the marriage. Only Winifred Keogh, whose opinions about Lesbia often go against the prevailing grain, thought he was good to her, uncomplaining about the extra housework he had to do as her condition grew worse. He must have had something going for him as Lesbia was no fool and both Esmond and Guido liked him. Most accounts describe him as charming, but alcoholism can destroy charm as well as marriages. Like so much else in Lesbia Harford's biography, her marriage remains a mystery. 
 On the marriage certificate she gave her occupation as university coach. By 1921 she started to move into a variety of teaching and clerical jobs. There is no evidence to suggest whether this was a softening of her position that to accept a bourgeois job was class collaboration, or due to her deteriorating health. Probably a bit of each. By 1920 the political conjunctures had changed and despite the releases, the I.W.W. was a spent force. Its social theory had proved inadequate and the practical problems it was faced with proved insurmountable. Although 69,000 went out under the banner of Direct Action, the N.S.W. “general strike” of 1917 had been bitterly lost. There was no coordinated strike organisation. A generalised belief in Direct Action and a spontaneous and fragmented call for a general strike could not withstand the organised strength of the state, greatly increased by the  War Precautions Act . Defiant of the state, the I.W.W. had no provision for survival as an illegal organisation when the state moved against them. 32  The death knell of the Wobblies was, of course, the success of the October revolution in Russia. The Bolsheviks' direct and organised assault on the state was seen to succeed where the I.W.W. call for spontaneous industrial revolution had failed. In 1920, before the I.W.W. men were released, a Communist Party had already been formed and it was the C.P.A. which took over the vanguard position of the radical labour movement during the twenties. The C.P.A. encouraged the Wobblies into its ranks. Some including Norman Jeffery, a founding member, and Guido Baracchi joined and stayed; others joined briefly. Others, like Lesbia Harford, not at all. 
 To Guido Baracchi, Lesbia Harford was a “romantic revolutionary”. Bob Brodney thought that she was regarded as a “bourgeois radical” 33 , while Norman Jeffery described her as a “dainty middle class lass” and was puzzled why she joined the I.W.W.: 
  It became clearer as my own class understanding improved. The I.W.W. attracted, same as did the Communist Party at certain periods, those types from the middle class who saw in the I.W.W. a certain attraction because it appealed to their opposition to authority. Individualistic anarchist ideas appealed to them being quite a characteristic among Petty Bourgeois intellectuals. 34   
 It is not surprising that these men had difficulty in defining her politics or that they used the terms “bourgeois” and “romantic”. Both terms make unconscious reference to her feminism, or at least her gender. For a long time feminism was considered a bourgeois deviation by sections of the C.P.A. and the term “romantic revolutionary” looks back to earlier forms of utopian socialism which, as in the case of the Owenites, gave a central position to gender politics. Lesbia Harford could not be classified as she did not fit existing socialist traditions. Her attempts to create links between women's freedom and class emancipation inevitably created strains given the prevailing separation between feminism and organised working class movements. She did not leave a political assessment of herself and her feminism and socialism speak only in her poetry. There the class and gender politics are inseparable, not divergent struggles as they tended to be viewed in the I.W.W. and, particularly, in the C.P.A. Norman Jeffery saw her attraction to the I.W.W. rather than the C.P.A. as part of her opposition to authority. It may also have been that the I.W.W. gave working women the promise of direct action and control over their situation in a way in which a hierarchical party could not. The C.P.A. did not take feminism as a serious revolutionary issue. The I.W.W.'s looser structure left more room for the reconciliation of class and sexual politics. However, although there was a series of articles on feminism in the I.W.W. paper  Direct Action  during 1915 and 1916, feminism was clearly a subsidiary struggle. Ultimately neither the C.P.A. nor the I.W.W. offered a social theory which adequately addressed the relationship between class and gender; neither offered a social practice which challenged old patterns of sexual power. 
 Perhaps the explanation for her withdrawal from activist politics is altogether more mundane. With marriage her life changed again. For a while she enjoyed a peaceful domesticity, telling Nettie Palmer in December 1921: “I also fear lately that my friends think I am too married for anything — very stay at home.… It is hard to distinguish fatigue and a narrow purse from an absorbing marital affection.” 35  She was also more absorbed in her writing. The edition of the literary magazine  Birth  devoted to her work appeared in 1921. Interest began to be shown in her poetry by critics like H. M. Green, Percival Serle and her old friend Nettie Palmer. It is probable that she wrote her novel during the early twenties, a project which would have taken a more sustained effort and more time than she had given to her writing until then. She wrote to Frank Wilmot, the poet Furnley Maurice, in an undated letter probably written in 1926, that the novel was finished but she had not been able to get it published: “I think it's good but I have to admit that it's not striking. I think it original but a casual reader would only think it artless.” 36  In 1939 her mother told Nettie Palmer that she thought it was “beautiful” but that a publisher had ruled “the subject unsympathetic and that it would not have a success on that account”. 37  She sent the novel with the letter asking for the Palmers' opinion. I have found no further reference to it. My guess is that the novel drew on her experiences in the factories and revolutionary politics, and that it explored sexuality and that relationship between class and gender which she had not been able to settle within the working class movement. In terms of output her poetry tails off in the early twenties just as she seems to have been taking her writing most seriously. Perhaps encouraged by the response to the poems in  Birth , she decided to try the broader canvas of a novel. Since 1916 her poetry had been moving away from the early intensely personal poems and was running into problematic questions of form. A novel would have allowed her a space to explore the contradictory experiences of radical politics and feminism in a different and perhaps more settled genre. By 1921 it was clear both that revolutionary politics in Australia could not offer a forum for this debate and that Lesbia Harford was becoming sufficiently confident of herself as a writer to tackle it. 
   4 So much in life remains unsung/ and so much more than love is sweet 
 Although Lesbia Harford's writing can be seen within a broad tradition of radical Australian poetry which includes Lawson, Le Gay Brereton, Mary Gilmore, Furnley Maurice and E. J. Brady, her poetry is not entirely at ease in this company. Some of her poetry shares imagery of the feminine with Mary Gilmore's early work:  Marri'd and Other Verses  was published in 1910 and  The Passionate Heart  in 1918. Given her interest in feminism and Australian poetry, Lesbia Harford would almost certainly have read these volumes, and her admiration for Furnley Maurice is clear from her letters to him. But by the end of the war her poetry was moving towards popular and proletarian traditions of song and away from the more stylised forms that mark the work of Furnley Maurice and Mary Gilmore. Perhaps in some ways the poet closest to Lesbia Harford is Dick Long, another underrated and barely known but marvellous Australian poet. They share a vernacular poetry, a commitment to working class struggles and the representation of the working conditions and life experiences of the poor and powerless. But it is also very different, for most of all her poetry articulates the problems and the consciousness of the feminine. It is a poetry in which woman is active and the feminine voiced in its own terms. Lesbia Harford's poetry is a far cry from the bulk of verse written by Australian women in the 1910s and 1920s which filled the volumes of such magazines as  The Spinner , and which relied on Victorian rhyme and metre, cosy sentiment and hedgerow descriptions. Viewed historically Lesbia Harford's poetry is astonishing. 
 Lesbia Harford's attitude to her poetry was deeply implicated with her politics and philosophy of life. As Guido Baracchi put it: “she wanted to ditch the bourgeois world altogether. Her way of doing it was to work in the clothing trades, join her union, become a member of the I.W.W.…. She completely ditched that old world that she had grown up in. Even in things like music there was a rejection of the old; she got quite hostile to classical music. There's one of her poems: ‘There's a band in the street,/ There's a band in the street,/ It will play you a tune for a penny.’ Well this was the only sort of music she'd have a bar of, the music that would reach the people.” 38  And so too with her poetry. It looks to popular traditions of song and lyric poetry rather than to contemporary intellectual or modernist poetry. She was certainly aware of the latter. According to Bernard Smith, Esmond Keogh and Pat Harford were among the first people in Melbourne talking about modernism in art. 39  Katie Lush and Nettie Palmer were other sources for discussion about modernist poetry. Despite Nettie Palmer's profound unease with the avant-garde, she made it one of her tasks to introduce Australian writers to contemporary European and American writers. 
 Perhaps Frederick Sinclaire's greatest influence on Lesbia Harford was not in religious philosophy but in language. One of his central tenets was that religion should speak the language of “ordinary people”, that it be easily accessible. This was the case with Lesbia Harford's poetry which combined the familiarity of rhyme and lyric traditions with the accessibility of vernacular language. But while many of her poems are about the workplace and the daily experience of women, she was never a polemicist in her poetry. She told Percival Serle in 1926 that she was not “a Bolshevist in verse”. She did not like Anna Wickham's polemically feminist poetry which she considered “spoilt as much by its slovenliness as by its propaganda aspect”. She preferred “the old forms”. 40  The radicalism of her verse did not rely on polemic but on the power of the female voice that does not apologise. The simplicity of her poetry is deceptive; its accessibility is constructed in carefully metred lines. It was not easy to meld the vernacular with traditional lyric forms: “Into old rhyme/ The new words come but shyly.” (1.9.17.) The attempt resulted in a move away from the lyric and a poetic tradition which celebrates self-expression towards poetic forms such as the ballad and popular song which express the viewpoint and life experience of a group. This shift came slowly and tentatively, and her poetry should be read as transitional, making rather than completing a move in this direction. Nor was the transition straightforward: on the one hand her impulse towards the vernacular and the representation of the working experience of women led her away from the lyric; on the other hand the connection between feminism and the expression of the personal maintained strong links to that tradition. Her own attitude was dialectical, embracing these contradictions. Nevertheless it was a shift, however difficult, from an emphasis on the individual imagination to a more proletarian and also feminist concept of a poetry which could be spoken or sung, addressed to a larger audience than a small specialised poetry reading public. Another influence in this, of course, were the I.W.W. songs and ballads which had a wide popular following in America. 
 But Lesbia Harford's poems and songs were never taken up by the I.W.W. in Australia as Joe Hill's were in America. They do not appear in the pages of  Direct Action  although there was poetry in most issues between 1914 and 1917. Most of it was, of course, by men, a lot reprinted from America. Most of the poetry was Victorian in form, often satirical and sometimes in ballad form. In contrast Lesbia Harford's poetry was modern, witty and uncompromisingly female. It was much too concerned with women's experience to become part of a male dominated urban working class culture as the proletarian ballads of the thirties were to do. Nor did it fit the tradition of the bush ballad with its rural and masculine orientation. Besides, she never had the confidence or the strength of voice that would have been necessary to establish herself as a singer/writer. The proletarian ballad is a tradition that needs singers. Right to the end she was shy about her poetry. She might speak from a soap box, but not sing. Guido describes her singing her poems for him on the Manly ferry. She sang for her friends and wrote her own music, but her singing was informal and when she died the music died with her; no record of it remains. In any case her move towards proletarian song was never a denial of lyric. Her feminism and her articulation of the invisible realities of women's lives resulted in songs that were different from the tough tradition of urban working class popular songs. Hers were not songs to be belted out on street corners. And so she did not make a comfortable fit with that tradition any more than she did with a more bourgeois tradition. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that her poetry foreshadows a form of protest singing and poetry that developed several decades later when shifts in education and class structure gave a more lyric style of protest song a popular following. But in the 1920s the conditions for this did not exist in Australia. When she was published it was as a lyric poet in small circulation poetry publications which never had a large, let alone a mass audience. Where she was taken up it was within the literary groups she had always shied away from. Like that of many other marginalised poets — black, female, working class — her work challenges literary historiography, the categorisation of forms, and the division of writing into literary and popular, major and minor. 
 Even as a lyric poet Lesbia Harford has been inadequately read; but then Australian criticism has never been comfortable with the metaphors of the feminine and the discourses of women's writing. Every lyric poet inherits the metaphors of lyric poetry, the language within which poetic meaning is constructed; it is an inheritance which can be highly problematic for women. The curve of female sexuality, for example, has been spoken in lyric poetry for several centuries through imagery from nature and the language of flowers. As Cora Kaplan points out “the analogy is not always hostile to women, nor is it sexist in obvious ways. Male poets also mourn the decline of their own youth and freshness — though they tend to see themselves not as flowers but as more phallic objects like trees, or to image their decline as part of the seasonal cycle — a  grander process altogether. But if we consider how vulnerable, passive, fragile and silent flowers are, we see that the metaphor is always subliminally degrading.” 41  The problem for the woman poet is the negotiation of this inherited language in her attempt to image herself. Lesbia Harford is conscious and even ironic in her rejection of the rose as metaphor for her female self. Where she is less conscious and rather more interesting is in her use of lilac and the lily. Lilac is not a flower that is traditionally used for the female; the lily is. As a flower lilac is highly perfumed, signifying itself in large and obvious sprays, in no way modest or demure. Yet it is also a tree and is strong against storms: “A branch of lilac and a storm of hail/ On the same afternoon! Indeed I know/ Here in the south it always happens so,/ That lilac is companioned by the gale.” The poem speaks ambivalently of the poet's relationship to the lilac; she sees herself not as the lilac but in critical relationship to it. The storms of female experience keep her from any easy identification with the flower: 
   I took some hailstones from the window sill 
 And swallowed them in a communion feast. 
 Their transitory joy is mine at least, 
 The lilac's loveliness escapes me still. 
 Mine are the storms of spring, but not the sweets. 
 For Australians, of course, the problem is accentuated by imagery that comes always from Europe; “Pink eucalyptus flowers/ (The flowers are out)/ Are fair as any rose/ For us to sing about.” (29.3.18.) The lily is a common European flower which in romantic poetry signifies the purity and passivity of the feminine. But of course there are also native Australian lilies. Lesbia Harford's first poem which uses the image of the lily is dated December 1913; it is a poem that becomes inert under the weight of that traditional imagery. The image cannot free itself of its history: 
   Ay, ay, ay, the lilies of the garden 
 With red threads binding them and stars about, 
 These shall be her symbols, for she is high and holy, 
 Holy in her maidenhood and very full of doubt. 
    (December 1913)   
 Compare this to another poem, written five years later, in which the image is transcended and made both active and Australian, yet relies for its meaning on its unspoken defiance of that old stereotypic association: 
   I went to see 
 A friend last night and on her mantelself 
 I saw some lilies, 
 Image of myself, 
 And most unlike your dream of purity.    They had been small green lilies, never white 
 For man's delight 
 In their most blissful hours. 
 But now the flowers 
 Had shrivelled and instead 
 Shone spikes of seeds, 
 Burned spikes of seeds, 
 Burned red 
 As love and death and fierce futurity.    There's this much of the lily left in me. 
 The language her poetry uses to negotiate that contradictory set of relationships between independence, love and sexual passion also holds ghosts within its meanings. Her poetry breaks with earlier feminisms which resolved the conflict between love and independence in a denial of sexuality. Miles Franklin's early writings voice the tension of this resolution and the pain of her staunchly chaste independence. Lesbia Harford's attempt to know sexual passion and still take charge of her own destiny was no less painful and her poetry speaks the tension in balancing — or failing to balance — freedom of mind and spirit with freedom of the body and the heart. The sub-text of her poetry is exactly this negotiation, and the acceptance of struggle and change as a condition of life. The problem remains that of being active rather than passive, of speaking as a poet in a culture in which woman is spoken through the language of poetic metaphor. Her writing grapples with this in poems which are frank, vernacular and attempt to resist traditional meanings. 
 One resolution of the conflict between love and independence was to articulate it in poetry: to break the silence of women's isolated and painful experience. Increasingly this merged into her identification with broader based struggles of class and gender as another resolution, however partial, and as a way of broaching the essentially individualistic pain of private love and romantic poetry. The imagery of personal consciousness merges with and gives way to poetry which addresses the narrative of a more collective (female) experience. Her poems become strike songs and a later love lyric is addressed to revolution as a female lover: “She is not of the fireside,/ My lovely love” (12.2.18). If her poetry is contradictory it is not that it is illogical, but that it voices in its contradictions the essential realities of those who are poor, who struggle and who dare to hope in a society divided by class and by gender. By grappling with poetry as a form of protest as well as of expression, and by voicing the politics of sexuality and women's experience, Lesbia Harford's clear and honest poetry speaks to contradictions that are still central to Australian feminism and writing today. 
    Drusilla Modjeska 
    Sydney, 1984 
 1. Nettie Palmer,  Illustrated Tasmanian Mail , 19 October 1927. 
 2. Walter Benjamin,  Illuminations , London, Cape, 1970, p. 100. 
 3. Ken Worpole,  Dockers and Detectives , London, Verso, 1983, p. 50. 
 4. Nettie Palmer to Guido Baracchi. 2 May 1942. Baracchi papers, National Library of Australia, MS 5241, folder 1. 
 5. Douglas Stewart to Marjorie Pizer, 23 June 1964. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 6. Lesbia Harford to Percival Serle, 17 June 1926. Serle papers, State Library of Victoria, MS 8486, box 899/2. 
 7. Lesbia Harford to Percival Serle, 22 July 1926. Serle papers, State Library of Victoria, MS 8486, box 899/2. 
 8. All quotations from Esmond Keogh's account of the Keogh family history are taken from the essay and notes he wrote for Marjorie Pizer in 1964. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 9. Nettie Palmer, introduction to  The Poems of Lesbia Harford , Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1941. 
 10. Helen Keogh to Nettie Palmer, 19 July 1939. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 11. Bob Brodney, interview with Michael Hurley, 23 August 1983. 
 12.  The Diary of Beatrice Webb , vol. I, 1873–1892, ed. Norman and Jean Mackenzie, London, L.S.E. and Virago, 1982, pp. 243–249. 
 13. Guido Baracchi, “Rebel Girl”, a lecture given to the Fellowship of Australian Writers, in Sydney, November 1941. Baracchi papers, National Library of Australia, MS 5241, folder 39. 
 14. Helen Keogh to Nettie Palmer, 19 July 1939. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 15. Guido Baracchi, interview with Marjorie Pizer, 20 August 1964. 
 16. Joan Rosanove to Marjorie Pizer, 19 November 1964. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 17. Guido Baracchi, “National Guilds I: Capital and the State”,  Melbourne University Magazine , May 1917. 
 18. Katie Lush, letter to  The Socialist , 10 August 1917, p. 2 
 19. A. Boyce Gibson to Marjorie Pizer, 3 November 1964. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 20. Mrs J. H. Warren to Marjorie Pizer, no date (1964). Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 21. Sir George Lush, notes on Katie Lush, 6 June 1984. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 22. Quoted in Lesley Parsons, “The Quest for Lesbia Harford”, chapter 2, p. 6. B.A. thesis, Department of History, Melbourne University, 1976. 
 23. Extracts from Lesbia Harford's sermon “Two kinds of morality” were published in  The Fellowship , no. 8, April 1915. 
 24. Barbara Taylor,  Eve and the New Jerusalem , London, Virago, 1983. 
 25. Guido Baracchi, “Rebel Girl”. 
 26.  ibid.  
 27. Guido Baracchi, interview with Marjorie Pizer. 
 28.  ibid.  
 29. Norman Jeffery to Marjorie Pizer, 28 July 1964. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 30. Norman Jeffery to Marjorie Pizer, 9 May 1965. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 31. Guido Baracchi, interview with Marjorie Pizer. 
 32. See Ian Turner,  Sydney's Burning , Sydney, Alpha Books, 1967, for a full account of the I.W.W. in Australia. 
 33. Bob Brodney, interview with Michael Hurley. 
 34. Norman Jeffery to Marjorie Pizer, 28 July 1964. 
 35. Lesbia Harford to Nettie Palmer, 4 December 1921. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 36. Lesbia Harford to Frank Wilmot, no date. Wilmot papers, Mitchell Library, MS 4/6/185. 
 37. Helen Keogh to Nettie Palmer, 18 November 1939. Held by Marjorie Pizer. 
 38. Guido Baracchi, interview with Marjorie Pizer. 
 39. Bernard Smith,  Australian Painting 1788–1960 , Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1962, p. 192. 
 40. Lesbia Harford to Percival Serle, 17 June 1926. Serle papers, State Library of Victoria, MS 8486, box 899/2. 
 41. Cora Kaplan, introduction to  Salt and Bitter and Good: Three Centuries of English and American Women Poets , London, Paddington Press, 1975. 
   [I dreamt last night] 

  I dreamt last night 
 That spring had come. 
 Across green fields I saw a blur 
 Of crimson-blossomed plum.  
  I've never known 
 So fair a thing. 
 And yet I wish it were a dream 
 Of some forgotten spring.  
  Today the sun 
 Our workroom blest 
 And there was hard young wattle pinned 
 On our forewoman's breast.  
  August, 1910  
  [If I had six white horses] 
  If I had six white horses 
 And six sturdy friends, 
 I'd sell them into slavery, 
 If that would gain your ends.  
  I'd sell them into slavery, 
 If you so willed. 
 Thus were the hearts blood o' the world 
 By treason spilled.  
  Little Ships 
  The little ships are dearer than the great ships 
 For they sail in strange places, 
 They lean nearer the green waters. 
 One may count by wavelets how the year slips 
 From their decks; and hear the Sea-King's daughters 
 Laughing at their play whene'er the boat dips.  
  August, 1911  
   [When day is over] 
  When day is over 
 I climb up the stair, 
 Take off my dark dress, 
 Pull down my hair,  
  Open my window 
 And look at the stars. 
 Then my heart breaks through 
 These prison bars  
  Of space and darkness 
 And finds what is true, 
 Up past the stars where 
 I'm one with you.  
  December, 1911  
  [This year I have seen autumn with new eyes] 
  This year I have seen autumn with new eyes, 
 Glimpsed hitherto undreamt of mysteries 
 In the slow ripening of the town-bred trees; 
 Horse-chestnut lifting wide hands to the skies; 
 And silver beech turned gold now winter's near; 
 And elm, whose leaves like little suns appear 
 Scattering light — all, all have made me wise 
 And writ me lectures in earth's loveliness, 
 Whether they laugh through the grey morning mist, 
 Or by the loving sun at noon are kissed 
 Or seek at night the high-swung lamp's caress. 
 Does autumn such a novel splendour wear 
 Simply because my love has yellow hair?  
  May, 1912  
  [Do you remember still the little song] 
  Do you remember still the little song 
 I mumbled on the hill at Aura, how 
 I told you it was made for Katie's sake 
 When I was fresh from school and loving her 
 With all the strength of girlhood? And you said  
  You liked my song, although I didn't know 
 How it began at first and gabbled then 
 In a half voice, because I was too shy 
 To speak aloud, much less to speak them out — 
 Words I had joined myself — in the full voice 
 And with the lilt of proper poetry. 
 You could have hardly heard me. Here's the girl, 
 The little girl from school you never knew. 
 She made this song. Read what you couldn't hear.  
  How bright the windows are 
 When the dear sun shineth. 
 They strive to reflect the sun, 
 To be bright like the sun, 
 To give heat like the sun. 
 My heart too has its chosen one 
 And so to shine designeth.  
  The windows on the opposite hill that day 
 Shone bright at sunset too and made me think 
 Of the old patter I had half forgot, 
 Do you remember? I remind you now, 
 Who wandered yesterday for half an hour 
 Into St Francis, where I thought of you 
 And how I would be glad to love you well 
 If I but knew the way. The rhyme came back 
 Teasing me till I knew I hated it. 
 I couldn't take that way of loving you. 
 That was the girl's way. Hear the woman now. 
 Out of my thinking in the lonely church 
 And the day's labour in a friendly room 
 Tumbled a song this morning you will like.  
  I love my love 
 But I could not be 
 Good for his sake. 
 That frightens me.  
  Nor could I do 
 Such things as I should 
 Just for the sake 
 Of being good.  
  Deeds are too great 
 To serve my whim, 
 Be ways of loving 
 Myself or him.  
  Whether my deeds 
 Are good or ill 
 They're done for their own, 
 Not love's sake, still.  
  I didn't know it till the song was done 
 But that's Ramiro in a nutshell, eh, 
 With his contempt for individual souls 
 And setting of the deed above the man. 
 Perhaps I like him better than I thought, 
 Or would like, if he'd give me leave to scorn 
 Chameleon, adjectival good and ill 
 And set the deed so far above the man 
 As to be out of reach of morals too. 
 There you and I join issue once again.  
  In the Public Library 
  Standing on tiptoe, head back, eyes and arm 
 Upraised, Kate groped to reach the higher shelf. 
 Her sleeve slid up like darkness in alarm 
 At gleam of dawn. Impatient with herself 
 For lack of inches, careless of her charm, 
 She strained to grasp a volume; then she turned 
 Back to her chair, an unforgetful Eve 
 Still snatching at the fruit for which she yearned 
 In Eden. She read idly to relieve 
 The forehead where her daylong studies burned, 
 Tales of an uncrowned queen who fed her child 
 On poisons, till death lurked, in act to spring, 
 Between the girl's breasts; who with soft mouth smiled 
 With soft eyes tempted the usurping King 
 Then dealt him death in kisses. Kate had piled 
 Her books three deep before her and across 
 This barricade she watched an old man nod 
 Over a dirty paper, until loss 
 Of life seemed better than possession. Shod 
 With kisses death might skid like thistle floss 
 Down windy slides, might prove at heart as gay 
 As Cinderella in glass slippers. 
 Life goes awkwardly so sandalled. Had decay 
 Been the girl's gift in that Miltonic strife 
 She would have rivalled God, Kate thought. A ray 
 Of sunshine carrying gilded flecks of dust 
 And minutes bright with fancies, touched her hair 
 To powder it with gold and silver, just 
 As if being now admitted she should wear 
 The scholar's wig, colleague of those whose lust 
 For beauty hidden in an outworn tongue 
 Had made it possible for her to read 
 Tales that were fathered in Arabia, sung 
 By trouvères and forgotten with their creed 
 Of love and magic. Beams that strayed among 
 Kate's fingers lit a rosy lantern there 
 To glow in twilight. Suddenly afraid 
 She seemed to see her beauty in a flare 
 Of light from hell. A throng of devils swayed 
 Before her, devils that had learned to wear 
 The shape of scholar, poet, libertine. 
 They smiled, frowned, beckoned, swearing to estrange 
 Kate from reflection that her soul had been 
 Slain by her woman's body or would change 
 From contact with it to a thing unclean. 
 Woman was made to worship man, they preached, 
 Not God, to serve earth's purpose, not to roam 
 The heavens of thought … A factory whistle screeched, 
 Someone turned up the lights. On her way home 
 Kate wondered in what mode were angels breeched.  
  Xmas, 1912  
  [Ay, ay, ay, the lilies of the garden] 
  Ay, ay, ay, the lilies of the garden 
 With red threads binding them and stars about, 
 These shall be her symbols, for she is high and holy, 
 Holy in her maidenhood and very full of doubt.  
  Ay, ay, ay, for she is very girlish 
 Fearful her heart's lilies should be stained by sin. 
 Yet will I bind them with rosy threads of passion. 
 Surely human passion has a right to enter in.  
  December, 1913  
  This morning I got up before the sun 
 Had seized the hill, 
 And scrambled heart-hot, noisy, past each one 
 In sleep laid still.  
  There they lay helpless under the gold stars, 
 Good folk and kind, 
 By sleep the robber spoiled of heavenly wares, 
 Made deaf and blind.  
  The leaves cracked, the grass rustled as I passed. 
 I might have been 
 Myself the thief. Each minute seemed the last 
 Of freedom's teen.  
  But lonely down the hill in Levite's guise 
 Or priest's, I ran. 
 I had not proved myself, true loverwise, 
  The wind went by me, pulling at my hair. 
 I left the track. 
 My last night's purpose terrible and fair 
 Came sweeping back.  
  Among the bracken under a white tree 
 I sat me down, 
 And slipped my shoulders very stealthily 
 From out my gown.  
  One minute I lay naked on the grass, 
 Then sat upright. 
 The hot wind had its will with me, and kissed 
 My bosom white.  
  The stars gleamed in the grey before the rose. 
 Were they not eyes 
 That peered and leered, and seemed about to close 
 In shocked surprise?  
  With the whole sky at gaze, there had I lain. 
 Had dared thus much. 
 I ran on frightened down the hill again, 
 With gown to clutch.  
  Down by the creek the blackberries grew thick, 
 And as I passed 
 They stretched long arms to hinder me and prick, 
 Make me shamefast?  
  Nay, they laughed, pulling at my slipping gown, 
 Would have laid bare 
 To chance men on the hillside looking down 
 The whiteness there.  
  Close by the blackwoods is the bathing pool 
 The men have made. 
 I was no sport for stars, no bramble's fool 
 In the trees' shade.  
  But when I stood with limbs and body free 
 And gleaming fair, 
 The little kind ferns screened and covered me 
 Like Agnes' hair.  
  I slipped into the shallow water, felt 
 The fine brown sand 
 Of the creek bottom, shuddered, splashed and knelt 
 Too cold to stand.  
  Happy and shivering, with trees overhead, 
 Fern walls around, 
 I listened to the water talking, led 
 To praise by sound.  
  So I have felt the wind and water's kiss, 
 Though I'm a maid. 
 Better be man than be a girl, and miss 
 Feeling afraid.  
  Xmas, 1913  
   [I count the days until I see you, dear,] 
  I count the days until I see you, dear, 
 But the days only. 
 I dare not reckon up the nights and hours 
 I shall be lonely.  
  But when at last I meet you, dearest heart, 
 How can it cheer me? 
 Desire has power to turn me into stone, 
 When you come near me.  
  I give my heart the lie against my will, 
 Seem not to see you, 
 Glance aside quickly if I meet your eye, 
 Love you and flee you.  
  The Tyrant 
  When I was a child, 
 I felt the fairies' power. 
 Of a sudden my dry life 
 Would burst into flower.  
  The skies were my path, 
 The sun my comrade fair, 
 And the night was a dark rose 
 I wore in my hair.  
  But thou camest, love, 
 Who madest me unfree. 
 I will dig myself a grave 
 And hide there from thee.  
  July, 1914  
   [Tall trees along the road] 
  Tall trees along the road, 
 I never saw you 
 Last year in summertime. 
 He came before you 
 With his blue eyes.  
  Warm wind along the road, 
 I never knew you 
 Last year in summertime. 
 We could outdo you 
 With our hot sighs.  
  This year, oh wind and trees, 
 We're friends together. 
 Else should I be alone 
 In this sweet weather 
 Beneath fair skies.  
  October, 1914  
  [Though I had lost my love] 
  Though I had lost my love, 
 The hills could calm me. 
 Deep in a woodland grove 
 No loss could harm me.  
  But when I came to town, 
 And saw around me 
 Lovers pass up and down — 
 Then sorrow crowned me.  
  December, 1914  
  [My heart is a pomegranate full of sweet fancies] 
  My heart is a pomegranate full of sweet fancies, 
 To crimson with sunshine and swell with the dew. 
 Warmed by your smile and besprent by your glances 
 See, it has opened for you!  
   God Speaks 
  I made a heaven for you filled with stars, 
 Each star a song 
 Meant to give happy music to your ear, 
 Day and night long.  
  But in your workshop you are closed away 
 From the fair sky, 
 Deafened by noise until you cannot hear 
 My stars that sigh.  
  And when night comes your sleepy eyes are blind 
 To heavens blue; 
 That was a foolish toy, my dearest dear, 
 I made for you.  
  [I have two wings] 
  I have two wings 
 To raise me to the skies. 
 Withouten these 
 My soul could never rise.  
  My shining friends, 
 All white and gold are ye 
 Who make my soul 
 A winged victory.  
  [I can't feel the sunshine] 
  I can't feel the sunshine 
 Or see the stars aright 
 For thinking of her beauty 
 And her kisses bright.  
  She would let me kiss her 
 Once and not again. 
 Deeming soul essential, 
 Sense doth she disdain.  
  If I should once kiss her, 
 I would never rest 
 Till I had lain hour long 
 Pillowed on her breast.  
  Lying so, I'd tell her 
 Many a secret thing 
 God has whispered to me 
 When my soul took wing.  
  Would that I were Sappho, 
 Greece my land, not this! 
 There the noblest women, 
 When they loved, would kiss.  

  After Rain 
 I'd like to be a nun 
 And go and say 
 My rosary beneath the trees out there. 
 In this shy sun 
 The raindrops look like silver beads of prayer.  
  So blest 
 Am I, I'd like to tell 
 God and the rest 
 Of heaven-dwellers in the garden there 
 All that befell 
 Last week. Such gossip is as good as prayer.  
  Ah well! 
 I have, since I'm no nun, 
 No beads to tell, 
 And being happy must be all my prayer. 
 Yet 'twould be fun 
 To walk with God 'neath the wet trees out there.  

  Summer Lightning 
  Just now, as warm day faded from our sight, 
 Hosts of archangels, fleet 
 On lightning-wingéd feet 
 Passed by, all glimmering in the busy night.  
  Sweet angels, bring no blinding truth to birth, 
 Give us no messages 
 From heavenly palaces; 
 Leave us our dark trees and our starlight earth.  
  I have a sister whom God gave to me; 
 He formed her out of trouble and the mists of the sea.  
  Like Aphrodite, she came to me full-grown. 
 Oh, I am blest forever with a sister of my own.  
   [You, whom the grave cannot bind] 
  You, whom the grave cannot bind, 
 Shall a song hold you? 
 Still you escape from the mesh 
 Spun to enfold you.  
  Your woven texture of flesh 
 Short time confined you. 
 Sib to the sun and the wind, 
 Shall a song bind you?  
  Noli Me Tangere 
  We watched the dawn breaking across the sea 
 While just above us hung the evening star. 
 The nearer waters took a hint of white 
 And clouds and waves together massed afar, 
 Narrowed our morning world of pallid light 
 Till dawn seemed very close to you and me.  
  “Nay, dawn, stay farther off. Be Magdalen. 
 Go back into the distance whence you came. 
 The Near is meaningless when Far is nought,” 
 So I; and you. “Wait but a little then, 
 And day, whole day, uprising like a flame, 
 Will show us the far reaches of our thought.”  
  [They say — priests say —] 
  They say — priests say — 
 That God loves the world. 
 Maybe he does, 
 When the dew is pearl'd 
 On the emerald grass, 
 Or the young dawns shine.  
  Would you be satisfied, 
 Proteus mine, 
 Just to be loved 
 When your hair was curled, 
 As Earth is beloved 
 When earth is fine? 
 I love you more 
 Than God loves the world.  

  My darling lies down in her soft white bed, 
 And she laughs at me. 
 Her laughter has flushed her pale cheeks with red. 
 Her eyes dance with glee.  
  My darling lies close in her warm white bed, 
 And she will not rise. 
 I will shower kisses down on her sleepyhead 
 Till she close her eyes.  
  Gioja's no happier fresh from the South. 
 But my kisses free 
 Will straiten the curves of this teasing mouth, 
 If it laughs at me.  
  [My mission in the world] 
  My mission in the world 
 Is to prolong 
 Rapture by turning it 
 Into a song.  
  A song of liberty 
 Bound by no rule!  
 No marble meaning's mine 
 Fixed for a school.  
  My singing ecstasy 
 Winged for the flight, 
 Each will hear differently, 
 And hear aright.  
  Day's End 
  Little girls, 
 You are gay, 
 Little factory girls, 
 At the end of your day.  
  There you stand, 
 Huddled close, 
 On the back of a tram, 
 Having taken your dose.  
  And you go 
 Through the gray 
 And the gold of the streets 
 At the close of the day,  
  Blind as moles. 
 You are crude, 
 You are sweet, little girls, 
 And amazingly rude,  
  But so fine 
 To be gay. 
 Gentle people are dull 
 At the end of the day.  
   The Electric Tram to Kew 
  Through the swift night 
 I go to my love. 
 Tram bells are joy bells, 
 Bidding us move 
 On a golden path 
 Beneath balls of fire 
 Up hill and down dale, 
 To o'ertake desire.  
  Past the old shops 
 That my childhood knew, 
 Past hidden houses 
 And fields of dew 
 Lovely and secret 
 As thou, my friend, 
 Who art all heaven 
 At journey's end.  
  A Sophistical Argument 
  Great crane o'ertopping the delicate trees 
 Why do you seem so fair, 
 Swaying and raising your load with ease 
 High in the misty air?  
  You are a wonder of pearl and grey 
 Lifting strong arms to the sky. 
 Have you a meaning that's lovely, pray? 
 Why are you lovely, why?  
  I have a friend with a theory strange, 
 Thriftless in unity, 
 None of my reasons avails to change. 
 “Beauty  is  truth,” says she.  
  Are you all ugliness, Fair-to-the-sense? 
 You are a symbol drear. 
 Though I should forfeit mine innocence, 
 Yet must I hold you dear.  
  [Dearest, dearest] 
  Dearest, dearest, 
 Bother the slow hours 
 That hold and keep me 
 From the leafy bowers 
 You make more lovely than a storm of flowers.  
  Dearest, dearest, 
 If they let me go 
 I'd hasten to you 
 Where the waters flow 
 In among the shadows and the dreams we know.  
  [Today they made a bonfire] 
  Today they made a bonfire 
 Close to the cherry tree 
 And smoke like incense drifted 
 Through the white tracery.  
  I think the gardener really 
 Played a tremendous game, 
 Offering beauty homage 
 In soft blue smoke and flame.  
   Weekend at Mt. Dandenong 
  Frolic mountain winds 
 Innocent and shy, 
 Kiss my darling's cheek 
 As they scurry by.  
  Little fragrant leaves 
 With the dawn astir, 
 Make a million songs 
 Full of love for her.  
  Will she wake or sleep 
 These two nights she'll spend 
 Up the mountain-side, 
 My dear truant friend?  
  [Ours was a friendship in secret, my dear] 

  Ours was a friendship in secret, my dear, 
 Stolen from fate. 
 I must be secret still, show myself calm 
 Early and late.  
  “Isn't it sad he was killed!” I must hear 
 With a smooth face. 
 “Yes, it is sad.” — Oh, my darling, my own, 
 My heart of grace.  
  [Sometimes I watch you, mark your brooding eyes] 
  Sometimes I watch you, mark your brooding eyes, 
 Your grave brow over-weighted with deep thought, 
 Your mouth's straight line — details of such a sort 
 That all aloofness in your aspect lies.  
  And yet when in the dark down from above 
 You swoop like a great bird or God himself 
 To kiss, your lips have curves. What changeling elf 
 Is that soft mouth of passionate close love?  
  [O little year, cram full of duty] 
  O little year, cram full of duty, 
 Rapture and sorrow, too, 
 Show me the way from old paths of beauty 
 Into the fields of dew.  
  Strange lorn fields where the moon goes riding 
 Over a lonely sky. 
 Kind little year, in your onward gliding 
 Let me not pass them by.  
  [The hot winds wake to life in the sweet daytime] 
  The hot winds wake to life in the sweet daytime 
 My weary limbs, 
 And tear through all the moonlit darkness shouting 
 Tremendous hymns.  
  My body keeps earth's law and goes exulting. 
 Poor slavish thing! 
 The soul that knows you dead rejects in silence 
 This riotous spring.  
   [Somebody brought in lilac] 

  Somebody brought in lilac, 
 Lilac after rain. 
 Isn't it strange, belovéd of mine 
 You'll not see it again?  
  Lilac glad with the sun on it 
 Flagrant fair from birth, 
 Mourns in colour, belovéd of mine, 
 You laid in the earth.  
  [I have three loves who are all most dear] 

  I have three loves who are all most dear. 
 Each one has cost me many a tear.  
  The one who is dead yet lives in me. 
 I were too poor had I less than three.  
  [“Raging winter wind] 

  “Raging winter wind 
 Let loose in springtime 
 What is the message your cold touch brings?” 
 Spite of days and dreams, 
 Warm and easy and sublime, 
 Terror crouches always at the heart of things.  
   Deliverance through Art 
  When I am making poetry I'm good 
 And happy then. 
 I live in a deep world of angelhood 
 Afar from men. 
 And all the great and bright and fiery troop 
 Kiss me agen 
 With love. Deathless Ideas! I have no need 
 Of girls' lips then.  
  Goodness and happiness and poetry, 
 I put them by. 
 I will not rush with great wings gloriously 
 Against the sky 
 While poor men sit in holes, unbeautiful, 
 Unsouled, and die: 
 Better let misery and pettiness 
 Make me their sty.  
  To Leslie 
  Across the sea 
 Come homeward ships 
 With freight of boys.  
  And still must we 
 Forgo the joys 
 Of meeting lips.  
   Hecate's Due 
  You who are dead, 
 Do you know 
 They've dug up half the irises 
 That used to grow 
 Here in the quadrangle a year ago?  
  Those left are mere 
 Points of blue 
 That can't make sky of earth, as once 
 They used to do, 
 Didn't they? Buried flowers … Proserpin's due.  
  The Silent Dead 
  There's a little boy who lives next door 
 With hair like you, 
 Pale, pale hair and a rose-white skin 
 And his eyes are blue.  
  When I get a chance I peep at him, 
 Who is so like you, 
 Terribly like, my dead, my fair, 
 For he's dumb, too.  
  [O great golden head lie in my lap] 
  O great golden head lie in my lap, 
 Sweet, sweet, lie there. 
 Sleep and I'll watch thee lest evil behap. 
 Sweet, sweet and fair.  
  O great golden head lie on my breast, 
 Sleep, sleep thou there, 
 Who in thy beauty hast stolen my rest, 
 Sweet, sweet and fair.  
   [Why does she put me to many indignities] 

  Why does she put me to many indignities, 
 Shifts to prevent myself thinking upon her, 
 My golden Katie, who loveth not kisses?  
  I wear my new dresses and put on silk stockings, 
 All to prevent myself thinking upon her, 
 Who is more lovely than fair river-lilies.  
  The Folk I Love 
  I do hate the folk I love, 
 They hurt so. 
 Their least word and act may be 
 Source of woe.  
  “Won't you come to tea with me?” 
 “Not today. 
 I'm so tired, I've been to church.” 
 Such folk say.  
  All the dreary afternoon 
 I must clutch 
 At the strength to love like them, 
 Not too much.  
  [Oh, oh Rosalie] 

  Oh, oh Rosalie, 
 Oh, oh Rosalie, 
 What would you have of me? 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  I have kisses fine, 
 I have kisses fine. 
 Will you take kiss of mine? 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  I have dreams in store, 
 I have dreams in store, 
 Fine spun as lace of yore. 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  Many a mighty thought, 
 Many a mighty thought 
 By men of old time wrought 
 Is mine, Rosalie.  
  I have golden days, 
 I have golden days, 
 Green trees, and leafy ways. 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  I have tears for you, 
 I have tears for you, 
 And roses filled with dew. 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  Oh, oh Rosalie, 
 What do you want of me? 
 You would have nought of me. 
 Oh, oh Rosalie.  
  [To Plato's dictum] 

  To Plato's dictum 
 Assent she lends. 
 All things in common 
 We hold, as friends.  
  I share her riches. 
 In days to be 
 She'll come and share in 
 My poverty.  
   [All day long] 

  All day long 
 We sew fine muslin up for you to wear, 
 Muslin that women wove for you elsewhere, 
 A million strong.  
  Just like flames, 
 Insatiable, you eat up all our hours 
 And sun and loves and tea and talk and flowers, 
 Suburban dames.  
  [If you have loved a brave story] 

  If you have loved a brave story 
 Tell it but rarely; 
 And, with due faith in its glory, 
 Render it barely.  
  Then must the listener, hearing 
 Your tale of wonder, 
 Let his own hoping and fearing 
 Tear him asunder.  
  December, 1915  
  [I dare not leave the splendid town] 
  I dare not leave the splendid town 
 To go where morning meadows are, 
 For somewhere here the Future's hid 
 In factory, shop, or liquor bar.  
  And when the picture shows are closed 
 She goes to roam about the docks. 
 Oh, she has wisdom on her mouth 
 And blood with honey in her locks.  
  I dare not read of Rosamund 
 Or such sweet ladyhood in books, 
 Lest dreaming on their excellence 
 I should forget the Future's looks.  
  And I'll walk lonely all my days 
 Down city pavements without end, 
 For with young love on flowery paths 
 I'd have small need of her to friend.  
  Yea, I would fain forget to sing, 
 Like larks in city prison bound, 
 In case I should not hear her voice 
 Above that clatter of sweet sound.  
  The Immigrant 
  When Gertie came in 
 To work today 
 She was much less weary 
 And far more gay.  
  We asked her the reason 
 Of this delight. 
 She had been dreaming 
 Of home all night.  
  [Child Sun] 

  Child Sun 
 Why will you play Peep Bo 
 Now in, now out 
 The workroom window so?  
  True 'tis 
 That there are children here; 
 But they've no time 
 To play Peep Bo, my dear.  
   [Emmie, Emmie Adams] 

  Emmie, Emmie Adams, 
 With her insolent air, 
 Tied a little bit of rag 
 In her yellow hair.  
  When Lena, wondering, 
 Asked why it was there, 
 Emmie said she didn't know 
 And she didn't care.  
  I think Emmie Adams, 
 Though you are so fair, 
 That must be the devil's horn 
 In your yellow hair.  
  [Today when you went up the hill] 

  Today when you went up the hill 
 And all that I could see 
 Was just a speck of black and white 
 Very far from me,  
  It seemed more strange than words can say, 
 The dot that I could see, 
 Really was the dearest thing 
 The world holds for me.  
  [Today I saw] 

  Today I saw 
 A market cart going along the road, 
 High-piled and creaking with a sonsy load 
 Of cabbages.  
  The driver sat 
 Under a little tent himself had made 
 To give him shelter from the rain or shade 
 In summertime.  
  Such men as he, 
 Backed by the riches of a country side, 
 Should have kings' faces, full of jolly pride 
 In comeliness.  
  But he was tired 
 After a night's work under starlit skies, 
 And crouched like a poor slave, with anxious eyes 
 Turned citywards.  
  [Cherry plum blossom in an old tin jug —] 

  Cherry plum blossom in an old tin jug — 
 Oh, it is lovely, beautiful and fair, 
 With sun on it and little shadows mixed 
 All in among the fragrant wonder there.  
  Cherry plum blossom on the workroom bench 
 Where we can see it all our working hours. 
 In all my garden days of ladyhood, 
 I never met girls who so loved sweet flowers.  
  [Each morning I pass on my way to work] 

  Each morning I pass on my way to work 
 A clock in a tower 
 And I look towards it with anxious eyes 
 To make sure of the hour.  
  But the sun gets up at the back of the tower 
 With a flare and a blaze 
 Hiding the time and the tower from my sight 
 In a blissful haze.  
  “I am the marker of time” says the sun. 
 Taken unawares, 
 I believe for the nonce he is lord of the day 
 And am rid of my cares.  
  c. 1916  
   [I'd love to have you on a rainy day] 

  I'd love to have you on a rainy day 
 Tucked in a chair, my head against your knee 
 To sit and dream with. Sometime you must be 
 My home-sharer whom rain can't keep away.  
  c. 1916  
  [Green and blue] 

  Green and blue 
 First-named of colours believe these two. 
 They first of colours by men were seen 
 This grass colour, tree colour, 
 Sky colour, sea colour, 
 Magic-named, mystic-souled, blue and green.  
  Later came 
 Small subtle colours like tongues of flame, 
 Small jewel colours for treasure trove, 
 Not fruit colour, flower colour, 
 Cloud colour, shower colour, 
 But purple, amethyst, violet and mauve.  
  These remain, 
 Two broad fair colours for our larger gain 
 Stretched underfoot or spreading wide on high, 
 Green beech colour, vine colour, 
 Gum colour, pine colour, 
 Blue of the noonday and the moonlit sky.  
  c. 1916  
  I've had no man 
 To guard and shelter me, 
 Guide and instruct me 
 From mine infancy.  
  No lord of earth 
 To show me day by day 
 What things a girl should do 
 And what she should say.  
  I have gone free 
 Of manly excellence 
 And hold their wisdom 
 More than half pretence.  
  For since no male 
 Has ruled me or has fed, 
 I think my own thoughts 
 In my woman's head.  
  c. 1916–17  
  Work-Girls' Holiday 
  A lady has a thousand ways 
 Of doing nothing all her days, 
 And so she thinks that they're well spent, 
 She can be idle and content. 
 But when I have a holiday 
 I have forgotten how to play.  
  I could rest idly under trees 
 When there's some sun or little breeze 
 Or if the wind should prove too strong 
 Could lie in bed the whole day long. 
 But any leisured girl would say 
 That that was waste of holiday.  
  Perhaps if I had weeks to spend 
 In doing nothing without end, 
 I might learn better how to shirk 
 And never want to go to work.  
  c. 1916–17  
   [He had served eighty masters. They'd have said] 

  He had served eighty masters. They'd have said 
 He “worked for these employers” to earn bread.  
  And they, if they had heard him, would have sneered 
 To brand him inefficient whom they feared.  
  For to know eighty masters is to know 
 What sort of thing men who are masters grow.  
  Lawstudent and Coach 
  Each day I sit in an ill-lighted room 
 To teach a boy; 
 For one hour by the clock great words and dreams 
 Are our employ.  
  We read  St Agnes' Eve  and that more fair 
  Eve of St Mark  
 At a small table up against the wall 
 In the half-dark.  
  I tell him all the wise things I have read 
 Concerning Keats. 
 “His earlier work is overfull of sense 
 And sensual sweets.”  
  I tell him all that comes into my mind 
 From God-knows-where, 
 Remark, “In English poets Bertha's type 
 Is jolly rare.  
  She's a real girl that strains her eyes to read 
 And cricks her neck. 
 Now Madeline could pray all night nor feel 
 Her body's check.  
  And Bertha  reads , p'rhaps the first reading girl 
 In English rhyme.” 
 It's maddening work to say what Keats has said 
 A second time.  
  The boy sits sideways with averted head. 
 His brown cheek glows. 
 I like his black eyes and his sprawling limbs 
 And his short nose.  
  He, feeling, dreads the splendour of the verse, 
 But he must learn 
 To write about it neatly and to quote 
 These lines that burn.  
  He drapes his soul in my obscuring words, 
 Makes himself fit 
 To go into a sunny world and take 
 His part in it.  
  “Examiners' point of view, you know,” say I, 
 “Is commonsense. 
 You must sift poetry before you can 
 Sift Evidence.”  
  Machinists Talking 
  I sit at my machine 
 Hourlong beside me, Vera, aged nineteen, 
 Babbles her sweet and innocent tale of sex.  
  Her boy, she hopes, will prove 
 Unlike his father in the act of love. 
 Twelve children are too many for her taste.  
  She looks sidelong, blue-eyed, 
 And tells a girlish story of a bride 
 With the sweet licence of Arabian queens.  
  Her child, she says, saw light 
 Minute for minute, nine months from the night 
 The mother first lay in her lover's arms.  
  She says a friend of hers 
 Is a man's mistress who gives jewels and furs 
 But will not have her soft limbs cased in stays.  
  I open my small store 
 And tell of a young delicate girl, a whore, 
 Stole from her mother many months ago.  
  Fate made the woman seem 
 To have a tiger's loveliness, to gleam 
 Strong and fantastic as a beast of prey.  
  I sit at my machine. 
 Hourlong beside me, Vera, aged nineteen, 
 Babbles her sweet and innocent tale of sex.  
  The Invisible People 
  When I go into town at half past seven 
 Great crowds of people stream across the ways, 
 Hurrying, although it's only half past seven. 
 They are the invisible people of the days.  
  When you go in to town about eleven 
 The hurrying, morning crowds are hid from view. 
 Shut in the silent buildings at eleven 
 They toil to make life meaningless for you.  
  Closing Time: Public Library 
  At ten o'clock the great gong sounds its dread 
 Prelude to splendour. I push back my chair, 
 And all the people leave their books. We flock, 
 Still acquiescent, down the marble stair 
 Into the dark where we can't read. And thought 
 Swoops down insatiate through the starry air.  
   The Two Swans 
  There's a big park just close to where we live — 
 Trees in a row 
 And shaggy grass whereon the dead leaves blow.  
  And in the middle round a great lagoon 
 The fair yachts sail 
 In loveliness that makes the water pale.  
  Last night I went to walk along the road 
 Beside the park 
 And feel the kisses of the wintry dark.  
  It's the best place to watch the evening come 
 For mists are there 
 And lights and shadows and the lake is fair  
  And last night looking up I saw two swans 
 Fly overhead 
 With long black necks and their white wings outspread.  
  Above the houses citywards they went, 
 An arrowy pair 
 In secret — white and black and dark and fair.  
  Machinist's Song 
  The foot of my machine 
 Sails up and down 
 Upon the blue of this fine lady's gown.  
  Sail quickly, little boat, 
 With gifts for me, 
 Night and the goldy streets and liberty.  
   [Up in my room on my unmade bed] 

  Up in my room on my unmade bed 
 I sat and read.  
  There was work waiting for me below. 
 I didn't go.  
  For in my little green room the song 
 Flickered along.  
  If the singer had seen the way it fared 
 She would have stared,  
  Have wondered and stared at me who read 
 With tumbled bed,  
  Wide-open window, wide-open door, 
 Books on the floor.  
  Hers was a disciplined, comely, wise 
  But what's the hell of a mess to me 
 When I am free  
  And wind blows in and a delicate song 
 Flickers along.  
  My friend declares 
 Being woman and virgin she 
 Takes small account of periodicity  
  And she is right. 
 Her days are calmly spent 
 For her sex-function is irrelevant.  
  But I whose life 
 Is monthly broke in twain 
 Must seek some sort of meaning in my pain.  
  Women, I say, 
 Are beautiful in change, 
 Remote, immortal, like the moon they range.  
  Or call my pain 
 A skirmish in the whole 
 Tremendous conflict between body and soul.  
  Meaning must lie, 
 Some beauty surely dwell 
 In the fierce depths and uttermost pits of hell.  
  Yet still I seek, 
 Month after month in vain, 
 Meaning and beauty in recurrent pain.  
  June, 1917  
  [This evening I'm alone] 

  This evening I'm alone. 
 I wish there'd be 
 Someone to come along 
 And talk to me.  
  Yet out of all my friends 
 There isn't one 
 I'd like to come and talk 
 To me alone.  
  But if a stranger came 
 With newer brain 
 We'd yarn until we felt 
 Alive again.  
  [I was sad] 

  I was sad 
 Having signed up in a rebel band, 
 Having signed up to rid the land 
 Of a plague it had.  
  For I knew 
 That I would suffer, I would be lost, 
 Be bitter and foolish and tempest tost 
 And a failure too.  
  I was sad; 
 Though far in the future our light would shine 
 For the present the dark was ours, was mine, 
 I couldn't be glad.  
  [They are so glad of a young companion] 

  They are so glad of a young companion, 
 They hail and bless me, these boys of mine, 
 And I whose pathway was dark and lonely 
 Have no more need of the sun to shine.  
  We'll walk in darkness, obscure, despised, 
 We'll mourn each other at prison gates. 
 These boys are splendid as mountain eagles, 
 But mountain eagles have eagle mates.  
  The girls who prattle of work and pleasure, 
 Of last week's picnic and this week's joys, 
 Of past and present, nor heed the future, 
 Are lagging comrades for dawnstruck boys.  
  [I saw a flight of sparrows through the air] 

  I saw a flight of sparrows through the air. 
 Oh, let us rise 
 Out of the weaknesses of our despair 
 To burning skies.  
  Let us take wings for flight from home and friends 
 And sweet desire. 
 From comfortable earth the soul ascends 
 To heavens of fire.  
   [O little plum tree in the garden, you're] 

  O little plum tree in the garden, you're  
 Aflower again, 
 With memories of a million springs and my  
 Brief years of pain.  
  O little tree, you have the power to find 
 Your youth again, 
 Grow young, while I grow old in tenderness 
 And wise in pain.  
  [He has picked grapes in the sun. Oh it seems] 

  He has picked grapes in the sun. Oh it seems  
 Like a fairy tale, 
 Like a tale of dreams.  
  “He in his slender youth, with vines, with sun, 
 Under a blazing sky”— 
 The tale might run.  
  There's beauty for eye and mind, for sight and thought, 
 Here on the surface. 
 Plunge. This beauty's nought.  
  Vision succeeds to dream. Deep in his heart 
 Fierier beauty lives 
 Than this surface art.  
  He has no song to sing of fragrant soil 
 Who in his heart revolts 
 At unlovely toil.  
  He has known the real, the truth of it. It seems 
 Misery eats the heart 
 Out of fairest dreams.  
  He in his slender youth, at strife, in vain 
 Offers his life to set 
 The world right again.  
   [The love I look for] 

  The love I look for 
 Could not come from you. 
 My mind is set to fall 
 At Peterloo. 
 But you'ld protect me, 
 I'd be safe with you.  
  You could but love me 
 In the olden way, 
 With gifts of jewels, children, 
 Time to play, 
 Be man to woman 
 In the olden way.  
  The love that's love has 
 Other gifts to bring, 
 A share in weakness, dreams, 
 And suffering. 
 These are the only 
 Gifts I'd have to bring.  
  The love I look for 
 Does not come from you. 
 I see it dawning in 
 Deep eyes of blue. 
 I dare to hope for 
 Love, but not from you.  
  [He has a fairy wife] 

  He has a fairy wife. 
 He does not know her. 
 She is the heart of the storm, 
 Of the clouds that lower.  
  And as the clouds are torn 
 Into rain and thunder, 
 She in her brightness tears 
 His heart asunder.  
   [All through the day at my machine] 

  All through the day at my machine 
 There still keeps going 
 A strange little tune through heart and head 
 As I sit sewing: 
 “There is a child in Hungary, 
 A child I love in Hungary” 
 The words come flowing.  
  When I am walking home at night 
 That song comes after, 
 And under the trees in holiday time 
 Or hearing laughter: 
 “I have a son in Hungary, 
 My little son in Hungary” 
 Comes following after.  
  [Sometimes I wish that I were Helen-fair] 

  Sometimes I wish that I were Helen-fair 
 And wise as Pallas, 
 That I might have most royal gifts to pour 
 In love's sweet chalice.  
  Then I reflect my dear love is no god 
 But mortal only 
 And in this heavenly wife might deem himself 
 Not blest, but lonely.  
  [Sometimes I am too tired] 

  Sometimes I am too tired 
 To think of you. 
 Today was such a day, 
 But then I knew 
 Today, for certain, you'd be weary too.  
  You there in hospital 
 With health to seek— 
 And me at my machine 
 Too tired to speak— 
 We're very funny lovers of a week.  
  [My lovely pixie, my good companion] 

  My lovely pixie, my good companion, 
 You do not love me, bed-mate of mine, 
 Save as a child loves, 
 Careless of loving, 
 Rather preferring raspberry wine.  
  How can you help it? You were abandoned. 
 Your mother left you. Your father died. 
 All your young years of 
 Pain and desertion 
 Are not forgotten, here at my side.  
  [Into old rhyme] 

  Into old rhyme 
 The new words come but shyly. 
 Here's a brave man 
 Who sings of commerce dryly.  
  Swift-gliding cars 
 Through town and country winging, 
 Like cigarettes, 
 Are deemed unfit for singing.  
  Into old rhyme 
 New words come tripping slowly. 
 Hail to the time 
 When they possess it wholly.  
   [Those must be masts of ships the gazer sees] 

  Those must be masts of ships the gazer sees 
 On through the little gap in the park trees 
 So far away that seeing almost fails. 
 Those must be masts, the lovely masts of ships 
 Stripped bare of sails.  
  There's nothing here to please the seeing eyes, 
 Four poles with crossway beams against the skies. 
 But beauty's not for sight. True beauty sings 
 Of latent movement to the unsensed soul 
 In love with wings.  
  [I have golden shoes] 

  I have golden shoes 
 To make me fleet. 
 They are like the wind 
 Underneath my feet.  
  When my lover's kiss 
 Is overbold, 
 I can run away 
 In my shoes of gold.  
  Nay, when I am shod 
 With this bright fire, 
 I am forced to run 
 From my own desire.  
  From the love I love 
 Whose arms enfold 
 I must run away 
 In my shoes of gold.  
   [Now I've been three days] 

  Now I've been three days 
 In the place where I am staying, 
 I've taken up new ways— 
 Land-owning and flute playing.  
  There's an orchard ground 
 Seen, that set me sighing. 
 Should I give ten pounds, 
 It is mine for the buying.  
  With the door set wide, 
 I could sit there playing, 
 Send the magic notes 
 Through the gully straying.  
  Since the roof is sound 
 And the trees are growing, 
 I will give ten pounds, 
 All my gold bestowing.  
  Now I've been three days 
 In the place where I am staying, 
 I've taken up new ways— 
 Land-owning and flute playing.  
  [I found an orchid in the valley fair] 

  I found an orchid in the valley fair, 
 And named it for us both, 
 And left it there.  
  Two flowers upon one stem, white-souled, alone. 
 I couldn't pull them up, 
 And bring them home.  
   A Bad Snap 
  He: That isn't you.  
  She: It's me, in my blue skirt 
 And scarlet coat and little golden shoes.  
  He: Not good enough.  
  She: Well, burn it if you choose 
 And take myself.  
  He: Yourself like skies and days 
 To praise and live in, worship and abuse.  
  [You may have other loves] 

  You may have other loves, 
 Red mouths to kiss. 
 Why should you lose 
 That loveliness for this?  
  No loveliness of mine 
 That comes and goes 
 Need blind you to the rose.  
  So I, who bless 
 Your hot and passionate ways, 
 Still need the starry loves 
 Of virgin days.  
   The Contest 
  Our palm designed to grow 
 In deserts, sent roots seeking far and wide 
 Channels where waters flow.  
  And in the city found 
 Intricate pipings where the waters flow 
 Imprisoned underground.  
  Since iron strength was nought 
 Against the clever groping fingers, meant 
 To find the thing they sought  
  Our palm's condemned to go; 
 While on through streets and houses at men's will 
 Rivers of crystal flow.  
  Be sad awhile. And then 
 Exult in visible beauty overthrown 
 By the fair will of men.  
  [Florence kneels down to say her prayers] 

  Florence kneels down to say her prayers 
 At night. 
 I wonder what she says and why she cares 
 To pray at night.  
  I think when she kneels down to pray 
 At night 
 The names that have been on her lips all day 
 Are there, at night.  
  She interferes with destinies 
 At night. 
 My loves are free to do the things they please 
 By day, or night.  
   [I love to see] 

  I love to see 
 Her looking up at me, 
 Stretched on a bed 
 In her pink dressing gown, 
 Her arms above her head, 
 Her hair all down. 
 I love to see 
 Her smiling up at me.  
  [O man, O woman, grievest so?] 

  O man, O woman, grievest so? 
 Art shut away from all delight, 
 And must thou leave this garden plot? 
 O Eve, O Adam, question not. 
 The God is kind who would be cruel. 
 He does not know the hearts he made. 
 Turn unreluctant to the shade, 
 To bitterest struggle, darkest night; 
 O man, O woman, happier so.  
  [She has all Ireland in her blood] 

  She has all Ireland in her blood, 
 All Ireland's need of sword and tears, 
 With memories dim before the flood, 
 And conflicts of a thousand years.  
  No son of Italy should love 
 A heart the centuries have worn. 
 She had no thought of kissing lips— 
 She held her womanhood in scorn.  
  And all her joy is blackest pain, 
 And all her love is bitter woe. 
 Then you must leave her side again. 
 That is no path for you to go.  
   The Melbourne Cup 
  I like the riders 
 Clad in rose and blue; 
 Their colours glitter 
 And their horses too.  
  Swift go the riders 
 On incarnate speed. 
 My thought can scarcely 
 Follow where they lead.  
  Delicate, strong, long 
 Lines of colour flow, 
 And all the people 
 Tremble as they go.  
  The Nuns and the Lilies 
  The lilies in the garden walk 
 Are out today. 
 The nuns all came to look at them, 
 To look and say 
 They wouldn't last to deck the crib 
 On Christmas day.  
  They had outstripped the Holy Child. 
 And yet at least 
 They should have been for Ursula, 
 Lucy, Joan, Perpetua, 
 Have glittered on the altar through some virgin feast.  
  The lilies in the convent walk 
 Are fair to see. 
 They have forgotten baby Christs, 
 It seems to me. 
 They laugh and toss their royal heads 
 In ecstasy.  
  And still they say I must believe 
 Like princely churls 
 For all your lovely purity, 
 Catherine, Mary, Dorothy, 
 We will not die as altar flowers for dreaming girls.  
  November, 1917  
  [I'm like all lovers, wanting love to be] 

  I'm like all lovers, wanting love to be 
 A very mighty thing for you and me.  
  In certain moods your love should be a fire 
 That burnt your very life up in desire.  
  The only kind of love then to my mind 
 Would make you kiss my shadow on the blind  
  And walk seven miles each night to see it there, 
 Myself within, serene and unaware.  
  But you're as bad. You'd have me watch the clock 
 And count your coming while I mend your sock.  
  You'd have my mind devoted day and night 
 To you and care for you and your delight.  
  Poor fools, who each would have the other give 
 What spirit must withhold if it would live.  
  You're not my slave, I wish you not to be. 
 I love yourself and not your love for me,  
  The self that goes ten thousand miles away 
 And loses thought of me for many a day.  
  And you loved me for loving much beside 
 But now you want a woman for your bride.  
  Oh, make no woman of me, you who can, 
 Or I will make a husband of a man.  
  By my unwomanly love that sets you free 
 Love all myself, but least the woman in me.  
  [I used to be afraid to meet] 

  I used to be afraid to meet 
 The lovers going down our street.  
  I'd try to shrink to half my size 
 And blink and turn away my eyes  
  But now I'm one of them I know 
 I never need have bothered so.  
  And they won't mind it if I stare 
 Because they'll never know I'm there  
  Or if they do, they're proud to be 
 Fond lovers for the world to see.  
  Buddha in the Workroom 
  Sometimes the skirts I push through my machine 
 Spread circlewise, strong petalled lobe on lobe, 
 And look for the rapt moment of a dream 
 Like Buddha's robe.  
  And I, caught up out of the workroom's stir 
 Into the silence of a different scheme, 
 Dream, in a sun-dark, templed otherwhere 
 His alien dream.  
  c. 1917  
   Skirt Machinist 
  I am making great big skirts 
 For great big women— 
 Amazons who've fed and slept 
 Themselves inhuman.  
  Such long skirts, not less than two 
 And forty inches. 
 Thirty round the waist for fear 
 The webbing pinches.  
  There must be tremendous tucks 
 On those round bellies. 
 Underneath the limbs will shake 
 Like wine-soft jellies.  
  I am making such big skirts 
 And all so heavy, 
 I can see their wearers at 
 A lord-mayor's levee.  
  I, who am so small and weak 
 I have hardly grown, 
 Wish the skirts I'm making less 
 Unlike my own.  
  c. 1917  
  [We climbed that hill] 
  We climbed that hill, 
 The road flushed red in pride 
 At being beauty's boundary. Either side 
 Stretched beauty, beauty ever, beauty still.  
  For on the left 
 Rose sandhills bound together by the deft 
 Long fingers of sea-grass, 
 Humped like the Punch and Judy of a farce, 
 Comical, cleft 
 With gaps for wind to pass, 
 With dark 
 Clumped tea-tree, stark  
  With rushes, fierce with burrs, 
 With purple earth, 
 Stains, remnants, marks of birth 
 On too-exuberant beauty.  
  On the right 
 Long paddocks stooped under a cloudy sky.  
  “They're lovely paddocks. Look at them,” you said. 
 I turned my head. 
 What I'd thought gray 
 Was seen 
 To be the young beginning of live green 
 Under a spray 
 Of ghostly weed-stalks—lilacs, mauves and blues 
 At interplay— 
 A delicate tracery of shadow hues.  
  “There's colour,” I began 
 And straightway knew 
 I saw what you 
 Saw not, and yet your vision was not mine. 
 Your eyes were on the line 
 The sweep and curve of the fields against the sky. 
 You'd heard 
 My poor beginning of a word. 
 I had no more to praise 
 An unfamiliar loveliness. To gaze 
 Was all my praise.  
  At the hilltop it was your turn to say 
 “There's colour.” You had found 
 Silver and gold on my Tom Tiddler's ground. 
 At the roadside 
 A clump of grasses, all 
 Caught round a little bush and tangled, tied 
 With unimagined colours people call 
 Green when they see them. This was treasure spied 
 By your eyes with my soul. 
 You'd liked the whole 
 Broad sweep of things, had scarcely seen such small 
 Jewel incidents until 
 I showed you, who had never watched a hill 
 Remote in contemplation 'neath far, far skies, 
 Except with eyes 
 That had no mind to see 
 A present beauty, only what might be 
 If distance were annihilate.  
  And then, 
 Where the road crossed the creek we could not cross, 
 We found again 
 Our power of sight redoubled by the loss 
 Of what I'd planned. 
 You said it was no sense 
 To pull off shoes and fasten up a skirt 
 And plunge through dirt 
 And mud 
 And water, water 
 As zinnias and paint-water and a flood 
 Of heavy auburn hair. We'd better go 
 Round by the beach, 
 Not by the cliffs, to reach 
 That farthest cliff 
 I wanted to see tower 
 Above the waves in colour and in power, 
 More solid than the sky. 
 And so 
 We turned 
 Seaward among the sea-grass. I had learned 
 Some of your alien sense of beauty, line 
 Preferred to colour, distance to the near. 
 For it was I 
 Who saw 
 The lovely curve of the creek. 
 But the whole shore 
 Yellow, untrodden, (more 
 The loveliest thing of our whole lovely week 
 For subtle curve, unbroken surface, than 
 For colour) this wide shore 
 Was yours and mine 
 And yours and mine the foam 
 When it would shine 
 Flower-coloured in a glint of sun. But mine 
 The hurry 
 And swift scurry 
 Of wind-blown tea-tree up the cliff.  
  We gave 
 A double dower 
 Of beauty to each wave 
 That trailed its hair in the wind before it broke. 
 For all the power 
 Of alien philosophies awoke 
 Our power of sight. 
 You still proclaim the far 
 Eternal unity of things that are 
 Like Plato and the mountains. I prefer 
 Inchoate beauty, for my part aver 
 Plurality essential, am content 
 To find a gain in difference, in a while 
 Admit there's gain in union. Argument 
 Recurs. Oh well, at any rate we know 
 That walk was lovely; 
 Ecstasies of mind 
 And subtle mysteries of sight combined 
 With the dear love of friends to make it so.  

  c. 1917  
  [I have to make a soul for one] 
  I have to make a soul for one 
 Who lost his soul in childhood's hour. 
 And I'm not sure—not really sure— 
 If I have power.  
  I don't know whether souls are made 
 With laughter or with faith or pain 
 But though I fail a thousand times, 
 I'll try again.  
  c. 1917  
   Body and Soul 
  Through the Museum 
 I stroll, and see 
 Goblets fashioned in Arcady, 
 Spears from the Islands, and robes from Tyre— 
 Gew-gaws of pomp and of old desire.  
  On one of the walls 
 A looking glass 
 Catches my image as I pass. 
 Austerely from mirrored eyes, I see 
 The soul of the past look out at me.  
  c. 1917  
  A Blouse Machinist 
  Miss Murphy has blue eyes and blue-black hair, 
 Her machine's opposite mine 
 So I can stare 
 At her pale face and shining blue-black hair.  
  I'm sure that other people think her plain 
 But I could look at her 
 And look again 
 Although I see why people think her plain.  
  She's nice to watch when her machine-belt breaks. 
 She has such delicate hands 
 And arms, it takes 
 Ages for her to mend it when it breaks.  
  Oh, beauty's still elusive and she's fine. 
 Though all the moulding 
 Of her face, the line 
 Of nose, mouth, chin is Mongol, yet she's fine.  
  Of course things would be different in Japan. 
 They'd see her beauty. 
 On a silken fan 
 They'd paint her for a princess in Japan.  
  But still her loveliness eludes the blind. 
 They never use their eyes 
 But just their mind. 
 So must much loveliness elude the blind.  
  An Improver 
  Maisie's been holding down her head all day, 
 Her little red head. And her pointed chin 
 Rests on her neck that slips so softly in 
 The square-cut low-necked darling dress she made 
 In such a way, since it's high-waisted too, 
 It lets you guess how fair young breasts begin 
 Under the gentle pleasant folds of blue.  
  But on the roof at lunchtime when the sun 
 Shone warmly and the wind was blowing free 
 She lifted up her head to let me see 
 A little rosy mark beneath the chin— 
 The mark of kisses. If her mother knew 
 She'd be ashamed, but a girl-friend like me 
 Made her feel proud to show her kisses to.  
  Mortal Poems 
  I think each year should bring 
 Little fresh songs 
 Like flowers in spring.  
  That they might deck the hours 
 For a brief while 
 And die like flowers.  
  Flower-like content to be 
 Sharers in man's 
   Beauty and Terror 
  Beauty does not walk through lovely days. 
 Beauty walks with horror in her hair. 
 Down long centuries of pleasant ways 
 Men have found the terrible most fair.  
  Youth is lovelier in death than life, 
 Beauty mightier in pain than joy. 
 Doubly splendid burn the fires of strife, 
 Brighter in the brightness they destroy.  
 I weigh about four ounces, 
 Says I must have hollow legs. 
 And then say I, 
 I've hollow legs and a hollow soul and body. 
 There is nothing left of me. 
 You've burnt me dry.  
 Through all my veins in fever, 
 Through my soul in fever for 
 An endless time. 
 This small body is like an empty snail shell, 
 All the living soul of it 
 Burnt out in lime.”  
  She is not of the fireside, 
 My lovely love; 
 Nor books, nor even a cradle, 
 She bends above.  
  No, she is bent with lashes, 
 Her flesh is torn. 
 From blackness into blackness 
 She walks forlorn.  
  But factories and prisons 
 Are far more fair 
 Than home or palace gardens 
 If she is there.  
  [Once I thought my love was worth the name] 

  Once I thought my love was worth the name 
 If tears came.  
  When the wound is mortal, now I know, 
 Few tears flow.  
  [You want a lily] 

  You want a lily 
 And you plead with me 
 “Give me my lily back.”  
  I went to see 
 A friend last night and on her mantelshelf 
 I saw some lilies, 
 Image of myself, 
 And most unlike your dream of purity.  
  They had been small green lilies, never white 
 For man's delight 
 In their most blissful hours. 
 But now the flowers 
 Had shrivelled and instead 
 Shone spikes of seeds, 
 Burned spikes of seeds, 
 Burned red 
 As love and death and fierce futurity.  
  There's this much of the lily left in me.  
  [Pink eucalyptus flowers] 
  Pink eucalyptus flowers 
 (The flowers are out) 
 Are scented honey sweet 
 For bees to buzz about.  
  Pink eucalyptus flowers 
 (The flowers are out) 
 Are fair as any rose 
 For us to sing about.  
  [I came to live in Sophia Street] 
  I came to live in Sophia Street, 
 In a little house in Sophia Street 
 With an inch of floor 
 Between door and door 
 And a yard you'd measure in children's feet. 
 When I'd been ten days in Sophia Street 
 I remembered its name was Wisdom Street; 
 For I'd learned much more 
 Than in all the score 
 Of years I clamoured for books to eat.  
   [Every night I hurry home to see] 

  Every night I hurry home to see 
 If a letter's there from you to me.  
  Every night I bow my head and say, 
 “There's no word at all from him today.”  
  [I thought I heard something move in the house] 

  I thought I heard something move in the house 
 When I was alone in bed. 
 And I was afraid…and I was afraid… 
 I lay—I quaked for dread.  
  Then all of a sudden the rain began 
 And I knew that the sound I'd heard 
 Was only the sound of the coming of rain. 
 Me, I've the heart of a bird!  
  [Today is rebels' day. And yet we work—] 

  Today is rebels' day. And yet we work— 
 All of us rebels, until day is done. 
 And when the stars come out we celebrate 
 A revolution that's not yet begun.  
  Today is rebels' day. And men in jail 
 Tread the old mill-round until day is done. 
 And when night falls they sit alone to brood 
 On revolution that's not yet begun.  
  Today is rebels' day. Let all of us 
 Take courage to fight on until we're done— 
 Fight though we may not live to see the hour 
 The Revolution's splendidly begun.  
   [To look across at Moira gives me pleasure] 

  To look across at Moira gives me pleasure. 
 She has a red tape measure.  
  Her dress is black and all the workroom's dreary, 
 And I am weary.  
  But that's like blood—like a thin blood stream trickling 
 Like a fire quickening.  
  It's Revolution. Ohé, I take pleasure 
 In Moira's red tape measure.  
  Street Music 
  There's a band in the street, there's a band in the street. 
 It will play you a tune for a penny— 
 It will play you a tune, you a tune, you a tune, 
 And you, though you haven't got any,  
  For the music's free, and the music's bold. 
 It cannot really be bought and sold.  
  And the people walk with their heads held high 
 Whether or not they've a penny. 
 And the music's there as the bandsmen know, 
 For the poor though the poor are many.  
  Oh the music's free and the music's bold. 
 It cannot really be bought and sold.  
  [I dreamt last night of happy home-comings] 
  I dreamt last night of happy home-comings. 
 Friends I had loved and had believed were dead 
 Came happily to visit me and said 
 I was a part of their fair home-coming.  
  It's strange that I should dream of welcomings 
 And happy meetings when my love, last week 
 Returned from exile, did not even speak 
 Or write to me or need my welcoming.  
  [He looks in my heart and the image there] 
  He looks in my heart and the image there 
 Is himself, himself, than himself more fair.  
  And he thinks of my heart as a mirror clear 
 To reflect the image I hold most dear.  
  But my heart is much more like a stream, I think, 
 Where my lover may come when he needs to drink.  
  And my heart is a stream that seems asleep 
 But the tranquil waters run strong and deep;  
  They reflect the image that seems most fair 
 But their meaning and purpose are otherwhere.  
  He may come, my lover, and lie on the brink 
 And gaze at his image and smile and drink  
  While the hidden waters run strong and free, 
 Unheeded, unguessed at, the soul of me.  
  [My window pane is broken] 
  My window pane is broken 
 Just a bit 
 Where the small curtain doesn't 
 Cover it.  
  And in the afternoon 
 I like to lie 
 And watch the pepper tree 
 Against the sky.  
  Pink berries and blue sky 
 And leaves and sun 
 Are very fair to rest 
 One's eyes upon.  
  And my tired feet are resting 
 On the bed 
 And there's a pillow under 
 My tired head.  
  Parties and balls and books 
 I know are best 
 But when I've finished work 
 I like to rest.  
  [Sometimes I think the happiest of love's moments] 
  Sometimes I think the happiest of love's moments 
 Is the blest moment of release from loving.  
  The world once more is all one's own to model 
 Upon one's own and not another's pattern.  
  And each poor heart imprisoned by the other's 
 Is suddenly set free for splendid action.  
  For no two lovers are a single person 
 And lovers' union means a soul's suppression.  
  Oh, happy then the moment of love's passing 
 When those strong souls we sought to slay recover.  
   [O sweet and fair! These words are mine to use] 

  O sweet and fair! These words are mine to use. 
 O sweet and fair! A year ago I'ld choose 
 Some better words of praise 
 Than sweet and fair.  
  O sweet and fair, and weak, and most untrue! 
 O sweet and fair! I still may speak of you 
 After my year of pain 
 As sweet and fair.  
  [The people have drunk the wine of peace] 
  The people have drunk the wine of peace 
 In the streets of town. 
 They smile as they drift with hearts at rest 
 Uphill and down.  
  The people have drunk the wine of peace, 
 They are mad with joy. 
 Never again need they lie and fear 
 Death for a boy.  
  Girl's Love 
  I lie in the dark 
 Grass beneath and you above me, 
 Curved like the sky, 
 Insistent that you love me.  
  But the high stars 
 Admonish to refuse you 
 And I'm for the stars 
 Though in the stars I lose you.  
   [I went down to post a letter] 

  I went down to post a letter 
 Through the garden, through the garden. 
 All the lovely stars were shining 
 As I went. 
 They were free as I, unhappy 
 Only he to whom the letter 
 Must be sent.  
  Even stars forget the prisons, 
 Stars and clouds and moonlit waters, 
 I believe the wind would shun them 
 If it could. 
 He at least rebels, remembers 
 Dawn breaks eastward, where the prisons 
 Erstwhile stood.  
  [I must be dreaming through the days] 
  I must be dreaming through the days 
 And see the world with childish eyes 
 If I'd go singing all my life 
 And my songs be wise  
  And in the kitchen or the house 
 Must wonder at the sights I see. 
 And I must hear the throb and hum 
 That moves to song in factory.  
  So much in life remains unsung, 
 And so much more than love is sweet. 
 I'd like a song of kitchenmaids 
 With steady fingers and swift feet.  
  And I could sing about the rest 
 That breaks upon a woman's day 
 When dinner's over and she lies 
 Upon her bed to dream and pray  
  Until the children come from school 
 And all her evening work begins. 
 There's more in life than tragic love 
 And all the storied, splendid sins.  
   [When I get up to light the fire] 

  When I get up to light the fire, 
 And dress with all the speed I may 
 By candle-light, I dread the hours 
 That go to make a single day.  
  But then I leave my room, and see 
 How brightly, clearly darkness shines, 
 When stars ten thousand miles away 
 Are caught in our verandah vines.  
  And I am almost glad that fires 
 Have to be lit, before the day 
 Comes up between the trees and drives 
 The strange familiar dark away.  
  [Today, in class] 

  Today, in class, 
 I read aloud to forty little boys 
 The legend of King Croesus' boasted joys.  
  They were so young, 
 Restless, and eager, I believed they'd find 
 This moral story little to their mind.  
  But they were pleased 
 With the old legend, quick to comprehend 
 Sorrowful wisdom's triumph at the end:  
  They seemed to feel, 
 In hush of wonder, hurry of amaze, 
 The sure uncertainty of all men's days.  
  [I bought a red hat] 
  I bought a red hat 
 To please my lover. 
 He will hardly see it 
 When he looks me over,  
  Though it's a fine hat. 
 Yet he never misses 
 Noticing my red mouth 
 When it's shaped for kisses.  
  Miss Mary Fairfax 
  Every day Miss Mary goes her rounds, 
 Through the splendid house and through the grounds,  
  Looking if the kitchen table's white, 
 Seeing if the great big fire's alight,  
  Finding specks on shining pans and pots, 
 Never praising much, but scolding lots.  
  If the table's white, she does not see 
 Roughened hands that once were ivory.  
  It is fires, not cheeks, that ought to glow; 
 And if eyes are dim, she doesn't know.  
  Poor Miss Mary! Poor for all she owns, 
 Since the things she loves are stocks and stones.  
  [Whenever I think of you, you are alone] 
  Whenever I think of you, you are alone, 
 Shut by yourself between 
 Great walls of stone.  
  There is a stool, I think, and a table there, 
 And a mat underneath your feet; 
 And the rest is bare.  
  I cannot stop remembering this, my own, 
 Seventeen hours of the day 
 You are alone.  
   A Strike Rhyme 
  The strike's done. 
 The men won. 
 The ships sail the sea 
 To bring back 
 What we lack, 
 Coal, sugar, tea.  
  And I'm glad, 
 Though I had 
 Rather never use 
 Tea and spice 
 And what's nice 
 Than see the men lose.  
  [In this little school] 
  In this little school 
 Life goes so sweetly, 
 Day on azure day 
 Is lost completely.  
  No one thinks too much, 
 Or worries greatly. 
 In a pleasant shade 
 We dream sedately.  
  There's no struggle here 
 Or conflict showing; 
 Only the sweet pain 
 Of young limbs growing.  
  [And is love very strong where honour rules?] 
  And is love very strong where honour rules? 
 Would the world ever speak of Lancelot's love 
 Or Tristram's love had they put honour first? 
 What would you think if Guinevere had knelt 
 And begged for kisses and had begged in vain? 
 Should she be constant had she been refused 
 Or would she laugh and turn to love elsewhere?  
  But Joseph is a hero nowadays 
 And young Paolo, the Italian blood, 
 Rather too rash and uncontrollable. 
 Lovers who are not free should sigh and part— 
 Lovers, you call them—and not free to love: 
 They may be wives or husbands, businessmen, 
 Saints even: they're not lovers. After all 
 I'd rather be a lover than a saint.  
  August, 1919  
  [A lady and I were walking] 

  A lady and I were walking 
 Where waters flow; 
 A lady and I were talking 
 Softly and slow.  
  This is what you were saying, 
 Lady of mine, 
 “I will be sad without him, 
 Yea, I will pine.  
  But he would never leave me 
 If he were free. 
 That's what my love in prison 
 Whispered to me.”  
  September, 1919  
  Three Teachers 
  Sometimes I can see 
 When I teach 
 Half my children talk 
 Each to each.  
  Then I almost wish 
 I could be 
 Very fierce and they 
 Scared of me.  
  They will all be still 
 For one man 
 Who could never teach 
 As I can.  
  He is kind and strong, 
 He has never sought 
 Dangerous gold.  
  If he might do both 
 That were good. 
 In my life I knew 
 One who could.  
  She was dark and sweet, 
 Irish born, 
 Very full of dreams, 
 Full of scorn.  
  Hell and heav'n was she, 
 Like the sun. 
 My dear children need 
 Such a one.  
  c. 1919  
  [Now all the lovely days are past] 
  Now all the lovely days are past, 
 The hours of sun and leagues of sea, 
 And starry nights that lay between 
 Yourself and me.  
  Our boat has left the sea behind. 
 She lies beside the friendly dock. 
 And soon the gangway will go down, 
 And lips will meet, and hands will lock,  
  And carriers will come climbing up 
 To take my things and leave us free. 
 There's trams and streets and home at last 
 For you and me.  
  We've a room 
 That we call home, 
 With a bed in it, 
 And a table 
 And some chairs, 
 A to Z in it. 
 There's a mirror, 
 And a safe, 
 And a lamp in it. 
 Were there more, 
 Our mighty love 
 Might get cramp in it.  
  A Parlourmaid 
  “I want a parlourmaid.” 
 “Well, let me see 
 If you were God, what kind of maid she'd be.”  
  “She would be tall, 
 She would be fair, 
 She would have slender limbs, 
 A delicate air; 
 And yet for all her beauty 
 She would walk 
 Among my guests unseen 
 And through their talk 
 Her voice would be the sweet voice of a bird, 
 Not listened to, though heard.”  
  “And now I know the girl you have in mind 
 Tell me her duties, if you'd be so kind.”  
  “Why, yes! 
 She must know names of wines 
 And never taste them— 
 Must handle fragile cups 
 And never break them—  
  Must fill my rooms with flowers 
 And never wear them— 
 Must serve my daughter's secrets 
 And not share them.”  
  “Madam, you are no God, that's plain to see. 
 I'll just repeat what you have said to me.  
  You say your maid must look in Helen fashion 
 Golden and white 
 And yet her loveliness inspire no passion, 
 Give no delight.  
  Your intimate goods of home must owe their beauty 
 To this girl's care 
 But she'll not overstep her path of duty 
 Nor seek to share  
  Through loving or enjoying or possessing 
 The least of them. 
 Why, she's not human, by your own confessing, 
 And you condemn  
  Your rational self in every word you're speaking! 
 Please understand 
 You'll find the hollow maiden you are seeking 
 In fairyland.”  
  [When I go up to work the young blue sea] 
  When I go up to work the young blue sea 
 Has not awaked from dreams: 
 It fades to meet the blue sky mistily: 
 It gleams. 
 I say, 
 “All day 
 It will not wake from dreams.”  
  And yet, when I come back from work, the sea 
 Has a green sombreness; 
 As if the hours between were somehow hours  
  Of stress. 
 I read 
 Its need 
 Of dim forgetfulness.  
  [“I used to have dozens of handkerchiefs] 

  “I used to have dozens of handkerchiefs 
 Of finest lawn. 
 I used to have silk shirts and fine new suits.” 
 He's like a faun  
  This darling out-at-elbows Irish boy. 
 “Those were the days 
 Before the war 
 When money could be earned a thousand ways.  
  But now—last week I had a muslin bag 
 For handkerchief! 
 No socks, no shirts”—but wiles and smiles and gleams 
 Beyond belief.  
  Learning Geography 
  They have a few little hours 
 To study the world— 
 Its lovely absence of clouds, 
 Or the thunderbolts hurled 
 By hidden powers—  
  All the soft shapes of the vales 
 And the trees of the north 
 They dream of a minute, no longer, 
 No longer—then forth 
 Ere the year fails  
  To cities where carnival glows 
 Or the furnace is bright. 
 So is measured or leisured 
 According as teachers dispose 
 Their cosmic delight.  
  Street Scene—Little Lonsdale St 
  I wish you'd seen that dirty little boy, 
 Finger at nose, 
 Peeking and ginking at some girls in rows 
 Seated on the high window-sills to rest.  
  One of the girls had hair as bright as corn. 
 And one was red. 
 And over their soft forms a glow was shed 
 From lamps new-lighted in the laundry there.  
  That boy, beneath them, wheeled a hand-cart full 
 Of cast-off busts 
 From sewing rooms. They looked like shells of lusts. 
 And all the girls around the windows laughed.  
  [I'd like to spend long hours at home] 
  I'd like to spend long hours at home 
 With a small child to bother me. 
 I'd take her out to see the shops 
 And fuss about my husband's tea.  
  Instead of this I spend my days 
 In noisy schoolrooms, harsh and bare. 
 Unloved am I, since people give 
 Too many children to my care.  
   [I had a lover who betrayed me] 

  I had a lover who betrayed me. 
 First he implored and then gainsaid me.  
  Hopeless I dared no more importune. 
 I found new friends, a kinder fortune.  
  Silence, indifference did greet me. 
 Twice in long years he's chanced to meet me.  
  Yet when I see him I discover 
 I was inconstant, he the lover.  
  [Most people have a way of making friends] 
  Most people have a way of making friends 
 That's very queer. 
 They don't choose whom they like, but anyone 
 In some way  near .  
  The girl beside them on the factory bench, 
 The girl next door 
 Does. If they move then they forget the friend 
 They had before.  
  I choose the friends who suit me (one I found 
 Shut up in jail)— 
 Some nuns, some clerks, Anne whose beauty was 
 Frankly for sale.  
  Of course I cannot see them every day. 
 That's as Fate sends. 
 Blind Fate may choose my times for me, but not, 
 Oh not, my friends.  
   The Psychological Craze 
  I in the library, 
 Looking for books to read, 
 Pulled one out twice to see 
 If it fulfilled my need.  
  Butler had written this 
 Which of the Butlers, then? 
 I opened it to see.  
  He's an old general 
 Mounted upon a horse. 
 Thinkers don't write their lives, 
 But soldiers can, of course.  
  They write: “The regiment 
 Was sent to Omdurman, 
 Where Gordon died. To catch 
 The Mahdi was our plan.”  
  Later—“The bride wore white 
 And she had golden hair. 
 Four bridesmaids bore her train 
 Up to the altar where  
  His Grace of Birmingham”— 
 It's the old rigmarole, 
 Names, facts and dates—no word 
 In this about the soul.  
  No dreams, no sin, no tears! 
 Only the body thrives. 
 Upon such worthless things 
 Great soldiers base their lives.  
  No wonder wars are fought. 
 Loss of such life is small, 
 Life bound to space and time, 
 Not infinite at all.  
   Lovers Parted 
     “With the awakening of the memory of a forbidden action there is combined the awakening of the tendency to carry out the action .”   Totem and Taboo,  S. Freud    
  Old memories waken old desires 
 Infallibly. While we're alive 
 With eye or ear or sense at all, 
 Sometimes, must love revive.  
  But we'll not think, when some stray gust 
 Relumes the flicker of desire, 
 That fuel of circumstance could make 
 A furnace of our fire.  
  The past is gone. We must believe 
 It has no power to change our lives. 
 Yet still our constant hearts rejoice 
 Because the past survives.  
  I hated them when I was four years old, 
 The bright pink berries on the pepper tree. 
 And now they seem quite beautiful to me.  
  My tower of dreams when I was four years old 
 Was such a tree. Its branches hid me well, 
 Although I so disliked the berries' smell.  
  I had my dreams when I was four years old… 
 But groundling now, who once could mount in air, 
 I judge the high-swung bright pink berries, fair.  
   A Deity 
  Sometimes I think God has his days 
 For being friends. 
 He says: “Forgive my careless ways. 
 No one pretends 
 I'm always kind; but for today 
 Do let's be friends.”  
  And grudgingly I make reply, 
 “Nice sort of friends. 
 I think it's time you had a try 
 To make amends 
 For things you've done; but after all 
 Suppose we're friends.”  
  Sometimes I lose 
 My power of loving for an hour or two, 
 Then I misuse 
 My knowledge of friends' secrets to abuse 
 Them far more heartily than others do.  
  Then I forget 
 Their splendid selves, the victories they've won, 
 And only fret 
 Because they fail me, when my needs are set 
 Above the dreams they've fixed their hopes upon.  
   “All Knowledge…” 
  I know more about flowers, 
 And Pat knows about ships. 
 “Schooner” and “barquentine” 
 Are words of note on his lips.  
  Even “schooner, barque-rigged” 
 Has meaning for him. And yet 
 I don't believe he knows 
 Hearts' ease from mignonette.  
  And whenever the daffodils, 
 Like visiting golden dames, 
 Honour our humble flat, 
 He has to ask their names.  
  [How funny it would be if dreamy I] 

  How funny it would be if dreamy I 
 Should leave one book behind me when I die 
 And that a book of Law—this silly thing 
 Just written for the money it will bring. 
 I do hope, when it's finished, I'll have time 
 For other books and better spurts of rhyme.  
  [Pat wasn't Pat last night at all.] 
  Pat wasn't Pat last night at all. 
 He was the rain, 
 The Spring, 
 Young Dionysus, white and warm, 
 Lilac and everything.  
   [A bunch of lilac and a storm of hail] 

  A bunch of lilac and a storm of hail 
 On the same afternoon! Indeed I know 
 Here in the South it always happens so, 
 That lilac is companioned by the gale.  
  I took some hailstones from the window sill 
 And swallowed them in a communion feast. 
 Their transitory joy is mine at least, 
 The lilac's loveliness escapes me still. 
 Mine are the storms of spring, but not the sweets.  
  [O you, dear trees, you have learned so much of beauty] 
  O you, dear trees, you have learned so much of beauty, 
 You must have studied this only the ages long! 
 Men have thought of God and laughter and duty. 
 And of love. And of song.  
  But you, dear trees, from your birth to your hour of dying, 
 Have cared for this one way only of being wise. 
 Lovely, lovely, lovely, the sapling sighing. 
 Lovely the dead tree lies.  
  [Last night, in a dream, I felt the peculiar anguish] 

  Last night, in a dream, I felt the peculiar anguish 
 Known to me of old; 
 And there passed me, not much changed, my earliest lover, 
 Smiling, suffering, cold.  
  This morning, I lay with closed lids under the blankets, 
 Lest with night depart 
 The truthful dream which restored to me with my lover 
 My passionate heart.  
   White Sunshine 
  The sun's my fire. 
 Golden, from a magnificence of blue, 
 Should be its hue.  
  But woolly clouds, 
 Like boarding-house old ladies, come and sit 
 In front of it.  
  White sunshine, then, 
 That has the frosty glimmer of white hair, 
 Freezes the air.  
  They must forget, 
 So self-absorbed are they, so very old, 
 That I'll be cold.  
  Flowers and Light 
  Flowers have uncountable ways of pretending to be 
 Not solid, but moonlight or sunlight or starlight with scent. 
 Primroses strive for the colour of sunshine on lawns 
  Freesias are flames wherein light more than heat is desired, 
 As candles on altars burn amethyst, golden and white. 
 Wall-flowers are sun streaked with shade. Periwinkles blue noon 
 At the height.  
   A Bronte Legend 
  They say she was a creature of the moor, 
 A lover of the angels, silence bound. 
 She sought no friendships. She was too remote, 
 Her sister Charlotte found.  
  I know she nursed her brother till he died, 
 Although she didn't like him; that she had 
 Housework and all the ironing to do, 
 Because her maids were bad.  
  And in the midst of it she wrote a book. 
 There could have been small leisure for the moor 
 Or wandering! She used to mend and sew, 
 The family was so poor.  
  Her brother died. But she died just as soon 
 As she had nursed dear Charlotte through the shock 
 Of Patrick's death. Contemplative? Well, well! 
 No Simeon of the Rock!  
  Pruning Flowering Gums 
  One summer day, along the street, 
 Men pruned the gums 
 To make them neat. 
 The tender branches, white with flowers, 
 Lay in the sun 
 For hours and hours, 
 And every hour they grew more sweet, 
 More honey-like 
 Until the street 
 Smelt like a hive, withouten bees. 
 But still the gardeners 
 Lopped the trees.  
  Then came the children out of school, 
 Noisy and separate 
 As their rule Of being is. The spangled trees 
 Gave them one heart: 
 Such power to please 
 Had all the flowering branches strown 
 Around for them 
 To make their own. 
 Then such a murmuring arose 
 As made the ears 
 Confirm the nose 
 And give the lie to eyes. For hours 
 Child bees hummed 
 In the honey flowers.  
  They gathered sprigs and armfuls. Some 
 Ran with their fragrant 
 Burdens home, 
 And still returned; and after them 
 Would drag great boughs. 
 Some stripped a stem 
 Of rosy flowers and played with these. 
 Never such love 
 Had earthly trees 
 As these young creatures gave. By night, 
 The treasured sprays 
 Of their delight 
 Were garnered every one. The street 
 Looked, as the council liked it, neat.  
  One comes to love the little saints, 
 As years go by. 
 One learns to love the little saints. 
 “O hear me sigh, 
 St. Anthony, 
 Find this for me, 
 I wish you'd try.”  
  There must be many garden gods, 
 A gardener sees. 
 There'd have to be an orchard god. “Divinities, 
 Take honour due. 
 The long year through 
 Protect these trees.”  
  The Mother and the Holy Child 
 Are friends to me. 
 I pray, “I am my mother's child. 
 I trust you'll see 
 That days are bright 
 And all goes right 
 With her and me.”  
  “Love is not love…” 
  When I was still a child 
 I thought my love would be 
 Noble, truthful, brave, 
 And very kind to me.  
  Then all the novels said 
 That if my lover prove 
 No such man as this 
 He had to forfeit love.  
  Now I know life holds 
 Harder tasks in store. 
 If my lover fail 
 I must love him more.  
  Should he prove unkind, 
 What am I, that he 
 Squander soul and strength 
 Smoothing life for me?  
  Weak or false or cruel 
 Love must still be strong. 
 All my life I'll learn 
 How to love as long.  
   The Moonlit Room 
  I know a room that's dark in daytime hours; 
 No sunbeams light it, 
 Whether in months of gloom or months of flowers, 
 So people slight it.  
  Yet in the noon of each succeeding night 
 The moon shines in it, 
 Goldenly waking dreamers to delight 
 For a love's minute.  
  In a dream light, they sigh and burn and kiss 
 And fall to slumber 
 Deeply once more. Thus bliss is piled on bliss 
 In goodly number.  
  Praise first is giv'n to sunshine and to rooms 
 Sunbright, with reason. 
 Yet a wise man should choose a moonlit room 
 In his blood's season.  
  [I hate work so] 
  I hate work so 
 That I have found a way 
 Of making one small task outlast the day.  
  I will not leave 
 The garden and the sun, 
 In spite of all the work that should be done.  
  So when I go 
 To really make my bed 
 I've made it ten times over in my head.  
  Then as for meals! 
 I think I'd rather be 
 A nervous wreck than make a cup of tea.  
  The fire's so low 
 It isn't any good— 
 While I sit planning to put on some wood.  
  One thing is sure, 
 I pity other drones, 
 God having made me such a lazy-bones.  
  The Sisters 
  They used to say 
 Our mother brought us up like hot-house flowers, 
 From day to day 
 Such wondrous cares were ours 
 Her love inspired.  
  In truth we grew 
 Strangely. Unsought, as priestesses might be. 
 The girls we knew 
 Found tenderness. But we 
 Were more desired.  
  No doubt at all 
 Our spirits drew the secret souls of men. 
 They would recall 
 Old dreams through us; and then 
 Make dreams their choice.  
  Creatures of light, 
 Sun-darkened by the shining of her love, 
 We knew the plight 
 Of Sibyls, thus to prove 
 The incarnate voice.  
   A Meaning Learnt 
  I'm not his wife. I am his paramour: 
 His wayside love, picked up in journeying: 
 Rose of the hedgerows; fragrant, till he fling 
 Me down beside the ditch, a drooped thing 
 Some country boy may stick into his hat. 
 A paramour has no more use than that.  
  The Wife 
  He's out of work! 
 I tell myself a change should mean a chance, 
 And he must look for changes to advance, 
 And he, of all men, really needs a jerk.  
  But I hate change. 
 I like my kitchen with its pans and pots 
 That shine like new although we've used them lots. 
 I wouldn't like a kitchen that was strange.  
  And it's not true 
 All changes are for better. Some are worse. 
 A man had rather work, though work's a curse, 
 Than mope at home with not a thing to do.  
  No surer thing 
 Than that he'll get another job. But soon! 
 Or else I'll have to change. This afternoon 
 Would be the time, before I sell my ring.  
  I cannot be tricked out in lovely clothes 
 All times, all days. 
 My mind has moods of hating pearl and rose 
 And jewel-blaze.  
  Nor is the body worthily attired 
 Unless the soul 
 Has visibly to nobleness aspired 
 And self-control.  
  January, 1926  
  [When I am articled] 

  When I am articled 
 The Law decrees 
 I shall devote my time 
 To stating fees  
  And learning about Actions 
 Suits and Courts. 
 Then Deeds and Briefs and Grants 
 Must fill my thoughts.  
  While if a naughty 
 Little verse should find 
 Its way into a corner 
 Of my mind  
  I must not tell the chap 
 For whom I work. 
 He pays the penalty 
 If I should shirk  
  And take to writing books 
 And verse instead 
 Of “hereinafter”, “duly”, 
 “Viz”, “the said”.  
   [When my lover put the sea between us] 

  When my lover put the sea between us 
 And went wandering in Italy 
 My poor silly heart miscalled his journey— 
 “Leaving me”.  
  Towns of Spain and Italy he stayed in, 
 Each and all of them to me unknown; 
 How could he find pleasure being a lover, 
 Being alone!  
  Truly I was not as fair as Venice, 
 Noble as Siena, strange as Rome. 
 Certainly he loved Milan and Florence 
 More than home.  
  I believed his absence had estranged us 
 And across the heart-dividing sea 
 Sent him word that I no longer loved him. 
 Foolish me!  
  Came his answer after months of waiting 
 Echoing my letter, lie for lie. 
 Truth or lies I know not. Which unfaithful, 
 He or I.  
  May, 1926  
  [I read a statement in a newspaper] 
  I read a statement in a newspaper 
 That Twentyman, the manufacturer, 
 Found it was cheaper to deliver goods 
 By horse and lorry than by motor-truck 
 Or motor-van. So he had sold his trucks 
 To purchase horses. He dismissed those men 
 Who had mechanics' minds to re-employ 
 Drivers of horses, friends of animals. 
 Then life grew stronger in me because life 
 Had triumphed in this case and would perhaps 
 Finally triumph over the machine. 
 Even such mean commercial victory 
 Being better than no victory at all.  
  July, 1926  
   [I am no mystic. All the ways of God] 

  I am no mystic. All the ways of God 
 Are dark to me. 
 I know not if he lived or if he died 
 In agony.  
  My every act has reference to man. 
 Some human need 
 Of this one, or of that, or of myself 
 Inspires the deed.  
  But when I hear the Angelus, I say 
 A Latin prayer 
 Hoping the dim incanted words may shine 
 Some way, somewhere.  
  Words and a will may work upon my mind 
 Till ethics turn 
 To that transcendent mystic love with which 
 The Seraphim burn.  
  [What were the good of stars if none looked on them] 
  What were the good of stars if none looked on them 
 But mariners, astronomers and such! 
 The sun and moon and stars were made for lovers. 
 I know that much.  
  A Prayer to Saint Rosa 
  When I am so worn out I cannot sleep 
 And yet I know I have to work next day 
 Or lose my job, I sometimes have recourse 
 To one long dead, who listens when I pray.  
  I ask Saint Rose of Lima for the sleep 
 She went without, three hundred years ago 
 When, lying on thorns and heaps of broken sherd, 
 She talked with God and made a heaven so.  
  Then speedily that most compassionate Saint 
 Comes with her gift of deep oblivious hours, 
 Treasured for centuries in nocturnal space 
 And heavy with the scent of Lima's flowers.  
   Bibliographical References to Lesbia Harford 

  1. Published poems  
  Birth , May 1921. Full edition given to Lesbia Harford's work. 
  Birth , April 1922, “The psychological craze”. 
  Illustrated Tasmanian Mail , 5 October 1927. “Torquay in holiday time” and “The love I look for”. 
 Nettie Palmer (ed.),  The Poems of Lesbia Harford , Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1941. 
  2. Anthologies in which she appears  
 Percival Serle,  An Australian Anthology , London, Collins, 1927. 
 George Mackaness,  Poets of Australia , Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1946, revised edition 1952 entitled  An Anthology of Australian Verse . 
 H. M. Green,  Modern Australian Poetry , Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1946 and 1952. 
 Marjorie Pizer,  Freedom on the Wallaby , Sydney, Pinchgut Press, 1953. 
 Tom Inglis Moore,  Poetry in Australia , vol. I, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1964. 
 Edward Kynaston,  Australian Voices , Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1974. 
 Rodney Hall,  The Collins Book of Australian Poetry , Sydney, Collins, 1981. 
  3. Reviews of the Nettie Palmer edition of the Poems  
  Bulletin , 21 January 1942. 
  Southerly , April 1942, vol. 3, no. 1. 
  Sydney Morning Herald , 2 May 1942. 
  4. Lectures, articles etc.  
 Elsie Cole, “Various verse by Australian women writers”,  Corroboree , vol. I, no. 12, Sept. 1922. Abridged version of a paper given to the July meeting of the Australian Literature Society, 1922. 
 Nettie Palmer, review of Percival Serle,  An Australian Anthology , in  The Illustrated Tasmanian Mail , 19 October 1927, pp. 4–5. 
 Percival Serle, “Some women artists”, no date (before 1941), a lecture. Serle papers, State Library of Victoria. 
 Guido Baracchi, “Rebel Girl”. Lecture to the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Sydney, November 1941. National Library of Australia, Baracchi papers. 
 Muir Holburn, “Sang her life in clothing factories: story of an Australian poetess”,  Australian Clothing Trades Union Journal , March 1945. 
 Frank Kellaway, “Lesbia Harford”,  Melbourne University Magazine , 1947. 
 H. M. Green,  A History of Australian Literature , vol. 1, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1961, pp. 951–954. 
 Marjorie Pizer, “Lesbia Harford: Forgotten Poet”,  Mabel  no. 4, June 1976. 
 Catharine Cuthbert, “Lesbia Harford and Marie Pitt: Forgotten Poets”,  Hecate , vol. VIII, no. 1, 1982. 
  5. Thesis  
 Lesley Parsons, “The Quest for Lesbia Harford”, B.A. thesis, Department of History, Melbourne University, 1976. 
   Index of First Lines 
 A bunch of lilac and a storm of hail 
 A lady and I were walking 
 A lady has a thousand ways 
 Across the sea 
 All day long 
 All through the day at my machine 
 And is love very strong where honour rules? 
 At ten o'clock the great gong sounds its dread 
 Ay, ay, ay, the lilies of the garden 
 Beauty does not walk through lovely days. 
 Cherry plum blossom in an old tin jug— 
 Child Sun 
 Dearest, dearest, 
 Do you remember still the little song 
 Each day I sit in an ill-lighted room 
 Each morning I pass on my way to work 
 Emmie, Emmie Adams, 
 Every day Miss Mary goes her rounds, 
 Every night I hurry home to see 
 Florence kneels down to say her prayers 
 Flowers have uncountable ways of pretending to be 
 Frolic mountain winds 
 Great crane o'ertopping the delicate trees 
 Green and blue 
 He had served eighty masters. They'd have said 
 He has a fairy wife 
 He has picked grapes in the sun. Oh it seems 
 He looks in my heart and the image there 
 He's out of work! 
 He: That isn't you 
 How funny it would be if dreamy I 
 I am making great big skirts 
 I am no mystic. All the ways of God 
 I bought a red hat 
 I came to live in Sophia Street 
 I cannot be tricked out in lovely clothes 
 I can't feel the sunshine 
 I count the days until I see you, dear, 
 I'd like to spend long hours at home 
 I'd love to have you on a rainy day 
 I dare not leave the splendid town 
 I do hate the folk I love, 
 I dreamt last night 
 I dreamt last night of happy home-comings. 
 I found an orchid in the valley fair 
 I had a lover who betrayed me. 
 I hate work so 
 I hated them when I was four years old, 
 I have a sister whom God gave to me; 
 I have golden shoes 
 I have three loves who are all most dear. 
 I have to make a soul for one 
 I have two wings 
 I in the library 
 I know a room that's dark in daytime hours; 
 I know more about flowers, 
 I lie in the dark 
 I like the riders 
 I love to see 
 I'm like all lovers, wanting love to be 
 I'm not his wife. I am his paramour: 
 I made a heaven for you filled with stars, 
 I must be dreaming through the days 
 I read a statement in a newspaper 
 I saw a flight of sparrows through the air. 
 I sit at my machine 
 I think each year should bring 
 I thought I heard something move in the house 
 I used to be afraid to meet 
 “I used to have dozens of handkerchiefs 
 I've had no man 
 “I want a parlourmaid.” 
 I was sad 
 I went down to post a letter 
 I wish you'd seen that dirty little boy, 
 If I had six white horses 
 If you have loved a brave story 
 In this little school 
 Into old rhyme 
 Just now, as warm day faded from our sight, 
 Last night, in a dream, I felt the peculiar anguish 
 Little girls, 
 Maisie's been holding down her head all day, 
 Miss Murphy has blue eyes and blue-black hair, 
 Most people have a way of making friends 
 My darling lies down in her soft white bed, 
 My friend declares 
 My heart is a pomegranate full of sweet fancies, 
 My lovely pixie, my good companion 
 My mission in the world 
 My window pane is broken 
 Now all the lovely days are past, 
 Now I've been three days 
 O great golden head lie in my lap, 
 O little plum tree in the garden, you're 
 O little year, cram full of duty, 
 O man, O woman, grievest so? 
 O sweet and fair! These words are mine to use 
 O you, dear trees, you have learned so much of beauty, 
 Oh, oh Rosalie, 
 Old memories waken old desires 
 Once I thought my love was worth the name 
 One comes to love the little saints, 
 One summer day, along the street, 
 Our palm designed to grow 
 Ours was a friendship in secret, my dear, 
 Pat wasn't Pat last night at all. 
 Pink eucalyptus flowers 
 “Raging winter wind 
 She has all Ireland in her blood, 
 She is not of the fireside 
 Somebody brought in lilac, 
 Sometimes I am too tired 
 Sometimes I can see 
 Sometimes I think God has his days 
 Sometimes I lose 
 Sometimes I think the happiest of love's moments 
 Sometimes I watch you, mark your brooding eyes, 
 Sometimes I wish that I were Helen-fair 
 Sometimes the skirts I push through the machine 
 Standing on tiptoe, head back, eyes and arm 
 Tall trees along the road, 
 The foot of my machine 
 The hot winds wake to life in the sweet daytime 
 The lilies in the garden walk 
 The little ships are dearer than the great ships 
 The love I look for 
 The people have drunk the wine of peace 
 The strike's done. 
 The sun's my fire. 
 There's a band in the street, there's a band in the street. 
 There's a big park just close to where we live— 
 There's a little boy who lives next door 
 They are so glad of a young companion 
 They have a few little hours 
 They say—priests say— 
 They say she was a creature of the moor, 
 They used to say 
 This evening I'm alone 
 This morning I got up before the sun 
 This year I have seen autumn with new eyes, 
 Those must be masts of ships the gazer sees 
 Though I had lost my love, 
 Through the Museum 
 Through the swift night 
 To look across at Moira gives me pleasure 
 To Plato's dictum 
 Today I saw 
 Today, in class, 
 Today is rebels' day. And yet we work 
 Today they made a bonfire 
 Today when you went up the hill 
 Up in my room on my unmade bed 
 We climbed that hill 
 We've a room 
 We watched the dawn breaking across the sea 
 What were the good of stars if none looked on them 
 When day is over 
 When Gertie came in 
 When I am articled 
 When I am making poetry I'm good 
 When I am so worn out I cannot sleep 
 When I get up to light the fire 
 When I go into town at half past seven 
 When I go up to work the young blue sea 
 When I was a child, 
 When I was still a child 
 When my lover put the sea between us 
 Whenever I think of you, you are alone, 
 Why does she put me to many indignities, 
 You may have other loves, 
 You want a lily 
 You who are dead, 
 You, whom the grave cannot bind, 
 * Touch me not