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Australian poem 2008 series #15 — John Shaw Neilson "The Orange Tree"

30 May

Perhaps recent events have brought this poem to mind…

John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) is one of the most delightful figures in Australian poetry.

 

The Orange Tree

The young girl stood beside me.  I
   Saw not what her young eyes could see:
- A light, she said, not of the sky
   Lives somewhere in the Orange Tree.

- Is it, I said, of east or west?
   The heartbeat of a luminous boy
Who with his faltering flute confessed
   Only the edges of his joy?

Was he, I said, borne to the blue
   In a mad escapade of Spring
Ere he could make a fond adieu
   To his love in the blossoming?

- Listen! the young girl said.  There calls
   No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
  This evening on the Orange Tree.

- Does he, I said, so fear the Spring
   Ere the white sap too far can climb?
See in the full gold evening
   All happenings of the olden time?

Is he so goaded by the green?
   Does the compulsion of the dew
Make him unknowable but keen
   Asking with beauty of the blue?

- Listen! the young girl said.  For all
   Your hapless talk you fail to see
There is a light, a step, a call
   This evening on the Orange Tree.

- Is it, I said, a waste of love
  Imperishably old in pain,
Moving as an affrighted dove
  Under the sunlight or the rain?

Is it a fluttering heart that gave
  Too willingly and was reviled?
Is it the stammering at a grave,
  The last word of a little child?

- Silence! the young girl said.  Oh, why,
  Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
  Am listening like the Orange Tree.
 

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Posted by on May 30, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, creativity, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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