Sunday, August 13, 2017


George Loveless, a Methodist Lay preacher, was one of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs (a group of farm labourers who were convicted of swearing an oath to a trade union) transported from Dorset to Australia in 1834, before being pardoned and returned to England three years later. In his collection The Loveless Letters (1981), in which the poem “Mt. Wilson, NSW” appeared, the poet, translator and dramatist Rodney Pybus (b.1938) sets a sequence of letters from Loveless to his wife in England against poems about his own experience of living in Australia for three years.
Like Loveless, the poet too is caught “between recollection and immediacy, homesickness and absorption in the making of a new home” in a land from whose dazzle he is afraid he may never recover.
“Mt. Wilson, NSW”, first published in the TLS in 1977, is full of a similar ambivalence. In November, the speaker sees bunches of Spring daffodils, “flush with the dulled yellow / of a northern sun”, in flower and for sale outside a house whose original occupants, he suggests, used them to help landscape “their dreams of home”. The incongruity of their pale “sprinkled glow” against the “grey-green cyclorama of the Bush” is sharpened by a notice at the gate that reads “Australian natives . . . one dollar each”: a reminder of colonial brutality, and all those other long shadows of empire.(TLS)

Mt. Wilson, NSW

Some of those who settled
this Blue Mountain Country
landscaped their dreams of home
and planted out their continuing pain.
Now beneath the eucalypts
the sprinkled glow of herbaceous borders
against the grey-green cyclorama of the Bush.
It is November and the Spring daffodils
are flush with the dulled yellow
of a northern sun.
On the garden wall some are left, fresh-cut
for sale, with bunches of tidy primroses,
and a trusting bowl for payment.
A notice by the gate will stop
the stranger short:
‘Australian natives,’ it says,
‘one dollar each.’


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