Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Last Aboriginal

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William Sharp 1855–1905

The Last Aboriginal


I SEE him sit, wild-eyed, alone,

Amidst gaunt, spectral, moonlit gums;

He waits for death: not once a moan

From out his rigid fixed lips comes;

His lank hair falls adown a face

Haggard as any wave-worn stone,

And in his eyes I dimly trace

The memory of a vanished race.

The lofty ancient gum-trees stand,

Each gray and ghostly in the moon,

The giants of an old strange land

That was exultant in its noon

When all our Europe was o’erturned

With deluge and with shifting sand,

With earthquakes that the hills inurned

And central fires that fused and burned.

The moon moves slowly through the vast

And solemn skies; the night is still,

Save when a warrigal springs past

With dismal howl, or when the shrill

Scream of a parrot rings which feels

A twining serpent’s fangs fixed fast,

Or when a gray opossum squeals,—

Or long iguana, as it steals

From bole to bole, disturbs the leaves:

But hushed and still he sits—who knows

That all is o’er for him who weaves

With inner speech, malign, morose,

A curse upon the whites who came

And gathered up his race like sheaves

Of thin wheat, fit but for the flame—

Who shot or spurned them without shame.

He knows he shall not see again

The creeks whereby the lyre-birds sing;

He shall no more upon the plain,

Sun-scorched, and void of water-spring,

Watch the dark cassowaries sweep

In startled flight, or, with spear lain

In ready poise, glide, twist, and creep

Where the brown kangaroo doth leap.

No more in silent dawns he’ll wait

By still lagoons, and mark the flight

Of black swans near: no more elate

Whirl high the boomerang aright

Upon some foe. He knows that now

He too must share his race’s night—

He scarce can know the white man’s plough

Will one day pass above his brow.

Last remnant of the Austral race

He sits and stares, with failing breath:

The shadow deepens on his face,

For ’midst the spectral gums waits death:

A dingo’s sudden howl swells near—

He stares once with a startled gaze,

As half in wonder, half in fear,

Then sinks back on his unknown bier.