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Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia

Edited by Les Murray

Cover Picture of Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia
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Categories: 19th Century, 20th Century, Australian
Imprint: Fyfield Books
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (240 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2005)
£9.95 £8.96
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  • The first metropolis to be depicted in Australian literature was Hell: before cities existed in Australia, Francis McNamara, the convict poet, described the infernal one populated by those who tormented him and his fellow prisoners. Sentenced in 1832 to seven years' transportation to Australia for stealing a plaid, he survived the brutality of the penal system: his witty, rebellious poems laid the foundations for a new Australian poetry.
        Les Murray's anthology of poets from the early years of European settlement in Australia reaches back in time from his Fivefathers, which collected significant voices from the early twentieth century. Hell and After contains extended selections from the work of four poets: reading them is to experience a culture in the process of creating itself. Francis MacNamara (1811-1880), the only poet whose work has survived from the convict era, and three poets from the second half of the nineteenth century. Mary Gilmore (1865-1962) was born to a pioneering life in the bush; she became a social reformer and renowned figure in the Australian Labor Party, and her poems are much loved by Australians for their vivid evocations of colonial life. John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942), who spent most of his life as a manual labourer, wrote poems of great lyricism and humour under conditions of poverty and ill-health. Lesbia Harford (1891-1927), a radical activist who was one of the first women to graduate with a law degree from the University of Melbourne, worked as a factory machinist and domestic servant. Her poems give voice to a woman's experience of working life and private desire.
    Table of Contents


    Francis McNamara:

    The Convict's Arrival

    Labouring with the Hoe

    A Petition from the A.A. Co. Flocks at Peels River in Behalf of the Irish Bard

    [For the Company Underground]

    A Petition from the Chain Gang at Newcastle to Captain Furlong the Superintendent

    A Convict's Tour to Hell

    A Dialogue Between Two Hibernians in Botany Bay

    [Epigram of Introduction]

    The Seizure of the Cyprus Brig in Recherche Bay, Aug. 1829

    Mary Gilmore:

    When Myall Creek Was New

    I Am the Idle

    Eva Has Gone

    Eternal Claim

    The Linen for Pillow...


    The Rue Tree


    In Poverty and Toil

    The Truest Mate

    The Forest Prayed

    'As late as the 1870's...'

    The Forest Prayed

    The Coming


    All Souls



    The Kiss

    The Babe

    Fourteen Men

    The Tenancy

    Of Certain Critics

    The Gift

    Never Admit the Pain

    The Harvesters

    The Saturday Tub

    Bones in a Poet

    Old Botany Bay

    'The kangaroos were patriarchal...'

    The Little Shoes that Died


    The Road

    Somehow We Missed Each Other

    Second-hand Beds



    In Wesleyan Days, Wagga Wagga

    The Road to Gunning


    John Shaw Neilson:

    The Crane is My Neighbour

    The Gentle Water Bird

    The Flautist

    To a Runaway Sound

    For the Little Boys Out of Heavan

    The Ballad of Remembrance

    The Poor, Poor Country

    The Lad Who Started Out

    The Child Being There

    Love in Absence

    The Hour of the Parting

    Love's Coming

    To a Lodging-House Canary

    The Sweetening of the Year

    A Limerick

    The Soldier is Home

    Stony Town

    Stephen Foster

    Tell Summer that I Died

    The Hen in the Bushes

    The Moon Was Seven Days Down

    Schoolgirls Hastening

    The Orange Tree

    In the Dim Counties

    You, and Yellow Air

    Sheedy Was Dying


    Song Be Delicate

    The Prince Has Been into the Lane

    The Sundowner

    The Happy Thief

    From a Coffin

    In the Long Gown

    To a Blonde Typist

    You Cannot Go Down to the Spring

    Lament for Laddie

    Take Down the Fiddle, Karl!

    The Power of the Bells

    To the Red Lory

    Uncle to a Pirate

    The Bard and the Lizard

    Dolly's Offering

    The Eleventh Moon

    Surely God Was a Lover

    The Poor Can Feed the Birds

    The Smoker Parrot

    Lesbia Harford:

    'I dreamt last night'

    'If I had six white horses'

    Little Ships

    'I count the days until I see you, dear,'

    'I can't feel the sunshine'

    'My mission in the world'

    Day's End

    'Ours was a friendship in secret, my dear,'

    'Somebody brought in lilac'

    Deliverance Through Art

    The Folk I Love

    'Oh, oh, Rosalie,'

    'All day long'


    Lawstudent and Coach

    Machinists Talking

    The Invisible People

    Closing Time: Public Library

    Machinist's Song


    'This evening I'm alone.'

    'I was sad'

    'All through the day at my machine'

    'Sometimes I wish that I were Helen-fair'

    'Sometimes I am too tired'

    'My lovely pixie, my good companion,'

    'Into the old rhyme'

    'The love I look for'

    'He has a fairy wife.'

    'Those must be masts of ships the gazer sees'

    'I have golden shoes'

    'Now I have been three days'

    'I found an orchid in the valley fair,'

    'I love to see'

    Skirt Machinist

    'I'm like all lovers, wanting love to be'

    'I used to be afraid to meet'

    Body and Soul

    A Blouse Machinist

    An Improver

    'Once I thought my love was worth the name'

    'Pink eucalyptus flowers'

    'I came to live in Sophia Street'

    'Today is rebels' day. And yet we work - '

    'To look across at Moira gives me pleasure.'

    Street Music

    'I dreamt last night of happy home-comings.'

    'Sometimes I think the happiest of love's moments'

    'The people have drunk the wine of peace'

    Girl's Love

    'I must be dreaming through the days'

    'When I get up to light the fire,'

    'Today, in class,'

    'I bought a red hat'

    Miss Mary Fairfax

    'Whenever I think of you, you are alone,'

    A Strike Rhyme

    'In this little school'


    A Parlourmaid

    Street Scene - Little Lonsdale St

    'I'd like to spend long hours at home'

    'I had a lover who betrayed me'

    'Most people have a way of making friends'

    The Psychological Craze

    Lovers Parted

    'All Knowledge...'

    'How funny it would be if dreamy I'

    'Pat wasn't Pat last night at all.'

    'A bunch of lilac and a storm of hail'

    'O you, dear trees, you have learned so much of beauty,'

    Pruning Flowering Gums


    'Love is not love...'

    The Moonlit Room

    A Meaning Learnt

    The Wife


    'When I am articled'

    'When my lover put the sea between us'

    'I read a statement in a newspaper'

    'I am no mystic. All the ways of God'

    A Prayer to Saint Rosa


    Index of titles

    Index of first lines

    Les Murray (1938-2019) grew up on a dairy farm at Bunyah on the north coast of New South Wales. He studied at Sydney University and later worked as a translator at the Australian National University and as an officer in the Prime Minister's Department. His real vocation was poetry, however, and ... read more
    Awards won by Les Murray Short-listed, 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize (Waiting for the Past ) Long-listed, 1994 for the Oxford Chair of Poetry. Winner, 1996 T.S. Eliot Prize for the best collection. (Subhuman Redneck Poems) Winner, 1999 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.
    Praise for Les Murray 'Les Murray's final gift to us, published exactly three years after his death, is certainly worth the wait.'

    André Naffis-Sahely, The Times Literary Supplement

    'The earth's physical rendered with extraordinary, often strange, beauty.'

    New Yorker

    'His poetry was never less than a rough-edged hymn of praise to the ceaseless and unstoppable wonders of Creation'

    Michael Glover, The Tablet

    'The poems in this posthumous collection are, as so often in his work, intelligent, high-spirited, coolly or crudely argued, full of small delights, often with a strong dose of wrongheadedness... Murray was that rare thing, a poet who whatever his debts seemed an original.'

    William Logan, The New York Times

    'Very occasionally you come across something on the page which makes you think ''you can't do any better than this.'' Perfection achieved.'
    BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review 
     'Waiting for the Past is a brilliant collection by a brilliant poet.'
    Anthony Domestico, Commonweal Magazine
    'Les Murray's Taller When Prone shows a poetic master nimbly and lyrically at work. Now seventy-two, Murray writes with the bigness of soul of a person twice his age. This collection adds another chuckie to the cairn of a remarkable personal achievement. A Nobel Prize for that man, please.'
    Robert Crawford, TLS Books Of The Year 2010
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