In a time long ago, where the high myrtles grow,
Lived a tribe of the Bellenden Range.
While below, on the plain, in their tropic domain
Lived a tribe known for hostile exchange;

They had hatchets and spears, paint from eyebrows to ears,
And a sliver of bone through their nose.
Thus arose a taboo that all mountain folk knew—
Never mix with those underworld foes!

But a youth hunting prey scaled their mountain one day;
He was Yarran—a fierce sight to see!
There he came face to face with a vision of grace
In the person of sweet Myaree!

Each and every curl formed an ebony whirl
As they flowed to her brown shoulders bare;
And the force of her smile set a spell to beguile
Yarran’s heart through a radiance rare.

They were struck from the first by unquenchable thirst
For each other, although it was wrong.
But as anyone knows, Love is ever disposed
To repeat the same sensuous song.

So they met on the sly, when the moon lit the sky,
As their meeting was easier then;
For the sinuous sweep of the tangled path steep
Was a test for the bravest of men.

As the moon waxed and waned they were: active, restrained,
In a cycle as fixed as the tide;
Until one night in May they were ‘given away’
By an elder who happened beside.

There was trial by kin over matter of sin
Between Yarran and bold Myaree.
The decision, soon made, absolutely forbade
Further contact (by tribal decree).

But the moon grew to full and proceeded to pull
On the lovers, and wouldn’t relent;
Until each made their way to the shared hideaway,
Where their pent-up emotions were spent.

Sealed by many a kiss, what transpired was this:
An agreement to always be true;
And there followed the thought that their future was fraught
With a consequence late to undo.

Early morning rays found the two lovers close-bound
By a string of the blue Native Flax;
Having leapt from the spur of Mount Bellenden Ker
In their last, and most tragic of acts.

Let this lesson be known: No law ought to condone
Views unfair that doom love from the start;
And it’s better by far to leave things as they are
When it comes to affairs of the heart.

 

 

Poet’s Note: Mount Bellenden Ker is the second-highest mountain in the Australian state of Queensland. The rain gauge at the summit records an annual average rainfall of 317.07 in, making it the wettest meteorological station in Australia. Named after the botanist John Bellenden Ker Gawler, the mountain peak is composed of resistant granite. Leptospermum wooroonooran, family Myrtaceae, is endemic on the summit of Mount Bellenden Ker. It is a compact shrub or small tree bearing white flowers. Dianella revoluta is known as Native Flax or Blueberry Flax-Lily. This Australian plant has a blue flower and a purple fruit. The leaf fiber is very strong, and was used to make cord.

Meaning of Aboriginal names
Myaree: foliage
Yarran: Acacia tree

 

David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.


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10 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Nice anapests, David, and, I think, an interesting retelling of Romeo & Juliet from down under.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you C.B. To my knowledge there haven’t been any other versions of Romeo & Juliet placed in an Australian aboriginal setting.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    An interesting and articulate piece, but when you are writing in this kind of tripping meter you need to be ABSOLUTELY smooth and fluent. You can’t simply count syllables. Syllable counting does not guarantee fluency.

    I suggest changes in four lines:

    Quatrain 4, first line:

    You have: Each and every curl formed an ebony whirl…

    Since the word “every” usually has only two syllables in normal pronunciation, this skews the meter. Try this instead:

    Each lustrous curl formed an ebony whirl…

    Quatrain 8, first line:

    You have: There ensued trial by kin over matter of sin…

    This is hard to scan properly. The problem is the word “ensued.” Try this instead:

    There was trial by kin over matter of sin…

    Quatrain 9, third line:

    You have: Until each made their way up to shared hideaway…

    This just doesn’t sound like proper English. Omitting the article “the” at the end make the line Pidgin-ish. Try this instead:

    Until each made their way to the shared hideaway…

    Quatrain 12, first line:

    You have: Let this lesson be known, that no law ought condone…

    Omitting the “to” from an infinitive isn’t allowed in standard English. You can solve the problem with a minor change in punctuation. Try this instead:

    Let this lesson be known: No law ought to condone…

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Joe S. for taking the time to read and comment on my poem.

      In Quatrain 4, first line I read the word ‘every’ as three syllables, probably because I made a rhyme with ‘ebony’ and took the liberty of assuming that others may choose to read it the same way. I do agree that the word ‘every’ is normally pronounced as a two syllable word. In short, your comment is valid.

      The three other suggested changes constitute definite improvement to the meter or phrasing. I think that if Evan was kind enough to make these changes it would be beneficial.

      Reply
  3. Amy Foreman

    David, this ballad was wonderfully done. The anapestic meter makes the narrative tumble along most effectively.

    The story of Yarran and Myaree reminds me of a similar legend near my old home in Hannibal, MO, where two hopeless young native lovers once plunged to their death off a high bluff over the Mississippi River. Today, that cliff is called “Lover’s Leap,” in remembrance of those desperate young sweethearts. But it’s famous in my own mind for the afternoon when my own sweetheart took me there to propose! I suppose we took a leap of our own that day, but in a much happier direction! 🙂

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Amy, I am really glad you enjoyed my anapestic ballad.

      Your leap of love was definitely made in a much better direction than that of your hometown lovers! A leap of faith surely takes no less conviction than that of a leap into oblivion.

      Reply
  4. Monty

    Good stuff, David, and a good idea for a poem. Apart from that, the form it’s in gives it a constant flow, which makes it a pleasure to read. The strength of rhyme throughout also deserves a mention. Well played.

    Reply

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