By Dorothy Auchterlonie (1915-1991)
'Nothing can ever come of it,' he said.
– Outside the window, the white rose waved its head,
A late bird sang, insouciant, in the tree,
The sunset stained the river red.
'There is no future, none at all,' he said.
– She stretched her arms up from the tumbled bed:
'What future has the river or the rose?' said she,
'The bird's song is, and nothing comes of red.'
He held her as the river holds the red
Stain of sunset; as, when the bird has fled,
The tree holds the song. 'Listen,' said she,
'Bird, rose and sunlit water sing from this bed.'
In these times of sadness, turmoil and death around the world, which for the most part it is necessary to confront, I thought we might turn away a little while to enjoy some lyrical romanticism – with a sweet, life-affirming philosophy at its heart.
Dorothy Auchterlonie, aka Dorothy Green, was an English-born poet, literary critic and academic. (Her family migrated to Australia when she was 12.) She was also a radio journalist for a time, during the Second World War years.
She was the recipient of various literary awards. Also, Wikipedia tells us:
Auchterlonie was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1984 and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1998 for her services to literature, teaching and writing.
She married historian and university librarian H. M. Green and wrote a number of scholarly works as Dorothy Green, but as a poet was known by her birth name, Dorothy Auchterlonie.
As Dorothy Green she championed Australian writers whom she considered underrated, including Christina Stead and Patrick White, who are now recognised as two of our greatest novelists. She also worked to get Australian literature onto university curriculums, and lived to see that happen. Indeed, it now seems extraordinary that there was ever a time it wasn't so.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography article notes:
She published Ulysses Bound: Henry Handel Richardson and her Fiction in 1973. It was the first serious full-length study of a female Australian writer, for which Green received the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies’ Colin Roderick award and the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Barbara Ramsden award.
[Yes – for non-Australians – Henry Handel Richardson was the pseudonym of a woman writer.]
The Australian Dictionary of Biography link takes you to an informative article about Auchterlonie-Green's life and career. Both there and at Wikipedia, it is noted that she was also an environmental activist, campaigning particularly against nuclear arms.
As one who did so much for other writers, it's sad that her own work is hard to find today. Her books of poetry are listed on Amazon, with a biography about her, but they are extremely expensive and apparently rare. (I have used the cover of the biography for her author pic, above.)
I found this poem in The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, published in 1986.
An endearing little snippet about her from Australian Dictionary of Biography says:
Reserved and intense, Green was happiest in the company of a book, but enjoyed deep and loyal friendships. She was romantic, slightly prim, and deeply compassionate. Anger at injustice drove much of her most insightful writing.
There's nothing prim bout the poem I've chosen, but it's certainly romantic!
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