Rivers and Mountains

Yarra and Murray,
Murrumbidgee and Darling,
Lachlan and Derwent,
Swan River and Hawkesbury River . . .
By your old or your new names;
And all your brothers and sisters,
Numberless rivers, creeks, and billabongs
What can you not all tell me
Of the days gone by?

Do not your waters,
Yellow and crimson in the dawn,
Whisper, whisper round your banks?
And cannot I pry out the age-old secrets
That they whisper?

Secrets of
The days gone by —
Of blacks’ camp
And coo-ee cry.

Do not your gumtrees,
Ringed with the marks of many floods,
Seared and blackened by many fires,
Fling grotesque shadows on your waters?
And cannot I read
Those strange hieroglyphs?

They are wed so with the movement of the water
And the movement of the trees,
And with the sound of the water,
With wind-ripples and reed-ripples,
And with the patient sound
Of the wind in the trees,
And with the quiet drifting
Of leaves and bark
On the surface of the water.
What do they spell,
Those strange hieroglyphs?

Secrets of
The days gone by —
Of blacks’ camp
And coo-ee cry.


All you ranges,
Blue Mountains, Dandenongs, Plenty,
Flinders, Barossa, MacDonnell,
By your old or your new names,
And all your numberless brothers and sisters,
Ranges and ridges, cuestas and monadnocks,
Fertile and beckoning or craggy and forbidding,
What can you not all tell me
Of the days gone by?

Know you not the secrets of the totems?
Are you not great ancestors yourselves,
Or, some of you —
Like the furrow of Ilbumeraka
Dragged and scooped and tortured from the plains
By the swishing tnatantja?
Were not some of you
Formed by the writhings of a hideous snake,
Like that of Emianga,
Or made as by the digging of Lukara
Among the roots of the acacias
For the prized and juicy tjameta worms?

When dawn is kindling along your crests,
Or when your flames die into darkness,
Or while you stand boldly or cloud-hidden
Through the main time of daylight,
You still have your secrets about you,
And shall have ever.

Secrets of
The days gone by —
Of blacks’ camp
And coo-ee cry.

About this poem

This poem was published in Ingamell's collection 'Forgotten People' (1936)

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Written on 1936

Submitted by abielias1 on March 10, 2022

Modified on March 16, 2023

2:04 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme abcdEfeAG fxxxd HGIG exffcJ dkdxckbxdxJ HGIG xaxEfebAG xxlbxxlxbaex xxxcld HGIG
Closest metre Iambic trimeter
Characters 2,044
Words 416
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 9, 5, 4, 6, 11, 4, 9, 12, 6, 4

Rex Ingamells

Rex Ingamells was an Australian poet who is widely credited as the leader of the Jindyworobak Movement, a literary movement of the 1930s and 40s which sought to celebrate Australian Aboriginal culture. more…

All Rex Ingamells poems | Rex Ingamells Books

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Discuss the poem Rivers and Mountains with the community...

  • alanswansea18
    I love it.
    LikeReply9 days ago
  • alanswansea18
    I love it.
    LikeReply15 days ago
  • alanswansea18
    Very nice.
    LikeReply1 month ago
  • alanswansea18
    LikeReply2 months ago
  • jerrylov322
    Wow! Such perfect lines. Thanks for sharing, Abi.
    LikeReply2 years ago
  • Symmetry58
    Who is Rex Ingamells??? This poem is one of the most amazing pieces of writing I've ever beheld. Initially I thought you wrote this and thought, this is professional poetry to the core. I see now Sir Rex was in fact the perpetrator of genius. I mean, WOW!!! 
    LikeReply2 years ago
    • abielias1
      Ingamells was an Australian poet who wrote many nature-themed poems in celebration of Aboriginal Australians and their oral traditions attached to the natural landmarks of Australia. I would highly recommend his collection 'Forgotten People' (the collection this poem comes from), you would enjoy it! 
      LikeReply 22 years ago


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"Rivers and Mountains" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 18 Jun 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/122273/rivers-and-mountains>.

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