We will now sing the school hymn

BURRA (S.A.)  1940

THESE THINGS SHALL BE A LOFTIER RACE

Assembly.  Summoned from the grey, grimed
mud-and-thuggery of winter school-yards, we
(like Greeks with gifts) bore promises to be
a loftier race – on wingless song.  In lines
of shuffling, Monday sullenness we heard
the comes-to-my-attention list of last week’s
sins and then the shall-nots for the five bleak,
drawn-out days ahead.  Half hidden grinning through
this weekly blame-and-exhortation time.

THAN E’ER THE WORLD HAS KNOWN SHALL RISE
WITH FLAME OF FREEDOM IN THEIR SOULS

Freedom seen through windows in the rain
where fennel drips in creek-beds in their brief, brown
flush of winter running.   Liberty arrived
at four on Fridays, thrived awhile, then died
in flamed-out souls in school assembly where
we sat through weekly orders to the Lord
that teachers offer up disguised as prayers.
Chairs rattled and the quest began again.

AND LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE IN THEIR EYES

“Take the day”, Sir urged in Latin.  Eyes
went out again through windows where the hills
lay stomach-up and rippled in the chill,
green, after-seeding season.  Take it?  Why
should days be taken?  Days, like creeks and green,
were outside things and saved for Fridays.  When
we’re hindsight wise Sir’s words make sense but then,
back forty seedings and three wars ago,
the lights were out and Monday had arrived.

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