Dorothea Mackellar

The Grey Lake

(Lake Eyre, South Australia)

Far away to southward
   The grey lake lies,
Thirty leagues of mud, bare
   To turquoise skies.

Shallow, sluggish water,
   Warm—warm as blood;
Not enough to cover
   The quaking mud.

Hot winds drive the water
   In summer time
Southward—and behind them
   There lies grey slime.

Forty miles to westward,
   A hundred north,
Wind-fiends hunt the water
   Back—back and forth.

There are reed-grown islands
   The eye scarce sees,
Grey ooze guarding grimly
   Their mysteries.

Strange Things may survive there,
   What, who can tell?
Monsters old—the lake-slime
   Can guard them well.

No one knows those islands,—
   The gulls that fly
May go near, but others
   Would surely die.

For the wind-scourged water
   Would flee the ships,
And the mud would open
   Her soft smooth lips.

So the isles are sacred
   From alien tread,
Since the slime can swallow
   And keep her dead.

Who can know her secrets?
   The blue sky might—
(Cloudless-hot in daytime,
   Star-gemmed at night).

To and fro for ever
   The water swings,
And the gulls fly over,
      For they have wings.