Poem for the times

Poem for the times

As the region continues to recover and rebuild after the devastating 2019/20 bushfires, a poem penned 83 years ago reveals a relevancy today.

Dallas Golby recently uncovered a poem written by her mother, Nance, when she was just 12 years old about bushfires.

Nance Gilbert was born and grew up in Orbost, her family having property there and in Buchan/Buchan South. Her sister, Mary Gilbert, was a teacher at the high school in Orbost “forever” Dallas said.

Nance went to boarding school in Melbourne for a time and on her return from Melbourne married Dallas’ father, Lindsay Jennings.

It was only recently that Dallas found her mother’s poem, To A Bush Fire, which was published in The Australasian on Saturday, November 6, 1937.

“It looks like the paper used to have writing competitions for young kids to send in and Mum got a certificate for her poem,” Dallas said.

“It was written in 1937 but we can’t seem to find any major fires around the area at the time. It was before the big 1939 fires, so we’re not sure what she was referring to.

“Whatever she wrote it about I feel it is very relevant to what happened in this region earlier in the year.”

by Nance Gilbert, 12
Oh, terrible demon of forest and plain, How can you be so cruel?
When all you seek is a bright red spark And a dry little heap of fuel.

You sweep the country, from north to south, Like a bare and blackened board.
You chase the creatures in front of you
In a maddened, frightened horde.

You terrible creature, have you no heart For the sad and homeless cry?
No pity for all the blackened trees?
As through the country you fly.

You’ve made an enemy, demon bold!Of rain that falls from the sky.
The wind is your friend – a wicked friend That helps you onwards to fly.

IMAGE: A poem written by a 12-year-old Nance Gilbert, of Orbost, in 1937 about bush fires resonates with the experiences of the region’s communities earlier this year. (PS)