My Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin

Chapter Thirty-Eight

A Tale that is told and a Day that is done

“There are others toiling and straining

  ‘Neath burdens graver than mine;

They are weary, yet uncomplaining —

  I know it, yet I repine:

I know it, how time will ravage,

  How time will level, and yet

I long with a longing savage,

  I regret with a fierce regret.”

A. L. GORDON.

‘Possum Gully, 25th March, 1899

Christmas, only distinguished from the fifty-two slow Sundays of the year by plum-pudding, roast turkey, and a few bottles of home-made beer, has been once more; New Year, ushered in with sweet-scented midsummer wattle and bloom of gum — and box-tree has gone; February has followed, March is doing likewise, and my life is still the same.

What the future holds I know not, and am tonight so Weary that I do not care.

 “Time rules us all. And life, indeed, is not

The thing we planned it out, ere hope was dead;

 And then, we women cannot choose our lot.”

Time is thorough in his work, and as that arch-cheat, Hope, gradually becomes a phantom of the past, the neck will grow inured to its yoke.

Tonight is one of the times when the littleness — the abject littleness — of all things in life comes home to me.

After all, what is there in vain ambition? King or slave, we all must die, and when death knocks at our door, will it matter whether our life has been great or small, fast or slow, so long as it has been true — true with the truth that will bring rest to the soul?

“But the toughest lives are brittle,

  And the bravest and the best

Lightly fall — it matters little;

  Now I only long for rest.”

To weary hearts throbbing slowly in hopeless breasts the sweetest thing is rest.

And my heart is weary. Oh, how it aches tonight — not with the ache of a young heart passionately crying out for battle, but with the slow dead ache of an old heart returning vanquished and defeated!

Enough of pessimistic snarling and grumbling! Enough! Enough! Now for a lilt of another theme:

I am proud that I am an Australian, a daughter of the Southern Cross, a child of the mighty bush. I am thankful I am a peasant, a part of the bone and muscle of my nation, and earn my bread by the sweat of my brow, as man was meant to do. I rejoice I was not born a parasite, one of the blood-suckers who loll on velvet and satin, crushed from the proceeds of human sweat and blood and souls.

Ah, my sunburnt brothers! — sons of toil and of Australia! I love and respect you well, for you are brave and good and true. I have seen not only those of you with youth and hope strong in your veins, but those with pathetic streaks of grey in your hair, large families to support, and with half a century sitting upon your work-laden shoulders. I have seen you struggle uncomplainingly against flood, fire, disease in stock, pests, drought, trade depression, and sickness, and yet have time to extend your hands and hearts in true sympathy to a brother in misfortune, and spirits to laugh and joke and be cheerful.

And for my sisters a great love and pity fills my heart. Daughters of toil, who scrub and wash and mend and cook, who are dressmakers, paperhangers, milkmaids, gardeners, and candle-makers all in one, and yet have time to be cheerful and tasty in your homes, and make the best of the few oases to be found along the narrow dusty track of your existence. Would that I were more worthy to be one of you — more a typical Australian peasant — cheerful, honest, brave!

I love you, I love you. Bravely you jog along with the rope of class distinction drawing closer, closer, tighter, tighter around you: a few more generations and you will be as enslaved as were ever the moujiks of Russia. I see it and know it, but I cannot help you. My ineffective life will be trod out in the same round of toil — I am only one of yourselves, I am only an unnecessary, little, bush commoner, I am only a — woman!

The great sun is sinking in the west, grinning and winking knowingly as he goes, upon the starving stock and drought-smitten wastes of land. Nearer he draws to the gum-tree scrubby horizon, turns the clouds to orange, scarlet, silver flame, gold! Down, down he goes. The gorgeous, garish splendour of sunset pageantry flames out; the long shadows eagerly cover all; the kookaburras laugh their merry mocking good-night; the clouds fade to turquoise, green, and grey; the stars peep shyly out; the soft call of the mopoke arises in the gullies! With much love and good wishes to all — Good night! Good-bye!

AMEN

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/franklin/miles/my_brilliant_career/chapter38.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:53