Les Murray: “Stone statues of ancient waves, tongue like dingoes on shore”.
On the Shore.
HERE many a time she must have walked,
The dull sand brightening ‘neath her feet,
The cool air quivering as she talked,
Or laughed, or warbled sweet.
The shifting sand no trace of her,
No sound the wandering wind retains,
But, breaking where the footprints were.
Loudly the sea complains.
1880 ‘On the Shore.’, The Queenslander(Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), 28 February, p. 265, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20331530
Walking a solitary road
A young boy or girl knows that if they want to be part of a
group that drinks, they have to drink. If they want to be part
of a group that parties, they have to party. If they want to
be part of a group that uses bad language, they have to use bad
language. If they want to be part of a group that engages
in a certain kind of behavior, they have to participate in
that behavior. If they want to be accepted by some particular
group they have to participate in that group's behavior. They
know all that by instinct. They know what they must do to be
liked and accepted. They must conform to the attitudes,
outlooks and values of the group they wish to be accepted into.
If a young person looks around and sees that everyone is
drinking, partying and using bad language he knows he has a
choice. He can either join them or walk a lonely road. The
young person who decides within himself that he will not drink,
that he will be a total abstainer, knows there will be a price
for that, there will be consequences for himself. The
teetotaler is aware that he has freely chosen a path that
necessarily makes him a loner, an outcast, an object of
ridicule and scorn, to a large portion of society. The young
person who has determined within himself to take the route of
never using low, profane or bad language knows there will be
consequences. He knows he cannot ever be really accepted by
that large portion of society that does these things. He knows
he will walk a lonely road. The young person with scruples,
high personal standards, integrity who looks at the crowd and
has moral objections to their behavior has a choice: he can
maintain his standards and principles and walk a lonely road or
he can give them up and join the crowd.
A young person knows that one must either go with the crowd and
be one of them or have the courage and strength to stand alone.
The young person who chooses a path of strict principle in
regard to drinking, smoking, low language, etc. knows what he
is doing. He knows he has chosen to buck the crowd rather than
go with it. He knows he has chosen a lonely path, a solitary
path. He knows he has freely chosen a way that will bring upon
himself ridicule and rejection and ostracism. He knows that
you cannot have both the approval of the crowd and of God. You
have to choose. You have to have the strength to stand alone,
to walk alone. You have to be willing to accept ostricism and
rejection. The crowd doesn't like the person who doesn't go
along with it. The drinkers and partying don't want a non-
drinker around when they are partying. He is a wet blanket, a
kill-joy. Those whose minds and language are gutter don't
like those who don't accept their language, mind and humour.
The person of integrity, the person of moral standards who
objects to the moral depravity of the crowd walks a solitary
road. He lives on a different wavelength. He is a different
species, a creature from another planet, a creature from an
What induces a person to walk a solitary road? Well,
conscience, fear of God, love of God. But yet it is not really
a solitary road. God is with him. God is his friend. And he
is his own friend. He has two true friends: God and himself.
Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 3 January 1891,