The Curlew Cried

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Three nights they heard the curlew cry.
It is the warning known of old
That tells them one tonight shall die.

Brother and friend, he comes and goes
Out of the Shadow Land to them,
The loneliest voice the earth knows.

He guards the welfare of his own,
He comes to lead each soul away –
To what dim world, what strange unknown?

Who is it that tonight must go:
The old blind one? The cripple child?
Tomorrow all the camp will know.

The poor dead will be less afraid,
Their tribe brother will be with him
When the dread journey must be made.

‘Have courage, death is not an end,’
He seems to say. ‘Thous you must weep,
Death is kindly and is your friend.’

Three nights the curlew cried. Once more
He comes to take the timorous dead –
To what grim change, what ghostly shore?

~ Oodergoo Noonuccal
from The Dawn is At Hand

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