The Babies of Walloon
by Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
The following poem was inspired by a true story. In 1891, two young girls aged six and nine, the daughters of a lengthsman on the railway at Walloon, Queensland, were sent on an errand by their parents and were presumably attracted by some water-lilies in a pool near their home. They were subsequently found drowned in six feet of water.
He was lengthsman on the railway, and his station scarce deserved
That “pre-eminence in sorrow” of the Majesty he served,
But as dear to him and precious were the gifts reclaimed so soon—
Were the workman’s little daughters who were buried near Walloon.
Speak their names in tones that linger, just as though you held them dear;
There are eyes to which the mention of those names will bring a tear.
Little Kate and Bridget, straying in an autumn afternoon,
Were attracted by the lilies in the water of Walloon.
All is dark to us. The angels sing perhaps in Paradise
Of the younger sister’s danger, and the elder’s sacrifice;
But the facts were hidden from us, when the soft light from the moon
Glistened on the water-lilies o’er the Babies at Walloon.
Ah! the children love the lilies, while we elders are inclined
To the flowers that have poison for the body and the mind.
Better for the “strongly human” to have done with life as soon,
Better perish for a lily like the Babies of Walloon.
For they gather flowers early on the river far away,
Where the everlasting lilies keep their purity for aye,
And while summer brings our lilies to the run and the lagoon
May our children keep the legend of the Babies of Walloon.