Poet glorifies Arapiles
Arapiles: “What wonders migh’st thou tell of inland seas that washed around thy base and tossed to waves; and broke in rainbow spray against thy crest…”
These passionate words, written in the classic old-english style of an era long past, flowed from the pen of Violet Cramer, poet extraordinaire, musician and music teacher, in her romantic appraisal of Mount Arapiles, probably written between the two world wars.
Cramer, 1879-1968, is remembered in Horsham today by a diminishing number of music students and close friends as a tiny figure ‘less than five feet tall’, often dressed in black, living quietly in a modest house in Andrew Street, near her beloved St John’s Anglican Church.
She was well known across the Wimmera as a skilled pianoforte tutor, perhaps less as a Sunday school teacher at Saint John’s, also as an organist, and dedicated committee member of Horsham Music Club.
After her death in 1968, music students and friends raised money for a beautiful church window in appreciation of her long
contribution to church and community life.
Cramer’s skill as a poet emerges strongly for posterity through the surprise discovery of a small booklet in a bundle of old sheet music sold with her piano at auction in Horsham almost 50 years ago.
Its title ‘Stray Thoughts’ with accreditation ‘by Violet B. Cramer’ identifies the author. The price of the booklet, printed at the office of the old Horsham Times, is shown as ‘one shilling.’
Probably unknown to most during the piano teacher’s busy life as a music teacher was the national recognition she had already received as Poet of the First World War.
Her huge poetry output unveils a fiercely patriotic spirit, love for nature’s beauty, the English monarchy, her church and desire for lasting peace.
In the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, and National Gallery, Cramer’s name appears alongside other recognised female poets of the First World War, among them Mary Grant Bruce, 1878-1955, Dame Mary Gilmore, 1865-1962, and Dorothea Mackellar, 1885-1968.
Sixteen poems in Cramer’s small booklet recovered in Horsham include Welcome to the Prince of Wales – On
His Visit to Australia, May 1920, Joan of Arc, The Throne of Peace, The Conquest of Jerusalem, A Song of Wattle Blossom, Surrender of German Warships, Dawn on the Blue Mountains and Arapiles.
Following is her poem on Mount Arapiles:
By Violet B. Cramer
Thou solitary mount! Whence cam’st thou? In days gone by did some strong, giant hand Hurtle thee headlong from a stormy sky. Swift as a thunderbolt, upon the earth?
Thy scarred and rugged face looks to the east,
Facing the sunrise: Sphinx-like dost thou stand,
Linking the future and the past in one, Reading life’s riddles, patient, silent, still. Adown thy furrowed cheeks the tears have streamed
Through many a wintry gale, when foot of man
Broke not the solitude. If thou couldst speak What wonders might’st thou tell of inland seas
That washed around thy base, and tossed to waves,
And broke in rainbow spray against thy crest.
Round thy fast-rooted feet to-day wild flowers
Blossom and fade, and dimpled lakelets smile,
Mirroring the sunshine; and the jackass laughs
Scornful among the treetops as of yore; Through the clear liquid air
The mellow note of magpie rings,
Pouring his heart in song of bursting joy. Thy sides are clothed with verdure, and in clefts
That storms have seared grow mosses, ferns and flowers.
Only thy face is bare, and in its lines We trace the passing of unnumbered years. A monument thou stand’st of the dim past, Watching through time till time shall be no more –
A patient, silent sentinel, alone – alone.
The beautiful church window, built from money given by Violet Cramer’s grateful former students and friends, pictured in St John’s Anglican Church, Horsham.