Poet glo­ri­fies Arapiles

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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.

War poems

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:

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.

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