“Love Poem”

Attributed to Herbert Hoover (USA President) – relating to an affair he reputedly had with a barmaid from the Palace Hotel while in Kalgoorlie in 1897-98 

 

Do you ever dream, my sweetheart, of a twilight long ago,
Of a park in old Kalgoorlie, where the bougainvilleas grow,
Where the moonbeams on the pathways trace a shimmering brocade,
And the overhanging peppers form a lovers’ promenade?
Where in soft cascades of cadence from a garden close at hand,
Came the murmerous, mellow music of a sweet, orchestral band.
Years have flown since then, my sweetheart, fleet as orchard blooms in May,
But the hour that fills my dreaming, was it only yesterday?

 

Stood we two a space in silence, while the summer sun slipped down,
And the grey dove dusk, with drooping pinions, wrapt the mining town,
Then you raised your tender glances darkly, dreamily to mine,
And my pulses clashed like symbols in a rhapsody divine.
And the pent-up fires of longing loosed their prison’s weak control,
And in wild, hot words came rushing from my burning soul.
Wild hot words that spoke of passion, hitherto but half expressed,
And I clasped you close, my sweetheart, kissed you, strained you to my breast.

 

While the starlight-spangled heavens rolled around us where we stood,
And a tide of bliss kept surging through the current of our blood.
And I spent my soul in kisses, crushed upon your scarlet mouth,
Oh! My red-lipped, sunbrowned sweetheart, dark-eyed daughter of the south.
It was well that fate should part us, it was well my path should lead,
Back to slopes of high endeavour, aye, and was it well, indeed.
You have wed some southern squatter, learned long since his every whim,

Soothed his sorrows, borne his troubles, sung your sweetest songs for him.

 

I have fought my fight and triumphed, on the map I’ve writ my name,
But I prize one hour of loving, more than fifty years of fame.
It was but a summer madness that possessed us, men will hold,
And the yellow moon bewitched me with its wizardry of gold.
Let them say it, dear, but oft-times in the dusk I close my eyes
And in dreams drift back to where the stars rain splendour from the skies,
To a park in far Kalgoorlie, where the golden wattles grow,
Where you kissed me in the twilight of a summer long ago.
And I clasp you close, my sweetheart, while each throbbing pulse is thrilled,
By a low and mournful music that shall never more be stilled.

 

Editorial Note.         I have serious doubts as to the authorship of this poem   -  Supposedly it was written by Herbert Hoover  some time after returning to the USA after spending  19 months in the WA Goldfields – The story goes that he had a brief passionate liaison with a barmaid. 

My doubts are due to

  1. Hoover was not known at all for writing poetry, far from it, he was reported to have been an abysmal failure at literature – He almost did not pass his degree due to this, it was only the intervention of his geology professor that got him through.
    He is not known to have written any other poetry.
     

  2. The poem refers to the bougainvilleas in the garden.  In 1897-98 when Hoover was in Kalgoorlie there would not have been any bougainvilleas or “peppers”  big enough to sit under, (It's very doubtful if there had been any at all -  they are not plants that 1890s West Australians would have even been aware of )  - The town had only been in existence since 1893 when gold was first discovered there.  It was, at that time just emerging from a mining camp into a proper town with all of its infrastructure (pavements, roads, etc,  let alone any ornamental plants or "garden close at hand".  If there was any garden, it would have been for growing vegetables, not ornamental plants.
     

  3. The Palace hotel was only built in 1897.  There were no public gardens at that time.  - There were also no “golden wattles” in Kalgoorlie.  There was no water -  any trees would have been long cut down to provide fuel for cooking and heating or for  supporting the underground workings.   By around 1900, trees were being cut from over 100km from Kalgoorlie -  there were none close, they had all been cut down.
     

  4. "Southern Squatter"  -  the term "squatter" was not in common use in Western Australia -  This is a NSW concept  -  Also,  if the term is used relative to Kalgoorlie, it doesn't make a lot of sense, for at the time, there was nothing  south of Kalgoorlie except some mining and the small port town of Esperance  which at that time had no agricultural or pastoral significance.
     

  5. The style and poetic tools used in this poem are the hallmarks of a poet of some expertise,  Hoover was far from that .
    It has a consistency of rhythm that the vast majority of "amateur" poets find difficult to achieve,  the use of alliteration,  (eg.  "the murmerous, mellow music"  or  "cascades of cadence"  ) is a feature which "amateur" poets are unlikely to be accomplished in, as are various examples of syntax variations  (eg "
    Stood we two a space in silence" ),  use of metaphors  (eg "And the grey dove dusk, with drooping pinions")
     

  6. Hoover had been bought up as a Quaker,  he was engaged to be married (which he did almost immediately he returned home), and, bearing in mind the morals of the time, it is highly unlikely that he would have had a liaison with a barmaid. 

 

Perhaps, Hoover did send it to Kalgoorlie, but who wrote it?   It could have been any one of dozens of accomplished poets.  As we don’t know when he purportedly wrote it (supposedly many years after the event) we cannot even raise any likely possibilities.  - 

Then again,  it may just be another hoax,  a story put out by the author, or, more likely, the Palace Hotel where a copy of the poem is displayed alongside the huge ornate mirror that Hoover presented to the hotel (his place of residence while in Kalgoorlie) when he left.

It has been suggested that it is the work of Dryblower Murphy, who, in 1898, would likely have come across Hoover, however the poem is not quite of his style, even though I am sure he could have penned it,  The other fact, of course, is that not knowing when it was written, it is impossible to tie it in to his evolving styles over his forty year career.

It would seem to me that the poem was likely written by a poet from "t'otherside" either Queensland or Northern NSW.  Perhaps   the original town name was substituted with "Kalgoorlie"  -  Various terms in the poem suggest that  (Bougainvilleas,  Golden Wattle,  Southern Squatter)

 

 

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