Australia [poem by Agnes Neale, 1888]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Australian Ballads and Rhymes (1888).]


All the things that have been done, and all the things that are to be;
All the wonders wrought on land, and all the wonders on the sea;
All the victories of nations, all the triumphs of mankind;
All the grand and bold achievements over matter won by mind;
That which stirs and thrills our spirits in the closings of to-day;
Words that sweep the world like fire, acts that all the nations sway,
When to-morrow’s sun has risen, smiling from the glittering sea,
All are with the dead past ages, parts of life’s long history;
Wrought into the grand mosaic lying down the course of Time;
Bits caught up from all the nations, lights and shades from every clime.
Rise and fall of every nation, origin of empires vast,
Trace we back through creeping decades to the dim and shadowy past;
Every great majestic river flowing on to meet the sea,
Bearing on its stately bosom many a gallant argosy,
Owes its proud, resistless volume to ten thousand tiny rills,
Takes its rise in some low wood-spring hidden in the quiet hills;
So through dimness and through darkness rose our infant colony
On a continent of beauty, sleeping on a southern sea,
Lying all at rest and silent, never dreaming what should be,
Never looking through the future to the wonders that we see.
Many a battle has been fought, and many a victory has been won,
Since first the sable warrior drew the blood of England’s gallant son;
Many a deed of blood has reddened, many a cry gone up to God,
Since first this southern land of light was by the foot of white man trod,
Still through all, through fights and bloodshed, inward strife and inward fear,
Through the wearying disappointments always coming year by year;
Through it all with dauntless courage, inborn power and inbred might,
Like the grass in spring-time pushes through the earth’s crust into light,
Through intrigues of legislators, faction fight and party strife,
Bravely did the nation struggle, upward, onward, into life,
Bravely fought and fairly conquered till to-day we see her stand,
Not a tiny scarce-known handful, but a rich and mighty land;
Strong, with all the strength that youth has Time’s unending war to wage,
Mighty with the might of ages, hers by right of heritage,
Rich with stores of mineral wealth, and flocks and herds by land and sea,
Lo! her white-winged messengers are sweeping over every sea.
Lo! a young world, lo! a strong world, rises in this distant clime,
Destined to increase and strengthen to the very end of time.
Here through veins with young life swelling, rolls the blood that rules the world;
Here as hers, and dear as honour, England’s banner floats unfurled.
Oh, Australia! fair and lovely, empress of the southern sea,
What a glorious fame awaits thee in the future’s history.
Land of wealth and land of beauty, tropic suns and arctic snows,
Where the splendid noontide blazes, where the raging storm-wind blows;
Be thou proud, and be thou daring, ever true to God and man;
In all evil be to rearward, in all good take thou the van!
Only let thy hands be stainless, let thy life be pure and true,
And a destiny awaits thee such as nations never knew!

Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 158-161

Also published in:
Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), A Century of Australian Song, London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 350-352 [included in the contents list of this volume as “Caroline Agnes Leane (Mrs. Aherne)”]

Editor’s notes:
argosy = a large ship, especially a richly-laden merchant ship; a fleet of large ships; a rich supply; derived from the Italian word “ragusea”, referring to a ship from Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, in Croatia)

rill = a very small brook, creek, or stream (a rivulet)

sable = a colour that is black, dark, or gloomy (“sables” was an archaic term for garments worn for mourning; “sable” in heraldry refers to black); arising from the colour of dark sable fur, as taken from a sable (a furry mammal, Martes zibellina, which is primarily found in Russia and northern East Asia, and noted for its fur which has traditionally been used for clothing); in the context of the Australian Aborigines or African Negroes, a reference to their skin colour as being black

van = an abbreviation of “vanguard”: in the lead, at the front; the advance unit of a military force; the forefront in an area, field, movement, profession, or science; the leaders of a cultural, intellectual, political, or social movement

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