Melbourne International Exhibition [poem by Mary Hannay Foott, 1890]

[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Foott.]

Melbourne International Exhibition.

A. D. 1880

ARGUMENT.

I. — The House being ready, Victoria prepares to receive the nations whom she has invited. They approach — the various countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, of the American continent, the Australian colonies, and those of Polynesia — some of them greater than any which ever paid tribute to Rome, or did homage to a mediaeval monarch, and their products superior to those which in olden times were fit gifts from one king to another.

II. — Victoria salutes the other Australian colonies, and asks them to unite with her in greeting her other guests. They then welcome the various countries of Asia, Africa (Egypt to Caffraria, &c.), America (the South American Republics, Empire of Brazil, Dominion of Canada, and the United States of North America) ; then France, Spain, and Portugal ; Italy, Greece, Russia, Switzerland ; then Holland and Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Norway, and Sweden ; then Britain.

III. — The triumphs of Peace and of Toil.

IV. — Aspirations for the future of Australia — that she may be happy, a generous friend, but, if need be, a formidable enemy.

I.

Ceased is the sound of the chisel, and hushed is the hammer’s ring,
And the echoes that haunted the empty halls for a while have taken wing ;
And the doors are open, and overhead are a thousand flags unfurled,
While with music and song to the House she has built Victoria welcomes the world.
For the nations she bade with friendly voice have hearkened to her behest,
And treasure-laden, o’er land and sea, comes many an honoured guest —
Daughters of cultured Europe, deigning her day to grace —
Children of antique Asia — Africa’s dusky race —
America’s mighty offspring — and they of Australia’s line —
And they of the Thousands Islands set where Pacific waters shine.
Oh, never a Roman triumph, nor court of mightiest Suzerain
Hath gathered such as have sailed to her. Nor gifts like to theirs have lain
At the feet of Wisdom’s favoured one — when the Princes came from far,
And the swarthy Queen to the Great Sea steered by the light of the still pole star.

II.

Welcome, O fair five Sisters unto your Sister’s side !
Greet we this day together them who come from far and wide.

Come ye, aflame with jewels, and each with veilèd face
Whence bright eyes beam upon us like stars from cloud-swept space,
We wonder o’er the labours your slender hands have done
In ancient Asian cities, brown daughters of the sun !

And thou who once wast Pharoah’s, and thou whose palm-thatched kraals
For centuries made marvel of bold De Gama’s sails,
And all that dwell betwixt you, whate’er your race and name,
Who seek our shores in kindness, we thank you that you came.

And them who claim the treasures erewhile Pizarro’s prize.
And her who crowned Braganza, the worthy and the wise,
And Canada we welcome, the loyal and the free,
And thee, O great republic, with rule from sea to sea,
Who bravedst for our lost ones the fatal frozen main,
Thou who hast fed our famished and wept above our slain.

Fair France, we greet thee fondly as our Crusader sires
Thy knightly sons saluted by Acre’s stubborn spires !
O brave in war! none brighter in peaceful arts doth shine !
Arachne’s fairy fingers are not more deft than thine !

And ye, the Goth’s twin-daughters, of stately mien and speech,
Spain and her queenly neighbour, a loving hand to each !
Long may thy sons be worthy the Cid’s illustrious name;
And thine another Lusiad write on the rolls of fame !

Italia ! as we greet thee, our hearts are all aglow.
What centuries of glory thou knowest and shalt know !
Thine are the Roman eagles, the lilies Florentine,
The sea-wed city’s lion, the Church’s Conquering Sign !

And Greece, we do thee reverence, who on Olympian seat
Art goddess yet ; earth’s greatest but learners at thy feet!

Now gladly we receive thee, within unguarded gate,
O upward-toiling Russia — whose lamp, though lit but late,
Already cheered thy children. What berg-blocked sea is thine !
God grant thee open water beyond its Arctic line !

And welcome here, Helvetia — from heights where peace abides
Beyond the wreck-strewn floodmark of battle’s crimson tides:
Thou pliest, busy-fingered, each harmless handicraft,
Yet, ready in thy quiver there rests the patriot shaft.

And ye whom frugal Flanders has dowered with all her store —
Her old cathedral cities, her freedom won of yore —
When by the hands that raised them, her dykes asunder torn,
Swift poured the burghers’ vengeance for Egmont and for Horn.
And thou whose peerless Princess, pure as thy Baltic foam,
Is dear in ancient Windsor as in her Danish home —
(For where thy raven reached not, thy dove hath found her rest,
And in the heart of England hath made herself a nest !)
Thou, dweller by the Danube — thou, keeper of the Rhine ;
Thou, blue-eyed Scandinavia, with fragrant crown of pine ;
All — all who followed Odin, the leader and the priest,
From bondage and from darkness in some forgotten East,
And tilled the trackless forest, and tamed the wild North Sea,
Account us as your kindred — for kin, in truth, are we !

And now to her we hasten, with daughterly embrace,
To whom young isles do homage, and empires old give place,
And every zone pays tribute of wealth, and earth, and wave,
The refuge of the alien, the champion of the slave !
On triple throne unshaken as adamantine wall,
Long may’st thou sit, Britannia, dear mother of us all !

III.

Mighty ones, who have hither borne your trophies manifold,
We honour them who have earned you these, as we honour your great of old,
Every worker with brain or hand — the artist — the artisan,
Whether he ride at an army’s head, or march in the nameless van.
For bright is the ruddy shield of Mars, and sweet is the Sungod’s lyre ;
But Labour beareth the world aloft on shoulders that will not tire.

IV.

Thou, who givest the eye to see, and the ready hand to do,
And a nation’s place in the earth’s fair space, give us Thy blessing, too !
We hear the cool Antarctic winds in the golden wheatfields pipe,
And the chant the swart Kanaka sings where the rustling cane grows ripe —
And we ask of Thee, who hast dowered our land with the kindly sun and soil
Which fill with fruitage of farthest climes the hopeful hands of toil,
That ever in love we may nurture, too, the people which dwelt apart,
When they seek new life from our Younger World and a home within her heart.
And if, perchance, from the eaves of peace and the sheltering olive bough,
Our sons shall sail to a stormy sea and the shock of the mail-clad prow,
May they show that not in vain they have borne the stress of the tropic day,
Or lain, toil-spent, in the miner’s tent, or made in the wilds a way.

Australasian,” 2nd October, 1880.



Source:
Mary Hannay Foott. Morna Lee and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1890, pages 24-28

Previously published in:
Mary Hannay Foott. Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1885

Speak Your Mind

*