Poetic talent of the Aborigines of Australia [songs, 3 March 1848]

[Editor: An article which includes some songs of the Australian Aborigines. Published in The Geelong Advertiser, 3 March 1848.]

Poetic talent of the Aborigines of Australia.

As I have, after some years’ inauguration, acquired sufficient knowledge of some of the dialects of the Australian natives of the Geelong District, to understand the import of their songs of war and love, I have translated a few, as samples of their genius, and to prove that poetry is the spontaneous child of nature, which flourishes and grows, amid the beautiful ranges in the wild woods. As it would edify few to write them in the original language, I shall present the translation. Their war songs are sung by an approved chief at the corroboree.

War Song.

Gather ’round me, my young men
Numerous as the trees of our land;
Your arms are strong for the fight,
When you send forth the quivering spear,
Our fierce foes gnaw the trampled dust.
See at dark midnight they come!
See! their jealous eyes look fire through the gloom.

Gather round me, my strong men;
Your breasts are hard as the flints of our tomahawks;
You wave your shields like the fire of the clouds,
Which comes from the spirits of our dead,
Calling you on to the fight.
See at dark midnight they come!
See! their jealous eyes look fierce through the gloom.

Gather round me, my fighting men; —
You fly like the swift-footed emu —
Pursue the far-come foe.
They may bound like the kangaroo,
You will quiet them with your spear of death
See at dark midnight they come!
See their eyes of fire through the gloom.


War Song.

Come to the war dance to-night,
Streak your face and your breast with white;
Beat, beat the hard-wood with a clang;
Move forth while your foes fly before,
Then you’ll paint your spears with their gore —
Come, come to the war dance to-night.

To-morrow’s sun will see you again
On your war path o’er the wide plain,
Where your cane spears like locusts will fly,
And the foes, fighting fierce, will cry;
But pierce not the shades of these braves,
For the spirits of their dead from their graves
Stand by them in the deadly fight;
Come, come to the war dance to-night.


The following effusion is descriptive of the feelings of a Barrabool native girl, who was attached to a youth, but was given in marriage to an old chief of another tribe.

Now you leave me, you forsake me;
We have walked in the moonlight,
But you go never to return.
You have shewed me the dew on the leaves,
You have said it shone like my eyes,
You were my only beloved;
Another you love has seen your spirit,
But I have taken it from her.
Your hair shines like the green leaves,
Your eyes are like moonlight,
More soft than the men of our tribe.
Now you leave me, you forsake me,
You go, never to return.


A Wife’s Lament for Her Husband Who Was Killed

Why is my dwelling lonely?
My fire burns low before me;
Where is my warrior brave?
They pierced him with their poisoned spears
And the light of my life lies low.
Wail him, brothers in fight;
Wail! for my beloved lies low,

He could walk strong as the trees
That are not moved by the breeze,
The bright-eyed light of my life
My name is “The Tearful,” not wife;
His spirit will walk long that spot,
Where my brave so valiantly fought.
Wail! for my beloved lies low.

Our babe will yet be a man,
And he’ll sharpen his spears for the fight,
And before many summers are gone,
He’ll steal on the murderer at night,
And they’ll weep in the camp of the slain,
And they’ll mourn until the moon’s wane:
But my brave, my beloved lies low.

The Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic.), 3 March 1848, p. 1

[Editor: Corrected “corroboreee” to “corroboree”; “gnaw the the” to “gnaw the”.]

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