Slavery in Australia [poem, 17 August 1871]

[Editor: A poem written against the practice of “blackbirding” in Australia. Published in The Newcastle Chronicle, 17 August 1871.]

Slavery in Australia.

There is a plant, a deadly plant,
Now springing ’neath our skies;
Oh, pluck it forth, for where it grows,
There freedom, bleeding dies!

Let not this sunny, golden land
Be curs’d by slavery’s Upas shade:
Australia must and shall be free,
In every leaf and every blade.

Have we no lesson in the past,
Of horrors ne’er to be forgotten?
Of tears, and prayers, and human blood,
Which branded every bale of cotton?

Then take this plant, and cast it forth,
Before its seed waft o’er the land,
Springing in crop the deathless curse
Of slavery’s cruel, bloody hand!

A. B.

The Newcastle Chronicle (Newcastle, NSW), 17 August 1871, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

upas = the upas tree (Antiaris toxicaria), a tree found in tropical regions (including in Africa, Asia, Australia, and various tropical islands); the latex of the upas tree is known for its poisonous properties (“upas” means “poison” in Javanese); the term “upas” has been used in poems and prose as an allusion to poison

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