[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Foott.]
An Epic For Young Australians.
’Twas brave De Quiros bent the knee before the King of Spain,
And “Sire,” he said, “I bring thy ships in safety home again —
From seas unsailed of mariner in all the days of yore —
Where reefs and islets, insect-built, arise from ocean’s floor.
And, Sire, the Land we sought is found — its coasts lay full in view
When homeward-bound, perforce, I sailed at the bidding of my crew.
Terra Australis called I it; and linked there with the Name
Of Him Who guideth, as of old, in cloud and starry flame.
And grant me ships again,” he said, “and southward let me go, —
A new Peru may wait thee there — another Mexico.”
A threadbare suitor — year by year — “There is a land” — said he ;
While King and Court grew weary of this old man of the sea ;
For there were heretics to burn, and Holland to subdue,
And England to be humbled — (which this day remains to do).
O Land he named — but never saw — his memory revere ! —
The gallant disappointed heart — let him be honoured here !
Meanwhile the hardy Dutchmen came, — as ancient charts attest, —
Hartog, and Nuyts, and Carpenter, and Tasman and the rest :
But found not forests rich in spice nor market for their wares,
Nor servile tribes to toil o’ertasked ’mid pestilential airs ;
And deemed it scarce worth while to claim so poor a continent
But with their slumberous tropic isles thence- forward were content.
And then came Dampier; who, erewhile, upon the Spanish Main
For silver-laden galleons lurked and great was his disdain.
Good ships, beside, from France were sent — good ships and gallant crews —
With Marion, and D’Entrecasteaux, and the far-famed La Perouse.
And still, of all who sought or saw, the voyages were vain, —
Australia ne’er was farm for boers nor mission-field for Spain ;
Nor fleur-de-lys nor tricolor was ever planted here ;
And Britain’s flag to hoist was not for hands of buccaneer.
But to our lovely eastern coast — led by auspicious stars —
Came Cook in the Endeavour — with his little band of tars —
Who straight on shores of Botany old England’s ensign reared,
With mighty din of musketry and noise of them that cheered.
And none of all his noble fleets who sixty years was king
A price so goodly ever brought as that small ship did bring !
And who was he — the first to find Australia passing fair ? —
One who aforetime well had served his country otherwhere ;
Who to the Heights of Abraham up the swift St. Lawrence led,
When on the moonless battle-eve the midnight oarsmen sped.
No worthier captain British deck before or since hath trod —
He “never feared the face of man,” but feared alway his God.
His crew he cherished tenderly ; and kept hit honour bright,
For with the helpless blacks he dealt as if they had been white.
A boy, erewhile, of lowly birth ; self-taught, a poor man’s son —
Yet a hero and a gentleman, if ever there was one ! —
And, when, at last, by savage hands, on wild Owyhee slain —
He left a deathless memory — a name without a stain !
’Tis but a hundred years ago — as nearly as may be —
Since good King George’s vessel first anchored in Botany.
A hundred years ! — Yet, oh, how many changes there have been ! —
Unclasp thy volume, History, and say what thou hast seen.
“Old England and her Colonies stand face to face as foes —
And now their orators inveigh — and now their armies close.
In vain — our Mother-Land — for once thy sword is drawn in vain —
Allies and enemies alike, thy children are the slain.
Though, save as victor, never ’twas thy wont to quit the field,
Relenting fills thy valiant heart and thou art fain to yield.”
Ah, well for loss of those fair States might King and Commons mourn ! —
There lay, in sooth, a goodly bough from Eng- land’s rose-tree torn!—
But now — how deep its roots have struck — how stately stands the stem —
How lovely on its branches leaf and flower and dewy gem ! —
New life from that sore severance to our sister-scion came —
God speed thee, Young America, we glory in thy fame
“The storm that shook the Western World now eastward breaks anew —
And, oh, how black the tempest is which blotteth out the blue ! —
And over thee, ill-fortuned France, what floods resistless roll —
A tidal wave of blood no pitying planet may control ! —
“Like Samson — toiling, blind, and bound — to furnish food for those
Who light withheld and liberty — and mocked at all his woes —
So have thy people held their peace — so laboured — so have borne
The burthen serfdom ever bears — the sorrow and the scorn.
But as with groping giant-hands he wised the pillars twain
And made Philistia’s land one house of mourning for the slain —
So rise they, frenzied, at the last with centuries of wrong,
And wreak a vengeance dreadful as their sufferings have been long.
The vile Bastille is overthrown — the Monarchy lies low —
The fetters of the Feudal Age are broken at a blow !
“Of Poland parted for a prey, dire Nemesis shall tell
When o’er the dead in Cracow’s vault shall ring Oppression’s knell !
“Now Erin from her sister-Isle awhile was fain to part,
For Strongbow’s arrow rankled long within her wounded heart ;
And long by desecrated fane and fireless hearth she wailed,
Where brutal Ireton’s Herod-host their murderous pikes had trailed.
Here shine the names she holdeth dear : and prize them well she may —
Past soldiers of a Frankish Prince, or peers of Castlereagh ;—
The gifted ones who pled for her ’gainst bigotry and pride —
The gallant ones who died for her when young Fitzgerald died !” —
Enough, enough, — forbear to trace the record of the Age —
Where elder nations are inscribed — through each distressful page.
But hearken how — for once, at least — without an army’s aid —
A People’s lines — the lines of Her who holds the South — were laid !
Five thousand leagues of ocean ’twixt the old home and the new ;
And lodging strait and scanty fare the weary voyage through ;
And toil and hardship safely past — and crossed the perilous main —
Never to tread on English ground ’mid English friends again !
Yet men were found to dare it all — men, ay, and women too —
(Not only those exiled perforce — who ofttimes rose anew —
Outcast upon new earth — with hope, and heart, and vigour given
By fresh surroundings ; and His grace Who bids the lost to Heaven —)
The brave, the fair, the gently-born — and Labour’s life-long thrall —
Within those circling seas of ours there was a place for all.
For patient hands the woods to fell — the new- formed fields to till —
The huts to build — the scanty flocks and herds to guard from ill.
For bolder spirits — to forsake the sea-board settlement
And learn the secret of the Land where never white man went —
Through mountain-pass, and forest dark, and wide unsheltered plain —
Through fiery heat of summer, and through frost, and flood, and rain —
Unheeding thirst, or hunger, or the shower of savage spears —
What soldiers e’er were braver than Australian pioneers ?
What though it was by axe and plough and miner’s oft-edged tool —
And tending sheep and kine through weary years — of hardship full —
The only victories we boast were by our fathers won ? —
The men who won them had prevailed where feats of arms were done !
Three generations born of her our Country now can tell, —
And son and sire and grandsire all in turn have served her well :
Not only with the sinewy arm, the hardened hand of toil —
That wrest their wealth from rifted rock and forest-cumbered soil —
By love of order and of law ; by proffered boon to all
Of learning — in the township school and in the college hall ;
By liberal leisure, well-bestowed, for sports of land and wave ;
And by the Faith preserved to us God to the Elders gave !
And now Britannia’s household send her greetings — from beside
The icy streams of Canada — and islands scattered wide
Betwixt the two Americas — from Africa’s sea-marge —
And where the race of Aurungzebe held empire rich and large —
And where amid New Zealand fern the English skylarks build,
And rosy children’s sun-burnt hands with English flowers are filled —
And from our own Australia too — and unite to say :
“Bind us to thee with stronger bonds than those we own to-day —
Give to our sons a place with thine — for each to each is peer —
And let them share thy councils, and the dangers that endear —
And what the olden Realm has been the newer Realm shall be —
With a place in every freeman’s heart and a port in every sea !”
Mary H. Foott.
Dundoo, Queensland, December, 1884.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 20 December 1884, page 16 of the Christmas supplement
Aurungzebe = Abul Muzaffar Muhi u’d-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707), commonly known as Aurangzeb, was the sixth Mughal Emperor, who ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent during his reign of 1658 – 1707
kine = cattle
sea-marge = land which borders on the sea; the seashore
[Editor: Corrected “beors” to “boers”.]
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