The Australian Empire [poem by Marcus Clarke, 2 May 1876]

[Editor: A poem by Marcus Clarke. Published in The Narracoorte Herald, 2 May 1876. Previously published in The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 22 April 1876.]

The Australian Empire.

The subjoined address, which was composed by Mr. Marcus Clark, was delivered at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, in connection with the eight hours’ celebration, on the evening of April 21:—

The English air is fresh and fair;
The Irish fields are green,
The bright light gleams o’er Scotland’s streams
And glows her hills between.
The hawthorn is in blossom,
And birds from every bough
Make musical the dewy spring,
In April England now.

Our April bears no blossoms,
No promises of spring,
Her gifts are rain and storm and stain,
And surges lash and swing.
No budded wreath doth she bequeath,
Her tempests toss the trees,
No balmy gales, but shivered sails,
And desolated seas.

Yet still we love our April,
For it aids us to bequeath
A gift more fair than blossoms rare,
More sweet than budded wreath.
Our children’s tend’rest memories
’Round Austral April grow;
’Twas the month we won their freedom, boys!
Just twenty years ago.

Though Scotland has her forests,
Though Erin has her vales,
Though plentiful the harvest
In England’s sunny dales;
Yet foul amidst the fairness
The factory chimneys smoke,
And the murmurs of the many
In their burdened bosoms choke.

We hear the children’s voices
Mid the rattle of the looms,
Crying “Wherefore shut God’s heaven
All your golden afternoons?”
Though here the English April
Nor song nor sun imparts,
Its spring is on our children’s lips,
Its summer in their hearts!

We’ve left the land that bore us,
Its castles and its shrines;
We’ve changed the cornfields and the rye
For the olives and the vines.
Yet still we have our castles,
Yet still we bow the knee;
We each enshrine a saint divine,
And her name is Liberty!

Liberty! name of warning!
Did ye feel your pulses beat?
As ye marching, moved this morning
All adown the cheering street?
In your federated freedom,
In your manliness allied,
While the badges of your labour
Were the banners of your pride —

Did your fancies speak prophetic
Of a larger league than this?
With higher aims and nobler claims
To grasp the good we miss!
When in freer federation
In a future yet to be,
Australia stands a nation
From the centre to the sea!

Cheer for Australia, comrades,
And cheer for England, too;
Who loves them both will not be loth
To give each land its due.
So cheer for England, comrades —
Our fathers loved the soil —
And the grandeur of her greatness
Is the measure of their toil.

But never let our sons forget,
Till mem’ry’s self be dead
If England gave us birth, my lads,
Australia gave us bread!
Then cheer for Young Australia,
The Empire of the Free,
Where yet a greater Britain
The Southern Cross shall see.
We’ll not forget, nor yet regret,
The land from whence we’ve flown;
But Britain was our fathers’ land —
Australia is our own, my friends,
Australia is our own!

The Narracoorte Herald (Narracoorte, SA), 2 May 1876, p. 4

Also published, under a variety of titles, in:
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 22 April 1876, p. 8 [no title given; published under the heading “The demonstration at the Theatre Royal.”]
The Kapunda Herald and Northern Intelligencer (Kapunda, SA), 9 May 1876, p. 4 [title: “The Australian Empire.”]
The Bendigo Advertiser (Sandhurst [Bendigo], Vic.), 20 April 1889, p. 5 [title: “Eight Hours Anniversary.”]
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 27 July 1899, p. 6 [title: “An Australian Paean.”]
The Kalgoorlie Miner (Kalgoorlie, WA), 12 August 1899, p. 7 [title: “Federated Australia.”]
The Kalgoorlie Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA), 17 August 1899, p. 29 [title: “Federated Australia.”]
The Swan Express (Midland Junction, WA), 8 December 1900, p. 3 [title: “’Labor & Federation.”]
The Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.), 29 December 1900, p. 11 [title: “An Australian Paean.”]
The Advocate (Burnie, Tas.), 18 March 1946, p. 6 [title: “England and Australia.”]
The Advocate (Burnie, Tas.), 17 February 1947, p. 8 [title: “England and Australia.”]

Editor’s notes:
According to the The Bendigo Advertiser, of 20 April 1889, the poem was “written by the late Marcus Clarke for the celebration of the 20th anniversary, of the Eight Hours’ Movement, and spoken by Mr. Alfred Dampier on the stage of the Theatre Royal, 20th April, 1876”.

Austral = of or relating to Australia or Australasia; Australian, Australasian; an abbreviation of Australia, Australian, Australasia, Australasian; in a wider context, of or relating to the southern hemisphere; southern, especially a southern wind

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

loth = reluctant or unwilling; a variant spelling of “loath” (as distinct from “loathe”, being to detest or hate)

Old spelling in the original text:
doth (does)
ye (you)

[Editor: Corrected “childrens’ voices” to “children’s voices”.]

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