[Editor: This poem by Silas Lister was published in The Register, 7 September 1915.]
A Wattle Day Contrast.
[By Silas Lister.]
Never yet had Wattle Day
Half such depth and splendour!
And never held a wattle spray
Meaning quite so tender!
Dear Symbol — ever dearer be
In our national-story,
Flower of love and memory,
Voice of hope and glory!
Other years, on Wattle Day,
You and I together
Have roamed the happy hours away,
Careless of the weather.
To-day, about a saddened world,
The heavy war-clouds gloom;
Across the promise of the Spring
Their drifting shadows loom.
Other years — what dreams were ours,
God’s dear sunshine o’er us;
The greening hillsides glad with flow’rs,
Long bright years before us.
To-day — though, lone a little while
I walk in fear’s Valley —
The dear remembrance of your smile
Bids my spirit rally.
Other years, though weary drought
Had burnt the hillsides bare,
The wattle flung her banners out
And shed her fragrance there.
To-day, the magic of the rain
With green the hills has drest,
The wattle scents the air again
And flaunts her golden crest!
Other years, the wattle sang
Songs for careless rovers;
Sweet madrigal of youth and joy
Dear to happy lovers.
To-day upon a deeper note
The wattle-song comes plain,
“Hold fast to faith and courage still,
And Joy shall come again.”
So, to-day, on Wattle Day —
Still with hearts together
We’ll pass the long, deep hours away,
Careless of the weather!
I, safe where home’s dear hills and fells,
Greet the glorious Spring.
You, there besides the Dardanelles,
Still fighting for the King!
Wear a golden wattle spray
Every loyal heart,
And wear a purple band to-day —
That they may have their part!
The boys, who lie in narrow graves
Across the sea — asleep,
And those, who, fighting dauntless still,
The Empire’s honour keep!
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 7 September 1915, p. 9
Dardanelles = (also known as the Strait of Gallipoli) the strait which connects the Sea of Marmara (north-west end of the strait) with the Aegean Sea (south-east end of the strait), the latter of which connects to the Mediterranean sea; it is bounded on its northern side by the Gallipoli peninsula and on its southern side by the mainland of Turkey; it is considered to be part of the continental boundary between Asia and Europe (thus separating Asian Turkey from European Turkey); it was the site of a military campaign during the First World War, when the Allied powers attacked the Gallipoli peninsula (part of Turkey) in 1915
drest = an archaic form of the word “dressed”
fell = a high barren field, upland moor, hill, or mountain (can also mean: to fall or bring down; hide, pelt or skin; bad, cruel, destructive, fierce or sinister, as in “one fell swoop”)
flow’r = (vernacular) flower
madrigal = a lyrical poem which was set to music (or which was suitable to set to music), or a non-religious part song without instrumental accompaniment (madrigals were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries); or any part song
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
purple band = a purple band indicated mourning for military personnel who died in wartime; in Victorian times, black clothing was worn for a year or so after a loved one’s death to indicate mourning, then dark green or purple (often trimmed with black) was worn for a suitable period
See: 1) “For woman’s eye”, The Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1915 – 1927), 19 February 1915, p. 4
2) “Breaking the News”, The Western Mail (Perth, WA), 8 December 1916, p. 22
3) “The cross in the window”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 5 June 1918, p. 6
4) “Honors for our heroes”, The Port Pirie Recorder (Port Pirie, SA), 7 June 1918, p. 2
5) “Sign of the cross”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 7 June 1918, p. 6
6) “Frenchmen and crosses of honour”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 26 July 1918, p. 6
7) Alison Petch, “Funeral and mourning clothing”, England: The Other Within: Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum (accessed 3 September 2013) [re. purple bands worn in Victorian times]