Brisbane, thou art a city of the sun,
A forest queen, a sea-nymph, joined in one!
Here Summer loves to spin her lengthened rule,
While Winter’s care is but the earth to cool;
Here golden wealth, from many a distant plain,
Is piled in ships, to swim the billowy main —
Here Commerce floods the tides, and minions toil
To prove the measure of her mounting spoil!
How often, perched above the hilly bounds
That wrap thee as a nest its brood surrounds,
Wooing the wind that bears the ocean’s breath,
And many a tale to such as listeneth —
How often have I lovingly surveyed
The scene before my wondering gaze displayed —
The lengthening spires, that point the lofty way
While yet the soul is idling in its clay;
The spacious pile that lifts its stately head;
The winding river, to its lover wed;
The hills that rise above to kiss the sky;
The valleys that within their shadows lie;
The shipping crowding on the silver stream;
The living threads that through the mazes teem!
And when soft Night, in sable vestment gown’d,
Has wrapped her stole thy tranquil form around,
’Tis then, in panoramic splendour viewed,
Thou’d be by fond Imagination wooed;
For then, fair Brisbane, when thy fading bowers,
Tipped with their beacons, turn to fairy towers,
Thy beauty scorns the bounds of words, for dumb
Are these, and ’neath the burden soon succumb!
Now myriad lamps, upon its margin’s crest,
With gleaming pennons light the river’s breast;
And where the city’s constellation lies
The glimmering haze ascends to gild the skies.
The villas blazing on the craggy hills
Augment the golden flood the night that fills;
The bridge displays, above the Garden Bend,
Its fiery lines, that in the cluster blend.
And, interspersed among the spangled sheen,
Looks out in differing shades the darkened green —
A background whereupon, in outline bold,
Stands the rich mintage, silver mixed with gold.
Now sound (for Night has giv’n the magic key)
The pregnant chords of heavenly harmony;
And softly floats across, in mingling rhyme,
The mellowing cadence of the pealing chime —
Such tones as wake the soul’s celestial lyre
When pensive memories the theme inspire;
And, each with each in concord blending true,
With holy rapture flood the heart anew.
Ah, was it but a century ago
When thou did’st in the womb of earth lie low,
And yet unborn to bear the shame of men,
And, rising, throw the burden off again? —
When down the hollow gale, that trembling fled,
At dusk and dawn, the wailing for the dead
In eerie numbers woke the echoes weird,
Till, floating down the vale, it disappeared?
And was it where those stately buildings stand,
Where lofty Art displays her lavish hand,
That plenteous game before the huntsmen sped?
Or down the maze the dusky dancer led?
That round the turrwan, with his magic stone,
The sick revived by simple faith alone;
Or, failing this, full-toothsome morsels made
To tempt their brothers to the festal shade?
Ah, yes, those primal scenes, with plenty crown’d,
Made all the wooded valley hallowed ground,
Till came the time — ill-omened, true, for them —
When, first by truce and then by stratagem,
The settlement unfolded in the vale,
’Neath Logan’s iron rule to fret and quail!
What curses now the trembling wretches spend
As ’neath the blows their bleeding bodies bend —
As, shackled to the rude triangle’s lines,
The gory flood th’ adjoining ground defines!
I seem to hear again the clanking chain,
The creaking treadmill grinding small the grain;
And see the convict turn the stubborn clod,
Or, ’neath the pine, the sluggard bear the rod.
But why dilate? Those cruel days are done:
Time’s ceaseless round has blotted every one:
A fairer scene now meets the favoured eye —
Thou, smiling city, ’neath my gaze dost lie.
What though land-hungry Gipps thought passing fit
To cripple where he lacked improving wit!
Among the first of Austral fair will stand
The one disfigured by his vandal hand!
And while the ages roll their waning round,
Till earth’s but mortal mould the shades confound,
May Plenty’s best thine every call attend,
And smiling Peace her priceless treasure lend!
May noble sons thy benison e’er bless,
And daughters fair thy tender claims confess;
And thus may every tongue conspire to name
Thee and thine offspring heirs to Honour’s fame!
William Blocksidge, Songs o’ the South, London: Watts, 1908, pp. 60-62
art = (archaic) are
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
bound = boundary or limit, especially of an area (usually used as a plural, “bounds”: boundaries, limits); the boundary of a country, province, state, territory, field, estate; a line or area which is a boundary or forms a boundary; something which confines, limits, or restrains (e.g. the bounds of morality)
bower = a shaded, leafy resting place or shelter, usually located within a garden or park and often made of latticework upon which plants (especially vines) are grown, or made out of intertwined tree boughs or vines (also known as an “arbor”) (“bower” may also refer to a country cottage or retreat, or to a woman’s bedroom or apartments in a medieval castle or mansion)
concord = accord, agreement, harmony, unanimity; amity, peace; a treaty
crown’d = (vernacular) crowned (to wear a crown; to place a crown on someone’s head; something located or placed on the top of something else, e.g. a castle that crowned a hill)
did’st = (archaic) did (second-person singular past tense of “do”); commonly used in conjunction with “thou” (e.g. “Whence didst thou come?”)
dost = (archaic) do
e’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “ever”
festal = of, relating to, or characteristic of, a festival, feast, or celebration; festive
Garden Bend = a bend in the Brisbane River (Queensland), also known as the Botanic Garden Bend (or Botanic Gardens Bend)
See: “The Queensland flood: Plan of Brisbane”, The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 February 1893, p. 264
gild = to cover something with a thin layer of gold, gold leaf, or a gold-coloured substance, or to make something look that way (an archaic meaning is to make something bloody or red)
Gipps = Sir George Gipps (1791-1847), English soldier and Governor of New South Wales (1838-1846)
giv’n = (vernacular) a contraction of “given”
gown’d = (vernacular) gowned (dressed in a gown; to dress someone in a gown)
listeneth = (archaic) listen
Logan = Patrick Logan (1791-1830), military officer and explorer; born in Scotland, joined the British Army, came to Australia in 1825 with the 57th regiment, put in command of the convict settlement at Moreton Bay in 1826, explored areas in Queensland, killed by Aborigines in 1870
lyre = a stringed musical instrument, similar to a small harp, although with a U-shaped frame with strings attached to a crossbar (especially known for its use in ancient Greece)
main = the high sea, the open ocean
mintage = coins, minted money; the act or process of minting coins; a fee charged for minting coins; the design imprinted or impressed on a coin; the output of a particular mint, coins made during a particular period, a batch of coins minted at a particular time
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
nymph = in Greek and Roman mythology, nymphs were young beautiful nubile women, with a propensity to dance, sing, and frolic; they were a class of deity who were not immortal but had very long lives; the dwelling places of most nymphs were generally depicted as being forests, groves, and mountains, and in or nearby lakes, springs, and streams, although there were also sea nymphs
pennon = pennant; a thin flag, made in an elongated tapering triangular shape, sometimes ending with a forked tail or swallowtail, commonly attached to the sharp end of a lance or spear, or to the top of a helmet, as an ensign, or flown from a boat or a ship; (archaic) the wing of a bird
rude = primitive, raw, or rough, or in an unfinished state or natural condition (distinct from the modern usage of “rude” as someone being discourteous or ill-mannered)
sable = a colour that is black, dark, or gloomy (“sables” was an archaic term for garments worn for mourning; “sable” in heraldry refers to black); arising from the colour of dark sable fur, as taken from a sable (a furry mammal, Martes zibellina, which is primarily found in Russia and northern East Asia, and noted for its fur which has traditionally been used for clothing); in the context of the Australian Aborigines or African Negroes, a reference to their skin colour as being black
shade = ghost, phantom; disembodied spirit
sluggard = someone who is habitually idle, inactive, lazy, or sluggish; someone who avoids work or exertion
stole = a long scarf, especially one made of fur; shawl; vestment
th’ = (vernacular) the
thee = (archaic) you
thine = (archaic) your; yours
thou = (archaic) you
thou’d = (archaic) thou would (i.e. you would)
thy = (archaic) your
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
toothsome = delicious, tasty; alluring, attractive, good-looking (especially sexually attractive); showing a lot of teeth, toothy
triangle = a whipping triangle (also known as a flogging triangle or a lashing triangle), a triangular structure (commonly made of wood; the simplest of which was a tripod of wooden beams) upon which someone was placed (shackled or tied) in order to be easily or efficiently whipped (these structures were typically used in prisons to inflict corporal punishment upon convicted criminals or convicts)
See: Colin Farrell, “Judicial corporal punishment in Australia”, World Corporal Punishment Research
turrwan = (Australian Aboriginal) elder, great man, high man, leader
vale = valley