Dutton’s Grave [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

Dutton’s Grave

A whaling-station was established at Portland, Victoria, by Captain William Dutton, in 1828, years before either the Hentys or John Pascoe Fawkner crossed over from Tasmania. Dutton was the first native-born Australian to navigate a vessel from this country to the Thames. His grave lies neglected at Narrawong, on the shores of Portland Bay.

Who sings of Drake and Devon, of battle-drums of Spain ;
Of ships they sank in warfare upon the Spanish Main?
Well-woven are their ballads of Captains Gone Below —
The strong corsairs of England, who sailed from Plymouth Hoe !
Proud-chanted songs of Raleigh, whose cloak the Virgin Queen
Trod underfoot in ancient days when swords had edge and sheen !
In songs right-brave and royal Drake’s blades and banners wave ;
Where is Our Hero’s anthems — the Psalm of Dutton’s Grave ?

For Drake wreathe bays and laurel — yea, all the pirate crew
Who followed Drake
For England’s sake
Through all the storms that blew !
Give unto all his Captains their meed of singers’ praise,
Who chased the Don
In years agone
By all the western cays !
Be proud of these O Britain, if still thy strength remain —
Thou owest them
Thy diadem
Upon the Spanish Main !
Here also rings an anthem — one storm-song of the brave ;
Caught from the surge
On ocean’s verge,
It booms o’er Dutton’s Grave !

We have our Captains, England — sails of the native-born
Topped rolling seas when towards the Thames they cleared the frozen Horn.
We have our Sons Courageous — thy last sea buccaneer
Perchance may come from ’neath the Cross when ships for action clear !
When drums of Drake no longer have power to stir thy heart,
Perchance this Land’s armadas shall guard thy ocean-mart !
Drake sank with flashing sword-edge, last pillowed ’neath the wave ;
I hear the croon of cordage o’er this storm-hallowed grave !

He sleeps beside the Harbour — our Sea-Gate of the South ;
This pioneer
Who was a seer,
And spake with bearded mouth !
He said : “Let men come after — my whaling days are done ;
Yet shall this Bay
Hold seaward sway,
And hear the nooning gun !
Then shall its ships go bravely” — Alas ! few think of thee,
Who found this gate
In ’28 —
Thou sleeper by the Sea !
From far Antarctic spaces, winds raking cliff and cave,
By ocean’s hem
Sing requiem
O’er Captain Button’s Grave !

These are the years, O England, when prudent Commerce steers ;
Thine Empire’s given over to fat land-buccaneers !
The Brave Man rules no longer — the Brakes and Duttons all
Must yield their dreams of glory when sceptred traders call !
Strange are thine Empire’s masters — in Britain and the South,
Greed’s talons long and hungry have stopped the statesman’s mouth !
Thou hadst thy Sons Courageous — behold ! in last conclave
Thine hucksters sit triumphant, and mock the hero’s grave !

Yet . . . Songs of Drake and Devon, of battle drums of Spain ;
Of ships that sank,
In battle-rank
May stir thy soul again !
So weave thrice-splendid ballads of Captains Gone Below —
The old corsairs
Whose ocean-lairs
Lie far from Plymouth Hoe !
Then chant good songs of Raleigh, and of the Virgin Queen ;
Brave men long mute —
They won the loot,
Their swords were long and keen !
In songs thrice brave and royal, let Drake’s red banners wave;
Here in this Land
SOME understand,
The tale of Button’s Grave !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 134-138

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