Elegy [On the Death of E. B. Kennedy] [poem, 26 June 1849]

[Editor: A poem published in The Argus, 26 June 1849.]


On the death of E. B. Kennedy, Esq., and of his ten hapless comrades, S. Bigge, J. C. Clackett, William Costigan, —— Dunn, William Goddard, A. Johnson, James Luff, C. Niblett, Edward Taylor, and T. Wall, who perished in the bush, (Mr. Kennedy speared by an Aboriginal Native, the others of exhaustion and starvation,) whilst engaged in an Exploring Expedition, which departed from Moreton Bay, with a view to the extension of location towards the Gulf of Carpentaria and Northern Coast of Australia.

Australia weep! Bewail the noble band
Of bold explorers — Kennedy their head;
Who big with noble enterprise, had planned
To open up Australia’s northern land;
But now, alas! are numbered with the dead!

Sad was their fate! how great the honor due
To those, who for their fellows ope the door —
Who, by their skill and courage, find a clue
To splendid tracts of past’ral country new;
Themselves the first of Britons to explore!

Great are their services — their valor great,
Who for their Queen and country bravely fight!
Great is their fame who benefit the State; —
Rich their reward, when they return, elate
At having driv’n her enemies to flight.

And is the merit or the glory less,
Of those, who in their country’s service fall;
Whilst pioneering, through the bush to press,
Enduring toil, and danger, and distress,
But bravely struggling to surmount them all?

Are triumphs, only when achieved by war —
By blood and death to thousands; when they cease
By victory crowned, deserving of a star!
Are not those gains more glorious by far,
Made not by conquest, but by acts of peace?

Whilst we record with pleasure, praise, and pride,
The names of Mitchell, Leichardt, Sturt, and Eyre,
Strzelecki, Grey, and Lushington, allied
With Smythe, Rowe, Bannister; all men well tried;
Who to explorers’ honest fame aspire; —

Whilst these great names, with triumph we proclaim,
As well entitled to hard-earned renown;
With deep lament must we pronounce the name
Of hapless Kennedy, bequeathed to fame;
Which we with cypress, not with laurel, crown.

Alas! poor Kennedy! thy dauntless heart,
And gallant comrades, did all men could do!
Great their desert! but since with his barbed dart
Death hath transfixed; oh, may thy better part,
Be now in Heaven, with thy companions true!

Deep our lament, and poignant is our grief,
That now are added to the fated five
Victims to enterprise, another chief
And comrades, who their toil might not survive.

Barker and Cunningham, you were the first
Amongst explorers, who returned no more!
Poole, Bryan, Gilbert, of toil, heat, and thirst,
You also perished; striving to explore
Untrodden wilds! and now are death’s sad rolls
Increased (alas! eleven more) human souls!

What truth and beauty, hath the poet’s lay —
“’Tis not in mortal to command success!”
These have done more; — by dauntless efforts they
Have such deserved! let their survivors pray
Peace to their manes, and their memory bless!

A bush explorer.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 26 June 1849, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
E. B. Kennedy = Edmund Besley Court Kennedy (1818-1848), explorer

elegy = a sad poem or song; a poem of serious reflection, especially one expressing lamentation or sorrow for the dead

esq. = esquire (a formal but unofficial title of respect, usually abbreviated as “Esq.” and placed after a man’s surname); a squire (a landed proprietor); a member of the English gentry who ranks below a knight

homo = (Latin) man, mankind, human; of or pertaining to the genus Homo (hominids) or the species Homo sapiens (modern humans)

Leichardt = Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848), explorer

ope = an archaic form of “open”

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