[Editor: This foreword by L. F. Giblin was published in Gumtops (1935).]
Some individuality of character and habit have developed in Australia in the last 150 years, and the face of nature has always had an unique distinction. But this individuality and distinction are not at all adequately on record in letters or any other art. It is a common experience to feel that “this” wants painting or putting into words, and to know that it has not been done. Our reactions to these things are vague and feeble, because the appropriate language which would define and strengthen them is not ready to our hand. We have neither time nor capacity to hammer it out for ourselves: that is the work of the expert, the poet.
The contrast with the older countries is very marked. In England, of nature and man the record is so adequate as to raise the familiar doubt as to which came first. The English rustic is shaped in the tradition of Shakespeare and Hardy; rain-clouds on the southern hills have obviously read their Meredith; beeches and wych-elms know all there is to know of Gothic architecture; and the poplars round Cambridge raise their heads in conscious rivalry with King’s College Chapel. Be this as it may, the English heritage is the richer, because we’re made so that we love the familiar things first when we see them painted or put into words.
Our Australian poverty is in striking contrast, and enrichment must be slow and laborious. The problem of even naming the common birds and beasts, trees and flowers, needs the inspiration of a new Adam. Our fathers, in despair at their strange surroundings, and clutching at some pathetic shred of similarity to familiar things, peopled the bush with a dozen different oaks, ashes, myrtles, pears, cherries. A true story is impossible in these terms.
Australian poets have a long, hard journey before them, though the goal is worth the striving. We still need pioneers. They must forget all they have learned of the poetry of other lands; shut their ears to all the familiar, captivating echoes, and try to give us their first-hand, direct reaction to nature and man as they find them in Australia. The results may be crude, a little ungainly, uncouth in language; they will certainly win no easy acceptance. Such pioneers may in the end do little more than break track for happier successors. It may only be from the ashes of these Sordellos that our Dante will arise.
The young poet of this slender volume is, I think, on the right track. He has had unusual opportunities for making contact with some of the most distinctive aspects of nature and man in Australia. He seems to me to have an individual outlook and a capacity to see interest and beauty in unlikely places; and to have tried to set his vision down with scrupulous honesty. I do not suggest that he has always completely succeeded. This devil of the second-hand is not cast out save with prayer and fasting. But even so far as he has succeeded, the question remains whether the results are valid for others. Do we others catch a new interest and beauty in his verse? Does he give form to our vague emotional gleanings from experience or imagination, and stamp them on as the current coin of beauty? For myself the answer is yes. I find a good measure of achievement in this little volume, and promise of better and stronger work to follow. It is for you, judicious and sympathetic reader, to give the effective verdict.
L. F. Giblin.
Rex Ingamells. Gumtops, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1935, pages ix-x
Dante = Durante degli Alighieri (circa 1265 – 1321), known as Dante, was an Italian poet (best known for his epic poem “Divine Comedy”)
Sordello = Sordello da Goito was a Italian poet, born in Lombardy in the early 1200s
[Editor: Corrected “contact wtih” to “contact with”.]