South of Gabo.
The young gales hatch below the Snares;
As fledglings wild, uncouth,
A fierce Antarctic dam prepares
Their flight of fear and ruth.
From icy nests on crags forlorn,
And bergs and glaciers bold,
They flutter forth, for aye to mourn
Their birthplace lorn and cold.
Full-pinioned, at the Tasman Sea,
They leave along the crests,
In shrieking, loud, witch revelry,
White feathers from their breasts.
They scream around the lonely isles
Like sad-voiced restless things
That sweep perforce the darkened miles
With strong, far-spreading wings.
From Wilson’s up to cloud-capped Howe
Their giant playground lies,
When on each spray-drenched harbor brow
The “Stand-off” signal flies.
Then South of Gabo watch and ware
The shipmen as they go;
For o’er the hummocks, whitely bare,
The cutting sand-drifts blow;
And cruel rock-knives, hidden, wait
With edges sharp as steel,
Along a coast of Evil Fate,
Each doomed shore-driven keel.
Here lie the dead ships one by one;
Out here the surges croon
The Federal to her rest-place gone,
The sunken Ly-ee-moon.
Long kelp and seaweed, through the curl
Of combers all agleam,
The floating hair of some drowned girl
In waving tresses seem.
Here, graved beneath the golden sands
And iridescent shell,
Lost sailors out of distant lands,
Unsought, are sleeping well.
But South of Gabo, when those strong
And wayward winds are done,
’Tis all a deep, harmonious song
Of Sea and Land and Sun.
The little cutters spread their wings,
From Eden to Cape Schanck.
The coaster’s rusty framework rings
The hymn of rod and crank.
The ketches, leaving in their wake
An odor of benzine,
With quick explosions noisy take
Their way across the green.
With wattle-bark and fish and maize,
From five to twenty tons,
The midget fleet goes down the bays,
And seaward, daring, runs.
With seasoned crews, of twos and threes,
To handle wheel and sheet,
Steal up and down the changing seas,
The fathers of our fleet.
Hard-fisted, lean Australians these
Who know the fickle bars,
The soundings and the mysteries
Of clouds and tides and stars.
When South of Gabo roars the brood
Of all the gales of Hell,
They — long before — for shelter stood
And anchored safe and well.
But here and there along the coast,
Sea-worn and salt with foam,
Old wreckage gives the brood to boast
Of ships that came not home.
Oh, South of Gabo — where the Heel
Of All Australia stands,
Their hearts are like the tested steel,
And iron are their hands.
And South of Gabo — where no ease
Of Capricorn they ken,
Is bred by rougher shores and seas,
A stronger race of men.
From South of Gabo yet may track
By sea-trail sternly forth,
The men who’ll hurl Invasion back,
Defeated, from the North
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 146-149
aye = always, forever
bar = a sandbar, i.e. a long narrow sandbank (a ridge of sand below the surface of the water), which has been built up by the movement of currents, especially found in coastal waters or at the mouth of a river or harbour
benzine = a clear liquid made from petroleum, used as a solvent or motor fuel, also used in cleaning, dyeing, and manufacturing
berg = an abbreviation of “iceberg”
Cape Schanck = the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula, located in Victoria (Australia)
Eden = a town located on the southern coast of New South Wales
Federal = the SS Federal, a steamship lost in a storm off Gabo Island on 21 March 1901
See: Emily Jateff, “Digitising our history: The tragedy of SS Federal”, Australian National Maritime Museum, 21 Dec 2019
Gabo = Gabo Island, an island off the eastern coast of Victoria (Australia)
Howe = Cape Howe, a headland on the coast of eastern Australia, located on the border of New South Wales and Victoria
ken = knowledge, perception, understanding (also means “know”, particularly as used in Scotland)
ketch = a small sailing boat equipped with two masts
lorn = forlorn, bereft, desolate, forsaken, lonely, deserted, abandoned, pitiful, wretched
Ly-ee-moon = the SS Ly-ee-Moon, a steamship which was wrecked on the rocks of the Green Cape Lighthouse, New South Wales (located east of Wonboyn, and north of the Victoria-NSW border) on 30 May 1886; 71 lives were lost, including the mother of Saint Mary MacKillop
See: 1) “SS Ly-Ee-Moon”, Michael McFadyen’s Scuba Diving Web Site
2) “SS Ly-ee-Moon”, Monument Australia
3) Bill Brown, “Mystery of the Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck”, ABC, 29 May 2014
maize = a cereal plant (Zea mays), also known as “corn”
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
pinion = a bird’s wing; in more specific usage, the outer section of a bird’s wing; in broader usage, “pinions” refers to the wings of a bird (“pinion” may also refer specifically to a feather, especially a flight feather, or a quill)
ruth = feelings for someone else of compassion, pity, sorrow (also, sorrow for one’s own faults; contrition, remorse, self-reproach)
Snares = Snares Islands, also known as The Snares, a small group of uninhabited subantarctic islands located approximately 200 km. south of New Zealand’s South Island
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
Wilson’s = Wilsons Promontory, a peninsula located in the south-east of Victoria (Australia); it was named after Thomas Wilson, a friend of the explorer Matthew Flinders