The Future of Australia [poem by Mary Hannay Foott, 8 February 1873]

[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Black (who later became Mary Hannay Foott), written for the anniversary of the founding of the colony of New South Wales (Australia Day).]

The Future of Australia.

Sing us the Land of the Southern Sea —
The land we have called our own ;
Tell us what harvest there shall be
From the seed that we have sown.

We love the stories of stirring days,
The songs of the wind and wave,
The Border ballads and courtly lays,
And the poems Shakespeare gave.

We love the chant, like cathedral chimes,
Of him “made blind to sing.”
We list the Laureate’s languid rhymes ;
His verse of the knightly ring.

For the tears they tell of our brethren wept ;
Their praise is our fathers’ fame ;
They sing of the Seas our navies swept —
Of the shrines that lent us flame.

But the Past is past for all its pride,
And its ways are not our ways ;
We watch the flow of a fresher tide,
And the dawn of brighter days.

Sing us the Land of the Southern Sea —
The land we have called our own ;
Tell us what harvest there shall be
From the seed that we have sown.

* * * * *

I see the child we are tending now,
To a queenly stature grown ;
The crown of empire on her brow,
And the purple round her thrown.

She feeds her household plenteously,
From the granaries we have filled ;
Her vintage is gathered in with glee,
From the fields our toil has tilled.

The Old World’s outcast starvelings feast
Ungrudged on her corn and wine,
The gleaners are welcome west and east
Where her autumn sickles shine.

She clothes her people in silk and wool,
Whose warp and whose woof we spun,
And sons and daughters are hers to rule ;
And of slaves-she has not one.

There are herds of hers on a thousand hills ;
There are fleecy flocks untold,
No foreign wealth her coffers fills, —
She has streams whose sands are gold !

She will not scramble for falling crowns ;
No theft shall her ’scutcheon soil ;
She shall fear no despot’s smiles or frowns —
Shall have no need of spoil.

But if wronged or menaced, she shall stand
Where the battle-surges swell, —
The sword of Heaven in her hand,
Like the sword of La Pucelle !

If there be ever so base a foe
As to speak of a time-cleansed stain, —
To say, “She was cradled, long ago,
’Mid clanks of the convict’s chain.”

Ask, — as the taunt in his teeth is hurled, —
“What lineage sprang she from
Who was Empress once of the Pagan world,
And the Queen of Christendom ?”

When the toils of her early years are o’er,
And her children round her throng, —
They shall learn from her of the sage’s lore,
And her lips shall teach them song.

And then of those in the dust who dwell,
May there kindly mention be !
May the birds that build in the branches tell
Of the planting of the tree !

M. H. B.

Sydney, January 26, 1873.



Source:
The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 8 February 1873, page 178 (page 18 of that issue)

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