[Editor: This poem, written by a gold digger (a gold miner), was published in The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 23 April 1853.]
Unlock the Lands!
To the Editor of the Argus.
Sir, — Earnestly wishing to contribute my mite towards the good work, I would beg the insertion of the following in your next, if you deem them worthy of a place in your truly spirited journal.
I am, Sir,
Yours, &c., &c.,
Ovens Diggings, April 17th, 1853.
There is a land, a glorious land, beneath whose sunny skies
Fair, fertile plains extended lie, and wooded uplands rise;
Where Nature, on a bountiful and most extensive plan,
Has lavish’d all that can delight or minister to man.
Her noble woods abound in game, her rivers teem with fish,
Her soil is fitted to produce whate’er the tiller’s wish,
And boundless wealth rewards the skill which nerves the miner’s hand;
Where is the coward would not dare to fight for such a land?
Hear, People of Victoria! to all let it be known!
This is the soil beneath your feet! This country is your own.
Up, then! and claim your rights like men, and let the watchword be,
In every mouth, “Unlock the Lands,” and “No Monopoly!”
Ye will not, cannot, tamely see these vast and fertile lands
Remain locked up, as they are now, in a few squatters hands!
Where are your farms and homesteads? Alas! ye know of none.
All, all, is swallowed up within the mighty squatter’s run.
Shall this continue longer? No! Up, then, and in a word
Tell your imbecile Government, in tone that will be heard,
Tell them ye want the land which God has giv’n to all.
Call boldly for your rights, and make them listen to your call.
Tell them ye know them — call them “squatters almost to a man,” *
And let the faithless imbeciles deny it, if they can.
Depose self-interest from her seat, drive folly from her throne,
And then monopoly will cease, and homesteads be your own.
Unlock the Lands! Unlock the Lands! Loud let the cry be raised,
Till even Downing-street itself shall hear the cry amazed.
Shout, till the reins of Government from squatters’ grasp are free,
“Unlock the Lands! Unlock the Lands! and no Monopoly.”
* Johnny Fawkner.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 23 April 1853, p. 9
The footnote to this poem implies that the quotation “squatters almost to a man” comes from John Pascoe Fawkner, with him saying that the parliamentarians of Victoria were almost all squatters; however, a search of various sources could not locate such a quote from Fawkner.
&c. = an alternative form of “etc.”; an abbreviation of “et cetera” (also spelt “etcetera”), a Latin term (“et” meaning “and”, “cetera” meaning “the rest”) which is translated as “and the rest (of such things)”, used in English to mean “and other similar things”, “other unspecified things of the same class”, or “and so forth”
digger = a gold digger, someone seeking gold by digging in the ground (usually referring to men); a miner
Downing-street = a reference to the British government, i.e. the government of the United Kingdom; the Prime Minister of the UK; the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the UK (Downing Street in London, England, is the location of various government offices, as well as the official residence of the Prime Minister at no. 10 and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at no. 11)
See: “Downing Street”, Wikipedia
giv’n = (vernacular) a contraction of “given”
Johnny Fawkner = John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869), builder, baker, pioneer, businessman, and politician; he was born in Cripplegate (London, England) in 1792, and died in Collingwood (Vic.) in 1869
See: 1) Hugh Anderson, “Fawkner, John Pascoe (1792–1869)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “John Pascoe Fawkner”, Ergo (State Library of Victoria)
3) “John Pascoe Fawkner”, Wikipedia
lavish’d = (vernacular) a contraction of “lavished”
mite = a small amount, creature, particle, object, or thing; a small amount of money, a small contribution or donation; a tiny insect, a type of eight-legged arthropod
run = a property on which stock are grazed, such as a “cattle run” or a “sheep run”
squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)
whate’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “whatever”
ye = (archaic; dialectal) you (still in use in some places, e.g. in Cornwall, Ireland, Newfoundland, and Northern England; it can used as either the singular or plural form of “you”, although the plural form is the more common usage)
[Editor: Changed “her rivers team with fish” to “her rivers teem with fish”; “be your own,” to “be your own,” (replaced the comma with a full stop).]