Up North [poem by Mary Hannay Foott, 1890]

[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Foott.]

Up North.*

Into Thy hands let me fall, O Lord
Not into the hands of men
And she thinned the ranks of the savage horde
Till they shrank to the mangrove fen.

In a rudderless boat, with a scanty store
Of food for the fated three —
With her babe and her stricken servitor
She fled to the open sea.

Oh, days of dolor and nights of drouth,
While she watched for a sail in vain,
Or the tawny tinge of a river mouth,
Or the rush of the tropic rain.

The valiant woman! Her feeble oar
Sufficed, and her fervent prayer
Was heard, though she reached but a barren shore,
And died with her darling there.

For the demons of murder and foul disgrace
On her hearthstone dared not light ;
But the Angel of Womanhood held the place,
And its site is a holy site.

*The incident referred to in the above poem took place a few years ago in one of the small islands off the northern coast of Queensland. Mrs. Watson, wife of a bêche de mer fisher, was left, in her husband’s absence, with her infant child and two Chinese servants on the island. The homestead was attached by wild blacks from the mainland, one of the servants killed, and the other wounded. Mrs Watson defended her home so effectually with her revolver that the assailants withdrew. Fearing their return she placed some little provision in an iron tank, which had been cut down so that it served as a boat, and embarking in this frail vessel, with her child and the wounded man, she strove to make her way to some place of refuge. The tank was found some time afterwards on the shore of an uninhabited and waterless island, where the remains of the ill-fated voyagers were also discovered. Mrs. Watson kept a diary almost up to the last.

Mary Hannay Foott. Morna Lee and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1890, page 10

Previously published in:
Mary Hannay Foott. Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1885

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