Wentworth [poem by Mary Hannay Foott, 10 May 1873]

[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Black (who later became Mary Hannay Foott). Published in The Australian Town and Country Journal 10 May 1873.]


’Tis a new thing for Australia, that the waters to her bear
One who seeks not of her riches, or the balm of healing air ;
One who seeks not strength of sunshine, nor remembers she is fair.

One who lands and houses henceforth holdeth not for evermore,
Coming for such narrow dwelling as the dead need, to the shore
Named aforetime by the Spirit, to receive the garb it wore.

’Tis a strange thing for Australia, that her name should be the name
Breathed in death by one who loved her, claiming, with a patriot’s claim,
Her earth as chosen grave-place, rather than the lands of fame ;—

Rather than the Sacred City where sepulchers were sought
For the kingliest hearts of Europe ; rather than the temples fraught
With the ashes of the great ones, whence our household gods were brought.

’Tis a proud thing for Australia, while the funeral prayers are said,
To remember loving service bravely rendered by the dead ;—
How he strove amid the nations evermore to raise her head.

How, in youth, he sang her glory, — as it is and is to be ;—
Called her “Empress” when they held her yet as base-born, over sea ;
Called her “Mother,” while her children scarce were counted with the free.

How he claimed of King and Commons that his birth-land should be used
As a daughter, — not an alien ; till the boon, so oft refused,
Was withheld, at last, no longer, — and the former bonds were loosed.

’Tis a great thing for Australia, that her child of early years
Shared her paths of desert-travel, — bread of sorrow, — drink of tears ;
Held beside her to these hill-tops whence her promised place appears.

Titles were not her’s to offer, as the meed of service done ;
Rank of peer or badge of knighthood, — star or ribbon, — she had none ;—
But she breathes a mother’s blessing, o’er the ashes of her son.

May 6th, 1873. M. H. B.

The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 10 May 1873, page 585 (9th page of that issue)

Editor’s notes:
This poem was later published in her books of poetry, with some minor revisions, as well as an extra stanza, placed after the line “Was withheld, at last, no longer, — and the former bonds were loosed”:

How the scars of serfdom faded. How he led within the light
Of her fireside Earth’s Immortals ; chrism-touched from Olympus’ height ;
Whom gods loved ; for whom the New Faith, too, has guest-rooms garnished bright.

Mary Hannay Foott. Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1885
Mary Hannay Foott. Morna Lee and Other Poems, Gordon & Gotch, Brisbane, 1890, page 11

[Editor: Corrected “witheld” to “withheld”.]

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