Where the Pelican Builds [poem by Mary Hannay Foott, 26 March 1881]

[Editor: A poem by Mary Hannay Foott. Published in The Australasian Sketcher, 26 March 1881.]

Where the Pelican Builds

By M. H. F.

[The unexplored parts of Australia are sometimes spoken of by the bushmen of Western Queensland as the home of the pelican, a bird whose nesting-place, so far as the writer knows is seldom, if ever, found.]

The horses were ready, the rails were down,
But the riders lingered still, —
One had a parting word to say,
And one had his pipe to fill.
Then they mounted, one with a granted prayer,
And one with a grief unguessed.
“We are going,” they said, as they rode away —
“Where the pelican builds her nest!”

They had told us of pastures wide and green,
To be sought past the sunset’s glow;
Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;
And gold ’neath the river’s flow.
And thirst and hunger were banished words
When they spoke of that unknown West;
No drought they dreamt of, no flood they feared,
Where the pelican builds her nest!

The creek at the ford was but fetlock deep
When we watched them crossing there;
The rains had replenished it thrice since then,
And thrice has the rock lain bare.
But the waters of Hope have flowed and fled,
And never from blue hill’s breast
Come back — by the sun and the sands devoured —
Where the pelican builds her nest!


The Australasian Sketcher (Melbourne, Vic.), Saturday 26 March 1881, page 110 (14th page of that issue)

Editor’s notes:
“Where the Pelican Builds” was a very popular poem in its day and has been included in various anthologies of poetry.

In Mary Hannay Foott’s books of poetry, Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems (1885) and Morna Lee and Other Poems (1890), the date of the writing of this poem is given as 5th March 1881.

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