Half waking and half dreaming, While starry lamps hung low I saw a vision splendid Upon the darkness glow. The Capital Australian, With waving banners plumed -- A shining flower of marble -- Magnificently bloomed. Beside a snow-fed river 'Twas built in fashion rare -- Upon a lofty mountain, All in a valley fair. The stately ships were sailing, Like brides with flowing trains, To seek its secret harbor Amidst Australian plains. And all around it flourished Luxuriantly free, The giant gum and mangrove, The crimson desert-pea. And I beheld a building That made a stately show -- The National Australian Head Poetry Bureau. I gazed upon that Building With trembling joy aghast; The long-felt want of ages Was filled (I thought) at last. No more the Native Poet Need wildly beat his head For lofty lyric measures To buy him beer and bed. Now he would lodge right nobly And sleep serene, secure, All in a chamber filled with Adhesive furniture. For never foot of Bailiff Should pass his threshold o'er, And never knock of landlord Sound direful on his door. The State should also aid him To build his lofty rhyme On lordly eggs-and-bacon, And sausages sublime. And he should drink no longer Cheap beer at common bar, But royal wine of Wunghnu At two-and-nine the jar. It was a vision splendid, And brighter still did grow When I was made the Chief of The Poetry Bureau. They clad me all in purple, They hung me with festoons, My singing-robes were spangled With aluminium moons. And, as a sign of genius Above the common kind, A wreath of gilded laurel Around my hat they twined. They also gave me power to The grain sift from the chaff, And choose at my large pleasure My own poetic staff. Then straightaway I appointed To chant by day and night, The brilliant young Australian Who sang "The Land of Light." I also gave in fashion Hilariously free, The Girl and Horse Department In charge of Ogilvie. And on the roof-ridge Brady Sang salt-junk chanties great To cheer the stout sea-lawyers Who sail the Ship of State. And tender-hearted Lawson Sang everybody's wrongs; And Brennan, in the basement, Crooned weird, symbolic songs. And on the throne beside me, Above the common din, He sang his Songs of Beauty, My friend, the poet Quinn. Our own Australian artists Made beautiful its halls -- The mighty steeds of Mahony Pranced proudly on the walls. Tom Roberts, he was there, too, With painted portraits fine Of men of light and leading -- Me, and some friends of mine. And Souter's Leering Lady, 'Neath hat and over fan, With Souter's cat was ogling His check-clothed gentleman. And Fischer, Ashton, Lister, With beetling genius rife -- Pardieu! I was their Patron, And set them up for life. And from each dusky corner, In petrified new birth, Glared busts of Me and Barton, By Nelson Illingworth. And nine fair Muses dwelt there, With board and lodging free; Six by the States were chosen, And I selected three. And there we turned out blithely Australian poems sound, To sell in lengths like carpet, And also by the pound. For Paddy Quinn, the Statesman, Had made a law which said That native authors only On pain of death be read. O, brother bards, I grieve that Good dreams do not come true; You see how very nobly I would have done to you! But, ah! the vision vanished, And took away in tow The National Australian Head Poetry Bureau.
First published in The Bulletin, 1 September 1904, p36