'Tis strange that in a land so strong, So strong and bold in mighty youth, We have no poet's voice of truth To sing for us a wondrous song.
Our chiefest singer yet has sung In wild, sweet notes a passing strain, All carelessly and sadly flung To that dull world he thought so vain.
"I care for nothing, good nor bad, My hopes are gone, my pleasures fled, I am but sifting sand," he said: What wonder Gordon's songs were sad!
And yet, not always sad and hard; In cheerful mood and light of heart He told the tale of Britomarte, And wrote the Rhyme of Joyous Guard.
And some have said that Nature's face To us is always sad; but these Have never felt the smiling grace Of waving grass and forest trees On sunlit plains as wide as seas.
"A land where dull Despair is king O'er scentless flower and songless bird!" But we have heard the bell-birds ring Their silver bells at eventide, Like fairies on the mountain side, The sweetest note man ever heard.
The wild thrush lifts a note of mirth; The bronzewing pigeons call and coo Beside their nests the long day through; The magpie warbles clear and strong A joyous, glad, thanksgiving song, For all God's mercies upon earth.
And many voices such as these Are joyful sounds for those to tell, Who know the Bush and love it well, With all its hidden mysteries.
We cannot love the restless sea, That rolls and tosses to and fro Like some fierce creature in its glee; For human weal or human woe It has no touch of sympathy.
For us the bush is never sad: Its myriad voices whisper low, In tones the bushmen only know, Its sympathy and welcome glad.
For us the roving breezes bring From many a blossom-tufted tree -- Where wild bees murmur dreamily -- The honey-laden breath of Spring.
We have no tales of other days, No bygone history to tell; Our tales are told where camp-fires blaze At midnight, when the solemn hush Of that vast wonderland, the Bush, Hath laid on every heart its spell.
Although we have no songs of strife, Of bloodshed reddening the land, We yet may find achievements grand Within the bushman's quiet life.
Lift ye your faces to the sky Ye far blue mountains of the West, Who lie so peacefully at rest Enshrouded in a haze of blue; 'Tis hard to feel that years went by Before the pioneers broke through Your rocky heights and walls of stone, And made your secrets all their own.
For years the fertile Western plains Were hid behind your sullen walls, Your cliffs and crags and waterfalls All weatherworn with tropic rains.
Between the mountains and the sea, Like Israelites with staff in hand, The people waited restlessly: They looked towards the mountains old And saw the sunsets come and go With gorgeous golden afterglow, That made the West a fairyland, And marvelled what that West might be Of which such wondrous tales were told.
For tales were told of inland seas Like sullen oceans, salt and dead, And sandy deserts, white and wan, Where never trod the foot of man, Nor bird went winging overhead, Nor ever stirred a gracious breeze To wake the silence with its breath -- A land of loneliness and death.
At length the hardy pioneers By rock and crag found out the way, And woke with voices of to-day, A silence kept for years and years.
Upon the Western slope they stood And saw -- a wide expanse of plain As far as eye could stretch or see Go rolling westward endlessly. The native grasses, tall as grain, Were waved and rippled in the breeze; From boughs of blossom-laden trees The parrots answered back again. They saw the land that it was good, A land of fatness all untrod, And gave their silent thanks to God.
The way is won! The way is won! And straightway from the barren coast There came a westward-marching host, That aye and ever onward prest With eager faces to the West, Along the pathway of the sun.
The mountains saw them marching by: They faced the all-consuming drought, They would not rest in settled land: But, taking each his life in hand, Their faces ever westward bent Beyond the farthest settlement, Responding to the challenge cry Of "better country further out."
And lo a miracle! the land But yesterday was all unknown, The wild man's boomerang was thrown Where now great busy cities stand. It was not much, you say, that these Should win their way where none withstood; In sooth there was not much of blood No war was fought between the seas.
It was not much! but we who know The strange capricious land they trod -- At times a stricken, parching sod, At times with raging floods beset -- Through which they found their lonely way, Are quite content that you should say It was not much, while we can feel That nothing in the ages old, In song or story written yet On Grecian urn or Roman arch, Though it should ring with clash of steel, Could braver histories unfold Than this bush story, yet untold -- The story of their westward march.
But times are changed, and changes rung From old to new -- the olden days, The old bush life and all its ways Are passing from us all unsung. The freedom, and the hopeful sense Of toil that brought due recompense, Of room for all, has passed away, And lies forgotten with the dead. Within our streets men cry for bread In cities built but yesterday.
About us stretches wealth of land, A boundless wealth of virgin soil As yet unfruitful and untilled! Our willing workmen, strong and skilled Within our cities idle stand, And cry aloud for leave to toil.
The stunted children come and go In squalid lanes and alleys black; We follow but the beaten track Of other nations, and we grow In wealth for some -- for many, woe.
And it may be that we who live In this new land apart, beyond The hard old world grown fierce and fond And bound by precedent and bond, May read the riddle right and give New hope to those who dimly see That all things may be yet for good, And teach the world at length to be One vast united brotherhood.
So may it be, and he who sings In accents hopeful, clear, and strong, The glories which that future brings Shall sing, indeed, a wond'rous song.
The Bulletin, 21 December 1889.