The Tin Wreath by Kahuna

The future Australian poet laureate, like a resurrected Don Quixote, came ambling along the straight in the Mount Parnassus Stakes bestride a woeful Pegasus suffering from incipient locomotor ataxia and just a soup├žon of pareisis of the wings. The spectators, pale in the face and palpitating with excitement, surged forward to get a glimpse of the
winner's number. Yells of approval, or execration, or silence, or something, rent the air when The Bulletin laurel wreath (tin) was handed down from its nail and duly delivered, under protest, to Roderic Joseph Quinn to have and to hold or wear for the term of his natural life. The judge, with youth, a sound constitution, and careful nursing, pulled round. Will Ogilve was disqualified at the starting gate for not being more careful in the choice of his parents and birthplace.

Quinn, the winner, is never likely to be mistaken by fervid admirer or carping critic for a Byron or a Shelley, or have an orchestra stall kept warm for him among the noble army of immortals.

He handles his subjects daintily, and possesses an instinctive rightness of touch which covers a multitude of sins. His style bristles with subtlety and suggestions and tone, and his imagery and skilful word-painting appeal to the ear, if not to the heart, of the discriminating reader. There is such animation and suppleness in his adroit turn of phrase, and his color sense is so well defined and true, that one can overlook the absence of profundity and Promethean fire, at times so apparent, and be content to sit back lulled to rest by the sweet melody of his singing.

Moreover, he is of Australia, Australian. Not in the blatant, State-rights, Wild Colonial Boy manner of some of our popular balladists, but in a more dignifed and subdued style, which forecasts the advent of a newer and more refined phase in the evolution of our national literature. There are three verses in his "Lotus Flower" which always appeal to me as a typical sample of his work:-

"The Lotus dreams 'neath the dreaming skies,
   Its beauty touching with spell divine
The grey old town, till the old town lies
   Like one half-drunk with a magic wine.

"Star-loved, it breathes at the midnight hour
   A sense of peace from its velvet mouth.
Though flowers be fair -- is there any flower
   Like this blue flower of the radiant South?

"Sun-loved and lit by the moon, it yields
   A challenge-glory or glow serene.
And men bethink them of jewelled shields,
   A turquoise lighting a ground of green."

As there appears to have been only sufficient surplus hardware to make only one wreath, and as that has been well and truly laid on the noble brow of Roderic Quinn, let us offer consolation to les autres; for, as the Scripture sayeth: "Many are called, but few get up."

First published in The Bulletin, 16 April 1908

Roderic Quinn's Australian Dictionary of Biography webpage.
Posts about Quinn on Matilda.
And you can read more of Quinn's poems on Sydney University's SETIS website [PDF file].

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 25, 2008 8:57 AM.

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