Ode for Commonwealth Day by George Essex Evans

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Awake! Arise! The wings of dawn
    Are beating at the Gates of Day!
The morning star hath been withdrawn,
    The silver vapours melt away!
Rise royally, O Sun, and crown
    The shoreward billow, streaming white,
The forelands and the mountains brown,
        With crested light;
Flood with soft beams the valleys wide,
    The mighty plains, the desert sand,
Till the New Day hath won for bride
        This Austral land!

Free-born of Nations, Virgin white,
    Not won by blood nor ringed with steel,
Thy throne is on a loftier height,
    Deep-rooted in the Commonweal!
O Thou, for whom the strong have wrought,
    And poets sung with souls aflame,
Born of long hope and patient thought,
        A mighty name ---
We pledge thee faith that shall not swerve,
    Our Land, Our Lady, breathing high
The thought that makes it love to serve,
        And life to die!

Now are thy maidens linked in love
    Who erst have striven for pride of place;
Lifted all meaner thoughts above
    They greet thee, one in heart and race:
She, in whose sun-lit coves of peace
    The navies of the world may rest,
And bear her wealth of snowy fleece
        Northward and West;
And she, whose corn and rock-hewn gold
    Built that Queen City of the South,
Where the lone billow swept of old
        Her harbour-mouth;

And the blithe Sun-maid, in whose veins
    For ever burns the tropic fire,
Whose cattle roam a thousand plains
    With opal and with pearl for tire;
And that sweet Harvester who twines
    The tender vine and binds the sheaf,
And the young Western Queen, who mines
        The desert reef,
And she, against whose flowery throne
    And orchards green the wave is hurled ---
Australia claims them; They are One
        Before the World!

Crown Her --- most worthy to be praised ---
    With eyes uplifted to the morn;
For on this day a flag is raised,
    A triumph won, a nation born!
And Ye, vast Army of the Dead,
    From mine and city, plain and sea,
Who fought and dared, who toiled and bled,
        That this might be,
Draw round us in this hour of fate ---
    Here, where thy children's children stand ---
With unseen lips, O consecrate
        And bless the land!

Eternal Power, benign, supreme,
    Who weigh'st the nations upon earth;
Without whose aid the Empire dream,
    And pride of states is nothing worth
From shameless speech, and vengeful deed,
    From license veiled in freedom's name,
From greed of gold and scorn of creed,
        Guard Thou our fame!
In stress of days that yet may be
    When hope shall rest upon the sword,
In Welfare and Adversity,
        Be with us, Lord!

First published in School Paper for Classes V and VI, no.26 December 1900,
and later in:
The Advertiser, 1 January 1901;
The Brisbane Courier, 1 January 1901;
The Australian Town and Country Journal, 5 January 1901;
The Bulletin, 5 January 1901;
The Coo-ee Reciter: Humourous, Pathetic, Dramatic, Dialect, Reciations and Readings compiled by William T. Pyke, 1904; and
The Secret Key and Other Verses by George Essex Evans 1906.

Author: George Essex Evans (1863 - 1909) was born in England and migrated to Australia in 1881. He is generally considered one of Queensland's best ever poets.  A memorial to him was raised in Toowoomba after his death.

Notes: "In 1901 [Essex Evans] won first prize in the New South Wales Government's Competition for a commonwealth ode with a poem that had been edited by Alfred Deakin prior to the competition."* The competiton was run to mark the inauguration of the Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901.
* - see the "Toowoomba's Literary History" webpage.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 1, 2011 9:05 AM.

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