Australia by D. Fenton (Bernard O'Dowd)

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Last sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space,
   Are you a drift Sargasso, where the West
   In halcyon calm rebuilds her fatal nest?
Or Delos of a coming Sun-god's race?
Are you for Light, and trimmed, with oil in place,
   Or but a Will o' Wisp on marshy quest?
   A new demesne for Mammon to infest?
Or lurks millenial Eden 'neath your face?

The cenotaphs of species dead elsewhere
   That in your limits leap and swim and fly,
      Or trail uncanny harpstrings from your trees,
Mix omens with the auguries that dare
   To plant the Cross upon your forehead sky,
      A virgin helpmate Ocean at your knees.

First published in The Bulletin, 12 May 1900, and again in the same magazine on 1 February 1950;
and later in
The Golden Treasury of Australia Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Bookfellow, 15 November 1913;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Pervical Serle, R.H. Croll and Frank Wilmot;
New Song in an Old Land edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;
Spoils of Time: Some Poems of the English Speaking Peoples edited by Rex Ingamells, 1948;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by John Thompson, Kenneth Slessor, and R.G. Howarth, 1958;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes and Brian McFarlane, 1988;
The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;
The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literatures in English edited by John Thieme, 1996;
Sunlines: An Anthology of Poetry to Celebrate Australia's Harmony in Diversity edited by Anne Fairbairn, 2002;
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008;
The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 2009; and
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009.

Note: the poem was published by The Bulletin as the winner of a sonnet competition.  The judges had this to say of the poem: "...there was no difficulty in adjudging the prize of £2. 2s. to D. Fenton, Supreme Court Library, Melbourne, whose pithy, pregnant verse has frequentely adorned the columns of The Bulletin.  His fine and memorable sonnet heads this page. It urges the question and the doubt which state Australia's present place in the philosophic vista; and it is an intellectual diamond, with a facet flashing in every line."

Author: Bernard O'Dowd (1866-1953) was born in Beaufort, Victoria, and taught in Catholic Schools before joining the Victorian Public Service.  He graduated in arts and law in the 1890s and rose to the rank of Chief Parliamentary Draughtsman for Victoria.  He died in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1953.

Author reference sites:
Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 12, 2011 7:39 AM.

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