Australia Undefended by Mabel Forrest

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The blue sea skirts her slim, sun-ambered feet.  
   Upon her mighty brow red gold is bound, 
Upon her breast mimosa flowers press sweet, 
   And hills and forests lap her beauty round. 

All day she lies and dreams; from sun to sun, 
   From moon to moon, she couches soft, secure, 
And, as to catch grey eve the gold hours run, 
   She thinks her slumber can for aye endure --

Full happy dreams are hers, of prosp'rous days, 
   Fleece-heavy flocks upon a green-fed land, 
Of settlers' homes that lie in golden haze, 
   Of brother toilers moving hand in hand. 

Of scented nights, when by the wattle grove 
   The mopoke breaks the silence with his call, 
And, o'er the slip-rail, love lilts low to love, 
   And Peace has spread her white wings over all. 

So, filleted with matrix, opal, pearl, 
   And zoned with shimm'ring belt of ocean green, 
Where (true love gift to many a sun-browned girl), 
   Hangs, link on link, a chain of olivine, 

She sleeps, and winds come up and fan her hair, 
   Between her fingers springs the waratah, 
Her coverlet is twined with musk-buds rare, 
   And threaded leaves of redwood and belah. 

All day the breeze sings to her maiden ears 
   A lullaby, like croon of scrub-hid doves, 
And, rustling in the brig'low boughs she hears 
   The lusty bronze-wing boasting of his loves. 

She sleeps -- and shall we leave her to her dream? 
   The sun is very bright on hill and dale, 
O'er vine-hung rocks the silver waters gleam, 
   And moss lies all untrodden in the vale.   


They left her, where the purple mountains loom 
   Untenanted, above the Northern seas,   
Rimmed round by palm, or fir of tufted gloom, 
   Or the stiff shoots of dry pandanus trees, 
Left her to rest in woodlands green and still.   
   The winds died down, and Nature seemed to wait, 
And there was never watcher on the hill, 
   No guarding cannon at the Northern gate. 

Only the silence of the great scrub heart, 
   Only the hush upon the great grey plain,     
Where buttercups in sun-caught splendor start 
   Thro' the fine veil of February rain. 
There came a muffled stirring in the East, 
   From rock to rock a stealthy creature stept, 
Red war unleashed-- a sullen, sateless beast, 
   To prey upon her beauty while she slept!       


Australians, will you leave your dear land, Maid of the sun, and Queen of the blue seas, 
To cringe 'neath an alien master's hand, to hug his feet, or fawn about his knees?    
And will you let his savage, relving touch mar the white beauty, of your Southern maid, 
For she has trusted long and overmuch, to rise up shudd'ring, rifled, and afraid?                

They murmur round the gates to East and West; their footsteps echo in the halls of Strife, 
With hov'ring hand above her perfect breast, with sear of bullet, or red, sudden knife!   
The smoke will rise o'er quiet settlers' homes, but not the smoke of peaceful hearths afar, 
But that which, smiting heaven's blueness comes, the horrid following of a bloody war. 

Shattered before the screaming shell will lie the city buildings that you builded well, 
And, lifting ever to the arching sky, will float the echoes of the man-made Hell, 
Clotted in the shrinking hearts of flowers, where, thro' cool aisles the tender North wind grieves, 
And hoya its honey sweetness showers, men's blood will filigree along the leaves. 


Do you think that you could thole it, Australian born and free,   
Where the call of many rivers finds an echo in the sea?   
Do you think that you could bear to feel the chain that girds you round, 
'Midst the chitter of the bell-birds in your happy hunting ground, 
Will you die -- or live to learn it, when the crucial moment comes, 
And the crook'd and yellow fingers curve on undefended homes? 

You might have the strength of Samson, be an Anak in the field, 
Be a reckless 'Death or Glory' boy, and scorn to pause or yield, 
But the stag before the hunter's spear -- he either sinks or runs, 
And what help are brawny hands and bare -- the other has the guns! 
Let every unit find his place, a part of one great plan -- 
Australians must remember 'tis the boy that makes the man. 
Take the brown-faced laddies as they play along the street, 
Let them listen to the rhythm of the steady marching feet, 
Teach the keen young eye to sight the gun, the keen young hand to thrust. 
Do not let the young glance waver or the good steel barrel rust; 
Let them play the game like soldiers, let them scout the lucerne field, 
With the rifle at the shoulder and their honor for their shield; 
Let the lassies bind a token in the sun-kissed mountain glades, 
For the bravery of laddies and the purity of maids!   
Arm the empty North that drowses by its tide-washed sandy slopes; 
There is iron in the ranges, there is silver in the stopes, 
There is wealth undreamed -- your birthright -- in your country's scattered parts,     
There is grit and honest courage in your people's loyal hearts.   
Rouse them with your martial music, with your call 'To Arms! To Arms!' 
From New England's cherry blossoms, to North Queensland's feather palms, 
Would the man who swings a leg across the sweating outlaw's back 
Swerve aside before the Maxim that is mouthing in the track?   
The stuff is there -- then train it -- put the means within the hand,   
Fate has given you a treasure to be guarded in your land! 

Oh! the fair-maid country calls you, as she couches in the sun,         
That you keep her honor stainless with the power of your gun!  

First published in The Sunday Times, 7 March 1909

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 7, 2014 7:55 AM.

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