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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



THE POETICAL WORKS

OF

ADAM LINDSAY GORDON




ADAM LINDSAY GORDON



THE POETICAL WORKS

OF

ADAM LINDSAY
GORDON



WARD, LOCIv & CO., LIMITED

LONDON AND MELBOURNE
PRINTED IN GR2AT BRH WN









PREFACE

By Marcus Clarke, Author of " For the Term of His

Natural Life."

{This was originally published in an early edition of the poems,
and is reprinted by kind permission of Mrs. Marcus Clarke.)

The poems of Gordon have an interest beyond the mere
personal one which his friends attach to his name.
Written, as they were, at odd times and leisure moments
of a stirring and adventurous life, it is not to be won-
dered at if they are unequal or unfinished. The astonish-
ment of those who knew the man, and can gauge the
capacity of this city to foster poetic instinct, is, that
such work was ever produced here at all. Intensely
nervous, and feeling much of that shame at the exercise
of the higher intelligence which besets those who are
known to be renowned in field sports, Gordon produced
his poems shyly, scribbled them on scraps of paper, and
sent them anonymously to magazines. It was not
until he discovered one morning that everybody knew
a couplet or two of "How we Beat the Favourite"
that he consented to forgo his anonymity and appear
in the unsuspected character of a verse maker. The
success of his republished " collected " poems gave him
courage, and the unreserved praise which greeted " Bush
Ballads " should have urged him to forget or to cone pier
those evil promptings which, unhappily, brought about
his untimely death.

Adam Lindsay Gordon was the son of an officer in the
English army, and was educated at Woolwich, in order
that he might follow the profession of his family. At
the time when he was a cadet there was no sign of either
of the two great wars which were about to call forth the
strength of English arms, and, like many other men of



7595






vi PREFACE

• his day, he quitted his prospects of service and emigrated.
He went to South Australia and started as a sheep
farmer. His efforts were attended with failure. He
lost his capital, and, owning nothing but a love for
horsemanship and a head full of Browning and Shelley,
plunged into the varied life which gold-mining, "over-
landing " and cattle-driving affords. From this ex-
perience he emerged to light in Melbourne as the best
amateur steeplechase rider in the colonies. The victory
he won for Major Baker in 1868, when he rode Babbler
for the Cup Steeplechase, made him popular, and the
almost simultaneous publication of his last volume
of poems gave him welcome entrance to the houses of all
who had pretensions to literary taste. The reputation
of the book spread to England, and Major Whyte Mel-
ville did not disdain to place the lines of the dashing
Australian author at the head of his own dashing descrip-
tions of sporting scenery. Unhappily, the melancholy
which Gordon's friends had with pain observed increased
daily, and in the full flood of his success, with congratu-
lations pouring upon him from every side, he was found
dead in the heather near his home with a bullet from his
own rifle in his brain.

I do not purpose to criticise the volumes which
these few lines of preface introduce to the reader. The
influence of Browning and of Swinburne upon the
writer's taste is plain. There is plainly visible also,
however, a keen sense for natural beauty and a manly
admiration for healthy living. If in " Ashtaroth "
and " Bellona " we recognize the swing of a familiar
metre, in such poems as the " Sick Stockrider " we
perceive the genuine poetic instinct united to a very
clear perception of the loveliness of duty and of labour.



'Twas merry in the glowing morn, among the gleaming grass
To wander as we've wandered many a mile,

And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths
pass,
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while ;



PREFACE



Vll



Twas merry 'mid the backwoods, when we spied the station roofs,

To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stockwhips, and a fiery run of hoofs.

Oh I the hardest day was never then too hard !

Aye ! we had a glorious gallop after " Starlight " and his gang,
When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat ;

How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn
ranges rang
To the strokes of " Mountaineer " and " Acrobat " ;

Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
Close behind them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd ;

And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath I
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd !

This is genuine. There is no " poetic evolution from
the depths of internal consciousnesss ' here. The
writer has ridden his ride as well as it is written.

The student of these unpretending volumes will be
repaid for his labour. He will find in them something
very like the beginnings of a national school of Austra-
lian poetry. In historic Europe where every rood of
ground is hallowed in legend and in song, the least
imaginative can find food for sad and sweet reflection.
When strolling at noon down an English country lane,
lounging at sunset by some ruined chapel on the margin
of an Irish lake, or watching the mist of morning unveil
Ben Lomond, we feel all the charm which springs from
association with the past. Soothed, saddened and
cheered by turns, we partake of the varied moods which
belong, not so much to ourselves, as to the dead men
who, in old days, sung, suffered, or conquered in the
scenes which we survey. But this our native or adopted
land has no past, no story. No poet speaks to us.
Do we need a poet to interpret Nature's teachings, we
must look into our own hearts, if perchance we may
find a poet there.

What is the dominant note of Australian scenery ?
That which is the dominant note of Edgar Allan Poe's
poetry — Weird Melancholy. A poem like " L'Allegro "
could never be written by an Australian. It is too airy,



viii PREFACE

too sweet, too freshly happy. The Australian mountain
forests are funereal, secret, stern. Their solitude is
desolation. They seem to stifle, in their black gorges, a
story of sullen despair. No tender sentiment is nourished
in their shade. In other lands the dying year is
mourned, the falling leaves drop lightly on his bier. In
the Australian forest no leaves fall. The savage winds
shout among the rock clefts. From the melancholy
gum strips of white bark hang and rustle. The very
animal life of these frowning hills is either grotesque or
ghostly. Great grey kangaroos hop noiselessly over the
coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out,
shrieking like evil souls. The sun suddenly sinks, and
the mopokes burst out into horrible peals of semi-human
laughter. The natives aver that, when night comes,
from out the bottomless depth of some lagoon the
Bunyip rises, and, in form like monstrous sea calf,
drags his loathsome length from out the ooze. From a
corner of the silent forest rises a dismal chant, and
around a fire dance natives painted like skeletons. All
is fear-inspiring and gloomy. No bright fancies are
linked with the memories of the mountains. Hopeless
explorers have named them out of their sufferings
— Mount Misery, Mount Dreadful, Mount Despair. As
when among sylvan scenes in places

Made green with the running of rivers,
And gracious with temperate air,

the soul is soothed and satisfied, so, placed before the
frightful grandeur of these barren hills, it drinks in their
Bentiment of defiant ferocity, and is steeped in bitterness.
Australia has rightly been named the Land of the
Dawning. Wrapped in the midst of early morning, her
history looms vague and gigantic. The lonely horse-
man riding between the moonlight and the day sees
vast shadows creeping across the shelterless and silent
plains, hears strange noises in the primeval forest where
flourishes a vegetation long dead in other lands, and
feels, despite his fortune, that the trim utilitarian



PREFACE ix

civilization which bred him shrinks into insignificance
beside the contemptuous grandeur of forest and ranges
coeval with an age in which European scientists have
cradled his own race.

There is a poem in every form of tree or flower, but
the poetry which lives in the trees and flowers of
Australia differs from those of other countries. Europe
is the home of knightly song, of bright deeds and clear
morning thought. Asia sinks beneath the weighty
recollections of her past magnificence, as the Suttee
sinks, jewel-burdened, upon the corpse of dead grandeur,
destructive even in its death. America swiftly hurries
on her way, rapid, glittering, insatiable even as one of her
own giant waterfalls. From the jungles of Africa, and
the creeper-tangled groves of the islands of the South,
arise, from the glowing hearts of a thousand flowers,
heavy and intoxicating odours — the Upas-poison which
dwells in barbaric sensuality. In Australia alone is to
be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scrib-
blings of nature learning how to write. Some see no
beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without
perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who
have not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the
dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle charm
of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes
familiar with the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to
by the myriad tongues of the wilderness, he learns the
language of the barren and the uncouth, and can read
the hieroglyphs of haggard gum-trees, blown into odd
shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with
cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloud-
less sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria of that wild
dreamland termed the Hush interprets itself, and the
Poet of our desolation begins to comprehend why free
Esau loved his heritage of desert sand better than all the
bountiful richness of Egypt.



CONTENTS



Preface by Marcus Clarke
Introduction .

SEA SPRAY AND SMOKE DRIFT:
Achilles' Farewell .
Gone ...-••

Unshriven



Ye Wearie Wayfarer: Hys Ballad in Eight Fyttes: —



Fytte I By Wood and Wold

II By Flood and Field

III Vine-Tree versus Saddle-Tree

IV A Logical Discussion
V A Moral Discourse .

VI Potter's Clay .
VII A Philosophical Dissertation
VIII A Metaphysical Song
Borrowed Plumes
Translation from Horace .
A Legend of Madrid .
Fauconshawe
Rippling Water .
Whom Does it Profit ?
Bellona ....
The Song of the Surf
Whisperings in Wattle-Boughs
Confession .
Sunlight on the Sea .
Delilah . . - •

From Lightning and Tempest
Wormwood and Nightshade
Art is Long
The Last Leap .



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87

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CONTENTS



XI



SEA SPRAY AND SMOKE DRIFT, continued-
Two Years Ago I was Thinking
hlppodromania : or whiffs from the plpe :

Visions in the Smoke .

The Fields of Coleraine

A Short Rhyme at Random

Banker's Dream .

'Twixt the Cup and the Lip
The Roll of the Kettledrum ; or, The Lay of
the Last Charger .....

BUSH BALLADS AND GALLOPING RHYMES :
A Dedication
The Sick Stockrider .
The Swimmer
From the Wreck
No Name ....
Wolf and Hound
De Te ....

How we Beat the Favourite
Fragmentary Scenes from the Koad to Avernus
DouiiTFUL Dreams
The Rhyme of Joyous Garde
Tiiora's Song ....
The Three Friends
A Song of Ai i umn
The Romance of Hritomarte
Laudamus .....
A Basket of Flowers.

ASHTAROTH : A DRAMATIC LYRIC

MISCELLANEOUS POEMS :—
A Hunting Song
An Exile's Farewell .
Early Ad ieux
To My Sister
The Old Leaven

A ['"KAcMKNI

l\l>EX TO FIRST LINES



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ADAM LINDSAY GORDON*

This was a poet that loved God's breath,

His life was a passionate quest ;
He looked down deep in the wells of death.

And now he is taking his rest.

Forty-two years have passed since, on a grey winter's
morning, Adam Lindsay Gordon was found lying dead
in the scrub near Brighton, Victoria. Forty-two years
ago the first of Australian poets took the short cut into
the Great Beyond, just when the light of literary fame
had begun to shine through the dark clouds of poverty
and neglect. That fame has extended with each passing
year, until Gordon is now the best known, if not always
acknowledged as the greatest, poet Australia has pro-
duced. His verse contains an indefinable charm that
appeals strongly to the hearts of all English speaking
people. It is read alike by the scholar and the stock-
man. The critic may condemn some of it ; yet he loves it.
Gordon did not write for a particular class ; he wrote
as the mood seized him. He could strike original notes
in a classical theme like the death of Achilles, or could
mingle the hoof-beats of horses with dashing verses
as in " How We Beat the Favourite." Careless some-
times, despondent often, yet musical always, his verses
have truly "touched most deeply of all singers the
chords of the Australian heart." And through them
all there runs that '' mournful undersong," that note

^{Reprinted by permission of Messers. W. K. Thomas <S- Co.,
proprietors of " The Register, Adelaide.")

xii



ADAM LINDSAY GORDON xin

of sadness, which occasional stronger chords of cheer
fulness fail to silence.

The weary longings and yearnings
For the mystical better things

ever arose in the poet amid distasteful occupations.

The tragedy of so fine a spirit, so noble a nature, tainted
with inherited melancholia, and overweighted by sordid
cares, comes home to one as the story of Gordon's life
is read. Abhorrence for the deed which ended his
existence is lost in pity for and sympathy with the man.
To one so constituted there are things far worse than
death. Obsessed by cares which to a more robust
mentality might have appeared slight, the poet's mind
in his last years turned constantly to the contemplation
of death. He had grown

So weary, with long sandsifting ;

T'wards the mist where the breakers moan
The rudderless barque is drifting,
Through the shoals and the quicksands shifting —
In the end shall the night rack lifting

Discover the shores unknown ?

Adam Lindsay Gordon first set foot on Australian soil
at Port Adelaide, and the beautiful south-eastern district
inspired his finest verse. There he passed probably
the happiest years of his manhood, and in the joys of
healthy living in the open learned to forgel the unhappy
days of his youth and the pangs of the exile. The
poet's old home, Dingley Dell, still stands.

The son of a captain of the Indian army, Gordon
was born in the Azores Islands in iS;;. The high-
spirited boy's educational career at Cheltenham College
was the reverse oi successful. He was by no mi
backwards, but preferred a bout with the gloves or a
mad gallop to scholastic attainments. Passionately
fond of riding, he was reckless with horses, and tew of
the neighbouring owners eared to lend him a mount.
' lie was held to be a wild, reckless youth, eccentric,
unsteady, yet eminently generous and high spirited,



*iv ADAM LINDSAY GORDON

and with a lofty ideal of his own." Eventually Lind-
say's escapades appear to have exhausted the patience
of his affectionate though reserved father — his mother
had come almost to dislike him ; and it was thought
better that he should emigrate. So, having been refused
by a girl to whom he had become deeply attached,
the youth bade farewell to " friends, parents, kinsmen,
native shore," recording his feelings in those touching
verses to his sister Inez : —

Across the trackless seas I go,

No matter when and where ;
And few my future lot will know,

And fewer still will care.

Surely a hard fate this banishment, however foolish
the young fellow had been ; but Gordon was not to
pass his days in useless repining. Arriving at Port
Adelaide in the Julia on November 14, 1853, he was
immediately admitted to the mounted police force,
and sent to Mount Gambier. Those were stirring times,
and the life suited Gordon for about two years. The
story runs that at the end of that period a sergeant
requested him to brush a pair of boots, and the young
trooper indignantly flung the boots at his superior officer
and left the service. He then set up in business as a
professional horsebreaker. Gordon had retained the
delight in reckless riding that had landed him in more
than one scrape during his stormy youth, and on one
occasion, after impatiently watching a man making
elaborate preparations to mount a notorious buck-
jumper, he stepped up, threw the saddle off, jumped
on the barebacked animal, and darted away like a
whirlwind. His perilous leap over a fence abutting on
a precipitous declivity near Mount Gambier was the
sensation of the district, and was talked of for many a
day. He was with a party of huntsmen, and dared any
of them to follow him over the fence. Needless to say,
none accepted. Gordon's utter disregard of life and
limb resulted in a severe fall at Robe, and here, seven



ADAM LINDSAY GORDON xv

years after he had left the police fence, he met and married
Miss Maggie Park, and they lived for two happy years
in the pretty cottage near to the sea. ' He never
repented of his choice," says his biographer, " and his
subsequent letters breathe a mingled admiration and
attachment for his wife." Then came the news that
Gordon had inherited £7,000 from his mother, and with
this alteration in his financial affairs his position in the
district rapidly advanced, until he finally stood for
Parliament, and narrowly defeated a formidable oppo-
nent in the then Attorney-General, Randolph Stow.
The contest is referred to in Hippodromania : —

Like Stow at our hustings, confronting tin; hisses
Ot roughs with his queer Mephistopheles smile.

( )n the rare occasions when he addressed the House
the member for Victoria treated his colleagues to nu-
merous classical quotations and references unintelligible
to most of them; and it could seldom be definitely
ascertained just what he was driving at. Becoming
tired of Parliamentary routine, Gordon resigned after
two sessions. Unwise investments and heavy ex-
penditure had almost swallowed up his modest fortune,
and he decided to buy a livery stable business in Ballaraf
and make a fresh start. For business, however, the
poet was not titled, and troubles soon arose. At this
time he was described as" a lanky figure, looking a little
scraggy vvith his flowing yellowish beard, over which he
peered with shortsighted eyes, lie wore tighl corduroy
trousers, and high boots. Sometimes a e;ip, more often
his trusty cabbage-tree hat, surmounted his lean figure."
< mi don was badly injured in Ballarat by being smashed
against a gatepost while riding- his defective eyesighl
caused many a mishap — and the - hock affected him for
the remainder of his life. About the same time his little
son died. This was a black period in the poet's history,
but it also witnessed many turf triumph-, for he had
won the reputation of being the mobt brilliant steeple-



xvi ADAM LINDSAY GORDON

chase rider in the country. From Ballarat Gordon
went to Melbourne, and there followed a remarkable
series of racing successes. " How We Beat the Favour-
ite," with its forceful rush —

On still past the gateway she strains in the straightway ;

Still struggles, "The Clown by a short neck at most; "
He swerves, the green scourges, the stand rocks, and surges,

And flashes, and verges, and flits the white post —

was published anonymously about this period, and aroused
widespread attention. But his heart was no longer in
racing — or much in anything else. " I am heartily
sick of the life I have been leading, and I do not now
care even for riding. If I could find any sort of work
in which I could earn enough money to live by, and keep
my wife in bread and clothes, I shall swear against ever
going near a racecourse again." Early in 1869 Gordon
accepted an invitation to visit his dear friends, theRid-
dochs, at Yallum, and he rode his old mare Fairy across
the border. This is recorded as the most productive
poetic time of his life, and it was also the last peacefully
pleasant month he was to know : —

" On his previous visit he had taken a whimsical fancy
to a gnarled old gumtree that stood in a sunny paddock
a few hundred yards from the house. After breakfast
he used to climb it, and sit in a natural armchair upon a
crooked limb. There he would fill and smoke successive
bowls of his old clay pipe, and those who were curious
might see him from time to time jot downlines in pencil
on a paper spread upon the branch, or sometimes on his
hat. He never had any thought upon the time, and
when meals came round he generally had to be specially
summoned, whereupon he would slide down the trunk
and apologize for causing delay."

' The Sick Stockrider " was composed at this time,
and probably ' From the Wreck " and " Wolf and
Hound." To Miss Mary Riddoch he is said to have
written those sweet verses " A Basket of Flowers " : —




Lindsa



I r< member hi >w merrj a sta rt w i
Win ii t he red fox broke fr< im th<
< ordon]



ADAM LINDSAY GORDON xvii

Songs empty, yet airy,

I've striven to write,
For failure, dear Mary,

Forgive me. Good night.

Far more than to success on the turf Gordon aspired
to win poetic fame, and upon his return to Melbourne
this began to come to him. 'The Feud" had been
published at Mount Gambier in 1864, and his second
book "Sea Spray and Smoke Drift," issued in the Vic-
torian capital three years later, had won for him some
little renown. Despite plenty of vigorous exercise,
however, his inherited melancholia, combined probably
with the effects of his injuries at Ballarat and another
severe fall in Melbourne, grew upon him, and was
mainly responsible for the rash act by which he ended
his life on June 24, 1870.

The bard, the scholar, and the man who lived

That frank, that open-hearted life which keeps

The splendid fire of English chivalry

From dying out ; the one who never wronged

A fellow man ; . . . the brave great soul

That never told a lie, or turned aside

To fly from danger.

Such is Kendall's tribute to his friend. And, with
no wish to exaggerate his good qualities or hide his
blemishes, that is the impression — a nobleness of charai ter
and straightforwardness of living— received from the
plain record of Gordon's life, and supported by the
testimony of those who knew him. Beneath the proud,
reserved, and usually unattractive exterior was hidden
a courageous and clean nature. Even in the scape-
grace days of his youth lie was " generous and honour-
able, but reckless and misguided." His English military
instructor found him " idle and reckless, but I never
heard of him doing a dishonourable action." A close
friend, Mr. W. Trainor, exclaimed of him enthusiasti-
cally: — "Oh, Gordon was, I think, the nobles! fellow
who ever lived ! Very queer in his ways, though. I
have ridden ten miles with him al a walking pace, and



xviii ADAM LINDSAY GORDON

he didn't say a word the whole time, but went on mum-
bling to himself, making up rhymes in his head." There
was also something " so generous and noble about him,
he was so upright and conscientious amid all the whims
of his peculiar nature, that I felt him to be of a stamp
quite superior to the men around him, and the closer
our acquaintance grew, the deeper became my feelings
of respect and admiration." A fine character, this for a
man who had to earn his bread as Gordon did ! In his
South Australian days the poet made the acquaintance
of the Rev. Julian Tenison Woods, who records that even
then Gordon was subject to a restless sort of discontent.,
which at times almost impelled him to the idea of putting
an end to the weariness of lift'. ' This, Gordon explained,
was a sort of melancholy to which much of the finest
poetry owed its existence." " This conversation," con-
tinues the priest, " made a deep impression on me, for I
connected it with those sad and moody fits which grew
upon him more and more. He was very silent and
thoughtful in these times, and often failed to hear half
of what was said to him." The late Mr. John Riddoch
described the poet as " a moody, unsociable man when
his poetic fit was on — a great smoker. Often on arriving
at the house he would go away into the bush and fend


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