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Dedicated to


The Editor has endeavoured to make this selection representative
of the best short poems written by Australians or inspired by
Australian scenery and conditions of life, - "Australian" in this connection
being used to include New Zealand. The arrangement is
as nearly as possible chronological; and the appendix contains
brief biographical particulars of the authors, together with notes
which may be useful to readers outside Australia.

The Editor thanks Messrs. H. H. Champion, Henry Gyles Turner,
E. B. Loughran, A. Brazier and Walter Murdoch (Melbourne),
Mr. Sydney Jephcott (Upper Murray, Vic.), Mr. Fred. Johns (Adelaide),
Mr. Thomas Cottle (Auckland), Mr. J. C. Andersen (Christchurch),
Messrs. David Scott Mitchell, Alfred Lee, A. W. Jose,
and J. Le Gay Brereton (Sydney), for their generous help.
Mr. Douglas Sladen's anthologies, Messrs. Turner and Sutherland's
"Development of Australian Literature", and `The Bulletin' have also furnished
much useful information.



William Charles Wentworth.
"Australasia: a Poem"

Charles Harpur.
A Coast View

William Forster.
`The Love in her Eyes lay Sleeping'

James Lionel Michael.
`Through Pleasant Paths'
"John Cumberland"
Periodical (Sydney, 1858)

Daniel Henry Deniehy.
Love in a Cottage
A Song for the Night
Periodical (Sydney, 1847)

Richard Rowe.
Superstites Rosae
Soul Ferry
"Peter 'Possum's Portfolio"

Sir Henry Parkes.
The Buried Chief
"Fragmentary Thoughts"

Thomas Alexander Browne (`Rolf Boldrewood').
"Old Melbourne Memories"

Adam Lindsay Gordon.
A Dedication
"Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes"
Thora's Song
"Ashtaroth: A Dramatic Lyric"
The Sick Stock-rider
"Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes"

Henry Kendall.
Prefatory Sonnets
September in Australia
Rose Lorraine
"Leaves from Australian Forests"
To a Mountain
After Many Years
"Songs from the Mountains"
Outre Mer

Marcus Clarke.
The Song of Tigilau
"Austral Edition of the collected Works of Marcus Clarke"

Patrick Moloney.
"An Easter Omelette" (Melbourne, 1879)

Alfred Domett.
An Invitation
A Maori Girl's Song
"Ranolf and Amohia"

James Brunton Stephens.
The Dominion of Australia
The Dark Companion
"Miscellaneous Poems"
"Convict Once"

Thomas Bracken.
Not Understood
Spirit of Song
"Musings in Maoriland"

Ada Cambridge.
What of the Night?
The Virgin Martyr

Alexander Bathgate.
The Clematis
"Far South Fancies"

Philip Joseph Holdsworth.
Quis Separabit?
My Queen of Dreams
"Station Hunting on the Warrego"

Mary Hannay Foott.
Where the Pelican Builds
New Country
No Message
Happy Days
"Morna Lee and other Poems"

Henry Lea Twisleton.
To a Cabbage Rose

Mrs. James Glenny Wilson.
A Winter Daybreak
The Lark's Song
"A Book of Verses"

Edward Booth Loughran.
Dead Leaves
"'Neath Austral Skies"

John Liddell Kelly.
"Heather and Fern"

Robert Richardson.
A Ballade of Wattle Blossom
A Song
"Willow and Wattle"

James Lister Cuthbertson.
Australia Federata
At Cape Schanck
"Barwon Ballads"
Wattle and Myrtle
Periodical (Melbourne)
The Australian Sunrise
Periodical (Geelong)

John Farrell.
Australia to England
Periodical (Sydney, 1897)

Arthur Patchett Martin.
"The Withered Jester, and other Verses"

Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen.
Under the Wattle
Periodical (1888)

Victor James Daley.
Periodical (Sydney, 1900)
Periodical (Sydney, 1902)
The Night Ride

Alice Werner.
Bannerman of the Dandenong
"A Time and Times"

Ethel Castilla.
An Australian Girl
A Song of Sydney
"The Australian Girl, and other Verses"

Francis William Lauderdale Adams.
Gordon's Grave
To A. L. Gordon
"Poetical Works"
Love and Death

Thomas William Heney.
"In Middle Harbour, and other Verse"
A Riverina Road
Periodical (Sydney, 1891)

Patrick Edward Quinn.
A Girl's Grave
Periodical (Sydney, 1889)

John Sandes.
`With Death's Prophetic Ear'
"Ballads of Battle"

Inez K. Hyland.
To a Wave
Bread and Wine
"In Sunshine and in Shadow"

George Essex Evans.
An Australian Symphony
A Nocturne
A Pastoral
"Loraine, and other Verses"
The Women of the West
Periodical (Melbourne)

Mary Colborne-Veel.
`What Look hath She?'
Saturday Night
"The Fairest of the Angels, and other Verse"
Distant Authors
Periodical (London)

John Bernard O'Hara.
Happy Creek
A Country Village
"Lyrics of Nature"

M. A. Sinclair.
The Chatelaine
Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)

Sydney Jephcott.
White Paper
"The Secrets of the South"
A Ballad of the last King of Thule
A Fragment

Andrew Barton Paterson (`Banjo').
The Daylight is Dying
Clancy of the Overflow
Black Swans
The Travelling Post Office
"The Man from Snowy River"
The Old Australian Ways
By the Grey Gulf-Water
"Rio Grande's Last Race, and other Verses"

Jessie Mackay.
The Grey Company
A Folk Song
Dunedin in the Gloaming
The Burial of Sir John Mackenzie
Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)

Henry Lawson.
Andy's gone with Cattle
Out Back
The Star of Australasia
Middleton's Rouseabout
The Vagabond
The Sliprails and the Spur
"In the Days when the World was Wide, and other Verses"

Arthur Albert Dawson Bayldon.
The Sea
To Poesy
"The Western Track, and other Verses"

Jennings Carmichael.
An Old Bush Road
A Woman's Mood

Agnes L. Storrie.
Twenty Gallons of Sleep
A Confession

Martha M. Simpson.
To an Old Grammar
Periodical (Sydney)

William Gay.
"Christ on Olympus, and other Poems"
To M.
Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum

Edward Dyson.
The Old Whim Horse
"Rhymes from the Mines, and other Lines"

Dowell O'Reilly.
The Sea-Maiden
Periodical (Sydney, 1895)

David MacDonald Ross.
Love's Treasure House
The Sea to the Shell
The Silent Tide
The Watch on Deck
"The After Glow"

Mary Gilmore.
A Little Ghost
Periodical (Orange, N.S.W.)
Periodical (Brisbane)

Bernard O'Dowd.
Love's Substitute
Our Duty

Edwin James Brady.
The Wardens of the Seas

Will. H. Ogilvie.
Queensland Opal
Periodical (London)
Wind o' the Autumn
Periodical (London)
Periodical (Edinburgh)
A Queen of Yore
Periodical (Sydney)
Periodical (London)
The Shadow on the Blind
Periodical (London)

Roderic Quinn.
The House of the Commonwealth
Periodical (Sydney)
The Lotus-Flower

David McKee Wright.
An Old Colonist's Reverie
"Station Ballads, and other Verses"

Christopher John Brennan.
"XXI Poems: Towards the Source"

John Le Gay Brereton.
The Sea Maid
"Sea and Sky"
Periodical (Sydney)

Arthur H. Adams.
Bayswater, W.
Bond Street
Periodical (London)

Ethel Turner.
A Trembling Star
`Oh, if that Rainbow up there!'
"Gum Leaves"

Johannes Carl Andersen.
Soft, Low and Sweet
"Songs Unsung"
Maui Victor
Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)

Dora Wilcox.
In London
"Verses from Maoriland"

Ernest Currie.
Laudabunt Alii
Periodical (Timaru, N.Z.)

George Charles Whitney.

James Lister Cuthbertson. [reprise]
Ode to Apollo
Periodical (Melbourne)

Notes on the Poems

Biographical Notes

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
An Anthology of Australian Verse
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


As the literature of a country is, in certain respects,
a reflex of its character, it may be advisable to introduce this Anthology
with some account of the main circumstances which have affected
the production of Australian poetry.

Australia was first settled by the British a little more than a century ago,
so that we are still a young community. The present population,
including that of New Zealand, is a little under five millions,
or about the same as that of London; it is chiefly scattered
along the coast and the few permanent waterways, and a vast central region
is but sparsely inhabited as yet. All climates, from tropical to frigid,
are included within the continent, but the want of satisfactory watersheds
renders it peculiarly liable to long droughts and sudden floods.
The absence of those broad, outward signs of the changing seasons
which mark the pageant of the year in the old world is probably
a greater disadvantage than we are apt to suspect. Here, too,
have existed hardly any of the conditions which obtained in older communities
where great literature arose. There is no glamour of old Romance
about our early history, no shading off from the actual
into a dim region of myth and fable; our beginnings are clearly defined
and of an eminently prosaic character. The early settlers were engaged
in a hand-to-hand struggle with nature, and in the establishment
of the primitive industries. Their strenuous pioneering days
were followed by the feverish excitement of the gold period and a consequent
rapid expansion of all industries. Business and politics have afforded
ready roads to success, and have absorbed the energies of the best intellects.
There has been no leisured class of cultured people to provide the atmosphere
in which literature is best developed as an art; and, until recently,
we have been content to look to the mother country for our artistic standards
and supplies. The principal literary productions of our first century
came from writers who had been born elsewhere, and naturally brought with them
the traditions and sentiments of their home country.

We have not yet had time to settle down and form any decided
racial characteristics; nor has any great crisis occurred
to fuse our common sympathies and create a national sentiment.
Australia has produced no great poet, nor has any remarkable innovation
in verse forms been successfully attempted. But the old forms
have been so coloured by the strange conditions of a new country,
and so charged with the thoughts and feelings of a vigorous,
restless democracy now just out of its adolescence, that they have
an interest and a value beyond that of perhaps technically better minor poetry
produced under English skies.

The first verses actually written and published in Australia seem to have been
the Royal Birthday Odes of Michael Robinson, which were printed as broadsides
from 1810 to 1821. Their publication in book form was announced
in `The Hobart Town Gazette' of 23rd March, 1822, but no copy of such a volume
is at present known to exist. The famous "Prologue", said to have been
recited at the first dramatic performance in Australia, on January 16th, 1796
(when Dr. Young's tragedy "The Revenge" and "The Hotel" were played
in a temporary theatre at Sydney), was for a long time attributed
to the notorious George Barrington, and ranked as the first verse
produced in Australia. There is, however, no evidence to support this claim.
The lines first appeared in a volume called "Original Poems and Translations"
chiefly by Susannah Watts, published in London in 1802,
a few months before the appearance of the "History of New South Wales" (1803)
- known as George Barrington's - which also, in all probability,
was not written by Barrington. In Susannah Watts' book
the Prologue is stated to be written by "A Gentleman",
but there is no clue to the name of the author. Mr. Barron Field,
Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, printed in Sydney in 1819
his "First Fruits of Australian Poetry", for private circulation.
Field was a friend of Charles Lamb, who addressed to him the letter
printed in "The Essays of Elia" under the title of "Distant Correspondents".
Lamb reviewed the "First Fruits" in `The Examiner', and one wishes
for his sake that the verses were more worthy.

The first poem of any importance by an Australian is
William Charles Wentworth's "Australasia", written in 1823
at Cambridge University in competition for the Chancellor's medal.
There were twenty-seven competitors, and the prize was awarded
to W. Mackworth Praed, Wentworth being second on the list. Wentworth's poem
was printed in London in the same year, and shortly afterwards
in `The Sydney Gazette', the first Australian newspaper.
In 1826 there was printed at the Albion Press, Sydney,
"Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel" by Charles Tompson, Junior,
the first verse of an Australian-born writer published in this country.
There was also published in Sydney in 1826 a book of verses
by Dr. John Dunmore Lang, called "Aurora Australis".
Both Lang and Wentworth afterwards conducted newspapers
and wrote histories of New South Wales, but their names are more famous
in the political than in the literary annals of the country.
At Hobart Town in 1827 appeared "The Van Diemen's Land Warriors,
or the Heroes of Cornwall" by "Pindar Juvenal", the first book of verse
published in Tasmania. During the next ten years various poetical effusions
were printed in the colonies, which are of bibliographical interest
but of hardly any intrinsic value. Newspapers had been established
at an early date, but until the end of this period they were little better
than news-sheets or official gazettes, giving no opportunities
for literature. The proportion of well-educated persons was small,
the majority of the free settlers being members of the working classes,
as very few representatives of British culture came willingly to this country
until after the discovery of gold.

It was not until 1845 that the first genuine, though crude,
Australian poetry appeared, in the form of a small volume of sonnets
by Charles Harpur, who was born at Windsor, N.S.W., in 1817.
He passed his best years in the lonely bush, and wrote largely
under the influence of Wordsworth and Shelley. He had some
imagination and poetic faculty of the contemplative order,
but the disadvantages of his life were many. Harpur's best work
is in his longer poems, from which extracts cannot conveniently be given here.
The year 1842 had seen the publication of Henry Parkes' "Stolen Moments",
the first of a number of volumes of verse which that statesman bravely issued,
the last being published just before his eightieth year. The career of Parkes
is coincident with a long and important period of our history,
in which he is the most striking figure. Not the least interesting
aspect of his character, which contained much of rugged greatness,
was his love of poetry and his unfailing kindness to the struggling writers
of the colony. Others who deserve remembrance for their services at this time
are Nicol D. Stenhouse and Dr. Woolley. Among the writers of the period
D. H. Deniehy, Henry Halloran, J. Sheridan Moore and Richard Rowe
contributed fairly good verse to the newspapers, the principal of which were
`The Atlas' (1845-9), `The Empire' (1850-8), and two papers still in existence
- `The Freeman's Journal' (1850) and `The Sydney Morning Herald',
which began as `The Sydney Herald' in 1831. None of their writings, however,
reflected to any appreciable extent the scenery or life of the new country.

With the discovery of gold a new era began for Australia.
That event induced the flow of a large stream of immigration,
and gave an enormous impetus to the development of the colonies.
Among the ardent spirits attracted here were J. Lionel Michael, Robert Sealy,
R. H. Horne, the Howitts, Henry Kingsley and Adam Lindsay Gordon. Michael was
a friend of Millais, and an early champion of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Soon after his arrival in Sydney he abandoned the idea of digging for gold,
and began to practise again as a solicitor. Later on he removed to Grafton
on the Clarence River; there in 1857 Henry Kendall, a boy of 16,
found work in his office, and Michael, discerning his promise,
encouraged him to write. Most of the boy's earliest verses
were sent from Michael's office to Parkes, who printed them
in his paper `The Empire'. When Kendall left Grafton,
Michael gave him a letter of introduction to Stenhouse,
which brought him in touch with the small literary group in Sydney;
and his first volume, "Poems and Songs", was published in Sydney in 1862.
It was not long before he recognised the extreme weakness
of most of its contents, and did what he could to suppress the book.
He sent specimens of his best work to the London `Athenaeum',
and wrote a pathetic letter to the Editor, which was printed
in the issue of 27th September, 1862, together with some of the poems
and a most kindly comment. Kendall soon wrote again, sending more poems,
and received encouraging notices in `The Athenaeum' on 19th September, 1863,
27th February, 1864, and 17th February, 1866. These form
the first favourable pronouncement upon Australian poetry
by an English critical journal of importance. Their stimulating effect
upon Kendall was very great. From the indifference of the many
and the carping criticisms of some of the magnates here,
he had appealed to one of the highest literary authorities in England,
and received praise beyond his wildest expectations.

Meanwhile the colony of Victoria, which began its independent career in 1851,
had been advancing even more rapidly than New South Wales.
`The Argus' newspaper had been in existence since 1846, and other periodicals
sprang up in Melbourne which gave further scope to letters.
`The Australasian' was established in 1854, and soon became
the most important literary journal in Australia. Adam Lindsay Gordon,
who had landed in Adelaide in the same year as Henry Kingsley - 1853 -
published a little book of verse in 1864 at Mt. Gambier, S.A.,
and began to contribute verses to a Melbourne sporting paper in 1866.
These were printed anonymously, and attracted some attention;
but a collection of his ballads - "Sea Spray and Smoke Drift" -
brought very little praise and no profit. Marcus Clarke came to Melbourne
in 1864, and soon afterwards began to write for `The Argus' and other papers.
About the same time the presence of R. H. Horne, the distinguished author
of "Orion", in Melbourne lent a lustre to that city,
which was for the time the literary centre of Australia.
Horne corresponded with Kendall, and contributed to a paper
edited by Deniehy in Sydney - `The Southern Cross' (1859-60).
He was the presiding genius of the literary gatherings
at Dwight's book-shop in Melbourne, and no doubt exercised
a beneficial influence upon the writers around him.

In 1870, after a series of crushing disappointments, Gordon committed suicide.
His dramatic end awakened sympathy and gave an additional interest
to his writings. It was soon found that in the city and the bush
many of his spirited racing ballads were well known. The virile,
athletic tone of his verse, which taught

"How a man should uphold the sports of his land
And strike his best with a strong right hand
And take his strokes in return" -

and the practical philosophy, summed up in the well-known quatrain -

"Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone;
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own" -

appeal strongly to Australians. Gordon's work cannot be considered
as peculiarly Australian in character; but much of it is concerned
with the horse, and all of it is a-throb with the manly, reckless personality
of the writer. Horses and horse-racing are especially interesting
to Australians, the Swinburnian rush of Gordon's ballads charms their ear,
and in many respects he embodies their ideal of a man.
There are few Australians who do not know some of his poems,
even if they know no others, and his influence upon subsequent writers
has been very great.

Brunton Stephens, who came to Queensland in 1866, wrote there a long poem
called "Convict Once" which, when published in London in 1871,
gained high praise from competent critics, and gave the author
an academic reputation. A little book of humorous verses
issued in Melbourne in 1873 almost immediately became popular,
and a later volume of "Miscellaneous Poems" (1880), containing some
fine patriotic utterances as well as many in lighter vein,
established him as one of our chief singers.

The first important poem from New Zealand - Domett's "Ranolf and Amohia" -
was published in London in 1872. Domett spent thirty years in New Zealand.
He wrote a good deal of verse before leaving England and after his return,
but "Ranolf and Amohia" is the only poem showing traces
of Australian influence. It is a miscellany in verse rather than an epic,
and contains some fine descriptions of New Zealand scenery.

The death of Kendall in Sydney in 1882 closed what may be regarded
as the second literary period. He had published his finest work
in "Songs from the Mountains" (1880), and had the satisfaction of knowing
that it was a success, financially and otherwise. Kendall's audience
is not so large as Gordon's, but it is a steadily growing one;
and many readers who have been affected by his musical verse
hold the ill-fated singer in more tender regard than any other.
He lived at a time when Australians had not learned to think it possible
that any good thing in art could come out of Australia,
and were too fully occupied with things of the market-place
to concern themselves much about literature.

Several attempts have been made to maintain magazines and reviews
in Sydney and Melbourne, but none of them could compete successfully
with the imported English periodicals. `The Colonial Monthly',
`The Melbourne Review', `The Sydney Quarterly', and `The Centennial Magazine'
were the most important of these. They cost more to produce
than their English models, and the fact that their contents were Australian
was not sufficient in itself to obtain for them adequate support.
Newspapers have played a far more important part in our literary world.
`The Australasian', `Sydney Mail' and `Queenslander' have done a good deal
to encourage local writers, but the most powerful influence
has been that of `The Bulletin', started in Sydney in 1880.
Its racy, irreverent tone and its humour are characteristically Australian,
and through its columns the first realistic Australian verse of any importance
- the writings of Henry Lawson and A. B. Paterson - became widely known.
When published in book form, their verses met with phenomenal success;
Paterson's "The Man from Snowy River" (1895) having already attained
a circulation of over thirty thousand copies. It is the first
of a long series of volumes, issued during the last ten years, whose character
is far more distinctively Australian than that of their predecessors.
Their number and success are evidences of the lively interest taken
by the present generation here in its native literature.

Australia has now come of age, and is becoming conscious
of its strength and its possibilities. Its writers to-day are, as a rule,
self-reliant and hopeful. They have faith in their own country;
they write of it as they see it, and of their work and their joys and fears,
in simple, direct language. It may be that none of it is poetry
in the grand manner, and that some of it is lacking in technical finish;
but it is a vivid and faithful portrayal of Australia, and its ruggedness
is in character. It is hoped that this selection from the verse that has been
written up to the present time will be found a not unworthy contribution

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Online LibraryVariousAn Anthology of Australian Verse → online text (page 1 of 13)