Wentworth

A poem by Mary Hannay Foott

’Tis a new thing for Australia that the waters to her bear
One who seeks not strength of sunshine, or the breath of healing air;
One who reeks not of her riches, nor remembers she is fair;
One who land and houses, henceforth, holdeth not, for evermore;
Coming for such narrow dwelling as the dead need, to the shore
Named aforetime by the spirit to receive the garb it wore.

’Tis a strange thing for Australia that her name should be the name
Breathed ere death by one who loved her, claiming, with a patriot’s claim,
Earth of her as chosen grave-place; rather than the lands of fame;
Rather than the Sacred City where a sepulchre was sought
For the noblest hearts of Europe; rather than the Country fraught
With the incense of the altars whence our household gods were brought.

’Tis a proud thing for Australia, while the funeral-prayers are said,
To remember loving service, frankly rendered by the dead;
How he strove, amid the nations, evermore to raise her head.
How in youth he sang her glory, as it is, and is to be,
Called her “Empress,” while they held her yet as base-born, over sea,
Owned her “Mother,” when her children scarce were counted with the free!

How he claimed of King and Commons that his birthland should be used
As a daughter not an alien; till the boon, so oft refused,
Was withheld, at last, no longer; and the former bonds were loosed.
How the scars of serfdom faded. How he led within the light
Of her fireside Earth’s Immortals; chrism-touched from Olympus’ height;
Whom gods loved; for whom the New Faith, too, has guest-rooms garnished bright.

’Tis a great thing for Australia; that her child of early years,
Shared her path of desert-travel, bread of sorrow, drink of tears,
Holding by her to these hill-tops, whence her Promised Place appears.
Titles were not hers to offer as the meed of service done;
Rank of peer or badge of knighthood, star or ribbon, she had none;
But she breathes a mother’s blessing o’er the ashes of her son.


6th May, 1873

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