Arthur Wade

Arthur Wade

Arthur Wade (1878-1951)

Field Geologist, part time poet. Arthur Wade (Q Gov't Mining Jnl)

I expect Arthur Wade is the only published Australian poet after whom a mineral is named.

Wade was born in Yorkshire, and worked in Egypt on the geology of petroleum before arriving in Australia, in 1913. He studied oilfield prospects in Australia and in Papua, and, in 1914, he was the author of the first important report on Papuan petroleum. He served as the Commonwealth Government’s director of oil fields until 1919, and then extended his activities to Africa, North America, Southern Europe and Poland, before settling in Australia for good in 1932 or 1933.

Wade was one of the first geologists to use aerial surveying as a means of identifying Australian prospects, and was instrumental in opening up the Canning basin and in the exploration of the Kimberley in Western Australia. In 1940 he moved to Queensland. Far from retiring, he worked for the Shell Company and Australian Military intelligence.

He wrote poetry for fun. ‘Envoi’, the last poem in his only book of poetry Vagabond Verse (1947), begins:

‘The robin sings, I think, to please,

Himself- so I wrote these,

If you, dear Prince, find pleasure too

Why there’s a bond ‘twixt me and you.’ 

The 33 poems in this book show humour, compassion, an original eye, and the benefit of a lifetime of wide experience. Perhaps the most interesting poems are those of the landscape. They features scenes in Papua New Guinea, Port Arthur, Mt Wellington, Western Australia, the Bunya Mountains, and Egypt. These works show sympathy for the land but seldom any element of sentimentality:

‘Flat

Featureless

Foetid;

Muddy as the mass mind of multitudes.

Brown,

Like a sere[1] cloth

Scorched in the flames of Hell.’

From ‘Derby’.

Wade also shows a strong understanding of Australian history. Take this, from the sonnet Port Arthur:

‘Oh bare thy head should one their story tell!

God made this Heaven, our fathers made it Hell!’ 

He also has a fondness for wordplay seldom seen in Australian poetry:

‘Etioliated[2] I withdrew into my cucullated[3] tent

And called the coryphaeus[4] of my men

Who on acanthopterygia[5] had diurnally been bent

And on icthyophagy[6]- well now and then.’

Don’t go looking for literature in his book. Vagabond Verse is a simple, authentic rendering of the loves and thoughts of a gifted man who seems to have lived a wonderful life.  He died of a heart attack after a body surf at Mermaid Beach, in 1951.

Best book to buy: Wade, A, Vagabond Verse, Brisbane, John Mills, 1947 (earlier editions, 1917 and 1918).



[1]Dry

[2]Whitened by the withdrawal of light

[3]Hooded

[4]The leader of a greek chorus

[5]Bony fishes with spiny fins

[6]Not in the Macquarie dictionary, even the big one, I think it should read ‘ichthyophagy’ and means ‘fish eating’.