The Brisbane Centenary

Year: 1925


by Colin Bingham   

University Prize Poem, 1924


A hundred year ago the tireless tide,
That rose and fell between unquarried banks,
Felt on its breast the convict galleys ride,
And heard the chains of men beside the cranks-
Grim engines of punition; curlews cried
In magic copses on the serried ranks
Of unillumined hills, when daylight died;
Winds from the island-bounded bay gave thanks
In whispers for the freedom of the land;
But Prophecy within the hearts of those
Who lived in fetters and despair lay dead,
And scarely one was there whose restless hand
Lend labour where the giant gum-trees rose,
Who looked not through the years with vision red.


And now, to-day, beside the winding stream
Where once untrammelled Nature frowned disdain
Upon the road gang and the settler's team,
A broad and thriving City, born in pain,
Lifts to the sky its building tops agleam
With health-compelling sunlight.  From the main
Unceasingly the ships of Commerce steam
And fill their roomy holds with wool and grain
The prosp'rous hinterland supplies; the feet
Of Progress, She whose goal no eyes have seen,
Tread day by day through counting house and street,
Through school and council hail to where lie green
The pasture fields of that Ambition sweet
Which scorns the Past as if it had not been.


Keep free the civic life from tainted gold,
From that dishonesty which wrecks the State-
The secret contract and the service sold
For doubtful ends, and thou must yet be great,
O Brisbane; let thy eager Youth behold
The best in Art-stone inarticulate
May speak as loud as if the heavens told-
And hear the Music which survives the hate
Of warring nations; seek that all the world
Shall know thy culture, honour, too, thy name
When petty jealousies have ceased to be,
When battleflags for ever have been furled
And Men arch not through human blood to Fame,
But o'er the gods of their idolatry.

                                           Colin Bingham, 1925


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