From Australia Undefended

Year: 1909
by Mabel Forrest    
 
From AUSTRALIA UNDEFENDED 
 
                                    I.
 
The blue sea skirts her slim, sun-ambered feet,
Upon her mighty brow red gold is bound, 
Upon her breast mimosa flowers press sweet,
And hills and forests lap her beauty round.
...
All day the breeze sings to her maiden ears
A lullaby, like croon of scrub-hid doves,
And, rustling in the brig'low boughs she hears
The lusty bronze-wing boasting of his loves.
 
She sleeps-and shall we leave her to her dream?
The sun is very bright on hill and dale,
O'er vine-hung rocks the silver waters gleam,
And moss lies all untrodden in the vale.
 
                                    II.
 
They left her, where the purple mountains loom
Untenanted, above the Northern seas,
Rimmed round by palm, or fir of tufted gloom,
Or the stiff shoots of dry pandanus trees,
Left her to rest in woodlands green and still.
...
There came a muffled stirring in the East,
From rock to rock a stealthy creature stept,
Red war unleashed – a sullen, sateless beast,
To prey upon her beauty while she slept!
 
                                    III
 
Australians, will you leave your dear land, Maid of the sun, and Queen of the blue seas,
To cringe 'neath an alien master's hand, to hug his feet, or fawn about his knees?
And will you let his savage, reiving[1] touch mar the  white beauty of your Southern maid,
For she has trusted long and overmuch, to rise up shudd'ring, rifled, and afraid?
 
They murmur round the gates to East and West;
their footsteps echo in the halls of Strife,
With hov'ring hand above her perfect breast,
with sear of bullet, or red, sudden knife!
The smoke will rise o'er quiet settlers' homes,
but not the smoke of peaceful hearths afar,
But that which, smiting heaven's blueness comes,
the horrid following of a bloody war.
...
                              IV
 
Do you think that you could thole[2] it, Australian born and free,
Where the call of many rivers finds an echo in the sea?
Do you think that you could bear to feel the chain that grinds you round?
'Midst the chitter of the bell-birds in your happy hunting ground,
Will you die – or live to learn it, when the crucial moment comes,
And the crook'd and yellow fingers curve on undefended homes?
Let every unit find his place, a part of one great plan-
Australians must remember, 'tis the boy that makes the man.
Take the brown-faced ladies as they play along the street,
Let them listen to the rhythm of the steady marching feet,
Teach the keen young eye to sight the gun, the keen young hand to thrust,
Do not let the young glance waver, or the good steel barrel rust;
Let them play the game like soldiers, let them scout the lucerne field,
With the rifle at the shoulder, and their honour for their shield;
Let the lassies bind a token in the sun-kissed mountain glades,
For the bravery of ladies and the purity of maids!
...
Would the man who swings a leg across the sweating outlaw's back
Swerve aside before the Maxim that is mouthing in the track?
The stuff is there – then train it – put the means within the hand,
Fate has given you a treasure to be guarded in your land!
Oh! the fair-maid country calls you, as she couches in the sun,
That you keep her honour stainless with the power of your gun!
 
                                                             Mabel Forrest (1909)
 

[1] An old northern England and Scottish word, broadly meaning ‘raiding’.

[2] Archaic word meaning ‘suffer’