Victor James Daley

(5 September 1858 – 29 December 1905 / Navan, County Armagh, Ireland)

A Vision Splendid


Half waking and half dreaming,
While starry lamps hung low
I saw a vision splendid
Upon the darkness glow.

The Capital Australian,
With waving banners plumed -
A shining flower of marble -
Magnificently bloomed.

Beside a snow-fed river
'Twas built in fashion rare -
Upon a lofty mountain,
All in a valley fair.

The stately ships were sailing,
Like brides with flowing trains,
To seek its secret harbor
Amidst Australian plains.

And all around it flourished
Luxuriantly free,
The giant gum and mangrove,
The crimson desert-pea.

And I beheld a building
That made a stately show -
The National Australian
Head Poetry Bureau.

I gazed upon that Building
With trembling joy aghast;
The long-felt want of ages
Was filled (I thought) at last.

No more the Native Poet
Need wildly beat his head
For lofty lyric measures
To buy him beer and bed.

Now he would lodge right nobly
And sleep serene, secure,
All in a chamber filled with
Adhesive furniture.

For never foot of Bailiff
Should pass his threshold o'er,
And never knock of landlord
Sound direful on his door.

The State should also aid him
To build his lofty rhyme
On lordly eggs-and-bacon,
And sausages sublime.

And he should drink no longer
Cheap beer at common bar,
But royal wine of Wunghnu
At two-and-nine the jar.

It was a vision splendid,
And brighter still did grow
When I was made the Chief of
The Poetry Bureau.

They clad me all in purple,
They hung me with festoons,
My singing-robes were spangled
With aluminium moons.

And, as a sign of genius
Above the common kind,
A wreath of gilded laurel
Around my hat they twined.

They also gave me power to
The grain sift from the chaff,
And choose at my large pleasure
My own poetic staff.

Then straightaway I appointed
To chant by day and night,
The brilliant young Australian
Who sang 'The Land of Light.'

I also gave in fashion
Hilariously free,
The Girl and Horse Department
In charge of Ogilvie.

And on the roof-ridge Brady
Sang salt-junk chanties great
To cheer the stout sea-lawyers
Who sail the Ship of State.

And tender-hearted Lawson
Sang everybody's wrongs;
And Brennan, in the basement,
Crooned weird, symbolic songs.

And on the throne beside me,
Above the common din,
He sang his Songs of Beauty,
My friend, the poet Quinn.

Our own Australian artists
Made beautiful its halls -
The mighty steeds of Mahony
Pranced proudly on the walls.

Tom Roberts, he was there, too,
With painted portraits fine
Of men of light and leading -
Me, and some friends of mine.

And Souter's Leering Lady,
'Neath hat and over fan,
With Souter's cat was ogling
His check-clothed gentleman.

And Fischer, Ashton, Lister,
With beetling genius rife -
Pardieu! I was their Patron,
And set them up for life.

And from each dusky corner,
In petrified new birth,
Glared busts of Me and Barton,
By Nelson Illingworth.

And nine fair Muses dwelt there,
With board and lodging free;
Six by the States were chosen,
And I selected three.

And there we turned out blithely
Australian poems sound,
To sell in lengths like carpet,
And also by the pound.

For Paddy Quinn, the Statesman,
Had made a law which said
That native authors only
On pain of death be read.

O, brother bards, I grieve that
Good dreams do not come true;
You see how very nobly
I would have done to you!

But, ah! the vision vanished,
And took away in tow
The National Australian
Head Poetry Bureau.

Submitted: Friday, May 25, 2012

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