James Brunton Stephens
Dedicated by special permission to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
We cried, “How long!” We sighed, “Not yet;”
And still with faces dawnward set
“Prepare the way,” said each to each,
And yet again, “Prepare,” we said;
And toil, re-born of resolute speech,
Made straight the path her feet should tread:—
Now triumph, faithful hands and steadfast wills,
For, lo! whose pomp the bannered Orient fills?
Whose feet are these upon the morning hills?
Farewell, Sweet Faith! thy silver ray
Now dies into the golden day.
Farewell, Bright Dream, by minstrels sung!
For She whom all our dreams foreran
Has leaped to life, a Pallas sprung
Consummate from the brain of man,
Whom now we hail in mortal guise and gait,
Thought clothed with flesh, partaker of our state,
Made corporal in us now corporate!
Ah, now we know the long delay
But served to assure a prouder day,
For while we waited came the call
To prove and make our title good—
To face the fiery ordeal
That tries the claim to Nationhood—
And now in pride of challenge we unroll,
For all the world to read, the record-scroll
Whose bloody script attests a Nation's soul.
O ye, our Dead, who at the call
Fared forth to fall as heroes fall,
Whose consecrated souls we failed
To note beneath the common guise
Till all-revealing Death unveiled
The splendour of your sacrifice,
Now, crowned with more than perishable bays,
Immortal in your country's love and praise,
Ye, too, have portion in this day of days!
And ye who sowed where now we reap,
Whose waiting eyes, now sealed in sleep,
Beheld far off with prescient sight
This triumph of rejoicing lands—
Yours, too, the day! for though its light
Can pierce not to your folded hands,
These shining hours of advent but fulfil
The cherished purpose of your constant will,
Whose onward impulse liveth in us still.
Still lead thou vanward of our line,
Who, shaggy, massive, leonine,
Could'st yet most finely phrase the event—
For if a Pisgah view was all
Vouchsafed to thine uncrowned intent,
The echoes of thy herald-call
Not faintlier strive with our saluting guns,
And at thy words through all Australia's sons
The “crimson thread of kinship” redder runs.
But not the memory of the dead,
How loved so'er each sacred head,
To-day can change from glad to grave
The chords that quire a Nation born—
Twin offspring of the birth that gave,
When yester-midnight chimed to morn,
Another age to the Redeemer's reign,
Another cycle to the widening gain
Of Good o'er Ill and Remedy o'er Pain.
Our sundering lines with love o'ergrown,
Our bounds the girdling seas alone—
Be this the burden of the psalm
That every resonant hour repeats,
Till day-fall dusk the fern and palm
That forest our transfigured streets,
And night still vibrant with the note of praise
Thrill brother-hearts to song in woodland ways,
When gum-leaves whisper o'er the camp-fire's blaze.
* * * * *
The Charter's read: the rites are o'er;
The trumpet's blare and cannon's roar
Are silent, and the flags are furled;
But so not ends the task to build
Into the fabric of the world
The substance of our hope fulfilled—
To work as those who greatly have divined
The lordship of a continent assigned
As God's own gift for service of mankind.
O People of the onward will,
Unit of Union greater still
Than that to-day hath made you great,
Your true Fulfilment waiteth there,
Embraced within the larger fate
Of Empire ye are born to share—
No vassal progeny of subject brood,
No satellite shed from Britain's plenitude,
But orbed with her in one wide sphere of good!
* * * * *
O Lady, in whose sovereign name
The crowning word of Union came
That sheds upon thine honoured age
The glory of a rising light,
Across our record's earliest page,
Its earliest word, thy name we write . . .
Symbol, Embodiment, and Guarantee
Of all that makes us and maintains us free,
Woman and Queen, God's grace abide with thee.
James Brunton Stephens's Other Poems
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