Mary Hannay Foott

(1846 - 1918 / Australia)

The Fate of Bass


On the snow-line of the summit stood the Spaniard's English slave;
And the frighted condor westward flew afar---
Where the torch of Cotopaxi lit the wide Pacific wave,
And the tender moon embraced a new-born star.
Blanched the cheek that Austral breezes off Van Diemen's coast had tanned,
Bent the form that on the deck stood stalwart there;
Slim and pallid as a woman's was the sailor's sunburnt hand,
And untimely silver streaked the strong man's hair.
From the forest far beneath him came the baffled bloodhound's bay,
From the gusty slope the camp-fire's fitful glow;
But the pass the Indian told of o'er the cliff beside him lay,
And beyond---The Mighty River's easward flow.
"Mine the secret of the Incas; to the tyrants never told;
Mine the Cloven Rock; the league long Sculptured Way!
Ere the weary scouts awaken, ere the embers are grown cold---
Ere the dogs in dreams their quarry seize and slay!"
Freedom's threshold!---yet he tarries---gazes seaward, southward still,
Past the gulfs where fainting chain-gangs toil entombed,
And the furnace of the smelter taints the winds of every hill
With the fumes that swathe the dying and the doomed.
Never, never, gallant seaman, may the land that lit thy dreams
In the starless drive make glad thine eyes again---
Where through tropic heavens at midnight the Antarctic glory streams
And a sea of blossom floods the wintry plain.
Never more the settler's welcome, at the sinking of the sun,
Nor his godspeed; mid the fragrant Austral morn!
Shattered, spent, and broken-hearted---yet a guerdon thou hast won,
And where brave souls meet thou shalt not stand forlorn.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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