Burke & Wills Web
www.burkeandwills.net.au
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017

by Edward Booth Loughran, 1894.

'Neath Australian Skies, Melbourne: Melville, Mullen & Slade, 1894.
The Ivory Gate, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co, 1907. pp. 102-113.

(Written for a child)

The story of that monument,
On Traffic's stir looks down?
And of the noble forms of bronze
The pillar's summit crown?
And how among Australian Blacks
Came camels with their crooked backs?
And what may mean that cavalcade?
And who seems dying? Who lies dead?


My boy, you'll ......


In Melbourne many years ago......


What was their task?
Not theirs the fire.....


To pierce, for science and for man....


And well equipp'd to face the work.....


Foremost, on his small wiry greay,....


And near him now, when hopes burn high....


Thus, under auspices as bright.....


But ah, though fair the outward show......


The heavy-labouring column left.....


But days and weary weeks go by,
And he looks forth in vain;
Still empty, morning, noon, and eve,
Stretches the southward plain.
At last, of dull inaction tired,
And still, with hope and longing fired,
He cries, “Give me but comrades three,
And I will gain the northern sea!”


And at the word, step forth young Wills,
And gallant King and Gray;
Where'er their leader's foot may go,
As bold to follow they.
Northward may wait them perils dire,
A savage race, and tracts of fire,
But they are of true British breed,
Prepared to die or succeed.


Just think! Of all that goodly train
From .....


A last farewell to comrades said
(Whom......


Day after day, week after week,
Endured that toilsome march-
‘Neath blazing suns, o'er stony tracts,
The tiring feet that parch;
Through tearing scrub,
Through flooded fens,
O'er dreary flats of salt-bush dense,
Through forests where dim twilight broods,
O'er rivers swollen with tropic floods.


Yet sometimes cheer's their weary eyes
Scenes.....


Eight weeks have passed. Two haggard men,
By a lone inlet, stand,
(Where Carpentaria stretches south
A cold and glittering hand);
Their frames are hunger-worn and weak,
But triumph's flush is on their cheek,
And triumph's light is in their eye-
For lo, at last, the sea is nigh!


Though mangroves veil the ocean's breast,
They hear its low, deep tone;
Their feet the continent have crossed,
The victory is won!
Forgot are peril now, and pain,
Forgot the dangers that remain;
The thought alone leaps up like flame-
Gained is a proud, immortal name!


The stately forests they have pierced
Will fall 'neath.....


Southward once more with joyfull hearts
The feeble .....


With hands that scarce the task fulfil
His lonely grave they heap.....


At last comes Cooper's Creek in view.
“Hurrah!” the leader cries,
“Our comrades' moving forms I see
Against the sunset dyes.”
Vain mirage ! vision sweet, that flies
Ere grasp it quite the aching eyes!
No lonelier spreads the desert's face
Than lies the longed-for camping place.


Too cruel Fate! to dash the cup
Just....


Only a few short hours too late!
That very .....


But hero-hearts not even despair
Can quell; ‘gainst hopeless odds
They struggle still while glows one spark
Of life-the rest is God's.
Engraven on a gum-tree's bark,
Wills, the brief mandate “DIG” doth mark;
And, soon revealed, a scanty store
Of food doth hope with strength restore.


Two days for rest. Then on once more
They .....


'Twould wring thy gentle heart, my child,
To hear in sad detail.....


Two months of misery; then the end!
Beneath a gunyah lies
Heroic Wills, the light of life
Slow fading from his eyes.
Great to the last that noble heart!
He bids his sorrowing friends depart:
“One chance remains-to find again
The kindly children of the plain.”


Full loath, though other hope was none,
They leave him there-to die.
Alone, beneath the pitying stars,
He breathed his latest sigh.
Sad lot for youth so promise-full!
But mortal eyes, my child, are dull
To scan God's ways. Death summons all.
As ready few to hear the call.


And, ere thrice more had set the sun,
Bave Burke had joined his friend;
A soldier, like a soldier he
Fell fighting to the end.
And martial memories were heard
Still lingering in his latest word:
“My weapon place in my right hand;
Leave me unburied on the sand.”


That is their story. Fate was kind,
That not in vain they fell;
Faithful, devoted King was spared
Their moving tale to tell.
Nor left to bleach on desert sands,
Their sacred bones, by reverent hands,
While many a heart-warming tear was shed,
Were laid among the honoured dead.


Dead! But their spirit is not dead;
The indomitable will,
The courage high that shames despair
Inspires Australia still.
Nor could more fit memorial rise
To meet her ardent children's eyes,
Than that which tells of duty done,
Though life be given in desert lone.

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© 2017, Dave Phoenix