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by John Owen Tucker, 1862.

The Golden Spring; A Tale of Tasmania and other poems.

If aught's a tribute to a memory dear,
It is the pang -whence starts the falling tear ;
That pang is felt, deep in the bosom's core,
Upon our soil, for three who breathe no more.
Profound, aye! with the inner eye we view—
And all which can to hallow'd thoughts accrue.
Those struggling souls who stemm'd the waves of time,
Steer'd by the compass, Fame, to acts sublime ;
Heedless of tempests in the course they ran,
Performing duty due to God and man :
Success seems bright—oft doth that light portend
Obstruction none—enamoured of the end,
Their souls are fired, and nobly strives the brave,
But strikes the rock which hurls them to the grave.
There perished dreams that solaced many an hour,
Perchance of love—home—wealth—ambition—power—
For 'mid the wild waste's silent solitude
The present seldom will itself intrude;
"Tis past, and future dwells upon the mood—
Alone there lie the remnants of the great,
All shattered—wrecked upon the rock of fate.
The clouds of sorrow cannot reach the forms,
But dew the memory with their weeping storms.

Victoria saw in one auspicious day,
Her brightest hope start forth in proud array,
With men who had responded to the call,
Eager in mind, to bear them through or fall:
Many a beauty trembling on the brave,
The press of silent speech at parting gave ;
And left the witness of her grief to rest,
In glist'ning tear-drops on the manly breast;
For many a heart that day had loosed its well,
Choking the tones that fain would speak farewell;
There many an emulating soul
Flash'd fram the eyes in triumph o'er the whole;
Not grov'lling ones, but of a higher mood,
And such as struggle for a country's good :
A country young—too young their birth to know—
Whose genial clime prolific beauties show,
Have bound their hearts by that cementing tie,
Which only breaks when nobler feelings die.
Hark to that shout! rending the airy vault,
And brings the passer to a wond'ring halt;
The objects saved from sweating labour's hit,
And stooping toil on shoulders ceased to sit;
The languid eye, from apathy's dull dream,
Is roused to stretch, and let its iris beam ;
E'en paleness flits from beauty's forehead fair,
And all elate, irradiates it there ;
The lisping infant's shrilly notes in vain
Essay to rival 'mid the coarser strain ;
While Sol has deign'd his golden rays to'cast,
In pleading brightness for the stormy past.

Behold ! how proudly sits the leader there,
'Tis Burke ! on charger white, with soul to dare,
Panting for deeds well worthy of the name
That graced the past immortal child of fame :
Yes! He has sworn to cross the trackless waste,
Or perish, since the cause he has embraced.
Not least in the procession, moves elate,
That youthful form, impelled on to his fate
By all which noble in the bosom lives,
And wins itself the name which greatness gives ;
In every lineament of that fine face—
That eye of fire—those firm set lips, we trace
The will of Wills—whose heart expands to do !
Yearning to trace the far wild labyrinths through.
And there were more—but stay my theme—forbear !
For why a pyramid of names uprear ?
Enough, that all mutual obedience do
Pay to the mandates which their chiefs issue,
And now receding from the vast concourse,
They take their way an unknown land to cross.
The farewell hour of parting 's passed away,
And many a glance shoots forth a smiling ray,
As though prophetic of a brighter day :
Yet some there are, who 'midst that crowd have been,
Now seek their homes with heart-felt pangs unseen ;
An inward whisp'ring, such as oft-times greet
The heart, has said " No more on earth to meet."

'Tis done and past—the oath was sworn and kept—
The forest wild and desert's tract were swept;
At what a price ?—go ask it of the tomb,
Where gaunt-faced famine hurried to their doom
Earth's noblest works, in manhood's freshest bloom !
Oh, what a crash ! when those lone fabrics fell,
And all immortal bade decay farewell!
Victoria felt—did to her centre quake
At that dire work herself had helped to make ;
And sorrowed deeply, as the tidings ran
With speed electric, on from man to man.
Ill-fated men—yet 'twas no common death,
For nature smiled, as heaven caught your breath !
And there are moments when the mind 's at strife,
Its wish is thus to part from common life ;
Than dying view the grief corruption feigns,
Unknown to pangs which pierce the heart's pure veins.
But to my theme ! it was thy spirit, Gray,
Which led thy leaders to the realms of day;
And to the host of deeds recorded there,
Perform'd on earth, thou wert the first to bear
That potent one ; yes, the ethereal scroll
Of the supernal archives, has the whole.
Alas ! how soon was thy unhappy doom,
That to the mind seems enveloped in gloom ;
Still, while the names of Burke and Wills, on high
Are held to sight, Gray's surely cannot die !
So doth the memory of thy death attest,
How thy name's written in a people's breast.

Devoted Wills ! to court what others shun ;
With noble zeal, ere life's last sand was run ;
With those pale lips that smiled to meet the foe
Of all mankind, didst bid thy chieftain go,
And strive with one bold effort more to "scape,
That which enthrall'd thee in a ghastly shape ;
Thine was a soul till then unknown its worth,
A hidden fire which warm'd its home of earth,
And could not, till that one expiring ray,
Beam forth the worth of him who passed away.
And thou, too, Burke ! did instinct truly say
That something great had burst its bonds of clay ?
Yes, Nature wrote what Nature well could see
On thy pale brow, in chill severity;
That all which flamed it with a rapturous glow,
Had lost its seat by death's insatiate blow ;
To cloud the wild barbarian's sable brow,
And e'en make savage virtue to avow
Its trembling thoughts : with one convulsive pang
The embosom'd founts forth from their prison sprang,
The savage eyes in pity's dew are steeped,
Ah ! p'rhaps till then, they knew not how to weep !

Surviving King, my muse has fail'd to find
A name for thee, to suit its infant mind;
Of purpose noble, and an honest heart,
These only did commend thee to thy part;
When dying Burke, in pleading accents said—
" You will not leave me till I am quite dead."
Unknown to fame, thy mind obtuse to praise;
Keck'd not 'twas kindling an eternal blaze,
When impotent, yet with a mother's care,
Thou surely kept thy constant vigils there ;
As surely caught from thy expiring chief,
Each word he breath'd, that touch'd thy heart with grief.
When he performed his last of earthly work;
Yes, 'twas thou who from the explorer Burke
Caught his last sounds, and round thy heart they wreathe,
For priceless gems are last words great men breathe.

The scene is changed, beside another, dead,
You feel the inward chill of darksome dread,
That gives the glance the wild and vacant beam ;
You start, and find reality no dream ;
You see the sun, pursuing slow the dawn,
Fling his gold tresses on the brow of morn ;
You trace him through his sheeny course on high,
Till his crimson crest droops in the western sky,
And gilds eve's bosom with a mellow dye;
You know he's gone, and say "perchance no more
Shall I behold on ether pinions soar,
That glorious orb," then turn, the dead is there,
The last of Wills—the living is—ah / where ?
You meet the sable brow of falling night,
And perhaps no more will view an earthly light;
Such, King, was thine; but, oh ! an One was there,
Who, after, taught the wild man how to spare.

We need no epitaph their deeds to tell,
They are engraven on our memory well;
Priceless are those intrinsic names to all,
Priceless for deeds which made such heroes fall:
Deeds that enhanced the lustre of their shrine,
Which cannot dim by th' effacing hand of time;
The goblet's drained their memory to revere.
Oh! Wonder not each bosom holds them dear!
Victoria, when thou 'rt in thy loftiest state,
And Fame proclaims afar that thou art great,
E'en then thy sparkling tear will gem the stone,
That sepulchres the remnant of the gone.
Great God ! they 've gone to thee, Burke, Wills, and Gray,
On high give them the meed earth cannot pay.

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix