January 25 - 31, 2015: Issue 199
Australia Day Songs of Yore(1818-1826) and the First Poet-Laureate of Australia
A few insights into earlier celebrations where, among many toasts clearly being imbibed, discussions to instil further advancement of the lot of the human species in this new land, also signalled a shift towards establishing a country in place of a colony. Some of the earliest odes are included from the gentleman named the First Poet-Laureate of Australia during his living time and proclaimed by crticis, or critiques (!?) as one of the worst poets ever after his passing:
On Monday last HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR review the 48th Regt. commanded by Lieutenant Colonel ERSKINE, and we learn expressed himself much pleased with the military appearance of this distinguished corps.
The same day a dinner was given at Government House to the Civil and Military Officers at Head Quarters, in commemoration of the Establishment of this Colony, which on that day had attained its thirtieth anniversary. We understand that HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR, in celebrating an event in which all present necessarily felt much interest, was pleased to pay a handsome tribute to the memory of the late Admiral PHILLIP.
In the evening a Ball was given by Mrs. MACQUARIE to a numerous party, which was continued with spirit to a late hour. We were particularly gratified with a likeness of GOVERNOR PHILLIP (executed by Mr. Greenway, who felt much pleasure in this opportunity of celebrating the memory of the Vice Admiral, who had ever been his steady friend and patron), suspended at one extremity of the room, in a wreath, supported by two banners ; one being that of Vice Admiral, and the other containing the following inscription. " In Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Colony of New South Wales, established by ARTHUR PHILLIP, whose virtues and talents entitle him to the grateful remembrance of his Country, and to whose arduous exertions the present prosperous state of the Colony may chiefly be ascribed." _ Sydney. (1818, January 31 - Saturday). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2177726
To the Tune of Rule Britannia.
When first AUSTRALIA rose to fame,
And Seamen brave explored her shore ;
Neptune with joy, with joy beheld their aim.
And thus express'd the wish he bore :
Rise, Australia! with peace and plenty crown'd,
Thy name shall one day be renown'd.
Bright Ceres shall adorn thy land,
And gild thy fields with waving grain,
While roving herds shall o'er thy meads expand.
And range the riches of the plain.
Rise, Australia! &c. &c. &c.
Then Commerce, too, shall on thee smile.
Advent'rous barks thy ports shall croud ;
While pleas'd, well pleas'd, the Parent Isle,
Shall of her distant Sons be proud.
Rise, Australia! &c. &c. &c.
While Europe's Pow'rs in conflict dire
Exhaust the Flower of the brave,
Here peace shall flourish, shall flourish — none conspire,
With human blood thy soil to lave.
Rise Australia! &c. &c. &c.
S O N G. (1817, February 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2177044
We regret, that by an unforeseen circumstance, we had not the pleasure of introducing to our Readers the following Song, which was given with great effect by the Author on the last Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Establishment of this Colony, held at Hankinson's Rooms in George street, the 26th ult. and which our Readers will perceive is the production of no common pen.
FOR THE COMMEMORATION DINNER, JANUARY 26, 1820.
Presented by Mr. Robinson.
ALIVE to the strain that gay fancy inspires,
We cherish its impulse, and glow with its fires ;
Whilst wit, mirth, and harmony, blended together,
Resound with the toast, Boys — "OLD ENGLAND FOR EVER !"
AUSTRALIA ! in tracing thy triumph of years,
The source of this festival brighter appears,—
Where the harvest of mercy has blessed the endeavour,
Let gratitude echo, "OUR KING, BOYS, FOR EVER!"
To the Scions of Brunswick's illustrious Line,
Let the goblets, surcharg'd, flow with rivers of wine;
Whilst the toast we select still enhances its flavour,
And hallows the cup, "THE PRINCE REGENT FOR EVER"
To sanction our birth-rights—a Briton's first boast,
May the sun-shine of loyalty brighten our coast ;
And health, peace, and plenty, in union together,
High swell the full chorus—"AUSTRALIA FOR EVER !"
To her CHIEF, whose paternal and patriot hand
Diffuses prosperity's smile thro' the land,
Let this toast be reserv'd, which no party will sever,
For it springs from one feeling— "MACQUARIE FOR EVER!"
SHIP NEWS. (1820, February 5). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2179245
THE FIRST LANDING.-Saturday last, the 26th of January, being the thirty-fourth Anniversary of the Colony of New South Wales having been first formed and established by Governor PHILLIP, the ROYAL STANDARD of the BRITISH REALMS became majestically un-furled on the heights of Fort Philip at sun-rise, where it continued proudly waving, until the departure of Phoebus into the western world announced the retirement from public view, for a season, of "BRITAIN'S FAR-FAMED GLORY !"
The Union at Dawes' Battery was also displayed. The ships in the harbour were not backward in paying the accustomed honour due to a day so distinguished in our Colonial annals. At noon thirty-four minute guns were fired from Dawes' Battery on the memorable occasion ;-the return of which involuntarily compels the contemplative mind to take a retrospection of years now beshrouded in temporary forgetfillness, but which only await an introduction into eternity to become once more amply acquainted with ! Sydney. (1822, February 1).The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2180789
On Thursday, the 31st ultimo, the Commemoration Dinner, to celebrate the Anniversary of the Establishment of this Colony, took place at Hill's Tavern, in Hyde Park. It had been postponed from the 26th; and the 31st, being the Anniversary of the Birthday of Our late beloved Governor, Major General Macquarie, the festival embraced two objects particularly gratifying to the public feeling. Upwards of 70 of the respectable Inhabitants of the Colony sat down, at half-past five, to a very excellent entertainment, presenting, in a very sumptuous style, all that the season could afford, or that could promote the conviviality and harmony of the day. After the cloth was removed, several loyal and appropriate toasts were circulated, in which His Majesty, the Royal Family, and the late and present Governor, were the prevailing themes of respect and veneration. A Song, from the pen of our favourite Laureat-Bard, Mr. Robinson, was given amidst loud and reiterated acclamations.
We are glad to have an opportunity of introducing it to our Readers.
Philosophers say, and experience declares,
That life is a medley of pleasures and cares ;—
That the sunshine which smiles on our prospects to-day,
May be chas'd by the gloom of to-morrow away.
Whilst some, who are strangers to conjugal strife,
Are apt to repine at the loss of a wife, —
There are others (perhaps you may dissolute call 'em)
That are glad to escape from the fetters that gall 'em.
Thus, serious and comic, the scene passes on,
The demise of the sire makes way for the son ;
When the coffers, by rigid economy stor'd,
Are squander'd and swallow'd at luxury's board.
For years, on this Isle, a bright Day-star has gleam'd,
And the Chief that we hail'd was the Friend we esteem'd ;
Now Time, in its triumph, has clos'd his career,
And the smile we have cherish'd — is chang'd to a tear !
Yet, often shall memory cling to this day,
And often shall gratitude swell the fond lay ;
Whilst Australia shall boast, in her annals of story,
That His Sun, as it rose — so it set, in full Glory !
But the shadows that threatened our evening forlorn,
The breath of young Hope shall disperse with the morn ;
For grac'd with fresh laurels from Fame's fairest stores,
His Illustrious Successor has smil'd on our Shores.
Then, here, whilst in circles of social relation,
Our hearts and our hands join in Commemoration ;
From Australia's first dawn — let her trophies proclaim,
That her Standard of Worth stamps her Passport to Fame.
Sydney. (1822, February 8). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2180809
SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY EIGHT; or
THE FIRST LANDING.
Thursday last, being the Anniversary of Australia's Establishment as a British Colony, the same was observed with the usual demonstrations of remembrance.
In the morning the Royal Standard, as well as the Union, was displayed at Dawes' Point; and at noon a salute of 38 guns, corresponding with the number of years the Colony has been founded, was fired from Dawes' Battery, in honour of the day.
In the evening about 100 of the Gentry, Landholders, Merchants, and others, sat down to a Dinner that was prepared by Mrs. Hill, at the Hyde Park Tavern.
W.C. WENTWORTH and WILLIAM REDFERN, Esquires, were President and Vice President. The Band of the Buffs attended to enliven the festive scene.
After the cloth was removed, the President gave The King, three times three --- Air, God save the King.
The Duke of York and the Army --- Duke of York's March.
The Duke of Clarence and the Navy --- Rule Britannia.
The Duke of Sussex, and the rest of the Royal Family ---The Royal Branch.
The health of our present Governor, Lieutenant General Darling, three times three --- General Darling's March.
The President then rose and spoke as follows :—Mr. Vice-President,. I rise to propose to you a toast, which I am sure will be drank with enthusiasm by all present. It is the health of our late Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane. — It is but a short time since he was amongst us, and pledging him-self to use every means within his power, to acquire for this Colony, all the rights and privileges of British Subjects. But a few months have elapsed, since in the midst of us, he pledged him-self to obtain for us, Trial by Jury, and a House of Assembly ; and I am convinced, that the leastyou will do, will be to drink his health, and a prosperous voyage to his native country. Three times three, with immense applause — Sir Thomas Brisbane's March.
The Memory of our late revered Governor, Major General Macquarie.
In rising to propose this toast Mr. Wentworth observed, that whatever difference of opinion might exist even in that company, with regard to that lamented man, he considered him the greatest benefactor to the Colony it ever possessed ; he(Mr. Wentworth) always felt a degree of mortification, when the name of Macquarie was mentioned, for, in return for the great benefits received from him, the Colony had manifested in gratitude; the least that should have been offered in return was, that small tribute which was proposed and nearly concluded on ; but which had withered and faded away, like many other projects ; but though the present generation of the Colonists were ungrateful and might perhaps die so, still he would be remembered by posterity, who would no doubt, raise that monument to his memory, which had been at present so disgracefully neglected ; viewing his conduct upon public principles alone, independent of his private character, the least tribute that could be paid him will be, to drink his memory in silence —
Scots wha' hae.
The Memory of Governor Philip, the Founder of the Colony.
In proposing the Memory of Governor Phillip, the President said, he felt convinced that all who read the history of the early transactions of the Colony, and of the difficulties with which Governor Phillip had to contend, would at once acknowledge that he was a man in every way fitted to lay the foundation of that infant empire, which was so rapidly advancing in importance. Among the many fortunate qualities which that Governor possessed, should be noticed his extraordinary energy of character, which induced him to punish every irregularity, whether committed by the prisoners, or by the marines under his command; and also by the example set by him upon an occasion of scarcity, when it was known that he put up with the most limited ration, so that each person, whatever were his circumstances, felt an assurance, that how great so ever his privations were, they were not greater than the Governor's. That circumstance alone was a greater protection to the stores than the guard placed over them. Drunk in solemn silence. — Hail, Australia !
The President next rose to propose a toast which he gave with increased pleasure, on every fresh occasion, from a conviction that the political institution, which was the object of it, was of the first importance, and the greatest good for-tune to that Country which possessed it --- he meant, Trial by Jury.
Most of those present were practically conversant with the benefits of that institution ; and even those who were only acquainted with the history of this Colony, must be convinced, even from the experience of the last twelve months, that it was an institution which it was lamentable to be without. If they were only acquainted with the practical benefits which one branch of it had conferred upon the Colony; if they only merely reverted to the good which the Presentments had done, and the improvements and benefits they recommended, and which would, no doubt, be carried into effect; if only viewed even in the very narrow view of it, it would be obvious that nothing could be enforced of greater benefit to the Colony. There was no need, he was convinced, to endeavour to satisfy the minds of all men, that this institution, which was as it were their mother's milk to them, needed recommendation ; nor to enter into any lengthened tale or comparison between the institution which was then proposed as a toast, and those make shifts which for so many years they had in place of it. They were the rude experiments of rude times, the crude suggestions of a Government, forced to give the Colony something, and not knowing how to give it any thing better. In drawing a comparison, it was not necessary to offer any argument to prove that a body of twelve men, selected from the people at large, and liable to challenge, must be preferable to two, whether they were selected from the people or from a close body, and not subject to challenge, as was some time since the case, Adverting to the constitution which the Colony now possessed m criminal matters, there was somewhat a nearer approach to Trial by Jury ; although still tried by a close body, and in civil trials, there was a power to object to any of the Magistrates, they were therefore somewhat in the nature of Jurors ; but the great advantage of trial by Jury in its true unlimited sense was, that the Jurors were returned by the people, in fact, are the people themselves, and were a body too large to be within the reach of public corruption, or of individual attempt. Such was the nature of that institution which the Colony required ; and the Country which possessed Trial by Jury, possessed a principle which could not be violated, as had been proved by the history of ages; a principle which was at one and the same time a protection to the people, and a greater safetyto the Crown. These were briefly the reasons for proposing as a toast, Trial by Jury, in its most unlimited extent. Drank with three times three - Air, Tyrolese Song of Liberty.
Mr. Wentworth, in next rising to propose a House of Assembly, observed, that it would require but little argument from him to prove, to all present, that such an Establishment would materially benefit the Colony. A Council was a close body, and could not know of themselves the wants or wishes of the Colonists. They should be indebted for information to some source not within themselves ; and it was therefore not likely that the new accession made to the present Council, avowedly for the purpose of giving them a portion of local knowledge, would be any improvement. A Council had been established nearly twelve months, in which time it had produced a few acts, some of them no doubt highly beneficial to the Colony; but a Council as a body, had no feelings, no interest, in common with those of the Community at large; and with such want of knowledge they must run amuck, as it were, in legislature; they must legislate at hazard; or they must be depending upon information to be derived from that community over which they have been appointed to legislate. If then the Council must have recourse to the people, why not make the people their own legislators ?
Where a hundred local laws were required, the Council, while in existence, have only made eighteen or nineteen, purely because they did not know upon what subject they should have legislated. That very fact, though in some measure praise-worthy, as it shewed their extreme caution, proved notwithstanding the necessity for the institution of a House of Assembly, in order that such power should be taken from that body, and given to the people who were the best judges of what is most fitting for them.
He would there fore propose, as a toast, —
A House of Assembly for Australia --- Air, Sir James Macintosh's Reel.
The Liberty of the Press. --- Air, Sir Thomas Brisbane's Quick March.
The Currency lasses and Lads. --- Air, Currency Lasses.
Success to the Fleece and the Plough. --- Air, Speed the Plough.
The Trade and Commerce of New South Wales. --- Air, Hearts of Oak.
About 12 o'clock Mr. Wentworth retired, and Robert Campbell, jun. Esq. being called to the Chair, the health of the President, W. C. Wentworth, Esq. was proposed, and drunk with acclamation. Several of the party remained to an early hour in the morning. SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY EIGHT;. (1826, January 28). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser(NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2185145
OUR PORTRAIT GALLERY.
WILLIAM CHARLES WENTWORTH, ESQ.
This gentleman was born at Norfolk Island, in the latter end of the year 1790, and is consequently now in his 64th year.
His father, the late Darcy Wentworth, Esq., was principal surgeon of the medical staff, treasurer of the Sydney Police Establishment, and a magistrate of the territory.
Mr. Wentworth acquired the first rudiments of his education in this city, and afterwards went to England, where he prosecuted his studies under Dr. Crombie, of Greenwich. He subsequently studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where we believe he in some manner distinguished himself.
Mr. Wentworth returned to Sydney in 1824, having been called to the bar some years previously. While in England he had be-come personally known to the late Dr. Wardell, who was then the editor and proprietor of a London evening paper, called the Statesman. This gentleman accompanied Mr. Wentworth to Sydney. After their arrival, they originated a publication called the Australian, which existed till within the last few years.
Mr. Wentworth, however, soon gave up connexion with this paper, and devoted his talents to the more lucrative profession of the bar, which he followed with marked success, till the death of Dr. Wardell, when he evidently relaxed in his exertions, down to the period when he ultimately retired.
He was elected member for the city by a large majority, in1843, and has since then been re-elected on two different occasions.
At one period of his public life, Mr. Wentworth was a violent demagogue, and even went, so far as to threaten an insurrection against England. That part of his career he has repudiated, and now regards, with contempt all demagogues, and of course, by implication, his former self. He has been for some time recognized as the leader of the squatters—though what may be the precise difference between that position and a demagogue's, we think most men would be puzzled to determine. To Mr. Wentworth's origination of the Constitution Bill, as it is a matter so generally known, we need not allude farther than to express our regret that he should not have chosen some more enduring record of his fame than that measure is likely to prove.
Mr. Wentworth has been a "Triton of the minnows" here, and has had his head turned by an absurd adulation. We prophesy that he will very soon return to the country which he is now on the eve of quitting ; for he will find England intolerable, as he will not find it admiring. While there, on his mission hostile to the colonists, we consign him to the hands of Mr. Lowe, who, although at best but a second rate man in the House of Commons, has proved that he is able to give a very good account of Mr. Wentworth. OUR PORTRAIT GALLERY. (1854, January 7). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63613849
In the hurry of our report of this festival, we omitted to make any allusion to the Song prepared for the occasion. We now present it to our Readers as the production of our venerated Bard, whose witty, gay, and Classical muse has so often been the subject of general admiration and praise.
BY MR. M. ROBINSON.
In Olympus we're told
The celestials of old,
In spite of morality's lecture,
Would steal a sly sup
From the festival cup,
And sometimes get mellow with nectar.
On so high an example
'Twere impious to trample,
'Twould call down the anger of Jove,
Who, proud to see mirth
Charm'd by beauty on earth,
Made Bacchus the herald of love.
Ariadne, the fair,
Left to pine in despair,
When Theseus abandon'd her charms,
On the beach as she stray'd,
Bacchus flew to her aid,
And encircled her soon in his arms.
Then true to the sport,
My boys, let us sup port,
And relish the boon we inherit,
Ever proud to proclaim
We are Britons by name,
Let us prove ourselves Britons in spirit.
If the Natives so rude,
Now and then will intrude,
And scare us with dissonant din ;
Tho' dark is their day,
We must all of us say,
That each of them sticks to his gin.
The exile of Erin,
Tho' erst in his wild wood so frisky,
Will trace a bright ray
Of his happier day,
If reflected in one glass of whisky.
If you take a short tramp,
To Black-wattle swamp
You may see what a Cooper has gain'd ;
With his vats and his casks,
His coolers and flasks,
You'd swear they could never be drain'd !
Or, if rambling, you're led
On the road to South-head,
You may witness what art can produce;
While the structures so high,
Seem to swell to the sky,
The underwood swells with the juice.
Here we've all that we want,
Or kind nature can grant,
Conducive to rational pleasures ;
Agriculture has flourish'd,
The Arts we have nourish'd,
And Commerce has lent us her treasures.
"ADVANCE" THEN, "AUSTRALIA,"
Be this thy proud gala,
Which no party spirit can sever ;
May thy stores and thy plains,
Echo loyalty's strains,Fix this text
And thy watch-word be "FREEDOM FOR EVER ! "
ANNIVERSARY DINNER. (1826, February 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2185167
Yesterday morning, at his residence in Castlereagh street, Mr. MICHAEL MASSEY ROBINSON. Mr. R. had been an inhabitant of this Colony for the last 20 or 30 years, in the whole of which period he had studiously cultivated a desire to render himself respected--- not merely on account of his literary acquirements, but from his exemplary deportment as a member of Society, which has been deprived of one of its useful ornaments Mr. R. had been employed in all the principal Public Departments in the Colony in his time, and no man was more intimately acquainted with the political state of our Country than himself. He had the happiness to enjoy the friendship of some of the most respectable men in the Colony, and under Governor MACQUARIE his talents as the Poet Laureate of Australia occasionally shone with peculiar lustre. Mr. Robinson, and not Mr. Justice Field, was the "first Austral Harmonist. "
For the last 20 years he has been in the service of the Colonial Government, and not having any other dependence than that which might arise from the proceeds of his office, and being altogether of an un-business turn, his wife and family, as may be supposed, are by no means independent of external circumstances. This, however, we trust, will be considered worthy of attention by the Colonial Government, who will duly regard the family of an individual that had served the Crown up to the 80th year of his age---dying in his post. After saying so much it is needless to add, that the deceased was much respected. Family Notices. (1826, December 23). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2187170
Macquarie's Laureate. The Genius of Michael Robinson.
(By J. H. M. ABBOTT.)
HOWEVER fully we may reverence and respect the memory of Governor Macquarie, deplore the lack of appreciation which his tremendous efforts for the good of Australia met with in many quarters that should have known better during his lifetime, and recognise the fact that he was probably the greatest Governor-General that this continent has ever known— it is impossible not to be amused and delighted with some of the essentially human idiosyncracies and foibles which he displayed during the dozen years when he was the autocrat of the South Seas. If you count the number of times his name, and those of his family, appear on the maps of New South Wales and Tasmania, and on churches and public buildings which he caused to be designed and erected, you will realise to what an extent he indulged oneof his amiable little weaknesses, and if you study the records of early Australia you will find, also, that he had several "sidelines" in harmless vanity. But if you look up the history of Mr. Michael Robinson, Chief Clerk in the Government Secretary's office, and investigate his literary remains, you will learn how easy it was to earn his gratitude — great man though he was —by a little judicious flattery, the true reason for which he seemed to be constitutionally unable to estimate. The astute Mr. Robinson was very far from being blind to this aspect of his friend and patron. Few eighteenth century sycophants, of which class he was undoubtedly a very typical example, have ever been more assiduous in their sycophancy than he was, or more generally successful. This was the direction in which his poetic genius lay.
Michael Massey Robinson was born in 1747, was educated at Oxford, and practiced law with more or less success until he was nearly 50 years of age. Then he seems to have taken to verse-writing, and, incidentally, to habits of blackmail. He wrote a poem reflecting seriously upon a gentleman named Oldham, and, for attempting to obtain money from him in order to suppress its publication, was tried and sentenced to death in 1796. But the man whom he had attempted to victimise was merciful, and at his intercession, the sentence was altered to one of transportation for life to New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney on May 18, 1798.
The Judge-Advocate of the colony, Richard Dore, was a passenger in the ship — the Barwell — by which Robinson came to Australia, and was very unwell during the voyage. As a recompense for services rendered to him by the convict, Dore obtained for him an appointment as a clerk in the Judge- Advocate's office, together with a conditional pardon. Four years later, however, Robinson was found guilty of perjury, and sentenced to seven years at Norfolk Island. The sentence was suspended at the request of the new Judge-Advocate, Richard Atkins, of Bligh mutiny fame, but eventually, in1805, he was sent to the island, as an undesirable in New South Wales. The Commandant, Captain Piper, permitted him to return in the following year, and was recalled and severely reprimanded for having done so. However, soon after Macquarie's arrival, he managed to persuade the new Governor that he was something of an injured mortal, and secured from him an appointment as first clerk in the Government Secretary's office, under Mr. J. T. Campbell. From that time on he seems to have mended his ways. He held his appointment until the middle of 1819, when he was made Deputy-Provost-Marshal. In May,1821, he was transferred to the Police Department as chief clerk, and held that office until he died on December 22, 1826.
From the time of Macquarie's arrival until his departure twelve years later, Michael became a sort of unofficial poet laureate in Sydney, and in 1818 and 1819 his effusions received some sort of recognition by the grant from the Government herds of two cows "for his services as poet laureat" —probably the only instance on record when a poet received a reward in such an unpoetic form. It was his custom to recite at each official levee held to celebrate the birthdays of the King and Queen, one of his odes, of which the following is an example that is fairly typical:—
"See PITY move, with melting Eye,
Led by her Sister, CHARITY.
Next INDUSTRY, with sturdy Stride,
And PERSEVERANCE by his side.
Then comes RELIGION, heav'n-born Child!
With Look divine, and Accent mild:
Whilst REFORMATION'S sober Mien Sustained by GRATITUDE is seen;
And Hope, with Hand extended, smiling free,
Points out the Path to bright PROSPERITY!"
But as a rule the odes are topical, and seldom forget, if ever, to find in Macquarie's administrative actions their happiest inspiration. The King's birthday tribute of 1810, for instance, praises the measure of reformation which the new Governor introduced into the conduct of the female orphan institution. Mr. Robinson did not in any sense "draw it mild" when he set about giving Macquarie the good word, as the following sample makes abundantly evident:—
"For ever be the Hands rever'd
That yon blest Sanctuary rear'd:
That bade the little Wanderers come
And find a shelt'ring, happy home:
That with maternal Fondness chas'd their Tears
And snatch'd from Scenes impure their op'ning Years."
Some twenty of the "Odes" are still extant, mainly to be found in the files of the "Sydney Gazette," and all display the same conventional eighteenth century style, the same attributes of a pompous "right-thinker," and the same glorification of an almost deified Macquarie. To quote from the "Australian Encyclopedia," the second and final volume of which has recently been published by Messrs. Angus and Robertson, Ltd:—
"The odes of 1811 praised Macquarie's treatment of the aborigines and the bells of St. Philip's Church; those of 1812 lamented the illness of George III., and waxed ecstatic over the taking of Mangalore; in1813 the King's illness recurs, but the main theme is Wellington's victories in the Peninsula; 1814 had no special themes — merely the greatness of "Albion," where there were no "fraudful conscripts"; in 1815 the defeat of Napoleon and the return of the Bourbons to a peaceful and happy France were described; and in 1816 the victory of Waterloo (news travelled slowly from Europe, and Robinson was always about a year late). In 1816, however, there was something of local interest to talk about; Macquarie had crossed the mountains and founded Bathurst, and so the Queen's birthday ode told how
". . . Yon Blue Mountains, with tremendous Brow,
Frown on the humbler Vales that wind below,
Where scarcely human Footsteps ever trac'd
The craggy Cliffs that guard the lingering waste."
A very characteristic tribute to Macquarie's achievements occurs in the January ode of 1819, where the building of the new South Head lighthouse is singled out for special mention:—
"And yon tall Tow'r, that with aspiring Steep,
Rears its proud Summit o'er the trackless Deep;
The recent Care of His Paternal Hand
That long has cherish'd this improving Land;—
Thro' the drear Perils of the starless Night
Shall shed the lustre of revolving Light."
But his best effort was surely the reference to the visit of Mr. Commissioner J. T. Bigge to the colony, on a mission of inquiry into Macquarie's government and the state of things generally in Australia. There was little doubt that Bigge's report to the House of Commons would in many things be hostile to Macquarie and his administration, so a touching note of sympathy is feelingly introduced. It is contained in the poem which commemorates the birthday of George IV. on August 13, 1821, and the following —capitals and all — are its concluding lines:—
"Tho' startled Hope, with anxious Eye,
And trembling Fear with boding Sigh,
In chilling Sympathies await,
The Fiat of impending Fate.
REMEMBRANCE, LONG, TO PRIVATE WORTH ENDEAR'D, SHALL HAIL THE FRIEND BELOVD — THE CHIEF REVER'D!"
At the end of 1821 our author advertised a forthcoming volume of his verses in the columns of the "Gazette." It was to contain a portrait of the poet himself by Robert Reid, who was the vice-regal portrait-painter, and was to have been sold for £1. But, for some unknown reason — probably because the edition was not adequately subscribed for by an indiscriminating public —the book never saw the light. Twenty of the originals are in the private collection of Mr. William Dixon, of Sydney — but posterity looks in vain for a worthy memorial of this early Australian singer. There have been worse poets than Michael Robinson —but not a great many. However, he was able to live, as a side issue, on the output of his muse. The comfortable job in the civil service which he enjoyed at the time of his death is quite sufficient evidence of this. He was a good enough poet for Governor Macquarie. Macquarie's Laureate. (1927, April 2). The World's News(Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130602038