Sonnets on the Discovery of Botany Bay by Captain Cook

The First Attempt to Reach the Shore

Where is the painter who shall paint for you,
My Austral brothers, with a pencil steeped
In hues of Truth, the weather-smitten crew
Who gazed on unknown shores—a thoughtful few—
What time the heart of their great Leader leaped
Till he was faint with pain of longing? New
And wondrous sights on each and every hand,
Like strange supernal visions, grew and grew
Until the rocks and trees, and sea and sand,
Danced madly in the tear-bewildered view!
And from the surf a fierce, fantastic band
Of startled wild men to the hills withdrew
With yells of fear! Who’ll paint thy face, O Cook!
Turned seaward, “after many a wistful look!”

II

The Second Attempt, Opposed by Two of the Natives

“There were but two, and we were forty! Yet,”
The Captain wrote, “that dauntless couple throve,
And faced our wildering faces; and I said
‘Lie to awhile!’ I did not choose to let
A strife go on of little worth to us.
And so unequal! But the dying tread
Of flying kinsmen moved them not: for wet
With surf and wild with streaks of white and black
The pair remained.”— O stout Caractacus!
’Twas thus you stood when Caesar’s legions strove
To beat their few, fantastic foemen back—
Your patriots with their savage stripes of red!
To drench the stormy cliff and moaning cove
With faithful blood, as pure as any ever shed.

III

The Spot Where Cook Landed

Chaotic crags are huddled east and west—
Dark, heavy crags, against a straitened sea
That cometh, like a troubled soul in quest
Of voiceless rest where never dwelleth rest,
With noise “like thunder everlasting.”
But here, behold a silent space of sand!—
Oh, pilgrim, halt!—it even seems to be
Asleep in other years. How still! How grand!
How awful in its wild solemnity!
This is the spot on which the Chief did land,
And there, perchance, he stood what time a band
Of yelling strangers scoured the savage lea.
Dear friend, with thoughtful eyes look slowly round—
By all the sacred Past ’tis sacred ground.

IV

Sutherland’s Grave

’Tis holy ground! The silent silver lights
And darks undreamed of, falling year by year
Upon his sleep, in soft Australian nights,
Are joys enough for him who lieth here
So sanctified with Rest. We need not rear
The storied monument o’er such a spot!
That soul, the first for whom the Christian tear
Was shed on Austral soil, hath heritage
Most ample! Let the ages wane with age,
The grass which clothes this grave shall wither not.
See yonder quiet lily! Have the blights
Of many winters left it on a faded tomb?
Oh, peace! Its fellows, glad with green delights,
Shall gather round it deep eternal bloom

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Henry Kendall

Thomas Henry Kendall was a nineteenth-century Australian author and bush poet, who was particularly known for his poems and tales set in a natural environment setting. more…

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