Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems

Henry Lawson lived from 1867 to 1922. His poems often speak of the harsh realities experienced by non-wealthy country folk.

"Eureka" by Henry Lawson reveals a very real story of the event that changed our history. When gold fever hit Australia almost every young man, and some older ones, dropped everything and went looking for a fortune. Squatters lost most of their shepherds, fencers left the big properties, and few shearers were left to do the work. The stories spread that gold was there just for washing out of river and creek beds. People from all over the world made for Australia.
The Government raised the price of a Miners Right to about 1 a week and many miners (the unlucky ones) couldn't pay. The Victorian Governor La Trobe, lost most of his Police force. Towns sprung up in the "Golden Triangle"-- Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemain and many smaller places where there were no Police to keep order. Governor La Trobe promised convicts in Tasmania their freedom if they would come to Victoria and be members of the Police Force. Tasmania was a convict settlement for the "hardened criminals". When the Police raided miners camps and arrested miners who couldn't buy a Miners Right, there were no jails, so they were chained by the leg to trees and big logs, like animals.
Hence the revolt against the Government. The situation deteriorated until the miners built a stockade and elected Peter Lalor as their leader. They demanded changes to the brutal mining laws and fought under the Southern Cross flag.
Peter Lalor was shot in the upper arm and a Doctor amputated it at the shoulder. He was fitted into a large box and covered with straw and friends smuggled him out of Ballarat in a bullock dray. The journey would have taken two or three days. He was taken to a house in Fyans Street in South Geelong where he was cared for by his friends.
The Governor was eventually recalled to England and Lalor and the leaders were pardoned. Lalor became a Member of Parliament and represented the area called Bohoneyghurk - the district my father was brought up in.
Lalor was not an uneducated man. He had been to Eton College and had a degree in engineering.

The above text includes local knowledge, as told to me by Bill Tingate who was born in 1912 and grew up in that area.

Eureka

(A Fragment)

Roll up, Eureka's heroes, on that grand Old Rush afar,
For Lalor's gone to join you in the big camp where you are;
Roll up and give him welcome such as only diggers can,
For well he battled for the rights of miner and of Man.
In that bright golden country that lies beyond our sight,
The record of his honest life shall be his Miner's Right;
But many a bearded mouth shall twitch, and many a tear be shed,
And many a grey old digger sigh to hear that Lalor's dead.
Yet wipe your eyes, old fossickers, o'er worked-out fields that roam,
You need not weep at parting from a digger going home.
Now from the strange wild seasons past, the days of golden strife,
Now from the Roaring Fifties comes a scene from Lalor's life:
All gleaming white amid the shafts o'er gully, hill and flat
Again I see the tents that form the camp at Ballarat.
I hear the shovels and the picks, and all the air is rife
With the rattle of the cradles and the sounds of digger-life;
The clatter of the windlass-boles, as spinning round they go,
And then the signal to his mate, the digger's cry, "Below!"
From many a busy pointing-forge the sound of labour swells,
The tinkling of the anvils is as clear as silver bells.
I hear the broken English from the mouth of many a one
From every state and nation that is known beneath the sun;
The homely tongue of Scotland and the brogue of Ireland blend
With the dialects of England, right from Berwick to Lands End;
And to the busy concourse here the States have sent a part,
The land of gulches that has been immortalised by Harte;
The land where long from mining-camps the blue smoke upward curled;
The land that gave the "Partner" true and "Mliss" unto the world;
The men from all the nations in the New World and the Old,
All side by side, like brethren here, are delving after gold.
But suddenly the warning cries are heard on every side
As closing in around the field, a ring of troopers ride,
Unlicensed diggers are the game--their class and want are sins,
And so with all its shameful scenes, the digger hunt begins.
The men are seized who are too poor the heavy tax to pay,
Chained man to man as convicts were, and dragged in gangs away.
Though in the eyes of many a man the menace scarce was hid,
The diggers' blood was slow to boil, but scalded when it did.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But now another match is lit that soon must fire the charge
"Roll up! Roll up!" the poignant cry awakes the evening air,
And angry faces surge like waves around the speakers there.
"What are our sins that we should be an outlawed class?" they say,
"Shall we stand by while mates are seized and dragged like lags away?
Shall insult be on insult heaped? Shall we let these things go?"
And with a roar of voices comes the diggers' answer--"No!"
The day has vanished from the scene, but not the air of night
Can cool the blood that, ebbing back, leaves brows in anger white.
Lo, from the roof of Bentley's Inn the flames are leaping high;
They write "Revenge!" in letters red across the smoke-dimmed sky.
"To arms! To arms!" the cry is out; "To arms and play your part;
For every pike upon a pole will find a tyrant's heart!"
Now Lalor comes to take the lead, the spirit does not lag,
And down the rough, wild diggers kneel beneath the Diggers' Flag;
Then, rising to their feet, they swear, while rugged hearts beat high,
To stand beside their leader and to conquer or to die!
Around Eureka's stockade now the shades of night close fast,
Three hundred sleep beside their arms, and thirty sleep their last.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the streets of Melbourne town the sound of bells is borne
That call the citizens to prayer that fateful Sabbath morn;
But there upon Eureka's hill, a hundred miles away,
The diggers' forms lie white and still above the blood-stained clay.
The bells that toll the diggers' death might also ring a knell
For those few gallant soldiers, dead, who did their duty well.
The sight of murdered heroes is to hero-hearts a goad,
A thousand men are up in arms upon the Creswick road,
And wildest rumours in the air are flying up and down,
'Tis said the men of Ballarat will march on Melbourne town.
But not in vain those diggers died. Their comrades may rejoice,
For o'er the voice of tyranny is heard the people's voice;
It says: "Reform your rotten law, the diggers' wrongs make right,
Or else with them, our brothers now, we'll gather to the fight."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Twas of such stuff the men were made who saw our nation born,
And such as Lalor were the men who led the vanguard on;
And like such men may we be found, with leaders such as they,
In the roll-up of Australians on our darkest, grandest day!

******

Henry Lawson

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