22nd September, 1882
RUINS! Alas we have been wont to say,
With half regretful tone, that in the grace
And glory of our country's youthful day
The mystic charm of ruins had no place:
We lacked the ceric magic of the past,
The moss-grown battlement and chronic page,
Did our presumptuous folly long to cast
On form so fair the rusty garb of age?
Ah! Fate, more keen than Time, has taught us how
One cruel hour sufficed to trace a wrinkle on her brow.
We hardly knew how precious was the pile
That we had rear'd in hope, how fair, how dear,
Till swift destruction roared through every aisle,
And, wan with horror, frenzied with her fear,
Australia's white-robed daughter writhed in pain,
Her bright locks tossing in the Western breeze.
Glare in her eye, and fever in her brain,
Till, spent and choking with her agonies,
She cast herself upon an ashy bed,
Dry-lipped, dry-eyed, begrimmed and grovelling with the dead!
Her Equinox was blest with holy Peace
Proclaimed from far by Britain's conquering might,1
With visions of the time when wars shall cease,
And nations for the common good unite;
She rose 'ere dawn to hail the pilgrim star
That harbingers the day with golden plume.2
Marked ocean vapours gathering from afar.
But saw not at her feet the stealthy fume;
Prayed for the show'rs her thirsting fields require.
The answer “waves of flame and rolling floods of fire!”
Oh, young and beautiful, and sorely tried,
The sister Cities blend their sighs with thine,
And artists, scribes and sculptors wail beside
The smouldering ruins of thy glorious shrine;
Aye, cast the ashes on thy lovely head,
Beat the fair breast, convulsive with its moan;
Then, kneeling, let relieving tears be shed,
And Mercy in thy desolation own;
The troubled record with our sorrows rife,
Marks not the mournful tribute of one human life!
All life was spared: not e'en the hapless brute3
Fell in that holocaust of wealth and art;
The bloom has perish'd, but the silent root
Lives deep and strong in many a swelling heart;
'Twas Heav'n that reaped the harvest we had sown,
And, in its Providence, will surely save
For future years and glories of its own.
Good seed and full from this thy Garden Grave,
May kindly drops from Heaven itself be shed,
To cool thy burning brow and raise thy drooping head.
* The close of the Crimean War.
† A splendid comet was then visible.
‡ A dog had been left inside the building.