Australian Folk Songs

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Farewell To Prison Walls (1893)

To-morrow the gates of my prison unfold--
To-night is my last in the cell ;
The lingering years to their climax have rolled,
I hear with emotion that cannot be told
The clang of the midnight bell.

I am thinking of those of a similar fate--
Of my mates in the gaol by the sea--
And I picture their eagerness while I await
For the dawn that shall come to my prison gate
To wake me and set me free.

When we entered the prison, a captive band,
At the close of a bloodless fray,
'Twas like marching for years in a desert land ;
But we travelled in unity, hand in hand,
Till one grew faint by the way.

But though days of immurement have left their trace
On body and brain and heart,
Yet I feel more of pride than I do of disgrace
At being condemned to a criminal's place
For acting a freeman's part.

The loss of my birthright I bore as long
As the criminal garb I wore--
'Twas for aiding the feeble against the strong--
And to lighten the burden of human wrong
I'd suffer it all once more.

I will not brand them as barren days,
Nor days to be linked with regret,
For after the future its verdict displays--
When the scroll of Time shall unroll to our gaze--
They may yield a harvest yet.

I can find no thanks for the debt I owe
To the friends who have been so true ;
Oh ! friends, whom I know not, and may not know,
But whose kindness shall cheer me wherever I go,
What thanks can I render you ?

But this : To endeavour, in days to come,
Through all that our fates may unfold,
To merit your trust till my lips grow dumb ;
To fight in your fights till my heart grows numb,
And the blood in my veins grows cold.


Toowoomba Gaol,

November 17, 1893.

--Queensland Railway Times.


From the Wagga NSW newspaper the Worker Saturday 23 December 1893, p. 5.

As one of the leaders of the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, Julian Stuart was jailed and sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labour. Upon release from jail, he worked for the Labour Electoral League, the forerunner of the New South Wales Labor Party. In 1902, he was elected to the Board of the Westralian Worker, Western Australia's first labor newspaper, and then as editor in 1903. By this time, he was also a regular contributor to The Bulletin. In 1906, he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly as Member for Mount Leonora. Read more about Julian Stuart


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory