Australian Folk Songs

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Eight Hours' Day (1891)

The workshops are closed and silent, and toil and tools lie still,
That late were so staunchly wielded, with vigor and pride and skill,
And banner and emblem flutter, as bosoms and voices greet,
A mighty and glad procession that marches along the street,
Where freedom's own sons are thronging, so close o'er the joyful scene,
That scarcely the wind of freedom can glide through the space between,
And thousands of hearts are beating, responsive to music gay,
For the land has sprung up rejoicing at her workmen's holiday.

And why is the festive gladness, and why is the cheering crowd?
And what is the brilliant conquest, whose praises they shout aloud ?
A conquest indeed, but guiltless of murder or bloody broil,
Or fetters of harsh oppression, or pillage or ruthless spoil.
No ! peaceful ! yot not less worthy of lofty and deathless name,
Inscribed in resplendent letters,--to shine on the scroll of fame,
Where fighting in life's great battle, the toilers among our race,
Have won for themselves, by merit, right to a nobler place.

The gift to possess unhindered, the rights that existence lends,
The right to enjoy the converse of kindred and trusty friends.
The right of a man, of having a life of his own to lead,
Not merely a worn out fragment, too poor for a master's greed,
The right to be left some portion of strength, to direct his mind
To follow the track of progress that opens before mankind.
Ay ! such are the noble triumphs Australia's sons have won,
And what they may learn to conquer, ere yet the world's war is done,

All hail ! ye victorious workmen, may honors your labors crown,
And larger your ranks, exultant in turn, as the years go down,
And higher your lofty banner, and smoother your pathway grow,
And clearer the skies above you, and brighter your glory glow,
Your frame's, in the darker contest, accustomed to use their force,
Be mighty for noble efforts, to mark your ascending course,
And onward to learning's temples, your footsteps delighted stray,
Till even the thought of sadness has vanished and passed away.

Then well may the drum be sounded, and well may the chorus flow,
And well may the streamers quiver in triumph as on they go !
They lead in the van of Freedom ! Confess it, with shame, ye Powers,
For where is the land can glory in treasure so rich as ours?
Not even old England's standard, begirt by the chainless sea,
Or bars that hold open the star-gate of Washington's liberty,
Have shadowed a pearl so lovely (though widely their folds have flown),
To match with this gem so radiant, that is all Australia's own !

And still shall its wondrous radiance burst forth with a brighter blaze,
Illumining all the nations with cheering and vital rays,
Till gorgeous as Austral sunlight the boreal mists shall stream,
Or like the effulgent splendour that gilds a celestial stream !
And sweetly shall Labors' blessings come borne on the breezy day,
To hallow the daring spirits that first struck her chains away:
And still, to remotest ages, her echoing song shall be
"Australia ! the fair and lovely ! the fearless, and true, and free !"



From the Sydney Newspaper the Australian Workman 3 Oct 1891 p. 4.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory