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The Land and the People (1831-1883)

[The following lines appeared in the Athenaeum daring the
agitation for English Parliamentary reform in the year 1831.]

I'll sing a song and such a song
As men will weep to hear,
A sorrowful song of right and wrong,
So brethren lend an ear.

God said to man, "This pleasant land,
I make it wholly thine."
I look and say, on this sad day,
"There's not one furrow mine."

God said to man, "The fowls of the air,
The finn'd fish of the flood,
The heath-cock on his desert hills,
The wild deer of the wood.

Take them and live." The strong
Man came, as came the fiend of yore
To Paradise, put forth his hand,
And they are mine no more.

I saw the rulers of the land
In chariots bright with gold
Roll on ; I gaze my babes and I
In hunger and in cold.

A trinket of a lord swept by
In all his rich array
And waved me off my babes and I,
As things of coarser clay.

I saw a prelate sleek and proud,
Drawn by four charges, pass ;
Not much he seemed like Jesus
Mild when He rode on an ass.

There followed close a hideous throng
Of pert and pensioned things ;
Muckworms for whom our sweat
And blood must furnish gilded wings.

I will not tell you what I thought,
Nor for my burning looks
Find words they writ were but bitterer far
Than aught that's writ in books.

I'll set my right foot to a stone,
Against a rock my back,
Thus stretch, mine arm and sternly
Say, "Give me my birthright back."


From the Melbourne newspaper The Advocate 3 Feb 1883 p. 12.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory