Morna Lee and other Poems

The Fate Of Bass

(A Fancy).

Mary Hannay Foott

ON the snow-line of the summit stood the Spaniard’s English slave;
    And the frighted condor westward flew afar—
Where the torch of Cotopaxi lit the wide Pacific wave,
    And the tender moon embraced a new-born star.

Blanched the cheek that Austral breezes off Van Diemen’s coast had tanned,
    Bent the form that on the deck stood stalwart there;
Slim and pallid as a woman’s was the sailor’s sunburnt hand,
    And untimely silver streaked the strong man’s hair.

From the forest far beneath him came the baffled bloodhound’s bay,
    From the gusty slope the camp-fire’s fitful glow;
But the pass the Indian told of o’er the cliff beside him lay,
    And beyond—the Mighty River’s eastward flow.

“Mine the secret of the Incas—to the tyrants never told;
    Mine the Cloven Rock—the league-long Sculptured Way!
Ere the weary scouts awaken, ere the embers are grown cold
    Ere the dogs in dreams their quarry seize and slay!”

Freedom’s threshold!—yet he tarries—gazes seaward, southward still,
    Past the gulfs where fainting chain-gangs toil entombed,
And the furnace of the smelter taints the winds of every hill
    With the fumes that swathe the dying and the doomed.

Never, never, gallant seaman, may the land that lit thy dreams
    In the starless drive make glad thine eyes again—
Where through tropic heavens at midnight the Antarctic glory streams,
    And a sea of blossom floods the wintry plain.

Nevermore the settler’s welcome, at the sinking of the sun,
    Nor his godspeed ’mid the fragrant Austral morn!
Shattered, spent, and broken-hearted—yet a guerdon thou hast won,
    And where brave souls meet thou shalt not stand forlorn.

The Fate of Bass—George Bass came to Australia as a surgeon of the Reliance (1795). Brave and eager for adventure, he made some exploration on land, and attempted to cross the Blue Mountains before Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth found a way. In a small boat Bass sailed down the coast from Sydney as far as Western Port, and concluded that Tasmania was separated from the mainland. Then with Lieutenant Flinders he sailed through the straits named after him, and circumnavigated Tasmania (1798). After his return from that voyage Bass left Sydney in the Venus (Feb. 1803). He was induced to join a commercial expedition to South America, and it is believed that he was captured by the Spaniards and sent to work in the mines of Peru as a slave. The author here assumes that he escaped.    [back]

Cotopaxi—A very high volcanic peak in the Andes, South America.    [back]

Van Diemen’s coast—Abel Tasman named the land discovered by him (24th November, 1642) Van Diemen’s Land, after the Governor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was changed to Tasmania in 1856.    [back]

The Mighty River—The Amazon.    [back]

Secret of the Incas—Mrs. Foott states that the Cloven Rock “secret” and places are Sculptured Way imaginary.    [back]

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