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Christmas Poem 1858

December 21, 2011

My ancestors JOHN TAYLOR and MARTHA LLOYD came to Australia from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales in 1841. As I’ve been to Wales  and seen the beautiful countryside that it is,  I often wonder what it must have been like for them to leave the rolling green hills of Wales and come to hot dusty Australia.  I just cannot imagine how they must have felt as they said goodbye to their family and friends, knowing that they probably would never see them again.  What did they thing of Christmas in Australia? Surely they must have yearned for the northern hemisphere at Christmas time. This poem that I came across on Trove helps to answer some of those questions.

A CHRISTMAS REVERIE UNDER A GUM TREE

(Written on Christmas Day 1858)

‘Twas  noon and brightly shone the summer sky;  Sol’s burning rays struck scorching on the plain;

The hot north wind in parching gusts swept by – ‘Twas Christmas Day, and yet no signs of rain.

Christmas, upon that scorching plain, how drear; How sadly changed from home’s domestic hearth,

Where friends collect to bless the coming year, And each contributes to that season’s mirth.

Beneath a gum tree’s shade a traveller lay,  With listless weary eye he gazed around;

One gushing sigh his longing thoughts betray,  ‘Twas home he thought on “home” that magic sound.

He thought of childhood’s days of peace and joy,  Of scenes of boyish pleasures far away,

When a mother’s hand caressed her darling boy,  And in holy accents taught him first to pray.

Oh, home, cried he, dear home, what happy years,  What hours of innocence I’ve spent in thee,

E’re sorrow marked my brow or woke my fears,  The future then was bright and fair to me

My spirit now released to roam at will,  Back to those scenes of peace and love it flies,

Where in death’s sleep upon that sunny hill , The sacred ashes of my father lies.

He was a father kind in every sense;  He was a christian good as he was kind;

He served his God, and when he called him hence, He died, nor left another such behind.

Sadly the wind blows over his cold, cold bed , Silent he sleeps, nor heeds it’s passing swell;

For coldly pillowed lies his honored head, Unconscious now of those he loved so well.

A child he watched me with a fathers care, A boy he blessed me in my joyous mirth,

A youth he left me for a better sphere, E’re manhood’s years could comprehend his worth.

Oh what is life, or what is wealth, or power, Those toys we strive so much for here below?

Our’s today, they’re gone in one short hour, Snatched from our grasp by death’s unerring blow.

And Christmas, happy days of joys bygone, Thy presence now but aggravates despair;

For lost to gladness, you but lead us on, To brood over what we are and what we were.

Thus far the traveller had wandered on, Where bright old Sol, his power now on the wave,

Reminds him that the scorching heat has gone, Then sinks in state behind a golden screen.

He now calls back his fancy from those scenes, Of fairy visions fled, for ever gone;

Six miles are yet the town and him between,  And stern reality must urge him on.

Sadly he rises from the gum tree’s shade, Takes up his gun and sway and then – what then?

Why soon in far famed Melbourne he has made. A unit in that crowd of busy men

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    – BEARDY, RAGAMUFFIN PLAINS, VICTORIA

7th July 1859

       from The Launceston Examiner, Thursday 14 July 1859

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