A Poem by Rev. T. J. Hyder©1894
Men came with hearts of hope and pitched their tents
Across the ranges of the trackless bush,
Driving the silence northward to the plains.
They wrought and wrested from the stubborn earth
Her stores of gold, smiling at Want and Care.
Then came stern faces frowning Freedom down
Commissioners with arbitrary powers,
And force to harry all the busy field
With licence-hunting, till black blood was made,
And men, treated like brutes, showed rage as brutes.
The savage natures stirred the milder up,
Revolting at the burden and the shame;
For it was open scandal to the Crown
That honest toil was forced to pay a fee
Exorbitant for right to earn its bread.
The law smote men upon the sweating face
With whips of scorpions. Were they wretched slaves
That brother men should shoot and fiercely hunt,
And ride them down with armed horse and force ?
The freeborn to produce a paper right
To that eternal right of man, his right
To liberty ! What freeborn man could stand
And suffer sabre blow, and bayonet thrust
Oppressing and coercing, without rage
And brave revolt ? To be downtrodden, cursed,
Pursued like beasts, and chained to trees and logs;-
Confined at tyrants' will - these were the wrongs
That made Eureka's bloody work, and tore
The shackled liberty of manhood free.
The diggers made no open breach, though men
Had torn down kingdoms for injustice less.
One day a boist'rous fellow in his cups
Demanded drink, and furious words ensued
At Bentley's, the Eureka Inn, ill-famed,
And Bentley cleft the man between the eyes,
Smiting him dead, himself not held to blame.
That gross collusion, murder bribing law,
Set fire to all the miners' honest hearts.
Then out there poured ten thousand angry men,
Who, at the Inn, broke through the long restraint,
Wreckt the vile den and gave it to the flames,
The murderer escaping for his life.
Then came injustice grosser still. Three men
Were seized and tried for rooting out the plague,
And prisoned. Swift remonstrance rose
To plead before stern Hotham ; but he drove
The deputies away with unwise words.
The diggers rose, and swore before Just God
To strike for Freedom. Licences were burnt,
And all Eureka burst into revolt.
Men, desperate, took arms ; and to conceal
The daily drill set up a frail stockade
About that sacred acre on the hill,
The Stockade of Eureka. A leader came,
A man of Celtic blood and honest hand,
And he, grown great for Freedom, never flinched
The awful call of Duty, but in love
Of glorious Liberty gave all his heart,
He, standing up before insulted man,
Thus nobly spoke ;-" I shall not shrink ;
To do my duty as a man ; and once
I pledge my hand, I will defile it not
By treachery, nor by mean cowardice,
Render that hand contemptible."* Then he
Upreared the Southern Cross as Freedom's flag
Full eighty feet; and, rising dominant,
Swore those Five Hundred there beneath the flag
To stand and strike for Freedom. He himself
First reverent kneeling, swore in glowing words,
By that most sacred Standard, to defend
Their rights and liberties. Then thrilling rose
The loud " Amen," five hundred hands upstretched
Towards the Standard. But, like Gideon's host,
They dwindled down, till but a third stood round
Brave Lalor when the desperate fight began.
That '54 December opened fierce
With furnace heat; the night came on with storm
And sheets of rain; offended Heaven poured
The lightning down, and God's great power was seen
In awful light. Upon the second day
A demonstration in the silvery dawn
In force came menacing the Bakery Hill;
But like a threatening wave rolled back again.
Next day, the third, at dawn, a sentry fired
Upon the troops advancing : bugle-blasts
Rang out, and on the soldiers rushed with cheers,
Just twice the force within the mean Stockade,
With threatening horsemen as a grim support.
A furious fire began the deadly work.
Men fell in sudden death, while Lalor urged
The remnant into holes. The bayonet charge
Was on them. Lalor fell with shattered arm,
And loyal comrades hid him under slabs,
While shouting, swearing, in the redcoats swept,
Tearing the flimsy barrier down; and then
They smote to death the few who fought, and drove
The helpless rebels, overmatched, with blows
Into their camp, and tore the Standard down.
Lalor, a price upon his life escaped,
A one-armed man, and sheltered from the storm.
But men rose up throughout the land and forced
The bitter curse to cease, and pardon came,
And righteous laws proclaimed the Freedom found.
He who had led the right against the might
God set as legislator, crowning him
With strength and infinite esteem, and made
His wisdom power amidst the sons of men,
Till he was lifted up to rule them all.
Thus was Eureka lost and Freedom won.
*Lalor's own words.
NotesBy the Rev. T. J. Hyder. Awarded first prize in the Hibernian Society competition for a poem on the subject in 1894
The poem has lain hidden for 108 years after its publication in four local Victorian newspapers: The Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times, Oakleigh Leader, The Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader and Queenscliff Sentinel, Drysdale, Portarlington & Sorrento AdvertiserMany thanks to Hyder's great grand daughter, Kathleen Condos, who has recently discovered the following:
"Thomas Hyder was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1857. He attended the Royal Hibernian Military School from the age of 7 to 14 where he took out first prize for academic excellence in his final year. Our family story says that this red-haired Irishman attended Trinity College, Dublin but I have no proof. He was said to have obtained A Class honours there and he was a great poet, orator and very attractive to the fairer sex. He arrived in Sydney in 1874, married in 1881 and spent time ministering in many different places in Eastern Australia."
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union songs..........a selection by mark gregory