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A poem by James Avis Bartley

Australia; Or, The New Golden Age

Title:     Australia; Or, The New Golden Age
Author: James Avis Bartley [More Titles by Bartley]

In ancient days, in old, immortal Rome,
Where virtues, surnamed Roman, had their home;
When Virtue triumphed over Vice, and threw
Across their annals, a more lovely hue;
When every citizen was proud to be
The state's fast friend, and venal bribes would flee;
When manhood wrote upon each lofty brow
That glorious seal which makes the meaner bow;
When Industry, Art, Science, Learning cast
That light o'er Rome which gilds her to the last;
The Roman minstrel caught the sacred flame,
And made that age the chosen child of fame:
The Golden Age recalled the happy hour,
When man walked sinless in the first, sweet bower.
Such was the glorious golden Age of yore,--
That golden Age of virtue is no more.
The modern, brighter, happier Age of Gold;--
Oh! dost thou mean that Vice lies dead and cold
In her detested grave, where none will shed,
Not even her slaves, a tear above her, dead--
That Virtue lives--the rainbow child of heaven,
And holds the balance in these centuries even?

The Golden Age! the words are still the same,--
The meaning once man's glory--now his shame.
Hail thou new Golden Age! O heavenly Age!
Mankind sustains thee with a noble rage:
All, all unite to gild thee with some rays
Of gathered light--themselves with shining praise.
See! how they rush, and leave sweet childhood's home,
The serf his hut, the lordly man his dome,
Forsakes, with callous heart, each hallow'd scene,
The oft frequented tree, the shady green;
Swift, swift they fly to see the realms of gold,
And think to reap the joy their raving fancies told.
Ye, isles of Britain! see them quickly leave
Your rocky coasts, and never deign to grieve.
Ye, sunny shores of France! behold them start
Nor shed one teardrop, as your ships depart.
Ye love-charmed bowers of Spain! your Houris' eyes
Are rayless now--for brighter lustre vies!
Ye, boundless plains, and giant hills, that rise
In craggy pride, and prop Columbia's skies,
Ye view your maddened sons, with guilty haste,
Roll from your shores and tempt the watery waste--
Forgotten every claim that Virtue knows,
Despised the scenes, where early childhood rose,
Swift to the land of gold, they, joyful, flee,
Nor care the sacred joys of home again to see.
Lo! where they rush, and leave the drooping land--
Unseen the parting tear, the loved one's waving hand.
Thus they depart--if those who walk the main,
But few shall view their native scenes again.

Oh God! how vile thy creatures there become!
Thy pleadings powerless--all thy threatenings dumb:
On far Australia's plains, by California's streams,
Life's crimson flowing current often gleams:
For Cain has found in gold another power
To make him slay, as Envy at the hour,
When Thou dost set the ever-during mark
On him a Wanderer, where all earth was dark.
And how uncertain is the hold on life,
In those sad lands of gold and constant strife.
Fiends strike by day; by night they ever lurk,
By wood or cottage, swift to do Death's work;
Till even when none are near to deal the blow,
Imagination sees a hidden foe,
Behind each tree, and by the little cot,
Till gloomy Apprehension shades each spot.

Lo! in yon bower of honeysuckle where
A thousand bees intone the summer air;
And humming birds, a fairy birth of springs,
Hover to suck the sweet on quivering wings;
There, at the morning's sweet and balmy prime,
A clasping couple blame the swift-wing'd Time.
Each morn, each eve, they seek this lonely bower,
And deeply bless its fair and fragrant flower,
Which shadows o'er so much of wildest bliss--
The burning glance--the long and honied kiss--
The broken sigh--the murmured, tender word,
Whose thrilling tone the inmost heart hath stirred--
The matchless joy which makes us hold as nought,
All pangs that Fate may bring, or ever brought.
The lover hears that far amid the West,
Gold gleams within each river's crystal breast--
That, wide and far, the gorgeous vision smiles,
And laps the spirit in delicious wiles.
He quits--he flies--he will behold the strand,
Where Wealth lies gasping for his tardy hand.
He will return--an edifice shall rise
In stately grandeur to the curving skies;
In their own land, his lovely bride and he,
Will move a lord and lady of degree.
She springs--she flings her fair, etherial form
Upon his breast, which once, with love, was warm--
But now curst love of gold has surely chilled,
The heart that once her love so wildly thrilled.
Her long, fair locks, distracted, stream below,
Her gushing tears like wintry torrents, flow:
Her Herbert steels his heart against their power,--
The ship that wafts him sails, ere morning's hour.

At length he hails the longed for, distant shore;
The perils of the deep, at least, are o'er,
No fell disease has struck, with vengeful power,
His form to earth, to this protracted hour.
He sees the land--before his gaze unfold
The mighty, gorgeous realms of guilt and gold.
How swells his bursting heart with evil pride!
Cursed pride, for which so many souls have died.
Accursed pride of Lucre--loathsome Dame
Of every sin on earth that hath a name.
In fancy now he sees his palace soar
A fairy work! upon his childhood's shore;
In fancy sees his smiling, loving bride,
A queen amid her menial train preside;
And quite forgets that she his wiser wife,
Would love some cot, wherein to pass their life:--
Till Fate, vindictive, lays her lover low
Far from the hand which might relieve his woe.
At last, he dies--his spirit's latest groan
By her unheard--his latest wish unknown.
Thus Heaven hath punished him whose love of gold
Hath made him slight what he should dearest hold.

Beside yon haw-crowned hill, a widowed dame,
Dwelt with her son, by whom her living came.
Enticed by gorgeous dreams that haunt his sleep,
Her age's pillar wanders o'er the deep--
Deserts his aged, widowed, trembling dame--
Ah thus will gain destroy the sense of shame!
There on those barren hills and burning plains,
His insane fancy gloats on glittering gains.
Until, at last, avenging fever lays,
His form on earth, through dark, delirious days,
Without a mother's soothing care to ease
His dying throes, beyond those distant seas.
Yet, when, in that brief space which comes before,
The spirit flies, to visit earth no more,
A transient light breads on his wildest brain,
His bosom speaks in this lamenting strain!
"Ah! damning love of gold, which sees me here,
And made me leave an aged mother dear.
Now Heaven, how just! repays my guilty deed!
No mother soothes me in my sorest need.
Yet if kind Heaven will prize that mother's prayer,
Which, incense-like, now rises through the air;
I build my faith--that my last breath will ope
The gate of bliss to my believing hope."

Far mid yon vastest woods, behold a swain.
If small his joy, small is his spirit's pain.
He tills the soil, for him the wild flowers bloom,
And lovely daisies shed their meek perfume.
His happy wife, relieves his every care,
And bliss is double when enjoyed with her.
His flocks supply his little household dear,
With decent garments, and salubrious fare.
Glad he beholds the smiling god of day,
Walk from the East upon his radiant way,
Gild all the fields--the lengthy plains--the peaks
Of giant mountains, with vermillion streaks--
While all his farm spreads out beneath his eyes,
His heart's sweet home--his little paradise.
How better far this humble, noiseless life--
Afar from guilty gold and bloody strife.
How glad he views his prosperous projects smile,
What guiltless joys his long, long life beguile.
With joy he sees his offspring rise around,
His body's scions, with sweet virtue crowned.
And, when, at last, his form succumbs to time,
He sees that offspring strangers yet to crime;
And, inly joys to think his drooping age
They will sustain, and all his pains assuage,
Till, like an apple mellowed, ripe, and sound,
He falls, and slumbers in his own good ground.

[The end]
James Avis Bartley's poem: Australia; Or, The New Golden Age