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William Charles Wentworth: Australasia


Governor and Commander-in-Chief


ALTHOUGH I feel that I am scarcely warranted, without your permission, in thus bringing your name before the public; — as you are now travelling on the Continent, and as I could not, therefore, obtain that permission without some considerable delay, — I have even ventured to inscribe to you this, the first fruits of Australasian poesy, without your sanction or privity. I have selected you for the patron of this crude effort, not because I could not have found another foster father for this my poetic bantling, but because I cannot discover amidst the circle of my friends (and I am sure it would be useless to seek elsewhere), any one to whom its introduction to the public could be confided with equal propriety. In you, Sir, who for so many years have presided over the colonies which are included under the designation which is the subject of this poem; who have watched over and promoted their growth rather with the warm solicitude of a parent than the frigid superintendence of a governor; who have conducted them through the helplessness of infancy to the first dawn of youth and independence; and who, in resigning the task of their future guidance to other hands, have still left behind you the warmest wishes for their future welfare and prosperity; — I know that every thing Australasian, or connected with the honour and interests of Australasia, will ever find a steady friend and zealous advocate. I feel, therefore, that in this conjuncture I could not apply to any one who would view this hasty production with equal partiality, and be likely to give it that warm countenance and support, which, I fear, will form its chief recommendation. But I will confess that a mere personal consideration of this nature is not the object this dedication. An Australasian myself, I am anxious at a period when a few dastardly and privileged calumniators have dared, not openly, but by insidious implication, to impugn the leading measures which characterized your administration of the government of my country, to testify my gratitude for the services which you have rendered to that country. and to assure you, that, however those services may for the instant be underrated here, they will long live in the heartfelt recollection or those who were the objects of them, and who have had practical proof of their wisdom and humanity. Nor do I utter any doubtful prophecy when I predict, that his Majesty's ministers will soon form a more correct estimate of the zeal, ability, and integrity, with which you have discharged the trust which your Sovereign reposed in you. Calumny is but the foul vapour of a day. As the envious mists that hide the sun quickly disappear, and the glorious luminary breaks forth with renewed force and splendour: thus is it with the benefactors of mankind. Their intentions and acts may be obscured for a season; but the light of their deeds remains behind, and warms and cheers through generations. The treatment you have met with alfords I admit, but poor encouragement for your successors to tread in your footsteps; but for yourself, Sir, if you need any other consolation than that inward satisfaction which must result from the retrospect of a life, passed like Bayard's sans peur et sans rèproche, you should recollect that exalted worth and station have ever been obnoxious to envy and malevolence; and that these are the stings which Heaven has kindly attached to human celebrity, that its possessor may not become too much enamoured of the glories of this world, and forget that the pure unalloyed recompense of his toils is reserved for the next.

I feel that the poem, to which I have thus annexed your name, would have been more complete, if it had contained some allusion, not to those astonishing monuments which you designed and executed in so short a period in the vast Austral Wilderness, — the forests you levelled, the roads you formed, the bridges you built, the palaces you erected, and the towns you founded (for however wonderful, these are perishable memorials of which all traces will one day or other be obliterated;) — but to that high tone of feeling, that great moral reformation, of which, both by your precept, your example, and your institutions you sowed the seeds among all classes of the colonists — seeds, the fruits of which will descend to their remotest posterity. Hereafter, when I shall revisit my country, when the beneficial results of your liberal principles and philanthropic labours shall be present to my senses, and when the sublimities of my native woods and forests shall lend their breathin inspiration to my verse, I shall be better qualified to do justice to such a theme; and am resolved (if Heaven should spare my life a few years longer) to give this poem that extension, of which the subject is susceptible, and of which I consider it to be deserving. This is a debt, Sir, which Australasia owes you, and which I, the humblest of her sons, if no other of them should in the meanwhile anticipate me, will do my utmost to discharge.

That you may at length find in the bosom of your family that repose, which a long life of honourable exertion deserves, and which your declining years require, is the fervent prayer, not of myself alone, but of all those of my compatriots who have Australasian hearts; and I am proud to say, that there are few, very few of them, who do not fall under this denomination.

I remain.


Your faithful and obedient Servant.,


This transcription of the Dedication is based upon the facsimile version available in: W. C. Wentworth Australasia. [With an Introduction by G. A. Wilkes]. Sydney: Department of English, University of Sydney, 1982.

The original publication appeared in 1823 as Australasia — A Poem written for The Chancellor's Medal at the Cambridge Commencement, July 1823. By W. C. Wentworth, An Australasian; Fellow-commoner of Saint Peter's College. London: G and W.B. Whittaker, 1823. Pp. xii, 28. [Copies are held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney and the National Library of Australia, Canberra].

Full text of the 443-word poem available at: Australasia.

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