Archive for June 9th, 2022

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Dirck Hartog’s Island by Cedric “Peter” Hopegood (Peter Lecky)

(News item:—A metal plate placed on Dirck Hartog Island, Western Australia, in 1697, is being brought to Canberra.)

There was a plate in Eendracht’s lazaret,
An Amsterdam ships’ chandler’s platter,
Taken and set,
Afar from galley reek and clatter,
Where ocean’s winds with panting breezes met
Upon that isle where first the white man trod
This lost primeval land,
A fabled strand,
Hid ever jealously within the sleeve of God.
Twice forty seasons’ rout, nailed to its picket stout,
Grilled by the savage heat,
Singing to flailing gusts and scuttering sands,
Bold eyes again to greet and ready hands.
It told its gallant tale:
Though wild the wave and lone the grave,
Man’s curious feet shall tread the longest trail.
There, where the osprey hangs on high to hurl,
‘Mid skirlings demon-shrill.
Down on the mew’s salt, kill,
Barren of life withdrew the arid, soil,
Though savage monsters set the seas a-boil
With flying shoals a-swirl.
No echo reached those men of mustered flocks.
No hanging dust proclaimed the driven herd.
Only the wurlies’ devil’s-funnels stirred,
And lizards drowsed between the roasted rocks.
What dragons lurked upon
Those mirage-haunted sands of this, the last of lands?
What wizard-empire of what Prester John
Might not some hardy men despoil anon?
What El Dorado,
Where wretched hodmandods should be constrained
To moil for gems, souls saved but bodies chained
Respectively by priest and desperado?

Man’s dauntless heart—his sateless greed, as well—
Seeking yet richer Thules, all may spell
Behind the weathered glyphs upon a plate,
Logging the ship, authorities, and date.
Yet fortune here decreed
Another ruling race, a homelier fate.
And Jason’s fabled fleece in sober deed.

From: Hopegood, Peter, “Dirck Hartog’s Island” in The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 1 March 1947, p. 9.

Date: 1947

By: Cedric “Peter” Hopegood (Peter Lecky) (1891-1967)