Photo of Burke and Wills Statue by Elrae Adams
GPS: S 37º48.939" E 144º59.005"
In Collins Street standeth a statue tall--
A statue tall on a pillar of stone,
Telling its story, to great and small,
Of the dust reclaimed from the sand waste lone.
Weary and wasted, and worn and wan,
Feeble and faint, and languid and low,
He lay on the desert a dying man,
Who has gone, my friends, where we all must go.
There are perils by land, and perils by water,
Short, I ween, are the obsequies
Of the landsman lost, but they may be shorter
With the mariner lost in the trackless seas;
And well for him, when the timbers start,
And the stout ship reels and settles below,
Who goes to his doom with as bold a heart
As the dead man gone where we all must go.
Man is stubborn his rights to yield,
And redder than dews at eventide
Are the dews of battle, shed on the field
By a nation's wrath or a despot's pride;
But few who have heard their death-knell roll,
From the cannon's lips where they faced the foe,
Have fallen as stout and steady of soul,
As that dead man gone where we all must go.
Traverse yon spacious burial-ground,
Many are sleeping soundly there,
Who pass'd with mourners standing around,
Kindred, and friends, and children fair;
Did he envy such ending? 'twere hard to say;
Had he cause to envy such ending? no;
Can the spirit feel for the senseless clay
When it once has gone where we all must go?
What matters the sand or the whitening chalk,
The blighted herbage, the black'ning log,
The crooked beak of the eagle-hawk,
Or the hot red tongue of the native dog?
That couch was rugged, those sextons rude,
Yet, in spite of a leaden shroud, we know
That the bravest and fairest are earth-worms' food,
When once they've gone where we all must go.
With the pistol clenched in his failing hand,
With the death mist spread o'er his fading eyes,
He saw the sun go down on the sand,
And he slept, and never saw it rise;
'Twas well; he toil'd till his task was done,
Constant and calm in his latest throe,
The storm was weathered, the battle was won,
When he went, my friends, where we all must go.
God grant that whenever, soon or late,
Our course is run and our goal is reach'd,
We may meet our fate as steady and straight
As he whose bones in yon desert bleach'd;
No tears are needed--our cheeks are dry,
We have none to waste upon living woe;
Shall we sigh for one who has ceased to sigh,
Having gone, my friends, where we all must go?
We tarry yet, we are toiling still,
He is gone and he fares the best,
He fought against odds, he struggled up hill,
He has fairly earned his season of rest;
No tears are needed--fill out the wine,
Let the goblets clash, and the grape juice flow;
Ho! pledge me a death-drink, comrade mine,
To a brave man gone where we all must go.
Adam Lindsay Gordon