by Eliza Hamilton Dunlop

The following poem, written in the aftermath of the Myall Creek massacre, appeared in The Australian in 1838, and again in 1841, when it was prefaced by the note ” ‘Only one female and a child got away from us’ – Evidence from the Supreme Court”. A discussion of Dunlop’s life and work by Whispering Gums appeared here earlier this week.



(From Myall’s Creek.)
Oh! hush thee—hush my baby,
I may not tend thee yet.
Our forest home is distant far,
And midnight’s star is set.
Now, hush thee—or the pale-faced men
Will hear thy piercing wail,
And what would then thy mother’s tears
Or feeble strength avail!
Oh, could’st thy little bosom
That mother’s torture feel,
Or could’st thou know thy father lies
Struck down by English steel;
Thy tender form would wither,
Like the kniven on the sand,
And the spirit of my perished tribe
Would vanish from our land.
For thy young life, my precious,
I fly the field of blood,
Else had, I for my chieftain’s sake,
Defied them where they stood;
But basely bound my woman arm,
No weapon might it wield:
I could but cling round him I loved,
To make my heart a shield.
I saw my firstborn treasure
Lie headless at my feet,
The gore on this hapless breast,
In his life-stream is wet!
And thou! I snatch’d thee from their sword,
It harmless pass’d by thee!
But clave the binding cords—and gave,
Haply, the power to flee.
To flee! my babe—but whither?
Without my friend—my guide?
The blood that was our strength is shed!
He is not by my side!
Thy sire! oh! never, never,
Shall Toon Bakra hear our cry:
My bold and stately mountain-bird!
I thought not he could die.
Now who will teach thee, dearest,
To poise the shield, and spear,
To wield the koopin, or to throw
The boommerring, void of fear;
To breast the river in its height;
The mountain tracks to tread?
The echoes of my homeless heart
Reply—the dead, the dead!
And ever must their murmur
Like an ocean torrent flow:
The parted voice comes never back,
To cheer our lonely woe;
Even in the region of our tribe,
Beside our summer streams,
‘Tis but a hollow symphony—
In the shadow-land of dreams.
Oh hush thee, dear—for weary
And faint I bear thee on—
His name is on thy gentle lips,
My child, my child, he’s gone!
Gone o’er the golden fields that lie
Beyond the rolling cloud,
To bring thy people’s murder cry
Before the Christian’s God.
Yes! o’er the stars that guide us,
He brings my slaughter’d boy:
To shew their God how treacherously
The stranger men destroy;
To tell how hands in friendship pledged
Piled high the fatal pire;
To tell—to tell of the gloomy ridge;
And the stockmen’s human fire.
E. H. D.
E. H. D. “The Aboriginal Mother,” The Australian (13 Dec 1838): 4.
Note following “The Aboriginal Mother”, The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser (27 Oct 1841): 2.
Image sourced via article by Anna Johnson: “Hidden Women of History,” The Conversation, 17 June 2021 (sourced 1 Sep 2022); attributed as “Portrait of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (no date), colour photograph of oil painting Wollombi Endeavour Museum“.