By Ken Goodwin (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of Australian Literature
Its society is dull, monotonous, drunken and unintellectual, and Clarke's attitudes to his material are similar to Bret Harte's. Clarke was a brilliant city journalist, with a satirist's interest in the pretentiousness of the nobs or nabobs of Toorak and a reporter's eye for the low life of the music hall, opium dens and immigrant homes. He also wrote four dramatic pieces of a light-hearted satirical and burlesque character. One of them, The Happy Land ( 1880), was partially censored by the government on the ground that it was defamatory.
The jovial English-based 'Botany Bay', with its refrain of 'Singing too-ral, Ii-ooral, li-addity', contrasts strikingly with the Irish sombreness of 'A Convict's Lament on the Death of Captain Logan' with its imprecation of Our overseers and superintendents These tyrants' orders we must obey, Or else at the triangles our flesh is mangled Such are our wages at Moreton Bay! The convict and bush ballads are for the most part anonymous, exist often in substantially different versions, were presumably often composed or modified collectively, are popular in style and democratic in outlook, and can be both self-righteous and sentimental.
The prevailing note of Gordon's poetry is a rather shallow pessimism and pathos. At his best he is able to justify these moods as plausibly arising from circumstance; at other times they seem rootless. 'The Sick Stockrider', a dramatic monologue by a dying man reviewing his life and times, may have its moments of sentimentality, but it is not maudlin. The theme is not original; it had been around for at least twenty years in bush songs such as 'The Dying Stockman', but Gordon expands his vision into an elegy for a whole way oflife that was giving way before the urbanization of Australia.
A History of Australian Literature by Ken Goodwin (auth.)