The Song of Australia

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Cover of the Marshall and Sons edition, ca. 1877

"The Song of Australia" was written by English-born poet Caroline Carleton in 1859 for a competition sponsored by the Gawler Institute. The music for the song was composed by the German-born Carl Linger (1810-1862), a prominent member of the Australian Forty-Eighters.

The Contest[edit]

On 1 October 1859, The South Australian Register announced:

A PRIZE of TEN GUINEAS open to South Australia is offered by the Gawler Institute for the WORDS of a PATRIOTIC SONG, to be entitled "The Song of Australia". Copyright of words to which the Prize may be awarded to become the property of the Gawler Institute.

Judges: John H. Barrow, Esq., M.P.; John Brown, Esq.; John Howard Clark, Esq.; Hon. A. Forster, M.L.C.; W. C. Wearing, Esq.; E. J. Peake, Esq., M.P.

Competitors are free to adopt any treatment of subject or rhythmical measure, so long as the composition is in accordance with the title and suitable for musical expression. Each competitor to write on the outside of the envelope covering the composition (which must not bear the name of the author, but a motto) the words "Poem for Prize"; and in a second envelope to enclose his name, written outside the motto corresponding with that attached to the composition. Of those letters containing the names of the competitors, that alone will be opened which bears the motto of the successful composition.

All communications must be made by October 14, and addressed to George Isaacs, Gawler.[1]

Announcing the winner and the second stage of the competition:

THE GAWLER PRIZE SONG.- AWARD OF THE JUDGES.

Gawler Institute, October 20,1859.

The Prize of Ten Guineas for the best words for a Patriotic Song has been awarded by the Judges to Mrs. C. J. Carleton. Adelaide.

The Committee regret that their funds will not permit their distributing other prizes to various meritorious productions contributed, but in order to encourage native talent they intend publishing a careful selection from amongst them. Any of the competitors objecting to their contribution being so published will please to signify the same, by letter, to Mr. George Isaacs, Gawler (subscribed with the motto previously used), on or before the 31st inst., otherwise their sanction will be inferred. Any competitors desiring their names to be attached to their contributions will please give permission to the Committee to open the envelopes inscribed with their mottoes.

PRIZE FOR MUSIC

GAWLER INSTITUTE.

A TEN GUINEA PRIZE is offered by the Gawler Institute for the MUSIC to "The Song of Australia," by Mrs. C. J. Carleton, published in this day's paper, subject to the following conditions, viz.:- That the air be written in the G clef, and in any key the composer may select ; but not to range below lower C or above upper G. The chorus (if any) to be written for three or four voices.

A pianoforte part to be added as an ad libitum accompaniment. Each competitor to send in two copies. The music to bear a motto, but no name. The cover to be inscribed " Music for Prize"; and in a second envelope the competitor will enclose his name, writing outside the envelope the motto corresponding with that attached to the composition.

Judges. G. W. Chinner, Esq.; F. S. Dutton, Esq., M.P.; A. Ewing, Esq., Com. Staff. W. Holden, Esq.

All communications to be addressed to Mr. George Isaacs, Gawler, and forwarded not later than the 30th October, 1850.[2]

And the announcement of the winner:

GAWLER PRIZE MUSIC — The Judges who had undertaken to decide upon the music set to the 'Song of Australia' met yesterday, and, after due examination, agreed to the following report: — "The Judges appointed to award the prize for the best musical composition set to the words of the prize song, entitled 'The Song of Australia,' met on Friday, the 4th November— present, Messrs. Dutton, Ewing, Chinner, and Holden. Twenty-three compositions were examined, and the prize was unanimously awarded to the composition bearing the motto 'One of the Quantity.' Those bearing the mottoes 'Long Live our Gracious Queen,' 'Garibaldi,' and 'Con Amore' so nearly equalled the prize composition in merit that the Judges had great difficulty in coming to a decision.

Francis S. Dutton; A. Ewing; Geo. W.Chinner; Wm. Holden"

Immediately upon receiving this report we telegraphed to the Secretary of the Gawler Institute to ascertain the name of the successful competitor, and we find from his reply that the composer who has thus distinguished himself is Mr. Carl Linger.[3]

This is the poem as published in The South Australian Register on 21 October 1859:

THE SONG OF AUSTRALIA by Mrs. C. J. CARLETON, West-terrace.

There is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies ;
And grassy knoll and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above is azure bright — Australia!
There is a land where honey flows,
Where laughing corn luxuriant grows,
Land of the myrtle and the rose ;
On hill and plain the clust'ring vine
Is gushing out with purple wine,
And cups are quaffed to thee and thine — Australia!
There is a land where treasures shine
Deep in the dark unfathom'd mine
For worshippers at Mammon's shrine;
Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam,
And fabled wealth no more doth seem
The idle fancy of a dream — Australia!
There is a land where homesteads peep
From sunny plain and woodland steep,
And love and joy bright vigils keep ;
Where the glad voice of childish glee
Is mingling with the melody
Of nature's hidden minstrelsy — Australia!
There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain-top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly ;
And FREEDOM'S sons the banner bear,
No shackled slave can breathe the air,
Fairest of Britain's daughters fair — Australia![4]

Criticism[edit]

Publication of Caroline Carleton's poem caused an immediate controversy; that it was nice poetry, but "too tame";[5] one regretted that nothing more inspiring that the colour of the sky and the prettiness of the scenery could be found for the poem; one wondered "how hidden wealth could gleam in the darkness" and so on,[6] another that it could equally refer to, say, California,[7] while another longed for a time when such a peaceful song accorded with international politics, and regretted that the contest was restricted to South Australians, that the prize was so paltry, and there was no mention of sheep.[8]

The Advertiser of 24 October, gave a spirited defence of the judges, and of Mrs. Carleton's poem, culminating in several parodies purporting to be the "real Song of Australia".[9]

Performances and Public Reaction[edit]

One of its first public performances was for a South Australian Institute soirée at White's Rooms, King William Street, on 14 December 1859 by the Adelaide Liedertafel, conducted by Herr Linger.[10]

The song was a particular favourite of the Australian baritone Peter Dawson.[11] who called it "The finest national anthem ever written".[12] His performances included notably:

Proposed national anthem[edit]

The song was one of four included in a national plebiscite to choose Australia's national song in 1977. Nationwide it was the least popular of the four choices, but it had the distinction of being the most popular choice in South Australia.[16] This result can be attributed to the fact of "Advance Australia Fair" being exposed to schoolchildren in the more populous States, where "The Song of Australia" was sung in schools only in South Australia and, to a lesser extent, in Western Australia and Tasmania.

The four songs in the plebiscite were Waltzing Matilda; the then current anthem, God Save the Queen; the now current anthem, Advance Australia Fair; and Song of Australia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Classified Advertising.". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 1 October 1859. p. 1. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "Classified Advertising.". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 21 October 1859. p. 1. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Register. ADELAIDE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1859.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 5 November 1859. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "THE GAWLER PRIZE POEM.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 21 October 1859. p. 2. Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Prize Poem". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 22 October 1859. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Prize Poem.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 31 October 1859. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "NATIONAL POETRY.". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 28 October 1859. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "THE GAWLER PRIZE POEM.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 25 October 1859. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "The Gawler Prize Song". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 24 October 1859. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Classified Advertising.". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 14 December 1859. p. 1. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Song of Australia Should Be National Anthem". Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954) (Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia). 30 September 1931. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "Music and Musicians". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 25 January 1933. p. 3. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "South Australian Talent in London". The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 10 January 1905. p. 4. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Australia Day.". Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954) (Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 19 September 1924. p. 10. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Advertising.". The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 9 September 1932. p. 18. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "Plebiscite results - see 1977 National Song Poll". Elections and referendums. Department of the Parliament (Australian federal government). 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 

External links[edit]