Australian Battle Cry, circa 1941

Dame Mary Gilmore, 1948 (Presumed Public Domain, from the State Library of NSW, via Wikipedia)

Dame Mary Gilmore, 1948 (Presumed Public Domain, from the State Library of NSW, via Wikipedia)

Somehow I would not have thought of socialism and patriotism being combined in the same person but, logically I suppose, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be. And it does appear they were combined in Dame Mary Gilmore, a famous Australian poet and journalist who was also well-known as a socialist.

How do I know? Well, today in my reading of The ABC Weekly (issue of 22 February 1941), I came across the words and music for a song titled “Australian Battle Cry”. I’m not sure what the copyright situation is for reproducing a song, but I’m going to take a risk and quote the lyrics in full – anything less (and you will soon see why) would seem rather ridiculous:

We’re the Boomeranglanders, we’re the Boomeranglanders, we’re the Boomeranglanders,
Sons of the Boomerangland !
We’re the Boomeranglanders, we’re the Boomeranglanders, we’re the Boomeranglanders,
We fight for the Boomerangland !
Boomerang, Boomerang, Boomerang*, Boomerang!

(* Pause for effect – as per instructions on the score).

The music was set by Madame (I suppose if you’re not a Dame, Madame will do!) Evelyn Grieg.

Now, the introductory notes to this, Australia’s first, “national battle cry”, calls it “a deep-throated and rousing theme calculated to stir a nation to action in war and effort in peace”. It goes on to say that Gilmore based it on an “Aboriginal corroboree cry” she heard as a child in 1872 in central New South Wales. These notes also inform the ABC Weekly’s readers that copies of the words and music have been sent to “our fighting forces in Africa and Palestine” and have been published in The Education Gazette so that schools can use it “to rally the rising generation in Australia”.

And so now I bring it to you. Consider yourselves (well, the Aussies among you anyhow) rallied!

11 thoughts on “Australian Battle Cry, circa 1941

  1. Well if New Zealand sport has co-opted the haka, I guess we can be boomeranglanders. I don’t know that it really strikes fear into the heart though….a bit like an elocution exercise really.

  2. Kind of reminds me of Vachel Lindsay’s (today, very politically incorrect) poem “The Congo,” with the beating drums recreated by the repetition of Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay,
    BOOM.”

    (And the Lindsay poem also has instructions as to what should be emphasized during a reading.)

    • Thanks Cynthia – will check the Vachel Lindsay out when I get home. Sounds worth looking at – I don;’t know it (at least it desn;t ring a bell).

    • I’ve just checked the Wikipedia article – and seen the Congo poem. I see what you mean! I like the description of him as Prairie Troubadour. I wonder what the difference is between singing poetry and songs? Most songs, really, are poems set to music? Is there are difference do you think? Of course, not all poems are necessarily “easily” sung so perhaps that’s the point?

  3. Lindsay was an extremely important American poet in his day, and is considered the “father of modern singing poetry.” Some of his poems, especially “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight,” still appear in textbooks, but much of his work is not read anymore. But then, I don’t suppose there are many poets these days where anyone reads more than the most famous poems. How many people get past “She walks in beauty as the night” by Byron. Only a few of us becoming raging fans of poets these days.

    • Thanks for this – isn’t it great the things you learn through such sharing of thoughts and ideas. I don’t read as much poetry as I’d like but I do like a wide range – from ballads to modern. Now I’m back from Port Macquarie (if you’d like to see a small selection of my photos let me know and I’ll email you a link), I will look him up.

  4. As I understand it, singing poetry was intended to have musical qualities, like Greek poetry, but not really be the same as a song. Verses could be sung or chanted — and the chanting idea seems to work well with the rhythms of “The Congo.”

    As for Port Macquarie, I’d love to see your photos. It’s an area still on my “to do” list. Thanks for offering.

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