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Gold rush poem, 1851. The Rhyme of the Melbourne Mania

Posted 06/05/2019 in Gold




This interesting 1851 poem was written during a very significant time in Victoria's history - after the commencement of the Bathurst gold rush but just before the Victorian gold rush had begun. The poem describes the madness which gripped Victoria (then known as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales) in the early days of Australia's gold rush, the offer of a £200 reward in an effort to stop the evacuation of Port Phillip to the New South Wales gold fields, and the unsuccessful attempt by Henry Frencham to claim the reward after discovering what he declared to be gold around Warrandyte. 

The following poem was published in The Argus, June 1851, signed by the author as 'Elshie'.

The Rhyme of the Melbourne Mania

I shall now the story tell,
How the lust for glittering ore,
Brought a sad disgrace upon
Melbourne people rich and poor.

From the Bathurst diggins spread
Far o'er all our pleasant land
News that heavy lumps of gold
Were picked up on every hand.

Then the shepherd left his flock,
Then the Larry dropt his hod,
Then the tailor cut his cloth,
Then the ploughman cut the sod.

Then the starving lawyer's clerk
Left his deed without a name,
Then the cobbler left his awl
Then the lover left his flame.

To the diggins hundreds hurried,
With hot haste and reckless speed
To the dangers of the journey
Blinded by their grasping greed.

Then our big-wigs thought dismayed,
As they saw the people fly,
All our glory had departed ;
Others thought 'twas all my eye.

But a meeting soon was called
Of those Melbourne gentry who
Fearing that they'd lose their all
Did not grudge to risk "a few"

There 'twas shown without dispute
Gold had ever proved a curse,
That to stop our onward course,
Nothing could befall us worse

Than to find the cursed ore,
Whose effect would be to send,
From the path of honest toil.
Men on whom we all depend,

For the value of our wealth,
For the tending of our sheep,
For the baking of our bread,
For the safety of our sheep.

But as news of Bathurst gold
Was decoying men away
We must find a counter-curse
Nearer home, to make them stay;

And to find the curse desired,
By each lover of our weal
Must be paid a handsome sum
All to fire our diggers' zeal

Then the mob all clapped their hands,
And exclaimed with deafening roar
He shall get two hundred pounds
Who discovers golden ore.

On the morn a gallant squad
To the Plenty field repaired,
Hoping ere a week had past,
Each to have the plunder shared.

O'er the ranges then they sped,
Through each gulley's mud they toiled
Until night, when quite used up,
Underneath a tree they coiled.

Cold and bleak the morn arose,
To their work again they took,
Till at length they came upon,
Something heavy that did look.

Not unlike a piece of gold,
Then with cheers the welkin rung,
Scanned they all the treasure dear,
Then on horseback Frencham sprung,

Rowel deep he plunged his spurs,
Madly on the courser dashed,
Halting not till through our streets
Foaming and begrimed he'd splashed.

Through the city spread the news
Samples of the gold were shown,
Frencham's squad may- proudly boast
Now the prize is all their own,

Once again the public met,
Much was talked of public good,
Then to test the mineral
Set to work was chemist Hood.

But alas the truth to tell
Ne'er a grain of gold I ween
Science from it could extract,
Frencham now looked rather green,

Burst the bubble with a crash,
Sheepish looked our public men,
Frencham bolted like a shot
Fortune's freaks to chance again.

ELSHIE.

(source: Trove, National Library of Australia)




 

 

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