The Guard of the Northern Strait

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"A foolish suggestion has lately been mooted in the English papers, that British New Guinea should be bartered with Germany for her African West Coast possessions."

Bold Torres the sailor came and went
   With his swarthy, storm-worn band;
He saw Saavedra's* Isle to north,
   To the south a loom of land.
He left, unknowing his name would live
   Through ages big with Fate
As the first to stem with his broad-bowed ship
   The wash of the Northern Strait.

Round the western shores the Dutch ships crept,
   Seeking the hidden way;
Some left their bones on a wind-swept coast,
   And the others sailed away.
Turned back, turned back by reef and rock –
   Twin guards of the sunlit gate,
The path of the sun from the eastern seas –
   They were mocked by the Northern Strait.

Year in, year out, the monsoons swept
   O'er the isles off the coral shore;
The savage tossed in his frail canoe.
   But the white man came no more.
No sail in sight at the break of dawn,
   No sail at the gloaming late;
Silent and still was the lonely pass,
   Unsought was the Northern Strait.

A rattle of arms and a roll of drums,
   And the meteor flag flies free,
As an English voice proclaims King George
   Lord of that tropic sea.
The parrots scream as the volleys flash,
   The gulls their haunts vacate,
And the "south-east" fills the Endeavour's sails
   As she heads through the Northern Strait.

And ever since then has the watch been kept
   O'er the ships in the narrow way,
Where the smoking funnels flare by night,
   And the house-flags flaunt by day.
Ever the same strong "south-east" blows,
   And ever we watch and wait –
The wardens we, in Australia's name,
   The Guard of the Northern Strait.

Over banks of pearl our watch is kept,
   Over sands where the drown'd men rest;
Ever we signal the ships from east,
   And watch for the ships from west;
Always we watch for the battle-flag
   Of a foe with defiant prate;
Our answer is – "In Australia's name,
   "We're the Guard of the Northern Strait!"

  • Alvaro Saavedra, the discoverer of New Guinea in 1528.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).


This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.