An Explorer’s Poem, 1817

This fragment of verse was written in early July 1817 on a small scrap of paper, and was found within one of Allan Cunningham’s journals of exploration (Cunningham travelled with Oxley on the 1817 expedition to explore the course of the Lachlan River). An unusual document within an official record, it gives us an insight into the trials of such an expedition into inhospitable terrain.

Oxley’s achievements as an explorer and surveyor were considerable; however poetry does not seem to have been one of his strengths, as this verse neither scans nor rhymes consistently.
On the basis of the latitude and longitude given, it would appear to have been written somewhere near present-day Booligal, which has a memorial to Oxley in the form of a giant theodolite.

Source: NRS 906 Colonial Secretary: Special Bundles 1826-1982. Alan Cunningham Journal and Correspondence, 1816-1819 [SZ7 p.317a]

TRANSCRIPT

Lines by J O on quitting the
Lachlan Swamps
From sickly marshes and unhealthy Plains
Where Lachlan’s Turbid Waters Spread
From Silence Death & Desolation dread!
While Hope our Guide small soother of our Pains
Springs in each Breast & lightens every fear
the Path to Happier Climes we lightly tread,
To where old Ocean spreads his bosom bare
And breathes & smile to dissipate our Care
Ultimo On Molles Plains, Western Interior of Australia
Lat of our Tent 33.53.19S + Long 144.39.30E
[VERTICAL TEXT]
Stagnant Water 33.57.144.31.15E
Ulto Tent          33.53.19 144.39.50
Horizon                        34.22.12.144

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