Poetic Words from Sir Douglas Mawson

Below is a poem written by Sir Douglas Mawson (1882 – 1958) in his own hand in a book from the John King Davis Collection at the Australian Antarctic Division library, at the end of the poem he makes an apology to Robert Service – a poet he admired, showing some modesty in his own poetic words.

Perhaps when on my printed page you look,
Your fancies by the fireside may go homing
To that lone land where bravely you endured.
And if perchance you hear the silence calling.
The frozen music of star-yearning heights,
Or, dreaming, see the seines of silver trawling
Across the ships abyss on vasty nights,
You may recall that sweep of savage splendor,
That land that measures each man at his worth,
And feel in memory, half fierce, half tender,
The brotherhood of men that know the South.

Apologies to Service—
D.M.

seine = large fishing net

In a few words he defines the foreboding environment in the many months he endured such harsh conditions as home in that sweep of savage splendour. And the land that tests each man to the extreme of personal resource, a land exacting emotion both fierce and tender.

And for me Sir Douglas Mawson stands out of all the explorers that ventured into the Antarctica at the start of the last century. He was so lucky to have survived on three separate occasions, his survival story legendary.

He highlights the brotherhood of the small group of men that had that first-hand knowledge of Antarctica and he recalls the companionship essential for survival – never forgotten by him or by those that have only dim understanding when reader of his words.

Certainly a very worthy poem! It may have only been a draft and not meant for wide dissemination but now an invaluable part of the history of early Antarctica exploration.

Here is a link to those interested in reading more context … Sir Douglas Mawson on Wikipedia

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