Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Popular Australian Song Written in a Cemetery

Caroline wondered why the muse visited her at such strange times.  Nevertheless, she was thankful.  She had decided to enter the competition for a national song run by the Gawler Institute, but she had failed to find inspiration until today.  It was so peaceful here in the cemetery while she sat and watched her children play nearby that she took out her notebook and started to write...

The lyrics that Caroline Carleton composed that day won the competition in 1859, and it remained one of the most popular Australian songs for over 100 years, especially in Mrs Carleton's native state South Australia. The stirring music written by German immigrant Carl Linger helped convince the judges. "The Song of Australia" as even shortlisted for the National Anthem in 1977, but "Advance Australia Fair" won the day.  Some people still think that this is a pity.

Although not many people know of the song today, it played a small role in the moving love story of the tomboy Olive and Pat Dooley in the Australian series "Anzac Girls".  I especially enjoyed the scene in which Olive plays the song on the gramophone when she is conflicted about whether she should marry Pat!

Born near London in 1819, Caroline was well-educated, especially in languages and music. She spoke French and she played the piano and the harp.  Caroline married Charles James Carleton in 1836, and the couple migrated to Australia three years later with their two young children on the Prince Regent.  The two children died during the harsh voyage, but the couple had two more children. Charles Carleton was the ship's surgeon and worked as a medical officer in South Australia. Carleton died in 1861.

Caroline taught at private schools after her husband's death, but she also wrote poems and articles for newspapers. She died when she was only 54.

The song was one of famous singer Peter Dawson's favourite songs.  Here is a clip of him singing it:

Here are the lyrics:

THE SONG OF AUSTRALIAThere is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies;
And grassy knoll, and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above is azure bright -
There is a land where honey flows,
Where laughing corn luxuriant grows,
Land of the myrtle and the rose,
On hill and plain the clust'ring vine,
Is gushing out with purple wine,
And cups are quaffed to thee and thine -
There is a land where treasures shine
Deep in the dark unfathomed mine,
For worshippers at Mammon's shrine,
Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam,
And fabled wealth no more doth seem
The idle fancy of a dream -
There is a land where homesteads peep
From sunny plain and woodland steep,
And love and joy bright vigils keep,
Where the glad voice of childish glee
Is mingling with the melody
Of nature's hidden minstrelsy -
There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly,
And freedom's sons the banner bear,
No shackled slave can breathe the air,
Fairest of Britain's daughters fair -

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