image depicting Australians celebrating the Federation in 1901. The scene captures the joyous and vibrant atmosphere of this historic event in a bustling town square, with people of diverse ages and backgrounds, waving flags and banners in a celebratory mood.

Song of the Federation by Banjo Paterson

A Celebration Of patriotism and Federation

The ‘Song of the Federation‘ is a patriotic poem, where Paterson celebrates Australia’s newly-federated nationhood in 1901 through the metaphor of a young queen joining powerful elders. His lyrical vision of national promise remains relevant today.

Paterson personifies the established nations as grim battle-hardened figures skeptical of the young nation’s strength. But Australia rises boldly to the challenge, undaunted.

The poem’s repetition of “she came” echoes Walt Whitman’s celebration of America, emphasizing this auspicious dawn. Paterson portrays the fledgling country as youthfully optimistic in contrast to the cynical elders.

Federation In Paterson’s Time

  • Australia officially became a unified, self-governing federal Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901.
  • This milestone Federation united the six British colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania.
  • Federation came after decades of calls for the colonies to unify and become an autonomous nation independent of Britain.
  • Several key conventions and debates over proposed federal models and a draft constitution took place throughout the 1890s, leading to a referendum in 1898-1900.
  • Banjo Paterson, born in 1864, witnessed the momentum and political maneuvering toward Federation as an adult. It was a pivotal moment in his lifetime.
  • Paterson celebrated Federation and the sense of national identity it fostered in poems like “Song of the Federation,” which personifies Australia as a young queen joining a circle of elders.
  • The new federal government provided optimism about Australia’s future as a united, self-determined nation rather than just colonies subject to British rule.
  • However, Aborigines were largely marginalized and excluded from the federalist movement. Discriminatory laws and policies continued oppressing them under the new Commonwealth.
  • So while Federation marked a major milestone, Paterson wrote at a complex time of transition between colonialism and independence. His poetry expressed both national pride and challenges ahead.

Australia’s defiant response highlights generosity along with courage. Where the elders know only “lusting and hating,” this nation springs from peaceful ambitions of unification.

Paterson proudly claims Australia’s children already sing the new national anthem overseas, despite their youth and pastoral roots. Their spirit belies any doubt.

The poem is a moving vision of Australia taking its rightful place in the world. Paterson seeks to inspire faith in national potential despite external skepticism. His timeless message resonates today.

Song of the Federation

As the nations sat together, grimly waiting—
The fierce and ancient nations battle-scarred—
Grown grey in their lusting and their hating,
Ever armed and ever ready keeping guard,
Through the tumult of their warlike preparation
And the half-stilled clamour of the drums
Came a voice crying, “Lo, a new-made Nation,
To her place in the sisterhood she comes!”

And she came—she was beautiful as morning,
With the bloom of the roses on her mouth,
Like a young queen lavishly adorning
Her charms with the splendours of the South.
And the fierce old nations, looking on her,
Said, “Nay, surely she were quickly overthrown;
Hath she strength for the burden laid upon her,
Hath she power to protect and guard her own?”

Then she spoke, and her voice was clear and ringing
In the ears of the nations old and grey,
Saying, “Hark, and ye shall hear my children singing
Their war-song in countries far away.
They are strangers to the tumult of the battle,
They are few, but their hearts are very strong,
’Twas but yesterday they called unto the cattle,
But they now sing Australia’s marching song.”

Similar Posts