Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870)-A Great Scottish-Australian Poet?


  • Frank Davidson


These days, no-one has much to say about Adam Lindsay Gordon one hailed as the National Poet1• His best known poem, "The Sick Stockrider", ften anthologised, is acknowledged as a precursor of the bush ballad which Banjo Paterson made his own, but apart from that, what do we know of him?


is most quotable lines have been written in each others' autograph books by generations of schoolboys, but what is generally memorable about anything else he wrote? Not much, probably, except the four Kipling-esque lines so popular until both autograph books and the British Empire went out of fashion:

Life is mostly froth and bubble

Two things stand like stone:

KINDNESS in another's trouble,

COURAGE in your own.


In a way, those simple lines really sum up the life of a man once considered to be the national poet of Australia, whose bust stands in Poets' Comer in Westminster Abbel, the sole Australian poet ever accorded that honour. So we ask ourselves: Was he a great poet? Was he, indeed, an Australian poet, as we understand that description today? And we can even ask, was he really a Scottish-Australian poet?