Although the history of Australian verse dates back to early colonial times, one of the first genuinely antipodean poetic voices was that of Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833–1870). During his short and tragic life, Gordon published two volumes of verse, the second of which was Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes, which appeared in the year of his death.
Although Gordon’s verse varies widely in quality, and occasionally descends into rank banality, it also contains many lines of great power. Gordon was a skilled and adventurous horseman, and several of the poems relate to horses and horse riding.
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“The writer is one who makes. To make he must be original, and the warmest of Mr. Gordon admirers must admit that originality was not his leading characteristic. A marvellous command of rhyme, a musical ear for rhythm, a power of saying what he meant to say forcibly and clearly, are, we should say, the three salient points in the character of the ‘author of Ashtaroth.’ Yet every here and there gleam out little specks and veins of gold, as in the dull common rock you may detect, if you are so fortunate, the slitter of the true metal; and it is the very presence of these precious morsels that is so surprising—how the same pen could at the same time produce so much that is good and so much that is utterly worthless.”