Walter Murdoch (18741970). The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse. 1918.
I HAD thought of making, by way of introduction to this volume, a critical survey of Australasian poetry; but I have decided to refrain. After all, the anthologist must needs play the critic from beginning to end of his work of selection and rejection: what need, then, of any further airing of his likes and dislikes? Besides, the book is mainly intended for readers in other parts of the world, readers interested in Australia and New Zealand, but as yet unacquainted with the literatures of these countries; and it seems to me decidedly best to allow such readers to come straight to the poems themselves, without the intervention of any editorial prosings. Here is a selection, as fairly representative as I knew how to make it, from the mass of verse written by Australians and New Zealanders during the last hundred years or so,arranged, roughly, in chronological order, beginning with Wentworth, whose vigorous rhetoric has an eighteenth-century ring in it, and ending on a very distinct twentieth-century note. From this gathering the reader willor so I hopebe able to get a fair idea of the kind of poetry these lands have been fashioning. It is for him to say how he likes it; I, at least, will not commit the impertinence of telling him how he ought to like it.
As for Australasian readers who already know and value their own literature, I cannot hope that the book will please many of them. They will blame the editor both for his exclusions and for his inclusions. They are certain to miss many old favourites. Apart from the established fact that tastes differ, I have but one excuse to offer for my misdeeds: my omission of certain namesand those among the most widely popular in their own landis due neither to negligence nor to a lack of appreciation on the editors part, but simply and solely to the inexorable necessities of copyright.
For the most part, however, both publishers and authors have been kindness itself, and my last duty, before standing aside and letting the poets come forward, is to record my indebtedness. The Lothian Book Publishing Company has kindly allowed me to cull what I would from the books of William Gay, Sydney Jephcott, Bernard ODowd, M. Forrest, R. Crawford, Frank Williamson, Dorothy McCrae, Hugh McCrae, E. J. Brady, M. E. J. Pitt, Hubert Church, J. Le Gay Brereton, and Louis Esson. Messrs. Whitcombe & Tombs gave similar permission with regard to Arthur H. Adams and Jessie Mackay; Messrs. George Robertson & Co., with regard to H. C. Kendall, Mary Gilmore, and Elsie Cole; the Bulletin Newspaper Co., with regard to Roderic Quinn, James Hebblethwaite, and Louise Mack; Messrs. Melville & Mullen, with regard to J. L. Cuthbertson; and the Australasian Authors Agency, with regard to Dorothea Mackellar. Mr. A. G. Stephens kindly agreed to the inclusion of poems by Shaw Neilson, C. H. Souter, and J. P. Bourke, the copyright of which he controls. To most of the living writers represented in the book, I am indebted for permission to quote their poems. To Messrs. Geo. Allen & Unwin, Messrs. Constable & Co., Messrs. J. M. Dent & Sons, Mr. William Heinemann, Messrs. Macmillan & Co., and Messrs. Sampson Low, Marston & Co., I am indebted for confirmation of authors permissions. In some few cases I have had to take the permission for granted, not being able to discover their present whereabouts. Somewhere in France is, in this present year of war, the address of a good many of our younger poets: a fact which, though satisfactory to the patriot, is awkward for the anthologist. If for this reason, or through an oversight, I have infringed any copyrights, I hope the writers thus sinned against will forgive me. In conclusion, I wish to thank the various friends who have helped me with advice and information; especially Mr. J. Le Gay Brereton, of Sydney, who has given me ungrudging and invaluable assistance.