Flag Poem

Hawker the Standard Bearer

This beautiful and expressive poem was written by A.B. Paterson, a great Australian, about another great Australian.

Harry G. Hawker, born at St. Kilda. Victoria in 1890, was a pioneer Australian airman before, and a leading test pilot in’ England during the war. While attempting to fly across the Atlantic from Newfoundland he fell into the sea only 100 miles from the Irish coast. He was killed during a practice flight at Hendon aerodrome in 1921.

The grey gull sat on a floating whale,
On a floating whale sat he;
And he told his tale of the storm and the gale,
And the ships he’d seen under steam and sail.
As he flew by the Northern Sea.

‘I have seen a sign that is strange and new,
That I never before did see
A flying ship, that roared as it flew,
The storm and the tempest driving through;
Now what would that be?’ said he.

‘And its flag was a Jack with stars displayed,
A flag that is new to me,
For it does not ply in the Northern trade,
But it drove through the storm-wrack unafraid;
Now whose is that flag?’ said he.

‘I have seen that flag that is starred with white,’
Said a Southern gull, said he:
‘I saw it fly in a bloody fight,
When the raider Emden turned in flight.
And crashed on the Cocos lee’.

‘Now who are these whose flag is the first
Of all the flags that fly
To dare the storm and the fog accurst
Of the great North Sea, where the bergs are nursed,
And the Northern Lights ride high?

‘The Australian folk,’ said a lone sea-mew,
‘The Australian Flag,’ said he.
‘It is strange that a folk that is far and few
Should fly its flag where never there flew
Another flag!’ said he.

‘I have followed its flag in the fields of France,
With the-white stars flying free,
And no misfortune and no mischance
Could turn them back from the line of advance
Or the line they held,’ said he.

‘Wherever on earth there’s a rule to break,
Wherever they oughtn’t to be.
With a death to dare and a risk to take,
A track to find or a way to make,
You will find them there,’ said he.

They come from a land that is parched with thirst,
From vast dry plains,’ said he;
‘On risk and danger their breed is nursed;
And thus it happens their flag is first,
To fly o’er the Northern Sea’.

Though Hawker perished, he overcame
The risks of the storm and the sea,
And his name shall be written in stars or flame
On the heroes’ scroll in the Temple of Fame,
For the rest of the world to see.

Banjo Patterson