The Origin of ‘The Settler’s Lament’

Among bush songs 'The Settler's Lament' has an established place as an ironical account of a squatter's woes. It is of course one of several such, and it begins:

All you on emigration bent, With home and England discontent, Come listen to my sad lament, All about the bush of Australia.

Paterson printed one version of it under the title'The Beautiful Land of Australia'. He suggested that it had originated, anonymously, 'when there was land enough and to spare, and . . . the system of grants to free immigrants was in full swing'. Stewart and Keesing print another version, which they trace to the MSS of James Goodwin, a surgeon who came out in 1837. Conjecture about this ballad seems to be misplaced, for its exact provenance is most circumstantially documented, and that in a book which is easily found. The song does not come from the days of free land-grants; it is not by James Goodwin; and the author, when he wrote it, had not set foot in the country. The original author—if his word is to be trusted—was a sometime 'Lieutenant in Her Majesty's Ceylon Rifles' named John Henderson, who took up land in the New England district and, in 1851, published two volumes on his experiences.

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Published 1 June 1963 in Volume 1 No. 1. Subjects: Bush poetry.

Cite as: Castle, E. R.. ‘The Origin of ‘The Settler’s Lament’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1963. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.10ebcb2dd6.