This small pocket-sized anthology of eight patriotic poems by Australian poet Mary Gilmore (1865-1962) appears to have been issued towards the end of the Second World War, probably for returning soldiers and their families. Gilmore’s long career as a poet, journalist and activist was then in its prime, and her love for Australia, pride in the fortitude of ordinary people, and dislike of war are imbued in the poems emotions.
Several of the verses had been written in the 1920s and were specially selected for inclusion in this wartime edition for their nationalistic themes. The title poem ‘Pro patria’ (for country) had been put forward by Gilmore as wording for a new Australian national anthem and set to music by composer Alfred Hill (1869-1960) in the 1930s.
The cover galvanises the booklet’s spirit with a rousing illustration by Sydney artist Rhys Williams (1894-1976). Williams was a skilled illustrator and in years following a multiple finalist in the prestigious Wynne Prize for landscape painting. Inside a stirring two-tone sketch extends across the inside front and back covers, enveloping the words of patriotism contained in the verses within.
The work was published by W.H. Honey Publishing of Margaret Street, Sydney, which specialised in children’s stories with Australian themes. Melbourne-born proprietor William Henry Honey (1879-1959) was a writer himself who no doubt mixed in Sydney’s literary circles, also publishing poetry editions by A.B.’ Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson (the latter to whom Gilmore was at one time engaged). A modest production, Pro patria Australia echoes the restraints of war time rationing, with its cheap paper cover, low quality printing and a subdued palette, though these restrictions never dull the passion of Gilmore’s patriotic themes.
Digital Collections | Library (2nd Sep 2020). Pro patria Australia and other poems. In Website Digital Collections | Library. Retrieved 12th Apr 2021 09:01, from https://unsw.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/3085