Saturday, April 10, 2010

History has to live with what was here

Lieutenant Thomas Burnett arrived at Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land on 6 January 1837 aboard the barque Fairlie, accompanying Captain Sir John Franklin who was taking up his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of the colony.

Unfortunately for Burnett, his stay in Tasmania was but a brief one. He drowned on 21 May 1837 when his whaler ran into a spot of weather Bruny Island in D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The photo above is the monument to Burnett, utilising the stone plinth imported from England which was to have been the main stand for an observatory for the man.


He was thirty-one.
History, by Robert Lowell

History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had--
it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
unlike writing, life never finishes.
Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends--
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose--
O there's a terrifying innocence in my face
drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.


Roddy said...

To die young?! I guess if it were to happen, at least you could say that you lived life to the full. What would happen if I were to die twenty odd years ago? Fortunately no-one can answer that one for me. I do however think that history may have been different.

Kris said...

He had a bit of bad luck.