~ Mary Hannay Foott
I. CHRISTMAS DAY.
O happy day, with seven-fold blessings set
Amid thy hallowed hours—the memories dear
Of childhood’s holidays—and household cheer,
When friends and kin in loving circle met—
And youth’s glad gatherings, where the sands were wet
By waves that hurt not, whilst the great cliffs near,
With storms erewhile acquaint, gave echo clear
Of voices gay and laughter gayer yet.
And graver thoughts and holier arise
Of how, ’twixt that first eve and dawn of thine,
The Star ascended which hath lit our skies
More than the sun himself; and ’mid the kine
The Child was born whom shepherds, and the wise;
Who came from far, and angels, called Divine.
II. THE NEW YEAR.
With supple boughs and new-born leaflets crowned,
Rejoicing in fresh verdure stands the tree,
Though weather-scarred and scooped by fire may be
Its ancient trunk. So may our lives be found
(God leaving still our roots within His ground.)
Where gaps of loss and waste show brokenly
May each new year that comes to greet us see
Branches, and foliage, and flowers abound.
Where Fortune, spoiling wayfarer, hath left
Unsightly rents, may garlands spring apace.
And if, perchance, some pitiless wind hath reft
Away what newer green shall ne’er replace,
May heaven-light come the closer for the cleft
O’er which no tender fronds shall interlace.
Mary Hannay Foott was born in in Glasgow, Scotland in 1846. She migrated to Australia with her family in 1853. She and her husband, Thomas Wade Foott, a stock inspector, lived in Bourke until 1877 when they drove overland to their station, Dundoo, in south-west Queensland. Mary's father was a sleeping partner in the undertaking but the station had its troubles: mortgages were raised in 1880 and 1882. Her husband died on 2 February 1884 after a long illness and in 1885 Mary and her father relinquished all interests in Dundoo. After her husband died she took her two young sons to Toowoomba. There she lived until 1885 when she moved to Rocklea, Brisbane. In 1886 she ran a small school and then became editor of the women's page in the Queenslander. By this time she had written most of the poems by which she was to be remembered. From her letters and the memories of her elder son, Mary Hannay Foott emerges as a woman of great courage and initiative. Despite her hardships and difficulties she preserved a bright vitality. Though a minor poet, she was probably the first woman in Queensland to make a mark in Australian literature.