The Shadows of Tall Ships

An Aboriginal Lament


Peter Pickering

3/6/20241 min read

In the dreamtime of our land, 'neath eucalyptus grand,

Our stories flowed like rivers, through this ancient, sacred sand.

Our songs danced with the stars, our spirits roamed free,

Until the tall ships came, from far across the sea.

With sails like ghostly wings, they cut through ocean's blue,

Bringing faces pale as moonlight, a world we never knew.

Our spears against their guns, a futile, desperate fight,

As they claimed our sacred land, in the name of sovereign might.

The air grew thick with sorrow, our skies were dimmed with grief,

As they brought their foreign ways, their doctrine and their belief.

Diseases unknown to us, spread like wildfire's rage,

Our people fell like leaves, that turned a tragic page.

They cleared our ancient forests, where all our ancestors laid,

Plowed our sacred grounds, where once our children played.

Our kangaroo and emu, hunted for their sport,

Our connection to the land, cruelly cut short.

In less than a year’s passing, smallpox took its toll,

Half our people gone, a deep, unhealing hole.

The land that cradled us, for forty thousand years,

Now echoed with our sorrows, our cries, and all our tears.

Yet still, we hold our stories, our culture strong and proud,

Our connection to this land, cannot be disavowed.

Though the tall ships changed our world, in ways we can't undo,

We are the spirit of this land, forever strong and true.

© Peter Pickering 2023.