Quotes on Gordon

The poems of Gordon have an interest beyond the mere personal one which his friends attach to his name. Written as they were, at odd times and leisure moments of a stirring and adventurous life, it is not to be wondered if they are unequal or unfinished. The astonishment of those who knew the man, and can gauge the capacity of this city to foster poetic instinct, is, that such work was ever produced here at all.

Marcus Clarke, author of For the Term of his Natural Life

“His poetry was the poetry of action, of joy in movement, of glory in the strength of man and the swift grace of a horse. It had the kinetic quality of poetic vigour rather than the dynamic of poetic energy.

Manchester Guardian, 5 August 1833

We read Gordon, not for his fine phrases, but for the directness of some cry, and above all for the breadth and effectiveness of any utterance taken as a whole. And we read him because even if we ourselves are not hunters, sportsmen, soldiers, adventurers he uncovers some underlying stratum of such men in us, opening up to us the road of adventure and blowing over it the wind of romance.

H M Green, reviewing Gordon’s poetry

…a moody unsociable man when his poetic fit was on — a great smoker. Often on arriving at the house he would go away into the bush and fend for himself rather than face company inside.

John Riddoch, confidant-in-chief

This comes from 1869 when Gordon accepted an invitation to visit his friends the Riddochs, at Yallum:

On his previous visit he had taken a whimsical fancy to a gnarled old gum tree that stood in a sunny paddock a few hundred yards from the house. After breakfast he used to climb it, and sit in a natural armchair upon a crooked limb. There he would fill and smoke successive bowls of his clay pipe, and those who were curious might see him from time to time jot down lines in pencil on paper spread upon the branch, or sometimes on his hat. He never had any thought upon the time, and when meals came round he generally had to be specially summoned, whereupon he would slide down the trunk and apologize for causing delay.

John Riddoch (presumably)

Adam Lindsay Gordon has left Australia a sterling, manly ideal for its manhood and its poetry, and it could not have had a more robust master.

John Masefield, Poet Laureate

…he was the poet of the horse. No other poet ever understood horses so well. He made the live in his poems. The rhythm in his poems was the rhythm of riding. But they contained also such lofty philosophy of manhood as only such a hero could have penned.

Douglas Sladen, biographer

Oh, Gordon was, I think, the noblest fellow who ever lived! Very queer in his ways, though. I have ridden ten miles with him at walking pace, and he didn’t say a word the whole time, but went on mumbling to himself, making up rhymes in his head.

William Trainor, friend

…idle and reckless, but I never heard of him doing a dishonourable action.

Gordon’s English military instructor

He was subject to a restless sort of discontent. This Gordon explained was a sort of melancholy to which much of the finest poetry owed it’s existence. This conversation made a deep impression on me, for I connected it with those sad and moody fits which grew upon him more and more. He was very silent and thoughtful in these times, and often failed to hear half of what was said to him.

Rev. Julian Tenison-Woods, friend

Gordon is one of the finest poetic singers the English race has ever known.

Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, poet and author, reviewing his work:

And what shall we say of our debt to him? This at least – it can never be repaid. Centuries hence, when men go up beside the banks of the noble stream of great poetry, which we believe will one day gladden the city and humanize and fertilize and deepen our Australian national life, as they climb reverently to its source, they will find on a broken memorial column, in letters that cannot fade, the name of ADAM LINDSAY GORDON.

Frank Maldon Robb, biographer

Gordon knew both pleasures and trials. He not only experienced them, but was inspired by them, and set them down in matchless poetry, and left to Australia a great literary legacy. Gordon’s poems rang with sincerity.

Sir Stanley Argyle, Premier of Victoria

Gordon is the voice of the national life of one of the young nations of the British race. Thus to him, exiled once and now brought home, England gives a place among her own most honoured dead; and the memorial of him here will be an enduring link between Australia and the Motherland.

Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury (speaking at the unveiling of the memorial in Westminster Abbey on 11 May 1934)

Gordon was a fine poet and a fine sportsman, and it is curious that in a sporting nation like ours his great merits have not been more generally recognised.

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of ‘Sherlock Holmes’

A shining soul with syllables of fire
Who sang the first great songs this land can claim
To be their own; the one who did not seem
To know what royal place awaited him
Within the Temple of the Beautiful.

Henry Kendall, friend and fellow poet