The words of Adam Lindsay Gordon used to echo around Lorraine Day's mind when she was younger, verse read out time and again by her grandfather - although back then she did not know where the lyrics came from.
"Life is mostly froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone
Kindness in another's trouble
Courage in your own"
Later she would realise the work sprang from the pen of the horseman poet, who took up residence in Ballarat for a spell during his turbulent, troubled and colourful life.
After many years of research, Mrs Day has just released a comprehensive biography of the poet, called Gordon Of Dingley Dell.
It describes the adventurous life and tragic demise of one of the shining literary lights of 19th-century colonial Australia.
Now a member of the Adam Lindsay Gordon Commemorative Committee, Ms Day says her interest was sparked when she realised he was the author of the verse she listened to as a child.
Sharing Gordon's passion for horses, she said her enthusiasm for the English exile grew as time went on.
"I produced a smaller book in 2003," she told The Courier. "Now with so much more [information] being available from various sources, I have been able to add a lot and confirm more detail."
He was an unfortunate soul in the world, he was obviously quite troubled and had a difficult upbringingLorraine Day
The book details how Gordon was sent from his well-to-do household in England, after his parents became concerned about his behaviour. He settled first in South Australia and embarked on a peripatetic existence as mountain trooper, horsebreaker, steeplechaser and poet, often accompanied by a series of poor financial decisions.
After a stint as a politician in the South Australian, he moved with his wife to Ballarat.
It proved a tragic chapter where he suffered a severe horse-riding injury followed by the death of his only daughter Annie at the age of just 11 months. He moved to Brighton where took his own life in 1870.
"I think he was an unfortunate soul in the world, he was obviously quite troubled and had a difficult upbringing," said Ms Day ahead her book's launch at the Craig's Hotel earlier this month.
"I think he was probably a very sensitive person and that affected him more than other people."
The cottage rented by Gordon next to the livery stables at the back of Craig's Hotel was transported to its current location at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.
Ms Day says that he did in fact not spend much time there but lived in a rented house on Wendouree Parade - which in turn was transplanted to Dowling Street where it remains today.
Gordon is also the only Australian to be recognised with a memorial bust in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. In an interesting historical side-note, his likeness was sculpted by Lady Hilton Young, the widow of Captain Scott of the Antarctica.
- Interested in buying the book? Visit www.freestylepublications.com.au for more information.
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