Image Sheet music cover for 'Australia draws her maiden sword', 1885

TLF ID R3300

This is the damaged front cover of a three-page score for the song 'Australia Draws her Maiden Sword'. It depicts Australia as a maiden drawing her long sword and preparing for imminent conflict. Behind her, troops are shown marching out of their encampment. On the bottom of the cover in copperplate are the words 'WRITTEN and COMPOSED TO COMMEMORATE THE DEPARTURE / THE FIRST DETACHMENT OF AUSTRALIAN TROOPS FOR THE / FIELD OF BATTLE.' The brownish tone of the cover is due to the aging of the paper.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows the cover of sheet music for a song first published in the 'Sydney Mail' on 4 April 1885 with the lyrics attributed to 'Amicus', who is said to have written them in Sydney on 26 February 1885 - 'Amicus' (Latin for 'friend') was the pen name used by Peter Dodds McCormick (c1834-1916), the composer of 'Advance Australia Fair'.
  • It illustrates a song that may have resulted from the efforts of the 'Sydney Mail' itself - on 7 March 1885 the newspaper confirmed that it had given 'rise to a collection of martial or patriotic music' to commemorate the departure of troops to the Sudan on 3 March 1885.
  • It includes a reference to the 'field of battle' - the Sudan conflict was a war between the British-backed Egyptian regime in the Sudan and Sudanese rebels under the leadership of Muhammed Ahmed, known as the Mahdi; after Egyptian troops were defeated, the British sent General Charles Gordon to extricate the surviving troops; Gordon himself was killed in the siege of Khartoum, Sudan, in January 1885, sparking an all-out war by the British on the Mahdi.
  • It refers to 'the first detachment of Australian troops' - after the announcement of the death of Gordon, the New South Wales Government cabled London with an offer of troops; the British Government's acceptance of the contingent when it had declined similar offers from the other Australian colonies was received with enthusiasm by the NSW Government and members of the armed forces; it was seen as a historic occasion, marking the first time that soldiers in the pay of a self-governing Australian colony were to fight in an imperial war.
  • It portrays 'Australia' drawing its sword more than 15 years before Australia came into existence as a federation, depicting Australia as a young colonial nation-to-be out to prove its abilities on the battlefield - the lyrics refer to 'sons of lion-hearted sires' pressing on 'in danger's hour'; opportunities for displays of valour in the Sudan proved to be non-existent as the contingent was used mainly for guard duty.
  • It indicates, through the words of the song, that many people were anxious to show their loyalty to 'mother England' and not let distance restrain them during a crisis - although many similar songs were composed expressing this theme, not all people supported New South Wales' involvement; the 'Bulletin' ridiculed the contingent both before and after its return; in some country centres there was a significant antiwar response, while miners in rural districts were said to be in 'fierce opposition'.
  • It shows one of the many patriotic songs produced in Sydney at the time - this song was composed for voice and piano; before the invention of recording equipment and music players, people could hear music only by attending live performances or by buying a score and performing it themselves.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Name: Jarrett and Company Lithographers
  • Organization: Jarrett and Company Lithographers
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Jarrett and Company Lithographers
  • Organization: Jarrett and Company Lithographers
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements