If I had to choose a piece of Bathgate's scenery I would pick the contrast between the colours of the swans and the pelicans in The Sydney Exhibition, 1879, “The only fleet a flock of dusky swans, | Which, near some fearless white-plumed pelicans | Swam stately on the quiet water's breast” -- only I want the contrast jammed closer, eg: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 14, the line itself turning on the word “turn”), “fruitful strifes and rivalries of peace” (Tennyson, Idylls of the King), or in Hill's Funeral Music, “fastidious trumpets,” even “grim fatuous clown,” from First Dog On The Moon's cartoon about Joe Hockey, the closeness that is also part of jokes and jump cut edits, things close together seeming exciting by proximity, proximity being the arena in which events take place, change wrought, attacks carried out; the possibilities fly open; the poem should be shocked by the surprising contrast of white and black animals on the water.
Note that the colours haven't been mined any further by the author, who, in this narrative scene, is envisioning the First Fleet coming to Botany Bay, obvious, you'd think, obvious, the “poor native black” standing there a little way earlier in line six, looking at him, asking to be transposed into the swans, but does Bathgate think that way? Is that what “fearless” next to “white-plumed pelicans” is trying to do? The British have come and they are fearless, etc, to lead on from the earlier description of “the first daring English wand'rer” in line two?
A century complete has scarcely passed
Since the first daring English wand'rer stood
Upon this favoured ground where now we stand.
Bathgate is so gentle I can't tell. Question though: why does he give the pelicans credit for being fearless, on that quiet bay without the swans threatening them or the ships coming too close, or any other thing trying to attack? Does the act of water-riding seem terrifying in and of itself, to the mind of Alexander Bathgate, even if the water is quiet, and therefore is this act always performed either fearfully or fearlessly, in that same mind?
It is brave to be stately when your entire activity threatens you; and you are like an aristocrat getting into a tumbril.
Or else the absence of fear in these pelicans is so incredible to Bathgate that it doesn't need to be justified by any poem, even if he is the author of that poem. It is a royal majesty. Explanation is beyond the point. It should exist. It should have a lovely, pure existence. It should be possible to detect an incredible, impossible purity behind the word "fearless."
When John Donne discusses God in his Sermons he considers the rights of kings.
Donne was not a king any more than Bathgate was a pelican. So I see that the normal existences of alien beings can be a source, either of wonder or of speculation, since Bathgate is wonderstruck without speculating and Donne speculates without seeming wonderstruck.
There is no reason in the poem for the pelicans to be fearless and no reason either, for the wand'rers to be daring. Australia is not only "favoured," it is furthermore a “fairyland of flowers and bright-hued birds” where the “calistemon's flaming brush-like plume, | Meet and delight the adventurer's eye.” “Daring” becomes synonymous with “inexperienced.” When is it brave, entering fairyland? When you don't know that it's fairyland.