Owen Suffolk was a bushranger who spent more than a decade in prison for a range of crimes, particularly Pentridge Prison. Suffolk gained the moniker “The Poet” for his deftness with poetry much of which refers to the experience of convicts and bushrangers. Perhaps his most well-known is For Frank Gardiner. It is a bold declaration of defiance and desire for freedom at any cost, the sort of liberty the outlaw archetype represents free from the constraints of the law and the mores of society; a liberty denied Frank Gardiner when he was finally apprehended at Apis Creek and dragged back to New South Wales.
For Frank Gardiner
By Owen Suffolk
It is not in a prison drear
Where all around is gloom,
That I would end life’s wild career,
And sink into the tomb,
For though my spirit’s ever bold
Each tyrant to defy;
Still, still, within a dungeon cold,
I could not calmly die.
It is not that my cheek would pale
Within a lonely cell;
It is not that my heart would quail
To bid this world farewell.
For if oppressed by tyrant foe
I’d freely be the first
To give my life, and strike the blow
To lay him in the dust.
But place me in a forest glen
Unfettered, wild and free,
With fifty tried and chosen men
A bandit chief to be.
‘Tis there, when fighting with my foes
Amid my trusty band,
I’d freely leave this world of woes,
And die with sword in hand.