'The object of this selection from Australasian poetry is to interest young Australians in the literature of their own land. Australians fully appreciate the value of England's literature, which they possess in common with the mother country and her other children. The best English poetry is a magnificent treasury of noble thoughts in beautiful words which must always be a delight to the people of English speech wherever they may live. But among Australians there is also a growing interest in their own literature. They are finding that their brief history, though without the elements of traditional romance or the pomp and glamour of the histories of great nations, is rich in deeds of heroism, endurance and sacrifice; that their peaceful development from a handful of settlers into a nation is marked with romantic adventure, and that the country itself, which was at one time regarded as forbidding and melancholy, has its own beauties and sources of joy. Not all that is beautiful in our country and its history has yet been told in a memorable way, but some of these things have been recorded in poems appearing in this book.
'Most of the poetry of our first century naturally came from writers who were born in Great Britain or Ireland, and who, however much they may have been attracted by the strange features of a new land, looked back with regret to the familiar charms of their home country. The greatest of these was Adam Lindsay Gordon, a man of fine, chivalrous nature, a daring rider, and a lover of horses and horse-racing. Because of their virile, open-air spirit his stirring ballads have greatly influenced all subsequent writers about the bush. They are, indeed, the beginnings of our national poetry.
'The work of Henry Kendall, the best of our native-born poets, though lacking the strength and vigour of Gordon, shows a finer sense of melody and a warmer affection for Australia. It embodies, in graphic phrases, many impressions of the scenery, the birds and the flowers of our coastal districts.
'The majority of the later writers are Australian born, and their feeling towards their country is different from that of anyone born elsewhere. They have, as a rule, an intimate knowledge of some part of the large and varied continent of Australia and a confident belief in her future greatness.
'The subject matter of Australian poetry is not, of course, necessarily Australian. The essential thing, poetical quality, is not dependent on subject. If the Australian writes well of abstract or remote matters he may contribute as much to his country's literature as he whose theme is the kangaroo or the Eureka Stockade. So in this book "Australian" poetry means poetry relating to any Australian subject or written by an Australian.'