DETAIL : George LAMBERT  Russia 1873 � Australia 1930  'Chesham Street' [Chesney Street; The Doctor; Harley Street] 1910  oil on canvas National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased in 1993 DETAIL : George LAMBERT  Russia 1873 � Australia 1930  'The convex mirror' c.1916  oil with pencil on wood panel private collection
George LAMBERT | Sleeping man (Breaker Morant)

Russia 1873 – Australia 1930
Australia 1887-1900; England 1900-01; France 1901-02; England 1902-21; Australia from 1921
Sleeping man (Breaker Morant) c. December 1897
16.3 (h) x 22.6 (w) cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, presented by Amy Lambert
VIEW: Article |

The poet Harry Harbord Morant (Edwin Henry Murrant, 1864?–1902) was nicknamed ‘the Breaker’ because of his skill and daring as a horse-breaker. He also worked as a drover, and acquired a reputation as a steeplechaser, polo player, and drinker as well as a womaniser. From 1891 he contributed to the Bulletin as ‘The Breaker’, writing lively and entertaining bush ballads which conveyed the flavour of bush life and the attitudes of the bushman. His horsemanship, swagger and cheerful nature won him friends. He served in the Boer War in an irregular unit formed to counter Boer guerrillas, was court-martialled for the murder of Boer prisoners and was executed by firing squad in Pretoria on 27 February 1902 (ADB).

Lambert made this quick sketch at Richmond, New South Wales, when he visited the area with Breaker Morant. The Breaker’s accompanying poem, ‘Dreaming’, is dated 31 December 1897, and Lambert made the drawing at about the same time. The sketch is inscribed (presumably after the Breaker’s death in 1902): ‘The Breaker/ Horse poet shot for complicity in Boer murder/ affair/ sketched at Richmond NSW/ Hawkesbury River/ accompanying poem or verse written/ at about same time’.

The poem begins:

Oh, faintly the first stars twinkle and shine As slowly the tints of the sunset wane, Then it’s ‘boot and saddle’, and through the pines, Across the river and over the plain.

There’s a star that guides to a waiting girl, And a kiss that is worth the midnight ride. – Then a last farewell as the flowers unfurl In the fresh’ning breezes of the morningtide

It ends:

Through the open window the sunlight streams And the beams glint brightly on boot and spur; Gray Warwick’s on grass, whilst his rider dreams Of a girl – and his parting words to her.

Now a shadow steals where the sun had shone, And into the dreaming a phantom creeps Of a tear-wet face, in the years agone – Of one who is sleeping the dreamless sleep.

NGA Home | Introduction | Gallery | Search | Learning | Visiting | Previous