(Notes by Mary Hamer)
The foundations which Lord Milner has laid are firm and strong, and he may leave other men to build upon them in the proud consciousness that, but for the decision which he took six years ago there might now be ruins where a fair and stately building is slowly rising. —The Times July 21st 1905.Both the title and the poem itself refer to Milner’s labour in the reconstruction of southern Africa after the Anglo-Boer War. As High Commissioner of Southern Africa and Governor of Cape Colony he had exercised the highest authority there since 1897, well before the outbreak of war with the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in 1899. He took his position seriously, working all hours and in the end ruined his health by that. Once peace was made he laboured to restore and rebuild and to develop the economy of the new three-part state, later known as the Union of South Africa. It is the dedication, as it was seen at the time, with which that work of extended authority, comparable with ‘governing a province’, was performed, that the poem invites us to recognise and admire.