an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: Songs from the Mountains
Author: Henry Kendall
eBook No.: 2300561h.html
Date first posted: 2023
Most recent update: 2023
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
View our licence and header
Several Poems in this collection have already appeared in the columns of the Sydney Mail. I have to thank the Proprietors of that journal for their kindness in allowing me to reprint these verses. I am also under obligations to the Proprietors of the Town and Country Journal.
Dedication — To A Mountain
Jim The Splitter
Bill The Bullock Driver
When Underneath The Brown Dead Grass
The Voice In The Wild Oak
Peter The Piccaninny
In Memory Of John Fairfax
The Sydney International Exhibition
The Curse Of Mother Flood
On A Spanish Cathedral
The Melbourne International Exhibition
By The Cliffs Of The Sea
A Hyde Park Larrikin
Names Upon A Stone
After Many Years
To thee, O father of the stately peaks,
Above me in the loftier light — to thee,
Imperial brother of those awful hills
Whose feet are set in splendid spheres of flame,
Whose heads are where the gods are, and whose sides
Of strength are belted round with all the zones
Of all the world, I dedicate these songs.
And if, within the compass of this book,
There lives and glows one verse in which there beats
The pulse of wind and torrent — if one line
Is here that like a running water sounds,
And seems an echo from the lands of leaf,
Be sure that line is thine. Here, in this home,
Away from men and books and all the schools,
I take thee for my Teacher. In thy voice
Of deathless majesty, I, kneeling, hear
God’s grand authentic Gospel! Year by year,
The great sublime cantata of thy storm
Strikes through my spirit — fills it with a life
Of startling beauty! Thou my Bible art,
With holy leaves of rock, and flower, and tree,
And moss, and shining runnel. From each page
That helps to make thy awful volume, I
Have learned a noble lesson. In the psalm
Of thy grave winds, and in the liturgy
Of singing waters, lo! my soul has heard
The higher worship; and from thee, indeed,
The broad foundations of a finer hope
Were gathered in; and thou hast lifted up
The blind horizon for a larger faith!
Moreover, walking in exalted woods
Of naked glory, in the green and gold
Of forest sunshine, I have paused like one
With all the life transfigured; and a flood
Of light ineffable has made me feel
As felt the grand old prophets caught away
By flames of inspiration; but the words
Sufficient for the story of my Dream
Are far too splendid for poor human lips.
But thou, to whom I turn with reverent eyes —
O stately Father, whose majestic face
Shines far above the zone of wind and cloud,
Where high dominion of the morning is —
Thou hast the Song complete of which my songs
Are pallid adumbrations! Certain sounds
Of strong authentic sorrow in this book
May have the sob of upland torrents — these,
And only these, may touch the great World’s heart;
For, lo! they are the issues of that grief
Which makes a man more human, and his life
More like that frank, exalted life of thine.
But in these pages there are other tones
In which thy large, superior voice is not —
Through which no beauty that resembles thine
Has ever shone. These are the broken words
Of blind occasions, when the World has come
Between me and my Dream. No song is here
Of mighty compass; for my singing robes
I’ve worn in stolen moments. All my days
Have been the days of a laborious life,
And ever on my struggling soul has burned
The fierce heat of this hurried sphere. But thou,
To whose fair majesty I dedicate
My book of rhymes — thou hast the perfect rest
Which makes the heaven of the highest gods!
To thee the noises of this violent time
Are far, faint whispers; and, from age to age,
Within the world and yet apart from it,
Thou standest! Round thy lordly capes the sea
Rolls on with a superb indifference
For ever; in thy deep, green, gracious glens
The silver fountains sing for ever. Far
Above dim ghosts of waters in the caves,
The royal robe of morning on thy head
Abides for ever. Evermore the wind
Is thy august companion; and thy peers
Are cloud, and thunder, and the face sublime
Of blue mid-heaven! On thy awful brow
Is Deity; and in that voice of thine
There is the great imperial utterance
Of God for ever; and thy feet are set
Where evermore, through all the days and years,
There rolls the grand hymn of the deathless wave.
Path beside the silver waters, flashing in October’s sun —
Walk, by green and golden margins where the sister streamlets run —
Twenty shining springs have vanished, full of flower, and leaf, and bird,
Since the step of Mary Rivers in your lawny dell was heard!
Twenty white-haired Junes have left us — grey with frost and bleak with gale —
Since the hand of her we loved so plucked the blossoms in your dale.
Twenty summers, twenty autumns, from the grand old hills have passed,
With their robes of royal colour, since we saw the darling last.
Morning comes — the blessed morning! and the slow song of the sea,
Like a psalm from radiant altars, floats across a rose-red lea;
Then the fair, strong noonday blossoms, and the reaper seeks the cool
Valley of the moss and myrtle, and the glimmering water-pool.
Noonday flames and evening follows; and the lordly mountains rest
Heads arrayed with tenfold splendour on the rich heart of the West.
Evening walks with moon and music where the higher life has been;
But the face of Mary Rivers there will nevermore be seen.
Ah! when autumn dells are dewy, and the wave is very still,
And that grey ghost called the Twilight passes from the distant hill —
Even in the hallowed nightfall, when the fathers sit and dream,
And the splendid rose of heaven sees a sister in the stream —
Often do I watch the waters gleaming in a starry bay,
Thinking of a bygone beauty, and a season far away;
Musing on the grace that left us in a time of singing rain,
On the lady who will never walk amongst these heaths again.
Four there were, but two were taken; and this darling we deplore,
She was sweetest of the circle — she was dearest of the four!
In the daytime and the dewtime comes the phantom of her face:
None will ever sit where she did — none will ever fill her place.
With the passing of our Mary, like a sunset out of sight,
Passed away our pure first passion — all its life and all its light!
All that made the world a dreamland — all the glory and the glow
Of the fine, fresh, morning feeling vanished twenty years ago.
Girl, whose strange, unearthly beauty haunts us ever in our sleep,
Many griefs have worn our hearts out — we are now too tired to weep!
Time has tried us, years have changed us; but the sweetness shed by you
Falls upon our spirits daily, like divine, immortal dew.
Shining are our thoughts about you — of the blossoms past recall,
You are still the rose of lustre — still the fairest of them all;
In the sleep that brings the garland gathered from the bygone hours,
You are still our Mary Rivers — still the queen of all the flowers.
Let me ask, where none can hear me — When you passed into the shine,
And you heard a great love calling, did you know that it was mine?
In your life of light and music, tell me did you ever see,
Shining in a holy silence, what was as a flame in me?
Ah, my darling! no one saw it. Purer than untrodden dew
Was that first unhappy passion buried in the grave with you.
Bird and leaf will keep the secret — wind and wood will never tell
Men the thing that I have whispered. Mary Rivers, fare you well!
A waving of hats and of hands,
The voices of thousands in one,
A shout from the ring and the stands,
And a glitter of heads in the sun!
“They are off — they are off!” is the roar,
As the cracks settle down to the race,
With the “yellow and black” to the fore,
And the Panic blood forcing the pace.
At the back of the course, and away
Where the running-ground home again wheels,
Grubb travels in front on the bay,
With a feather-weight hard at his heels.
But Yeomans, you see, is about,
And the wily New Zealander waits,
Though the high-blooded flyer is out,
Whose rider and colours are Tait’s.
Look! Ashworth comes on with a run
To the head of the Levity colt;
And the fleet — the magnificent son
Of Panic is shooting his bolt.
Hurrah for the Weatherbit strain!
A Fireworks is first in the straight;
And “A Kelpie will win it again!”
Is the roar from the ring to the gate.
The leader must have it — but no!
For see, full of running, behind
A beautiful, wonderful foe
With the speed of the thunder and wind!
A flashing of whips, and a cry,
And Ashworth sits down on his horse,
With Kingsborough’s head at his thigh
And the “field” scattered over the course!
In a clamour of calls and acclaim
The pair race away from the “ruck:”
The horse to the last of it game —
A marvel of muscle and pluck!
But the foot of the Sappho is there,
And Kingston’s invincible strength;
And the numbers go up in the air —
The colt is the first by a length!
The first, and the favourite too!
The terror that came from his stall,
With the spirit of fire and of dew,
To show the road home to them all;
From the back of the field to the straight
He has come, as is ever his wont,
And carried his welter-like weight,
Like a tradesman, right through to the front.
Nor wonder at cheering a wit,
For this is the popular horse,
That never was beaten when “fit”
By any four hoofs on the course;
To starter for Leger or Cup,
Has he ever shown feather of fear
When saddle and rider were up
And the case to be argued was clear?
No! rather the questionless pluck
Of the blood unaccustomed to yield,
Preferred to spread-eagle the ruck,
And make a long tail of the “field”.
Bear witness, ye lovers of sport,
To races of which he can boast,
When flyer by flyer was caught,
And beaten by lengths on the post!
Lo! this is the beautiful bay —
Of many, the marvellous one
Who showed us last season the way
That a Leger should always be won.
There was something to look at and learn,
Ye shrewd irreproachable “touts”,
When the Panic colt tired at the turn,
And the thing was all over — but shouts!
Aye, that was the “spin”, when the twain
Came locked by the bend of the course,
The Zealander pulling his rein,
And the veteran hard on his horse!
When Ashworth was “riding” ’twas late
For his friends to applaud on the stands,
And the Sappho colt entered the straight
With the race of the year in his hands.
Just look at his withers, his thighs!
And the way that he carries his head!
Has Richmond more wonderful eyes,
Or Melbourne that spring in his tread?
The grand, the intelligent glance
From a spirit that fathoms and feels,
Makes the heart of a horse-lover dance
Till the warm-blooded life in him reels.
What care have I ever to know
His owner by sight or by name?
The horse that I glory in so
Is still the magnificent same.
I own I am proud of the pluck
Of the sportsman that never was bought;
But the nag that spread-eagled the ruck
Is bound to be first in my thought.
For who that has masculine flame,
Or who that is thorough at all,
Can help feeling joy in the fame
Of this king of the kings of the stall?
What odds if assumption has sealed
His soulless hereafter abode,
So long as he shows to his “field”
The gleam of his hoofs, and the road?
Down in the South, by the waste without sail on it,
Far from the zone of the blossom and tree,
Lieth, with winter and whirlwind and wail on it,
Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea.
Weird is the mist from the summit to base of it;
Sun of its heaven is wizened and grey;
Phantom of life is the light on the face of it —
Never is night on it, never is day!
Here is the shore without flower or bird on it;
Here is no litany sweet of the springs —
Only the haughty, harsh thunder is heard on it,
Only the storm, with the roar in its wings!
Shadow of moon is the moon in the sky of it —
Wan as the face of a wizard, and far!
Never there shines from the firmament high of it
Grace of the planet or glory of star.
All the year round, in the place of white days on it —
All the year round where there never is night —
Lies a great sinister, bitter, blind haze on it:
Growth that is neither of darkness nor light!
Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it —
Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow;
Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it —
Down in the south, where the ships never go.
Storm from the Pole is the singer that sings to it
Hymns of the land at the planet’s grey verge.
Thunder discloses dark, wonderful things to it —
Thunder and rain, and the dolorous surge.
Hills with no hope of a wing or a leaf on them,
Scarred with the chronicles written by flame,
Stare, through the gloom of inscrutable grief on them,
Down on the horns of the gulfs without name.
Cliffs, with the records of fierce flying fires on them —
Loom over perilous pits of eclipse;
Alps, with anathema stamped in the spires on them —
Out by the wave with a curse on its lips.
Never is sign of soft, beautiful green on it —
Never the colour, the glory of rose!
Neither the fountain nor river is seen on it,
Naked its crags are, and barren its snows!
Blue as the face of the drowned is the shore of it —
Shore, with the capes of indefinite cave.
Strange is the voice of its wind, and the roar of it
Startles the mountain and hushes the wave.
Out to the south and away to the north of it,
Spectral and sad are the spaces untold!
All the year round a great cry goeth forth of it —
Sob of this leper of lands in the cold.
No man hath stood, all its bleak, bitter years on it —
Fall of a foot on its wastes is unknown:
Only the sound of the hurricane’s spears on it
Breaks with the shout from the uttermost zone.
Blind are its bays with the shadow of bale on them;
Storms of the nadir their rocks have uphurled;
Earthquake hath registered deeply its tale on them —
Tale of distress from the dawn of the world!
There are the gaps, with the surges that seethe in them —
Gaps in whose jaws is a menace that glares!
There the wan reefs, with the merciless teeth in them,
Gleam on a chaos that startles and scares!
Back in the dawn of this beautiful sphere, on it —
Land of the dolorous, desolate face —
Beamed the blue day; and the bountiful year on it
Fostered the leaf and the blossom of grace.
Grand were the lights of its midsummer noon on it —
Mornings of majesty shone on its seas;
Glitter of star and the glory of moon on it
Fell, in the march of the musical breeze.
Valleys and hills, with the whisper of wing in them,
Dells of the daffodil — spaces impearled,
Flowered and flashed with the splendour of Spring in them —
Back in the morn of this wonderful world.
Soft were the words that the thunder then said to it —
Said to this lustre of emerald plain;
Sun brought the yellow, the green, and the red to it —
Sweet were the songs of its silvery rain.
Voices of water and wind in the bays of it
Lingered, and lulled like the psalm of a dream.
Fair were the nights and effulgent the days of it —
Moon was in shadow and shade in the beam.
Summer’s chief throne was the marvellous coast of it,
Home of the Spring was its luminous lea:
Garden of glitter! But only the ghost of it
Moans in the south by the ghost of a sea.
The gloved and jewelled bards who sing
Of Pippa, Maud, and Dorothea,
Have hardly done the handsome thing
For you, my inky Cytherea.
Flower of a land whose sunny skies
Are like the dome of Dante’s clime,
They might have praised your lips, your eyes,
And, eke, your ankles in their rhyme!
But let them pass! To right your wrong,
Aspasia of the ardent South,
Your poet means to sing a song
With some prolixity of mouth.
I’ll even sketch you as you are
In Herrick’s style of carelessness,
Not overstocked with things that bar
An ample view — to wit, with dress.
You have your blanket, it is true;
But then, if I am right at all,
What best would suit a dame like you
Was worn by Eve before the Fall.
Indeed, the “fashion” is a thing
That never cramped your cornless toes:
Your single jewel is a ring
Slung in your penetrated nose.
I can’t detect the flowing lines
Of Grecian features in your face,
Nor are there patent any signs
That link you with the Roman race.
In short, I do not think your mould
Resembles, with its knobs of bone,
The fair Hellenic shapes of old
Whose perfect forms survive in stone.
Still, if the charm called Beauty lies
In ampleness of ear and lip,
And nostrils of exceeding size,
You are a gem, my ladyship!
Here, squatting by the doubtful flame
Of three poor sticks, without a roof
Above your head, impassive dame
You live on — somewhat hunger-proof.
The current scandals of the day
Don’t trouble you — you seem to take
Things in the coolest sort of way —
And wisest — for you have no ache.
You smoke a pipe — of course, you do!
About an inch in length or less,
Which, from a sexual point of view,
Mars somehow your attractiveness.
But, rather than resign the weed,
You’d shock us, whites, by chewing it;
For etiquette is not indeed
A thing that bothers you a bit.
Your people — take them as a whole —
Are careless on the score of grace;
And hence you needn’t comb your poll
Or decorate your unctuous face.
Still, seeing that a little soap
Would soften an excess of tint,
You’ll pardon my advance, I hope,
In giving you a gentle hint.
You have your lovers — dusky beaux
Not made of the poetic stuff
That sports an Apollonian nose,
And wears a sleek Byronic cuff.
But rather of a rougher clay
Unmixed with overmuch romance,
Far better at the wildwood fray
Than spinning in a ballroom dance.
These scarcely are the sonneteers
That sing their loves in faultless clothes:
Your friends have more decided ears
And more capaciousness of nose.
No doubt they suit you best — although
They woo you roughly it is said:
Their way of courtship is a blow
Struck with a nullah on the head.
It doesn’t hurt you much — the thing
Is hardly novel to your life;
And, sans the feast and marriage ring,
You make a good impromptu wife.
This hasty sort of wedding might,
In other cases, bring distress;
But then, your draper’s bills are light —
You’re frugal in regard to dress.
You have no passion for the play,
Or park, or other showy scenes;
And, hence, you have no scores to pay,
And live within your husband’s means.
Of course, his income isn’t large, —
And not too certain — still you thrive
By steering well inside the marge,
And keep your little ones alive.
In short, in some respects you set
A fine example; and a few
Of those white matrons I have met
Would show some sense by copying you.
Here let us part! I will not say,
O lady free from scents and starch,
That you are like, in any way,
The authoress of “Middlemarch”.
One cannot match her perfect phrase
With commonplaces from your lip;
And yet there are some sexual traits
That show your dim relationship.
Indeed, in spite of all the mists
That grow from social codes, I see
The liberal likeness which exists
Throughout our whole humanity.
And though I’ve laughed at your expense,
O Dryad of the dusky race,
No man who has a heart and sense
Would bring displeasure to your face.
“Daughter,” said the ancient father, pausing by the evening sea,
“Turn thy face towards the sunset — turn thy face and kneel with me!
Prayer and praise and holy fasting, lips of love and life of light,
These and these have made thee perfect — shining saint with seraph’s sight!
Look towards that flaming crescent — look beyond that glowing space —
Tell me, sister of the angels, what is beaming in thy face?”
And the daughter, who had fasted, who had spent her days in prayer,
Till the glory of the Saviour touched her head and rested there,
Turned her eyes towards the sea-line — saw beyond the fiery crest,
Floating over waves of jasper, far Hy-Brasil in the west.
All the calmness and the colour — all the splendour and repose,
Flowing where the sunset flowered, like a silver-hearted rose!
There indeed was singing Eden, where the great gold river runs
Past the porch and gates of crystal, ringed by strong and shining ones!
There indeed was God’s own garden, sailing down the sapphire sea —
Lawny dells and slopes of summer, dazzling stream and radiant tree!
Out against the hushed horizon — out beneath the reverent day,
Flamed the Wonder on the waters — flamed and flashed and passed away.
And the maiden who had seen it felt a hand within her own,
And an angel that we know not led her to the lands unknown.
Never since hath eye beheld it — never since hath mortal, dazed
By its strange, unearthly splendour, on the floating Eden gazed!
Only once since Eve went weeping through a throng of glittering wings,
Hath the holy seen Hy-Brasil where the great gold river sings!
Only once by quiet waters, under still, resplendent skies,
Did the sister of the seraphs kneel in sight of Paradise!
She, the pure, the perfect woman, sanctified by patient prayer,
Had the eyes of saints of Heaven, all their glory in her hair:
Therefore God the Father whispered to a radiant spirit near —
“Show Our daughter fair Hy-Brasil — show her this, and lead her here.”
But beyond the halls of sunset, but within the wondrous west,
On the rose-red seas of evening, sails the Garden of the Blest.
Still the gates of glassy beauty, still the walls of glowing light,
Shine on waves that no man knows of, out of sound and out of sight.
Yet the slopes and lawns of lustre, yet the dells of sparkling streams,
Dip to tranquil shores of jasper, where the watching angel beams.
But, behold, our eyes are human, and our way is paved with pain,
We can never find Hy-Brasil, never see its hills again;
Never look on bays of crystal, never bend the reverent knee
In the sight of Eden floating — floating on the sapphire sea!
The bard who is singing of Wollombi Jim
Is hardly just now in the requisite trim
To sit on his Pegasus fairly;
Besides, he is bluntly informed by the Muse
That Jim is a subject no singer should choose;
For Jim is poetical rarely.
But being full up of the myths that are Greek —
Of the classic, and “noble, and nude, and antique,”
Which means not a rag but the pelt on;
This poet intends to give Daphne the slip,
For the sake of a hero in moleskin and kip,
With a jumper and snake-buckle belt on.
No party is Jim of the Pericles type —
He is modern right up from the toe to the pipe;
And being no reader or roamer,
He hasn’t Euripides much in the head;
And let it be carefully, tenderly said,
He never has analysed Homer.
He can roar out a song of the twopenny kind;
But, knowing the beggar so well, I’m inclined
To believe that a “par” about Kelly,
The rascal who skulked under shadow of curse,
Is more in his line than the happiest verse
On the glittering pages of Shelley.
You mustn’t, however, adjudge him in haste,
Because a red robber is more to his taste
Than Ruskin, Rossetti, or Dante!
You see, he was bred in a bangalow wood,
And bangalow pith was the principal food
His mother served out in her shanty.
His knowledge is this — he can tell in the dark
What timber will split by the feel of the bark;
And rough as his manner of speech is,
His wits to the fore he can readily bring
In passing off ash as the genuine thing
When scarce in the forest the beech is.
In girthing a tree that he sells “in the round,”
He assumes, as a rule, that the body is sound,
And measures, forgetting to bark it!
He may be a ninny, but still the old dog
Can plug to perfection the pipe of a log
And “palm it” away on the market.
He splits a fair shingle, but holds to the rule
Of his father’s, and, haply, his grandfather’s school;
Which means that he never has blundered,
When tying his shingles, by slinging in more
Than the recognized number of ninety and four
To the bundle he sells for a hundred!
When asked by the market for ironbark red,
It always occurs to the Wollombi head
To do a “mahogany” swindle.
In forests where never the ironbark grew,
When Jim is at work, it would flabbergast you
To see how the “ironbarks” dwindle.
He can stick to the saddle, can Wollombi Jim,
And when a buckjumper dispenses with him,
The leather goes off with the rider.
And, as to a team, over gully and hill
He can travel with twelve on the breadth of a quill
And boss the unlucky “offsider.”
He shines at his best at the tiller of saw,
On the top of the pit, where his whisper is law
To the gentleman working below him.
When the pair of them pause in a circle of dust,
Like a monarch he poses — exalted, august —
There’s nothing this planet can show him!
For a man is a man who can “sharpen” and “set;”
And he is the only thing masculine yet
According to sawyer and splitter —
Or rather according to Wollombi Jim;
And nothing will tempt me to differ from him,
For Jim is a bit of a hitter.
But, being full up, we’ll allow him to rip,
Along with his lingo, his saw, and his whip —
He isn’t the classical “notion;”
And, after a night in his “humpy,” you see,
A person of orthodox habits would be
Refreshed by a dip in the ocean.
To tot him right up from the heel to the head,
He isn’t the Grecian of whom we have read —
His face is a trifle too shady.
The nymph in green valleys of Thessaly dim
Would never “jack up” her old lover for him,
For she has the tastes of a lady.
So much for our hero! A statuesque foot
Would suffer by wearing that heavy-nailed boot —
Its owner is hardly Achilles.
However, he’s happy! He cuts a great “fig”
In the land where a coat is no part of the “rig” —
In the country of damper and “billies.”
(Written in the Shadow of 1872)
Ah, to be by Mooni now!
Where the great dark hills of wonder,
Scarred with storm and cleft asunder
By the strong sword of the thunder,
Make a night on morning’s brow!
Just to stand where Nature’s face is
Flushed with power in forest places —
Where of God authentic trace is —
Ah, to be by Mooni now!
Just to be by Mooni’s springs!
There to stand, the shining sharer
Of that larger life, and rarer
Beauty caught from beauty fairer
Than the human face of things!
Soul of mine from sin abhorrent
Fain would hide by flashing current,
Like a sister of the torrent,
Far away by Mooni’s springs.
He that is by Mooni now,
Sees the water-sapphires gleaming
Where the River Spirit, dreaming,
Sleeps by fall and fountain streaming
Under lute of leaf and bough —
Hears, where stamp of storm with stress is,
Psalms from unseen wildernesses
Deep amongst far hill-recesses —
He that is by Mooni now.
Yea, for him by Mooni’s marge
Sings the yellow-haired September,
With the face the gods remember
When the ridge is burnt to ember,
And the dumb sea chains the barge!
Where the mount like molten brass is,
Down beneath fern-feathered passes,
Noonday dew in cool green grasses
Gleams on him by Mooni’s marge.
Who that dwells by Mooni yet,
Feels, in flowerful forest arches,
Smiting wings and breath that parches
Where strong Summer’s path of march is,
And the suns in thunder set?
Housed beneath the gracious kirtle
Of the shadowy water myrtle,
Winds may hiss with heat, and hurtle —
He is safe by Mooni yet!
Days there were when he who sings
(Dumb so long through passion’s losses)
Stood where Mooni’s water crosses
Shining tracts of green-haired mosses,
Like a soul with radiant wings;
Then the psalm the wind rehearses —
Then the song the stream disperses
Lent a beauty to his verses,
Who to-night of Mooni sings.
Ah, the theme — the sad, grey theme!
Certain days are not above me,
Certain hearts have ceased to love me,
Certain fancies fail to move me
Like the affluent morning dream.
Head whereon the white is stealing,
Heart whose hurts are past all healing,
Where is now the first pure feeling?
Ah, the theme — the sad, grey theme!
Sin and shame have left their trace!
He who mocks the mighty, gracious
Love of Christ, with eyes audacious,
Hunting after fires fallacious,
Wears the issue in his face.
Soul that flouted gift and Giver,
Like the broken Persian river,
Thou hast lost thy strength for ever!
Sin and shame have left their trace.
In the years that used to be,
When the large, supreme occasion
Brought the life of inspiration,
Like a god’s transfiguration
Was the shining change in me.
Then, where Mooni’s glory glances,
Clear, diviner countenances
Beamed on me like blessed chances,
In the years that used to be.
Ah, the beauty of old ways!
Then the man who so resembled
Lords of light unstained, unhumbled,
Touched the skirts of Christ, nor trembled
At the grand benignant gaze!
Now he shrinks before the splendid
Face of Deity offended,
All the loveliness is ended!
All the beauty of old ways!
Still to be by Mooni cool —
Where the water-blossoms glister,
And, by gleaming vale and vista,
Sits the English April’s sister
Soft and sweet and wonderful.
Just to rest beyond the burning
Outer world — its sneers and spurning —
Ah! my heart — my heart is yearning
Still to be by Mooni cool!
Now, by Mooni’s fair hill heads,
Lo, the gold green lights are glowing,
Where, because no wind is blowing,
Fancy hears the flowers growing
In the herby watersheds!
Faint it is — the sound of thunder
From the torrents far thereunder,
Where the meeting mountains ponder —
Now, by Mooni’s fair hill heads.
Just to be where Mooni is,
Even where the fierce fall races
Down august, unfathomed places,
Where of sun or moon no trace is,
And the streams of shadows hiss!
Have I not an ample reason
So to long for — sick of treason —
Something of the grand old season,
Just to be where Mooni is?
Gaul whose keel in far, dim ages ploughed wan widths of polar sea —
Gray old sailor of Massilia, who hath woven wreath for thee?
Who amongst the world’s high singers ever breathed the tale sublime
Of the man who coasted England in the misty dawn of time?
Leaves of laurel, lights of music — these and these have never shed
Glory on the name unheard of, lustre on the vanished head.
Lords of song, and these are many, never yet have raised the lay
For the white, wind-beaten seaman of a wild, forgotten day.
Harp of shining son of Godhead still is as a voice august;
But the man who first saw Britain sleeps beneath unnoticed dust.
From the fair, calm bays Hellenic, from the crescents and the bends,
Round the wall of crystal Athens, glowing in gold evening-ends,
Sailed abroad the grand, strong father, with his face towards the snow
Of the awful northern mountains, twenty centuries ago.
On the seas that none had heard of, by the shores where none had furled
Wing of canvas, passed this elder to the limits of the world.
Lurid limits, loud with thunder and the roar of flaming cone,
Ghastly tracts of ice and whirlwind lying in a dim, blind zone,
Bitter belts of naked region, girt about by cliffs of fear,
Where the Spirit of the Darkness dwells in heaven half the year.
Yea, against the wild, weird Thule, steered the stranger through the gates
Opened by a fire eternal, into tempest-trampled straits —
Thule, lying like a nightmare on the borders of the Pole:
Neither land, nor air, nor water, but a mixture of the whole!
Dumb, dead chaos, grey as spectre, now a mist and now a cloud,
Where the winds cry out for ever, and the wave is always loud.
Here the lord of many waters, in the great exalted years,
Saw the sight that no man knows of — heard the sound that no man hears —
Felt that God was in the Shadow ere he turned his prow and sped
To the sweet green fields of England with the sunshine overhead.
In the day when pallid Persia fled before the Thracian steel,
By the land that now is London passed the strange Hellenic keel.
Up the bends of quiet river, hard by banks of grove and flower,
Sailed the father through a silence in the old majestic hour.
Not a sound of fin or feather, not a note of wave or breeze,
Vext the face of sleeping streamlets, broke the rest of stirless trees.
Not a foot was in the forest, not a voice was in the wood,
When the elder from Massilia over English waters stood.
All was new, and hushed, and holy — all was pure untrodden space,
When the lord of many oceans turned to it a reverent face.
Man who knew resplendent Athens, set and framed in silver sea,
Did not dream a dream of England — England of the years to be!
Friend of fathers like to Plato — bards august and hallowed seers —
Did not see that tenfold glory, Britain of the future years!
Spirit filled with Grecian music, songs that charm the dark away,
On that large, supreme occasion, did not note diviner lay —
Did not hear the voice of Shakespeare — all the mighty life was still,
Down the slopes that dipped to seaward, on the shoulders of the hill;
But the gold and green were brighter than the bloom of Thracian springs,
And a strange, surpassing beauty shone upon the face of things.
In a grave that no man thinks of — back from far-forgotten bays —
Sleeps the grey, wind-beaten sailor of the old exalted days.
He that coasted Wales and Dover, he that first saw Sussex plains,
Passed away with head unlaurelled in the wild Thessalian rains.
In a space by hand untended, by a fen of vapours blind,
Lies the king of many waters — out of sight and out of mind!
No one brings the yearly blossom — no one culls the flower of grace,
For the shell of mighty father buried in that lonely place;
But the winds are low and holy, and the songs of sweetness flow,
Where he fell asleep for ever, twenty centuries ago.
The leaders of millions, the lords of the lands,
Who sway the wide world with their will
And shake the great globe with the strength of their hands,
Flash past us — unnoticed by Bill.
The elders of science who measure the spheres
And weigh the vast bulk of the sun —
Who see the grand lights beyond aeons of years,
Are less than a bullock to one.
The singers that sweeten all time with their song —
Pure voices that make us forget
Humanity’s drama of marvellous wrong —
To Bill are as mysteries yet.
By thunders of battle and nations uphurled,
Bill’s sympathies never were stirred:
The helmsmen who stand at the wheel of the world
By him are unknown and unheard.
What trouble has Bill for the ruin of lands,
Or the quarrels of temple and throne,
So long as the whip that he holds in his hands
And the team that he drives are his own?
As straight and as sound as a slab without crack,
Our Bill is a king in his way;
Though he camps by the side of a shingle track,
And sleeps on the bed of his dray.
A whip-lash to him is as dear as a rose
Would be to a delicate maid;
He carries his darlings wherever he goes,
In a pocket-book tattered and frayed.
The joy of a bard when he happens to write
A song like the song of his dream
Is nothing at all to our hero’s delight
In the pluck and the strength of his team.
For the kings of the earth, for the faces august
Of princes, the millions may shout;
To Bill, as he lumbers along in the dust,
A bullock’s the grandest thing out.
His four-footed friends are the friends of his choice —
No lover is Bill of your dames;
But the cattle that turn at the sound of his voice
Have the sweetest of features and names.
A father’s chief joy is a favourite son,
When he reaches some eminent goal,
But the pride of Bill’s heart is the hairy-legged one
That pulls with a will at the pole.
His dray is no living, responsible thing,
But he gives it the gender of life;
And, seeing his fancy is free in the wing,
It suits him as well as a wife.
He thrives like an Arab. Between the two wheels
Is his bedroom, where, lying up-curled,
He thinks for himself, like a sultan, and feels
That his home is the best in the world.
For, even though cattle, like subjects, will break
At times from the yoke and the band,
Bill knows how to act when his rule is at stake,
And is therefore a lord of the land.
Of course he must dream; but be sure that his dreams,
If happy, must compass, alas!
Fat bullocks at feed by improbable streams,
Knee-deep in improbable grass.
No poet is Bill, for the visions of night
To him are as visions of day;
And the pipe that in sleep he endeavours to light
Is the pipe that he smokes on the dray.
To the mighty, magnificent temples of God,
In the hearts of the dominant hills,
Bill’s eyes are as blind as the fire-blackened clod
That burns far away from the rills.
Through beautiful, bountiful forests that screen
A marvel of blossoms from heat —
Whose lights are the mellow and golden and green —
Bill walks with irreverent feet.
The manifold splendours of mountain and wood
By Bill like nonentities slip;
He loves the black myrtle because it is good
As a handle to lash to his whip.
And thus through the world, with a swing in his tread,
Our hero self-satisfied goes;
With his cabbage-tree hat on the back of his head,
And the string of it under his nose.
Poor bullocky Bill! In the circles select
Of the scholars he hasn’t a place;
But he walks like a man, with his forehead erect,
And he looks at God’s day in the face.
For, rough as he seems, he would shudder to wrong
A dog with the loss of a hair;
And the angels of shine and superlative song
See his heart and the deity there.
Few know him, indeed; but the beauty that glows
In the forest is loveliness still;
And Providence helping the life of the rose
Is a Friend and a Father to Bill.
Years fifty, and seven to boot, have smitten the children of men
Since sound of a voice or a foot came out of the head of that glen.
The brand of black devil is there — an evil wind moaneth around —
There is doom, there is death in the air: a curse groweth up from the ground!
No noise of the axe or the saw in that hollow unholy is heard,
No fall of the hoof or the paw, no whirr of the wing of the bird;
But a grey mother down by the sea, as wan as the foam on the strait,
Has counted the beads on her knee these forty-nine winters and eight.
Whenever an elder is asked — a white-headed man of the woods —
Of the terrible mystery masked where the dark everlastingly broods,
Be sure he will turn to the bay, with his back to the glen in the range,
And glide like a phantom away, with a countenance pallid with change.
From the line of dead timber that lies supine at the foot of the glade,
The fierce-featured eaglehawk flies — afraid as a dove is afraid;
But back in that wilderness dread are a fall and the forks of a ford —
Ah! pray and uncover your head, and lean like a child on the Lord.
A sinister fog at the wane — at the change of the moon cometh forth
Like an ominous ghost in the train of a bitter, black storm of the north!
At the head of the gully unknown it hangs like a spirit of bale.
And the noise of a shriek and a groan strikes up in the gusts of the gale.
In the throat of a feculent pit is the beard of a bloody-red sedge;
And a foam like the foam of a fit sweats out of the lips of the ledge.
But down in the water of death, in the livid, dead pool at the base —
Bow low, with inaudible breath, beseech with the hands to the face!
A furlong of fetid, black fen, with gelid, green patches of pond,
Lies dumb by the horns of the glen — at the gates of the horror beyond;
And those who have looked on it tell of the terrible growths that are there —
The flowerage fostered by hell, the blossoms that startle and scare.
If ever a wandering bird should light on Gehennas like this
Be sure that a cry will be heard, and the sound of the flat adder’s hiss.
But hard by the jaws of the bend is a ghastly Thing matted with moss —
Ah, Lord! be a father, a friend, for the sake of the Christ of the Cross.
Black Tom, with the sinews of five — that never a hangman could hang —
In the days of the shackle and gyve, broke loose from the guards of the gang.
Thereafter, for seasons a score, this devil prowled under the ban;
A mate of red talon and paw, a wolf in the shape of a man.
But, ringed by ineffable fire, in a thunder and wind of the north,
The sword of Omnipotent ire — the bolt of high Heaven went forth!
But, wan as the sorrowful foam, a grey mother waits by the sea
For the boys that have never come home these fifty-four winters and three.
From the folds of the forested hills there are ravelled and roundabout tracks,
Because of the terror that fills the strong-handed men of the axe!
Of the workers away in the range there is none that will wait for the night,
When the storm-stricken moon is in change and the sinister fog is in sight.
And later and deep in the dark, when the bitter wind whistles about,
There is never a howl or a bark from the dog in the kennel without,
But the white fathers fasten the door, and often and often they start,
At a sound like a foot on the floor and a touch like a hand on the heart.
When underneath the brown dead grass
My weary bones are laid,
I hope I shall not see the glass
At ninety in the shade.
I trust indeed that, when I lie
Beneath the churchyard pine,
I shall not hear that startling cry
“‘Thermom’ is ninety-nine!”
If one should whisper through my sleep
“Come up and be alive,”
I’d answer — No, unless you’ll keep
The glass at sixty-five.
I might be willing if allowed
To wear old Adam’s rig,
And mix amongst the city crowd
Like Polynesian “nig”.
Far better in the sod to lie,
With pasturing pig above,
Than broil beneath a copper sky —
In sight of all I love!
Far better to be turned to grass
To feed the poley cow,
Than be the half boiled bream, alas,
That I am really now!
For cow and pig I would not hear,
And hoof I would not see;
But if these items did appear
They wouldn’t trouble me.
For ah! the pelt of mortal man
Weighs less than half a ton,
And any sight is better than
A sultry southern sun.
(Written in the Shadow of 1872)
Twelve years ago, when I could face
High heaven’s dome with different eyes —
In days full-flowered with hours of grace,
And nights not sad with sighs —
I wrote a song in which I strove
To shadow forth thy strain of woe,
Dark widowed sister of the grove! —
Twelve wasted years ago.
But youth was then too young to find
Those high authentic syllables,
Whose voice is like the wintering wind
By sunless mountain fells;
Nor had I sinned and suffered then
To that superlative degree
That I would rather seek, than men,
Wild fellowship with thee!
But he who hears this autumn day
Thy more than deep autumnal rhyme,
Is one whose hair was shot with grey
By Grief instead of Time.
He has no need, like many a bard,
To sing imaginary pain,
Because he bears, and finds it hard,
The punishment of Cain.
No more he sees the affluence
Which makes the heart of Nature glad;
For he has lost the fine, first sense
Of Beauty that he had.
The old delight God’s happy breeze
Was wont to give, to Grief has grown;
And therefore, Niobe of trees,
His song is like thine own!
But I, who am that perished soul,
Have wasted so these powers of mine,
That I can never write that whole,
Pure, perfect speech of thine.
Some lord of words august, supreme,
The grave, grand melody demands;
The dark translation of thy theme
I leave to other hands.
Yet here, where plovers nightly call
Across dim, melancholy leas —
Where comes by whistling fen and fall
The moan of far-off seas —
A grey, old Fancy often sits
Beneath thy shade with tired wings,
And fills thy strong, strange rhyme by fits
With awful utterings.
Then times there are when all the words
Are like the sentences of one
Shut in by Fate from wind and birds
And light of stars and sun,
No dazzling dryad, but a dark
Dream-haunted spirit doomed to be
Imprisoned, crampt in bands of bark,
For all eternity.
Yea, like the speech of one aghast
At Immortality in chains,
What time the lordly storm rides past
With flames and arrowy rains:
Some wan Tithonus of the wood,
White with immeasurable years —
An awful ghost in solitude
With moaning moors and meres.
And when high thunder smites the hill
And hunts the wild dog to his den,
Thy cries, like maledictions, shrill
And shriek from glen to glen,
As if a frightful memory whipped
Thy soul for some infernal crime
That left it blasted, blind, and stript —
A dread to Death and Time!
But when the fair-haired August dies,
And flowers wax strong and beautiful,
Thy songs are stately harmonies
By wood-lights green and cool —
Most like the voice of one who shows
Through sufferings fierce, in fine relief,
A noble patience and repose —
A dignity in grief.
But, ah! conceptions fade away,
And still the life that lives in thee —
The soul of thy majestic lay —
Remains a mystery!
And he must speak the speech divine —
The language of the high-throned lords —
Who’d give that grand old theme of thine
Its sense in faultless words.
By hollow lands and sea-tracts harsh,
With ruin of the fourfold gale,
Where sighs the sedge and sobs the marsh,
Still wail thy lonely wail;
And, year by year, one step will break
The sleep of far hill-folded streams,
And seek, if only for thy sake
Thy home of many dreams.
No song is this of leaf and bird,
And gracious waters flowing;
I’m sick at heart, for I have heard
Big Billy Vickers “blowing”.
He’d never take a leading place
In chambers legislative:
This booby with the vacant face —
This hoddy-doddy native!
Indeed, I’m forced to say aside,
To you, O reader, solely,
He only wants the horns and hide
To be a bullock wholly.
But, like all noodles, he is vain;
And when his tongue is wagging,
I feel inclined to copy Cain,
And “drop” him for his bragging.
He, being Bush-bred, stands, of course,
Six feet his dirty socks in;
His lingo is confined to horse
And plough, and pig and oxen.
Two years ago he’d less to say
Within his little circuit;
But now he has, besides a dray,
A team of twelve to work it.
No wonder is it that he feels
Inclined to clack and rattle
About his bullocks and his wheels —
He owns a dozen cattle.
In short, to be exact and blunt,
In his own estimation
He’s “out and out” the head and front
Top-sawyer of creation!
For, mark me, he can “sit a buck”
For hours and hours together;
And never horse has had the luck
To pitch him from the leather.
If ever he should have a “spill”
Upon the grass or gravel,
Be sure of this, the saddle will
With Billy Vickers travel.
At punching oxen you may guess
There’s nothing out can “camp” him:
He has, in fact, the slouch and dress
Which bullock-driver stamp him.
I do not mean to give offence,
But I have vainly striven
To ferret out the difference
’Twixt driver and the driven.
Of course, the statements herein made
In every other stanza
Are Billy’s own; and I’m afraid
They’re stark extravaganza.
I feel constrained to treat as trash
His noisy fiddle-faddle
About his doings with the lash,
His feats upon the saddle.
But grant he “knows his way about”,
Or grant that he is silly,
There cannot be the slightest doubt
Of Billy’s faith in Billy.
Of all the doings of the day
His ignorance is utter;
But he can quote the price of hay,
The current rate of butter.
His notions of our leading men
Are mixed and misty very:
He knows a Cochin-China hen —
He never speaks of Berry.
As you’ll assume, he hasn’t heard
Of Madame Patti’s singing;
But I will stake my solemn word
He knows what maize is bringing.
Surrounded by majestic peaks,
By lordly mountain ranges,
Where highest voice of thunder speaks
His aspect never changes.
The grand Pacific there beyond
His dirty hut is glowing:
He only sees a big salt pond,
O’er which his grain is going.
The sea that covers half the sphere,
With all its stately speeches,
Is held by Bill to be a mere
Broad highway for his peaches.
Through Nature’s splendid temples he
Plods, under mountains hoary;
But he has not the eyes to see
Their grandeur and their glory.
A bullock in a biped’s boot,
I iterate, is Billy!
He crushes with a careless foot
The touching water-lily.
I’ve said enough — I’ll let him go!
If he could read these verses,
He’d pepper me for hours, I know,
With his peculiar curses.
But this is sure, he’ll never change
His manners loud and flashy,
Nor learn with neatness to arrange
His clothing, cheap and trashy.
Like other louts, he’ll jog along,
And swig at shanty liquors,
And chew and spit. Here ends the song
Of Mr. Billy Vickers.
I am writing this song at the close
Of a beautiful day of the spring
In a dell where the daffodil grows
By a grove of the glimmering wing;
From glades where a musical word
Comes ever from luminous fall,
I send you the song of a bird
That I wish to be dear to you all.
I have given my darling the name
Of a land at the gates of the day,
Where morning is always the same,
And spring never passes away.
With a prayer for a lifetime of light,
I christened her Persia, you see;
And I hope that some fathers to-night
Will kneel in the spirit with me.
She is only commencing to look
At the beauty in which she is set;
And forest and flower and brook,
To her are all mysteries yet.
I know that to many my words
Will seem insignificant things;
But you who are mothers of birds
Will feel for the father who sings.
For all of you doubtless have been
Where sorrows are many and wild;
And you know what a beautiful scene
Of this world can be made by a child:
I am sure, if they listen to this,
Sweet women will quiver, and long
To tenderly stoop to and kiss
The Persia I’ve put in a song.
And I’m certain the critic will pause,
And excuse, for the sake of my bird,
My sins against critical laws —
The slips in the thought and the word.
And haply some dear little face
Of his own to his mind will occur —
Some Persia who brightens his place —
And I’ll be forgiven for her.
A life that is turning to grey
Has hardly been happy, you see;
But the rose that has dropped on my way
Is morning and music to me.
Yea, she that I hold by the hand
Is changing white winter to green,
And making a light of the land —
All fathers will know what I mean:
All women and men who have known
The sickness of sorrow and sin,
Will feel — having babes of their own —
My verse and the pathos therein.
For that must be touching which shows
How a life has been led from the wild
To a garden of glitter and rose,
By the flower-like hand of a child.
She is strange to this wonderful sphere;
One summer and winter have set
Since God left her radiance here —
Her sweet second year is not yet.
The world is so lovely and new
To eyes full of eloquent light,
And, sisters, I’m hoping that you
Will pray for my Persia to-night.
For I, who have suffered so much,
And know what the bitterness is,
Am sad to think sorrow must touch
Some day even darlings like this!
But sorrow is part of this life,
And, therefore, a father doth long
For the blessing of mother and wife
On the bird he has put in a song.
Strange is the song, and the soul that is singing
Falters because of the vision it sees;
Voice that is not of the living is ringing
Down in the depths where the darkness is clinging,
Even when Noon is the lord of the leas,
Fast, like a curse, to the ghosts of the trees!
Here in a mist that is parted in sunder,
Half with the darkness and half with the day;
Face of a woman, but face of a wonder,
Vivid and wild as a flame of the thunder,
Flashes and fades, and the wail of the grey
Water is loud on the straits of the bay!
Father, whose years have been many and weary —
Elder, whose life is as lovely as light
Shining in ways that are sterile and dreary —
Tell me the name of this beautiful peri,
Flashing on me like the wonderful white
Star, at the meeting of morning and night.
“Look to thy Saviour, and down on thy knee, man,
Lean on the Lord, as the Zebedee leaned;
Daughter of hell is the neighbour of thee, man —
Lilith, of Adam the luminous leman!
Turn to the Christ to be succoured and screened,
Saved from the eyes of a marvellous fiend!
“Serpent she is in the shape of a woman,
Brighter than woman, ineffably fair!
Shelter thyself from the splendour, and sue, man;
Light that was never a loveliness human
Lives in the face of this sinister snare,
Longing to strangle thy soul with her hair!
“Lilith, who came to the father and bound him
Fast with her eyes in the first of the springs;
Lilith she is, but remember she drowned him,
Shedding her flood of gold tresses around him —
Lulled him to sleep with the lyric she sings:
Melody strange with unspeakable things!
“Low is her voice, but beware of it ever,
Swift bitter death is the fruit of delay;
Never was song of its beauty — ah! never —
Heard on the mountain, or meadow, or river,
Not of the night is it, not of the day —
Fly from it, stranger, away and away.”
Back on the hills are the blossom and feather,
Glory of noon is on valley and spire;
Here is the grace of magnificent weather,
Where is the woman from gulfs of the nether?
Where is the fiend with the face of desire?
Gone, with a cry, in miraculous fire!
Sound that was not of this world, or the spacious
Splendid blue heaven, has passed from the lea;
Dead is the voice of the devil audacious:
Only a dream is her music fallacious,
Here, in the song and the shadow of tree,
Down by the green and the gold of the sea.
Singer of songs of the hills —
Dreamer, by waters unstirred,
Back in a valley of rills,
Home of the leaf and the bird! —
Read in this fall of the year
Just the compassionate phrase,
Faded with traces of tear,
Written in far-away days:
“Gone is the light of my lap
(Lord, at Thy bidding I bow),
Here is my little one’s cap,
He has no need of it now,
Give it to somebody’s boy —
Somebody’s darling” — she wrote.
Touching was Bob in his joy —
Bob without boots or a coat.
Only a cap; but it gave
Capless and comfortless one
Happiness, bright as the brave,
Beautiful light of the sun.
Soft may the sanctified sod
Rest on the father who led
Bob from the gutter, unshod —
Covered his cold little head!
Bob from the foot to the crown
Measured a yard, and no more —
Baby alone in the town,
Homeless, and hungry, and sore —
Child that was never a child,
Hiding away from the rain,
Draggled and dirty and wild,
Down in a pipe of the drain.
Poor little beggar was Bob —
Couldn’t afford to be sick,
Getting a penny a job,
Sometimes a curse and a kick.
Father was killed by the drink;
Mother was driven to shame;
Bob couldn’t manage to think —
He had forgotten their name.
God was in heaven above,
Flowers illumined the ground,
Women of infinite love
Lived in the palaces round —
Saints with the character sweet
Found in the fathers of old,
Laboured in alley and street —
Baby slept out in the cold.
Nobody noticed the child —
Nobody knew of the mite
Creeping about like a wild
Thing in the shadow of night.
Beaten by drunkards and cowed —
Frightened to speak or to sob —
How could he ask you aloud,
“Have you a penny for Bob?”
Few were the pennies he got —
Seldom could hide them away,
Watched by the ravenous sot
Ever at wait for his prey.
Poor little man! He would weep
Oft for a morsel of bread;
Coppers he wanted to keep
Went to the tavern instead.
This was his history, friend —
Ragged, unhoused, and alone;
How could the child comprehend
Love that he never had known?
Hunted about in the world,
Crouching in crevices dim,
Crust with a curse at him hurled
Stood for a kindness with him.
Little excited his joy —
Bun after doing a job;
Mother of bright-headed boy,
Think of the motherless Bob!
High in the heavens august
Providence saw him, and said —
“Out of the pits of the dust
Lift him, and cover his head.”
Ah, the ineffable grace,
Father of children, in Thee!
Boy in a radiant place,
Fanned by the breeze of the sea —
Child on a lullaby lap
Said, in the pause of his pain,
“Mother, don’t bury my cap —
Give it to Bob in the lane.”
Beautiful bidding of Death!
What could she do but obey,
Even when suffering Faith
Hadn’t the power to pray?
So, in the fall of the year,
Saint with the fatherly head
Hunted for somebody’s dear —
“Somebody’s darling,” he said.
Bob, who was nobody’s child,
Sitting on nobody’s lap,
Draggled and dirty and wild —
Bob got the little one’s cap.
Strange were compassionate words!
Waif of the alley and lane
Dreamed of the music of birds
Floating about in the rain.
White-headed father in God,
Over thy beautiful grave
Green is the grass of the sod,
Soft is the sound of the wave.
Down by the slopes of the sea
Often and often will sob
Boy who was fostered by thee —
This is the story of Bob.
He has a name which can’t be brought
Within the sphere of metre;
But, as he’s Peter by report,
I’ll trot him out as Peter.
I call him mine; but don’t suppose
That I’m his dad, O reader!
My wife has got a Norman nose —
She reads the tales of Ouida.
I never loved a nigger belle —
My tastes are too aesthetic!
The perfume from a gin is — well,
A rather strong emetic.
But, seeing that my theme is Pete,
This verse will be the neater
If I keep on the proper beat,
And stick throughout to Peter.
We picked him up the Lord knows where!
At noon we came across him
Asleep beside a hunk of bear —
His paunch was bulged with ’possum.
(Last stanza will not bear, I own,
A pressure analytic;
But bard whose weight is fourteen stone,
Is apt to thump the critic.)
We asked the kid to give his name:
He didn’t seem too willing —
The darkey played the darkey’s game —
We tipped him with a shilling!
We tipped him with a shining bob —
No Tommy Dodd, believe us.
We didn’t “tumble” to his job —
Ah, why did Pete deceive us!
I, being, as I’ve said, a bard,
Resolved at once to foster
This mite whose length was just a yard —
This portable impostor!
“This babe” — I spoke in Wordsworth’s tone —
(See Wordsworth’s “Lucy”, neighbour)
“I’ll make a darling of my own;
And he’ll repay my labour.
“He’ll grow as gentle as a fawn —
As quiet as the blossoms
That beautify a land of lawn —
He’ll eat no more opossums.
“The child I to myself will take
In a paternal manner;
And ah! he will not swallow snake
In future, or ‘goanna’.
“Will you reside with me, my dear?”
I asked in accents mellow —
The nigger grinned from ear to ear,
And said, “All right, old fellow!”
And so my Pete was taken home —
My pretty piccaninny!
And, not to speak of soap or comb,
His cleansing cost a guinea.
“But hang expenses!” I exclaimed,
“I’ll give him education:
A ‘nig’ is better when he’s tamed,
Perhaps, than a Caucasian.
“Ethnologists are in the wrong
About our sable brothers;
And I intend to stop the song
Of Pickering and others.”
Alas, I didn’t do it though!
Old Pickering’s conclusions
Were to the point, as issues show,
And mine were mere delusions.
My inky pet was clothed and fed
For months exceeding forty;
But to the end, it must be said,
His ways were very naughty.
When told about the Land of Morn
Above this world of Mammon,
He’d shout, with an emphatic scorn,
“Ah, gammon, gammon, gammon!”
He never lingered, like the bard,
To sniff at rose expanding.
“Me like,” he said, “em cattle-yard —
Fine smell — de smell of branding!”
The soul of man, I tried to show,
Went up beyond our vision.
“You ebber see dat fellow go?”
He asked in sheer derision.
In short, it soon occurred to me
This kid of six or seven,
Who wouldn’t learn his A B C,
Was hardly ripe for heaven.
He never lost his appetite —
He bigger grew, and bigger;
And proved, with every inch of height,
A nigger is a nigger.
And, looking from this moment back,
I have a strong persuasion
That, after all, a finished black
Is not the “clean” — Caucasian.
Dear Peter from my threshold went,
One morning in the body:
He “dropped” me, to oblige a gent —
A gent with spear and waddy!
He shelved me for a boomerang —
We never had a quarrel;
And, if a moral here doth hang,
Why let it hang — the moral!
My mournful tale its course has run —
My Pete, when last I spied him,
Was eating ’possum underdone:
He had his gin beside him.
(Written in the Shadow of 1872)
From the rainy hill-heads, where, in starts and in spasms,
Leaps wild the white torrent from chasms to chasms —
From the home of bold echoes, whose voices of wonder
Fly out of blind caverns struck black by high thunder —
Through gorges august, in whose nether recesses
Is heard the far psalm of unseen wildernesses —
Like a dominant spirit, a strong-handed sharer
Of spoil with the tempest, comes down the Narrara.
Yea, where the great sword of the hurricane cleaveth
The forested fells that the dark never leaveth —
By fierce-featured crags, in whose evil abysses
The clammy snake coils, and the flat adder hisses —
Past lordly rock temples, where Silence is riven
By the anthems supreme of the four winds of heaven —
It speeds, with the cry of the streams of the fountains
It chained to its sides, and dragged down from the mountains!
But when it goes forth from the slopes with a sally —
Being strengthened with tribute from many a valley —
It broadens and brightens, and thereupon marches
Above the stream sapphires and under green arches,
With the rhythm of majesty — careless of cumber —
Its might in repose and its fierceness in slumber —
Till it beams on the plains, where the wind is a bearer
Of words from the sea to the stately Narrara!
Narrara! grand son of the haughty hill torrent,
Too late in my day have I looked at thy current —
Too late in my life to discern and inherit
The soul of thy beauty, the joy of thy spirit!
With the years of the youth and the hairs of the hoary,
I sit like a shadow outside of thy glory;
Nor look with the morning-like feelings, O river,
That illumined the boy in the days gone for ever!
Ah! sad are the sounds of old ballads which borrow
One-half of their grief from the listener’s sorrow;
And sad are the eyes of the pilgrim who traces
The ruins of Time in revisited places;
But sadder than all is the sense of his losses
That cometh to one when a sudden age crosses
And cripples his manhood. So, stricken by fate, I
Felt older at thirty than some do at eighty.
Because I believe in the beautiful story,
The poem of Greece in the days of her glory —
That the high-seated Lord of the woods and the waters
Has peopled His world with His deified daughters —
That flowerful forests and waterways streaming
Are gracious with goddesses glowing and gleaming —
I pray that thy singing divinity, fairer
Than wonderful women, may listen, Narrara!
O spirit of sea-going currents! — thou, being
The child of immortals, all-knowing, all-seeing —
Thou hast at thy heart the dark truth that I borrow
For the song that I sing thee, no fanciful sorrow;
In the sight of thine eyes is the history written
Of Love smitten down as the strong leaf is smitten;
And before thee there goeth a phantom beseeching
For faculties forfeited — hopes beyond reaching.
* * * * * * * *
Thou knowest, O sister of deities blazing
With splendour ineffable, beauty amazing,
What life the gods gave me — what largess I tasted —
The youth thrown away, and the faculties wasted.
I might, as thou seest, have stood in high places,
Instead of in pits where the brand of disgrace is,
A byword for scoffers — a butt and a caution,
With the grave of poor Burns and Maginn for my portion.
But the heart of the Father Supreme is offended,
And my life in the light of His favour is ended;
And, whipped by inflexible devils, I shiver,
With a hollow “too late” in my hearing for ever;
But thou — being sinless, exalted, supernal,
The daughter of diademed gods, the eternal —
Shalt shine in thy waters when time and existence
Have dwindled, like stars, in unspeakable distance.
But the face of thy river — the torrented power
That smites at the rock while it fosters the flower —
Shall gleam in my dreams with the summer-look splendid,
And the beauty of woodlands and waterfalls blended;
And often I’ll think of far-forested noises,
And the emphasis deep of grand sea-going voices,
And turn to Narrara the eyes of a lover,
When the sorrowful days of my singing are over.
(Written After Reading A Touching Poem By Mrs. Browning)
Because this man fulfilled his days,
Like one who walks with steadfast gaze
Averted from forbidden ways
With lures of fair, false flowerage deep,
Behold the Lord whose throne is dim
With fires of flaming seraphim —
The Christ that suffered sent for him:
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
Think not that souls whose deeds august
Put sin to shame and make men just
Become at last the helpless dust
That wintering winds through waste-lands sweep!
The higher life within us cries,
Like some fine spirit from the skies,
“The Father’s blessing on us lies —
‘He giveth His beloved sleep.’”
Not human sleep — the fitful rest
With evil shapes of dreams distressed, —
But perfect quiet, unexpressed
By any worldly word we keep.
The dim Hereafter framed in creeds
May not be this; but He who reads
Our lives, sets flowers on wayside weeds —
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
Be sure this hero who has passed
The human space — the outer vast —
Who worked in harness to the last,
Doth now a hallowed harvest reap.
Love sees his grave, nor turns away —
The eyes of faith are like the day,
And grief has not a word to say —
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
That fair, rare spirit, Honour, throws
A light, which puts to shame the rose,
Across his grave, because she knows
The son whose ashes it doth keep;
And, like far music, this is heard —
“Behold the man who never stirred,
By word of his, an angry word! —
‘He giveth His beloved sleep.’”
He earned his place. Within his hands,
The power which counsels and commands,
And shapes the social life of lands,
Became a blessing pure and deep. *
Through thirty years of turbulence
Our thoughts were sweetened with a sense
Of his benignant influence —
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
* The Press
No splendid talents, which excite
Like music, songs, or floods of light,
Were his; but, rather, all those bright,
Calm qualities of soul which reap
A mute, but certain, fine respect,
Not only from a source elect,
But from the hearts of every sect —
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
He giveth His beloved rest!
The faithful soul that onward pressed,
Unswerving, from Life’s east to west,
By paths austere and passes steep,
Is past all toil; and, over Death,
With reverent hands and prayerful breath,
I plant this flower, alive with faith —
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
The poet’s daughter, who died in infancy.
Take this rose, and very gently place it on the tender, deep
Mosses where our little darling, Araluen, lies asleep.
Put the blossom close to baby — kneel with me, my love, and pray;
We must leave the bird we’ve buried — say good-bye to her to-day.
In the shadow of our trouble we must go to other lands,
And the flowers we have fostered will be left to other hands:
Other eyes will watch them growing — other feet will softly tread
Where two hearts are nearly breaking, where so many tears are shed.
Bitter is the world we live in: life and love are mixed with pain;
We will never see these daisies — never water them again.
Ah! the saddest thought in leaving baby in this bush alone
Is that we have not been able on her grave to place a stone:
We have been too poor to do it; but, my darling, never mind —
God is in the gracious heavens, and His sun and rain are kind:
They will dress the spot with beauty, they will make the grasses grow:
Many winds will lull our birdie, many songs will come and go.
Here the blue-eyed Spring will linger, here the shining month will stay,
Like a friend, by Araluen, when we two are far away;
But beyond the wild, wide waters, we will tread another shore —
We will never watch this blossom, never see it any more.
Girl, whose hand at God’s high altar in the dear, dead year I pressed,
Lean your stricken head upon me — this is still your lover’s breast!
She who sleeps was first and sweetest — none we have to take her place;
Empty is the little cradle — absent is the little face.
Other children may be given; but this rose beyond recall,
But this garland of your girlhood, will be dearest of them all.
None will ever, Araluen, nestle where you used to be,
In my heart of hearts, you darling, when the world was new to me;
We were young when you were with us, life and love were happy things
To your father and your mother ere the angels gave you wings.
You that sit and sob beside me — you, upon whose golden head
Many rains of many sorrows have from day to day been shed;
Who because your love was noble, faced with me the lot austere
Ever pressing with its hardship on the man of letters here —
Let me feel that you are near me, lay your hand within mine own;
You are all I have to live for, now that we are left alone.
Three there were, but one has vanished. Sins of mine have made you weep;
But forgive your baby’s father now that baby is asleep.
Let us go, for night is falling; leave the darling with her flowers;
Other hands will come and tend them — other friends in other hours.
(A Prize Poem published with the kind permission of the Proprietors of the “Sydney Morning Herald.”)
Now, while Orion, flaming south, doth set
A shining foot on hills of wind and wet —
Far haughty hills beyond the fountains cold
And dells of glimmering greenness manifold —
While August sings the advent of the Spring,
And in the calm is heard September’s wing,
The lordly voice of song I ask of thee,
High, deathless radiance — crowned Calliope!
What though we never hear the great god’s lays
Which made all music the Hellenic days —
What though the face of thy fair heaven beams
Still only on the crystal Grecian streams —
What though a sky of new, strange beauty shines
Where no white Dryad sings within the pines:
Here is a land whose large, imperial grace
Must tempt thee, goddess, in thine holy place!
Here are the dells of peace and plenilune,
The hills of morning and the slopes of noon;
Here are the waters dear to days of blue,
And dark-green hollows of the noontide dew;
Here lies the harp, by fragrant wood-winds fanned,
That waits the coming of thy quickening hand!
And shall Australia, framed and set in sea,
August with glory, wait in vain for thee?
Shall more than Tempe’s beauty be unsung
Because its shine is strange — its colours young?
No! by the full, live light which puts to shame
The far, fair splendours of Thessalian flame —
By yonder forest psalm which sinks and swells
Like that of Phocis, grave with oracles —
By deep prophetic winds that come and go
Where whispering springs of pondering mountains flow —
By lute-like leaves and many-languaged caves,
Where sounds the strong hosanna of the waves,
This great new majesty shall not remain
Unhonoured by the high immortal strain!
Soon, soon, the music of the southern lyre
Shall start and blossom with a speech like fire!
Soon, soon, shall flower and flow in flame divine
Thy songs, Apollo, and Euterpe, thine!
Strong, shining sons of Delphicus shall rise
With all their father’s glory in their eyes;
And then shall beam on yonder slopes and springs
The light that swims upon the light of things.
And therefore, lingering in a land of lawn,
I, standing here, a singer of the dawn,
With gaze upturned to where wan summits lie
Against the morning flowing up the sky —
Whose eyes in dreams of many colours see
A glittering vision of the years to be —
Do ask of thee, Calliope, one hour
Of life pre-eminent with perfect power,
That I may leave a song whose lonely rays
May shine hereafter from these songless days.
For now there breaks across the faint grey range
The rose-red dawning of a radiant change.
A soft, sweet voice is in the valleys deep,
Where darkness droops and sings itself to sleep.
The grave, mute woods, that yet the silence hold
Of dim, dead ages, gleam with hints of gold.
Yon eastern cape that meets the straitened wave —
A twofold tower above the whistling cave —
Whose strength in thunder shields the gentle lea,
And makes a white wrath of a league of sea,
Now wears the face of peace; and in the bay
The weak, spent voice of Winter dies away.
In every dell there is a whispering wing,
On every lawn a glimmer of the Spring;
By every hill are growths of tender green —
On every slope a fair, new life is seen;
And lo! beneath the morning’s blossoming fires,
The shining city of a hundred spires,
In mists of gold, by countless havens furled,
And glad with all the flags of all the world!
These are the shores, where, in a dream of fear,
Cathay saw darkness dwelling half the year! *
These are the coasts that old fallacious tales
Chained down with ice and ringed with sleepless gales!
This is the land that, in the hour of awe,
* According to that eminent authority, Mr. R. H. Major, and others, the Great Southern Land is referred to in old Chinese records as a polar continent, subject to the long polar nights.
From Indian peaks the rapt Venetian saw! *
Here is the long grey line of strange sea wall
That checked the prow of the audacious Gaul,
What time he steered towards the southern snow,
From zone to zone, four hundred years ago! †
By yonder gulf, whose marching waters meet
The wine-dark currents from the isles of heat,
Strong sons of Europe, in a far dim year,
Faced ghastly foes, and felt the alien spear!
There, in a later dawn, by shipless waves,
The tender grasses found forgotten graves. ‡
* Marco Polo mentions a large land called by the Malays Lochac. The northern coast was supposed to be in latitude 10°S. (Vide Bennett, and others.
† Mr. R.H.Major has discovered a map of Terra Australis dated A.D. 1542, and bearing the name of Le Testu, a French pilot. Le Testu must have visited these coasts some years before the date of the chart.
‡ The sailors of the Duyfhen, a Dutch vessel which entered Carpentaria, in A.D.1605, were attacked by the natives. In the fray, some of the whites were killed. No doubt, these unlucky adventurers were the first Europeans buried in Australia. (Vide Woods, and others.)
Far in the west, beyond those hills sublime,
Dirk Hartog anchored in the olden time;
There, by a wild-faced bay, and in a cleft,
His shining name the fair-haired Northman left; *
And, on those broad imperial waters, far
Beneath the lordly occidental star,
Sailed Tasman down a great and glowing space
Whose softer lights were like his lady’s face.
In dreams of her he roved from zone to zone,
And gave her lovely name to coasts unknown;
And saw, in streaming sunset everywhere,
The curious beauty of her golden hair. †
* Dirk Hartog left a tin plate, bearing his name, in Shark’s Bay, Western
Australia. It was last seen in A.D.1803.
† Abel Tasman’s love for Maria Van Dieman is well known. Tasmania, and
many of the islands and points on the N.W. coasts of Australia were named
By flaming tracts of tropic afternoon,
Where in low heavens hangs a fourfold moon.
Here, on the tides of a resplendent year,
By capes of jasper, came the buccaneer.
Then, then, the wild men, flying from the beach,
First heard the clear, bold sounds of English speech;
And then first fell across a Southern plain
The broad, strong shadows of a Saxon train.
Near yonder wall of stately cliff, that braves
The arrogance of congregated waves,
The daring son of grey old Yorkshire stood
And dreamed in a majestic solitude,
What time a gentle April shed its showers,
Aflame with sunset, on the Bay of Flowers. †
The noble seaman who withheld the hand,
And spared the Hector of his native land —
The single savage, yelling on the beach
The dark, strange curses of barbaric speech.
Exalted sailor! whose benignant phrase
Shines full of beauty in these latter days;
† Botany Bay
Who met the naked tribes of fiery skies
With great, divine compassion in his eyes;
Who died, like Him of hoary Nazareth,
That death august — the radiant martyr’s death;
Who in the last hour showed the Christian face
Whose crumbling beauty shamed the alien race.
In peace he sleeps where deep eternal calms
Lie round the land of heavy-fruited palms.
Lo! in that dell, behind a singing bar,
Where deep, pure pools of glittering waters are,
Beyond a mossy, yellow, gleaming glade,
The last of Forby Sutherland was laid —
The blue-eyed Saxon from the hills of snow
Who fell asleep a hundred years ago.
In flowerful shades, where gold and green are rife,
Still rests the shell of his forgotten life.
Far, far away, beneath some northern sky
The fathers of his humble household lie;
But by his lonely grave are sapphire streams,
And gracious woodlands, where the fire-fly gleams;
And ever comes across a silver lea
The hymn sublime of the eternal sea.
On that bold hill, against a broad blue stream,
Stood Arthur Phillip in a day of dream:
What time the mists of morning westward rolled,
And heaven flowered on a bay of gold!
Here, in the hour that shines and sounds afar,
Flamed first old England’s banner like a star;
Here, in a time august with prayer and praise,
Was born the nation of these splendid days;
And here this land’s majestic yesterday
Of immemorial silence died away.
Where are the woods that, ninety summers back,
Stood hoar with ages by the water-track?
Where are the valleys of the flashing wing,
The dim green margins and the glimmering spring?
Where now the warrior of the forest race,
His glaring war-paint and his fearless face?
The banks of April and the groves of bird,
The glades of silence and the pools unstirred,
The gleaming savage and the whistling spear,
Passed with the passing of a wild old year!
A single torrent singing by the wave,
A shadowy relic in a mountain cave,
A ghost of fire in immemorial hills,
The whittled tree by folded wayside rills,
The call of bird that hides in hollows far,
Where feet of thunder, wings of winter are —
Of all that Past, these wrecks of wind and rain,
These touching memories — these alone remain!
What sun is this that beams and broadens west?
What wonder this, in deathless glory dressed?
What strange, sweet harp of highest god took flame
And gave this Troy its life, its light, its name?
What awful lyre of marvellous power and range
Upraised this Ilion — wrought this dazzling change?
No shining singer of Hellenic dreams
Set yonder splendour by the morning streams!
No god who glimmers in a doubtful sphere
Shed glory there — created beauty here!
This is the city that our fathers framed —
These are the crescents by the elders named!
The human hands of strong, heroic men
Broke down the mountain, filled the gaping glen,
Ran streets through swamp, built banks against the foam,
And bent the arch and raised the lordly dome!
Here are the towers that the founders made!
Here are the temples where these Romans prayed!
Here stand the courts in which their leaders met!
Here are their homes, and here their altars yet!
Here sleep the grand old men whose lives sublime
Of thought and action shine and sound through time!
Who worked in darkness — onward fought their ways
To bring about these large majestic days —
Who left their sons the hearts and high desires
Which built this city of the hundred spires!
A stately Morning rises on the wing,
The hills take colour, and the valleys sing.
A strong September flames beyond the lea —
A silver vision on a silver sea.
A new Age, “cast in a diviner mould”,
Comes crowned with lustre, zoned and shod with gold!
What dream is this on lawny spaces set?
What miracle of dome and minaret?
What great mute majesty is this that takes
The first of morning ere the song-bird wakes?
Lo, this was built to honour gathering lands
By Celtic, Saxon, Australasian hands!
These are the halls where all the flags unfurled
Break into speech that welcomes all the world.
And lo, our friends are here from every zone —
From isles we dream of and from tracts unknown!
Here are the fathers from the stately space
Where Ireland is and England’s sacred face!
Here are the Norsemen from their strong sea-wall,
The grave, grand Teuton and the brilliant Gaul!
From green, sweet groves the dark-eyed Lusians sail,
And proud Iberia leaves the grape-flushed vale.
Here are the lords whose starry banner shines
From fierce Magellan to the Arctic pines.
Here come the strangers from the gates of day —
From hills of sunrise and from white Cathay.
The spicy islands send their swarthy sons,
The lofty North its mailed and mighty ones.
Venetian keels are floating on our sea;
Our eyes are glad with radiant Italy!
Yea, North and South, and glowing West and East,
Are gathering here to grace our splendid feast!
The chiefs from peaks august with Asian snow,
The elders born where regal roses grow,
Come hither, with the flower of that fair land
That blooms beyond the fiery tracts of sand
Where Syrian suns their angry lustres fling
Across blind channels of the bygone spring.
And on this great, auspicious day, the flowers
Of labour glorify majestic hours.
The singing angel from the starry sphere
Of dazzling Science shows his wonders here;
And Art, the dream-clad spirit, starts, and brings
From Fairyland her strange, sweet, glittering things.
Here are the works man did, what time his face
Was touched by God in some exalted place;
Here glows the splendour — here the marvel wrought
When Heaven flashed upon the maker’s thought!
Yea, here are all the miracles sublime —
The lights of Genius and the stars of Time!
And, being lifted by this noble noon,
Australia broadens like a tropic moon.
Her white, pure lustre beams across the zones;
The nations greet her from their awful thrones.
From hence the morning beauty of her name
Will shine afar, like an exceeding flame.
Her place will be with mighty lords, whose sway
Controls the thunder and the marching day.
Her crown will shine beside the crowns of kings
Who shape the seasons, rule the course of things,
The fame of her across the years to be
Will spread like light on a surpassing sea;
And graced with glory, girt with power august,
Her life will last till all things turn to dust.
To Thee the face of song is lifted now,
O Lord! to whom the awful mountains bow;
Whose hands, unseen, the tenfold storms control;
Whose thunders shake the spheres from pole to pole;
Who from Thy highest heaven lookest down,
The sea Thy footstool, and the sun Thy crown;
Around whose throne the deathless planets sing
Hosannas to their high, eternal King.
To Thee the soul of prayer this morning turns,
With faith that glitters, and with hope that burns!
And, in the moments of majestic calm
That fill the heart in pauses of the psalm,
She asks Thy blessing for this fair young land
That flowers within the hollow of Thine hand!
She seeks of Thee that boon, that gift sublime,
The Christian radiance, for this hope of Time!
And Thou wilt listen! and Thy face will bend
To smile upon us — Master, Father, Friend!
The Christ to whom pure pleading heart hath crept
Was human once, and in the darkness wept;
The gracious love that helped us long ago
Will on us like a summer sunrise flow,
And be a light to guide the nation’s feet
On holy paths — on sacred ways and sweet.
Phantom streams were in the distance — mocking lights of lake and pool —
Ghosts of trees of soft green lustre — groves of shadows deep and cool!
Yea, some devil ran before them changing skies of brass to blue,
Setting bloom where curse is planted, where a grass-blade never grew.
Six there were, and high above them glared a wild and wizened sun,
Ninety leagues from where the waters of the singing valleys run.
There before them, there behind them, was the great, stark, stubborn plain,
Where the dry winds hiss for ever, and the blind earth moans for rain!
Ringed about by tracks of furnace, ninety leagues from stream and tree,
Six there were, with wasted faces, working northwards to the sea!
* * * * * * * * * *
Ah, the bitter, hopeless desert! Here these broken human wrecks
Trod the wilds where sand of fire is with the spiteful spinifex,
Toiled through spheres that no bird knows of, where with fiery emphasis
Hell hath stamped its awful mint-mark deep on every thing that is!
Toiled and thirsted, strove and suffered! This was where December’s breath
As a wind of smiting flame is on weird, haggard wastes of death!
This was where a withered moan is, and the gleam of weak, wan star,
And a thunder full of menace sends its mighty voices far!
This was where black execrations, from some dark tribunal hurled,
Set the brand of curse on all things in the morning of the world!
* * * * * * * * * *
One man yielded — then another — then a lad of nineteen years
Reeled and fell, with English rivers singing softly in his ears,
English grasses started round him — then the grace of Sussex lea
Came and touched him with the beauty of a green land by the sea!
Old-world faces thronged about him — old-world voices spoke to him;
But his speech was like a whisper, and his eyes were very dim.
In a dream of golden evening, beaming on a quiet strand,
Lay the stranger till a bright One came and took him by the hand.
England vanished; died the voices; but he heard a holier tone,
And an angel that we know not led him to the lands unknown!
* * * * * * * * * *
Six there were, but three were taken! Three were left to struggle still;
But against the red horizon flamed a horn of brindled hill!
But beyond the northern skyline, past a wall of steep austere,
Lay the land of light and coolness in an April-coloured year!
“Courage, brothers!” cried the leader. “On the slope of yonder peak
There are tracts of herb and shadow, and the channels of the creek!”
So they made one last great effort — haled their beasts through brake and briar,
Set their feet on spurs of furnace, grappled spikes and crags of fire,
Fought the stubborn mountain forces, smote down naked, natural powers,
Till they gazed from thrones of Morning on a sphere of streams and flowers.
Out behind them was the desert, glaring like a sea of brass!
Here before them were the valleys, fair with moonlight-coloured grass!
At their backs were haggard waste-lands, bickering in a wicked blaze!
In their faces beamed the waters, marching down melodious ways!
Touching was the cool, soft lustre over laps of lawn and lea;
And majestic was the great road Morning made across the sea.
On the sacred day of Christmas, after seven months of grief,
Rested three of six who started, on a bank of moss and leaf —
Rested by a running river, in a hushed, a holy week;
And they named the stream that saved them — named it fitly — “Christmas Creek”.
A tributary of the river Clarence.
The strong sob of the chafing stream
That seaward fights its way
Down crags of glitter, dells of gleam,
Is in the hills to-day.
But far and faint, a grey-winged form
Hangs where the wild lights wane —
The phantom of a bygone storm,
A ghost of wind and rain.
The soft white feet of afternoon
Are on the shining meads,
The breeze is as a pleasant tune
Amongst the happy reeds.
The fierce, disastrous, flying fire,
That made the great caves ring,
And scarred the slope, and broke the spire,
Is a forgotten thing.
The air is full of mellow sounds,
The wet hill-heads are bright,
And down the fall of fragrant grounds,
The deep ways flame with light.
A rose-red space of stream I see,
Past banks of tender fern;
A radiant brook, unknown to me
Beyond its upper turn.
The singing, silver life I hear,
Whose home is in the green,
Far-folded woods of fountains clear,
Where I have never been.
Ah, brook above the upper bend,
I often long to stand
Where you in soft, cool shades descend
From the untrodden land!
Ah, folded woods, that hide the grace
Of moss and torrents strong,
I often wish to know the face
Of that which sings your song!
But I may linger, long, and look
Till night is over all:
My eyes will never see the brook,
Or sweet, strange waterfall.
The world is round me with its heat,
And toil, and cares that tire;
I cannot with my feeble feet
Climb after my desire.
But, on the lap of lands unseen,
Within a secret zone,
There shine diviner gold and green
Than man has ever known.
And where the silver waters sing
Down hushed and holy dells,
The flower of a celestial Spring —
A tenfold splendour, dwells.
Yea, in my dream of fall and brook
By far sweet forests furled,
I see that light for which I look
In vain through all the world —
The glory of a larger sky
On slopes of hills sublime,
That speak with God and morning, high
Above the ways of Time!
Ah! haply in this sphere of change
Where shadows spoil the beam,
It would not do to climb that range
And test my radiant Dream.
The slightest glimpse of yonder place,
Untrodden and alone,
Might wholly kill that nameless grace,
The charm of the unknown.
And therefore, though I look and long,
Perhaps the lot is bright
Which keeps the river of the song
A beauty out of sight.
Wizened the wood is, and wan is the way through it;
White as a corpse is the face of the fen;
Only blue adders abide in and stray through it —
Adders and venom and horrors to men.
Here is the “ghost of a garden” whose minister
Fosters strange blossoms that startle and scare.
Red as man’s blood is the sun that, with sinister
Flame, is a menace of hell in the air.
Wrinkled and haggard the hills are — the jags of them
Gape like to living and ominous things:
Storm and dry thunder cry out in the crags of them —
Fire, and the wind with a woe in its wings.
Never a moon without clammy-cold shroud on it
Hitherward comes, or a flower-like star!
Only the hiss of the tempest is loud on it —
Hiss, and the moan of a bitter sea bar.
Here on this waste, and to left and to right of it,
Never is lisp or the ripple of rain:
Fierce is the daytime and wild is the night of it,
Flame without limit and frost without wane!
Trees half alive, with the sense of a curse on them,
Shudder and shrink from the black heavy gale;
Ghastly, with boughs like the plumes of a hearse on them:
Barren of blossom and blasted with bale.
Under the cliff that stares down to the south of it —
Back by the horns of a hazardous hill,
Dumb is the gorge with a grave in the mouth of it
Still, as a corpse in a coffin is still.
Never there hovers a hope of the Spring by it —
Never a glimmer of yellow and green:
Only the bat with a whisper of wing by it
Flits like a life out of flesh and unseen.
Here are the growths that are livid and glutinous,
Speckled, and bloated with poisonous blood:
This is the haunt of the viper-breed mutinous:
Cursed with the curse of weird Catherine Flood.
He that hath looked on it — hurried aghast from it,
Hair of him frozen with horror straightway,
Chased by a sudden strange pestilent blast from it —
Where is the speech of him — what can he say?
Hath he not seen the fierce ghost of a hag in it?
Heard maledictions that startle the stars?
Dumb is his mouth as a mouth with a gag in it —
Mute is his life as a life within bars.
Just the one glimpse of that grey, shrieking woman there
Ringed by a circle of furnace and fiend!
He that went happy and healthy and human there —
Where shall the white leper fly to be cleaned?
Here, in a pit with indefinite doom on it,
Here, in the fumes of a feculent moat,
Under an alp with inscrutable gloom on it,
Squats the wild witch with a ghoul at her throat!
Black execration that cannot be spoken of —
Speech of red hell that would suffocate Song,
Starts from this terror with never a token of
Day and its loveliness all the year long.
Sin without name to it — man never heard of it —
Crime that would startle a fiend from his lair,
Blasted this Glen, and the leaf and the bird of it —
Where is there hope for it, Father, O where?
Far in the days of our fathers, the life in it
Blossomed and beamed in the sight of the sun:
Yellow and green and the purple were rife in it,
Singers of morning and waters that run.
Storm of the equinox shed no distress on it,
Thunder spoke softly, and summer-time left
Sunset’s forsaken bright beautiful dress on it —
Blessing that shone half the night in the cleft.
Hymns of the highlands — hosannas from hills by it,
Psalms of great forests made holy the spot:
Cool were the mosses and clear were the rills by it —
Far in the days when the Horror was not.
Twenty miles south is the strong, shining Hawkesbury —
Spacious and splendid, and lordly with blooms.
There, between mountains magnificent, walks bury
Miles of their beauty in green myrtle glooms.
There, in the dell, is the fountain with falls by it —
Falls, and a torrent of summering stream:
There is the cave with the hyaline halls by it —
Haunt of the echo and home of the dream.
Over the hill, by the marvellous base of it,
Wanders the wind with a song in its breath
Out to the sea with the gold on the face of it —
Twenty miles south of the Valley of Death.
Every Expression in these stanza’s may fairly be claimed by the Hon. W. B. Dalley (Author’s note).
Deep under the spires of a hill, by the feet of the thunder-cloud trod,
I pause in a luminous, still, magnificent temple of God!
At the steps of the altar august — a vision of angels in stone —
I kneel, with my head to the dust, on the floors by the seraphim known.
No father in Jesus is near, with the high, the compassionate face;
But the glory of Godhead is here — its presence transfigures the place!
Behold in this beautiful fane, with the lights of blue heaven impearled,
I think of the Elders of Spain, in the deserts — the wilds of the world!
I think of the wanderers poor who knelt on the flints and the sands,
When the mighty and merciless Moor was lord of the Lady of Lands.
Where the African scimitar flamed, with a swift, bitter death in its kiss,
The fathers, unknown and unnamed, found God in cathedrals like this!
The glow of His Spirit — the beam of His blessing — made lords of the men
Whose food was the herb of the stream, whose roof was the dome of the den.
And, far in the hills by the sea, these awful hierophants prayed
For Rome and its temples to be — in a temple by Deity made.
Who knows of their faith — of its power? Perhaps, with the light in their eyes,
They saw, in some wonderful hour, the marvel of centuries rise!
Perhaps in some moment supreme, when the mountains were holy and still,
They dreamed the magnificent dream that came to the monks of Seville!
Surrounded by pillars and spires whose summits shone out in the glare
Of the high, the omnipotent fires, who knows what was seen by them there?
Be sure, if they saw, in the noon of their faith, some ineffable fane,
They looked on the church like a moon dropped down by the Lord into Spain.
And the Elders who shone in the time when Christ over Christendom beamed
May have dreamed at their altars sublime the dream that their fathers had dreamed,
By the glory of Italy moved — the majesty shining in Rome —
They turned to the land that they loved, and prayed for a church in their home;
And a soul of unspeakable fire descended on them, and they fought
And laboured a life for the spire and tower and dome of their thought!
These grew under blessing and praise, as morning in summertime grows —
As Troy in the dawn of the days to the music of Delphicus rose.
In a land of bewildering light, where the feet of the season are Spring’s,
They worked in the day and the night, surrounded by beautiful things.
The wonderful blossoms in stone — the flower and leaf of the Moor,
On column and cupola shone, and gleamed on the glimmering floor.
In a splendour of colour and form, from the marvellous African’s hands
Yet vivid and shining and warm, they planted the Flower of the Lands.
Inspired by the patience supreme of the mute, the magnificent past,
They toiled till the dome of their dream in the firmament blossomed at last!
Just think of these men — of their time — of the days of their deed, and the scene!
How touching their zeal — how sublime their suppression of self must have been!
In a city yet hacked by the sword and scarred by the flame of the Moor,
They started the work of their Lord, sad, silent, and solemnly poor.
These fathers, how little they thought of themselves, and how much of the days
When the children of men would be brought to pray in their temple, and praise!
Ah! full of the radiant, still, heroic old life that has flown,
The merciful monks of Seville toiled on, and died bare and unknown.
The music, the colour, the gleam of their mighty cathedral will be
Hereafter a luminous dream of the heaven I never may see;
To a spirit that suffers and seeks for the calm of a competent creed,
This temple, whose majesty speaks, becomes a religion indeed;
The passionate lights — the intense, the ineffable beauty of sound —
Go straight to the heart through the sense, as a song would of seraphim crowned.
And lo! by these altars august, the life that is highest we live,
And are filled with the infinite trust and the peace that the world cannot give.
They have passed, have the elders of time — they have gone; but the work of their hands,
Pre-eminent, peerless, sublime, like a type of eternity stands!
They are mute, are the fathers who made this church in the century dim;
But the dome with their beauty arrayed remains, a perpetual hymn.
Their names are unknown; but so long as the humble in spirit and pure
Are worshipped in speech and in song, our love for these monks will endure;
And the lesson by sacrifice taught will live in the light of the years
With a reverence not to be bought, and a tenderness deeper than tears.
No classic warrior tempts my pen
To fill with verse these pages —
No lordly-hearted man of men
My Muse’s thought engages.
Let others choose the mighty dead,
And sing their battles over!
My champion, too, has fought and bled —
My theme is one-eyed Rover.
A grave old dog, with tattered ears
Too sore to cock up, reader! —
A four-legged hero, full of years,
But sturdy as a cedar.
Still, age is age; and if my rhyme
Is dashed with words pathetic,
Don’t wonder, friend; I’ve seen the time
When Rove was more athletic.
He lies coiled up before me now,
A comfortable crescent.
His night-black nose and grizzled brow
Fixed in a fashion pleasant.
But ever and anon he lifts
The one good eye I mention,
And tries a thousand doggish shifts
To rivet my attention.
Just let me name his name, and up
You’ll see him start and patter
Towards me, like a six-months’ pup
In point of speed, but fatter.
He pokes his head upon my lap,
Nor heeds the whip above him;
Because he knows, the dear old chap,
His human friends all love him.
Our younger dogs cut off from hence
At sight of lash uplifted;
But Rove, with grand indifference,
Remains, and can’t be shifted.
And, ah! the set upon his phiz
At meals defies expression;
For I confess that Rover is
A cadger by profession.
The lesser favourites of the place
At dinner keep their distance;
But by my chair one grizzled face
Begs on with brave persistence.
His jaws present a toothless sight,
But still my hearty hero
Can satisfy an appetite
Which brings a bone to zero.
And while Spot barks and pussy mews,
To move the cook’s compassion,
He takes his after-dinner snooze
In genuine biped fashion.
In fact, in this, our ancient pet
So hits off human nature,
That I at times almost forget
He’s but a dog in feature.
Between his tail and bright old eye
The swift communications
Outstrip the messages which fly
From telegraphic stations.
And, ah! that tail’s rich eloquence
Conveys too clear a moral,
For men who have a grain of sense
About its drift to quarrel.
At night, his voice is only heard
When it is wanted badly;
For Rover is too cute a bird
To follow shadows madly.
The pup and Carlo in the dark
Will start at crickets chirring;
But when we hear the old dog bark
We know there’s something stirring.
He knows a gun, does Rover here;
And if I cock a trigger,
He makes himself from tail to ear
An admirable figure.
For, once the fowling piece is out,
And game is on the tapis,
The set upon my hero’s snout
Would make a cockle happy.
And as for horses, why, betwixt
Our chestnut mare and Rover
The mutual friendship is as fixed
As any love of lover.
And when his master’s hand resigns
The bridle for the paddle,
His dogship on the grass reclines,
And stays and minds the saddle.
Of other friends he has no lack;
Grey pussy is his crony,
And kittens mount upon his back,
As youngsters mount a pony.
They talk of man’s superior sense,
And charge the few with treason
Who think a dog’s intelligence
Is very like our reason.
But though Philosophy has tried
A score of definitions,
’Twixt man and dog it can’t decide
The relative positions.
And I believe upon the whole
(Though you my creed deny, sir),
That Rove’s entitled to a soul
As much as you or I, sir!
Indeed, I fail to see the force
Of your derisive laughter
Because I will not say my horse
Has not some horse-hereafter.
A fig for dogmas — let them pass!
There’s much in life to grieve us;
And what most grieves is this, alas!
That all our best friends leave us.
And when I sip my nightly grog,
And watch old Rover blinking,
This royal ruin of a dog
Calls forth some serious thinking.
For, though he’s lightly touched by Fate,
I cannot help remarking
The step of age is in his gait,
Its hoarseness in his barking.
He still goes on his rounds at night
To keep off forest prowlers;
But, ah! he has no teeth to bite
The cunning-hearted howlers.
Not like the Rover that, erewhile,
Gave droves of dingoes battle,
And dashed through flood and fierce defile —
The friend, but dread, of cattle.
Not like to him that, in past years,
Won fight by fight, and scattered
Whole tribes of dogs with rags of ears
And tail-ends torn and tattered.
But while time tells upon our pet,
And makes him greyer daily,
He is a noble fellow yet,
And wears his old age gaily.
Still, dogs must die; and in the end,
When he is past caressing,
We’ll mourn him like some human friend
Whose presence was a blessing.
Till then, be bread and peace his lot —
A life of calm and clover!
The pup may sleep outside with Spot —
We’ll keep the nook for Rover.
Written For Music
Brothers from far-away lands,
Sons of the fathers of fame,
Here are our hearts and our hands —
This is our song of acclaim.
Lords from magnificent zones,
Shores of superlative sway,
Awful with lustre of thrones,
This is our greeting to-day.
Europe and Asia are here —
Shining they enter our ports!
She that is half of the sphere
Beams like a sun in our courts.
Children of elders whose day
Shone to the planet’s white ends,
Meet, in the noble old way,
Sons of your forefather’s friends.
Dressed is the beautiful city — the spires of it
Burn in the firmament stately and still;
Forest has vanished — the wood and the lyres of it,
Lutes of the sea-wind and harps of the hill.
This is the region, and here is the bay by it,
Collins, the deathless, beheld in a dream:
Flinders and Fawkner, our forefathers grey, by it
Paused in the hush of a season supreme.
Here, on the waters of majesty near to us,
Lingered the leaders by towers of flame:
Elders who turn from the lordly old year to us
Crowned with the lights of ineffable fame.
Nine and seventy years ago,
Up the blaze of yonder bay,
On a great exalted day,
Came from seas august with snow —
Waters where the whirlwinds blow —
First of England’s sons who stood
By the deep green, bygone wood
Where the wild song used to flow
Nine and seventy years ago.
Five and forty years ago,
On a grand auspicious morn
When the South Wind blew his horn,
Where the splendid mountains glow —
Peaks that God and Sunrise know —
Came the fearless, famous band,
Founders of our radiant land,
From the lawns where roses grow,
Five and forty years ago.
By gracious slopes of fair green hills,
In shadows cool and deep,
Where floats the psalm of many rills,
The noble elders sleep.
But while their children’s children last,
While seed from seedling springs,
The print and perfume of their past
Will be as deathless things.
Their voices are with vanished years,
With other days and hours;
Their homes are sanctified by tears —
They sleep amongst the flowers.
They do not walk by street or stream,
Or tread by grove or shore,
But, in the nation’s highest dream,
They shine for evermore.
By lawny slope and lucent strand
Are singing flags of every land;
On streams of splendour — bays impearled —
The keels are here of all the world.
With lutes of light and cymbals clear
We waft goodwill to every sphere.
The links of love to-day are thrown
From sea to sea — from zone to zone;
And, lo! we greet, in glory drest,
The lords that come from east and west,
And march like noble children forth
To meet our fathers from the North!
To Thee be the glory, All-Bountiful Giver!
The song that we sing is an anthem to Thee,
Whose blessing is shed on Thy people for ever,
Whose love is like beautiful light on the sea.
Behold, with high sense of Thy mercy unsleeping,
We come to Thee, kneel to Thee, praise Thee, and pray,
O Lord, in whose hand is the strength that is keeping
The storm from the wave and the night from the day!
In a far-away glen of the hills,
Where the bird of the night is at rest,
Shut in from the thunder that fills
The fog-hidden caves of the west —
In a sound of the leaf, and the lute
Of the wind on the quiet lagoon,
I stand, like a worshipper, mute
In the flow of a marvellous tune!
And the song that is sweet to my sense
Is, “Nearer, my God, unto Thee;”
But it carries me sorrowing hence,
To a grave by the cliffs of the sea.
So many have gone that I loved —
So few of the fathers remain,
That where in old seasons I moved
I could never be happy again.
In the breaks of this beautiful psalm,
With its deep, its devotional tone,
And hints of ineffable calm,
I feel like a stranger, alone.
No wonder my eyes are so dim —
Your trouble is heavy on me,
O widow and daughter of him
Who sleeps in the grave by the sea!
The years have been hard that have pressed
On a head full of premature grey,
Since Stenhouse went down to his rest,
And Harpur was taken away.
In the soft yellow evening-ends,
The wind of the water is faint
By the home of the last of my friends —
The shrine of the father and saint.
The tenderness touching — the grace
Of Ridley no more is for me;
And flowers have hidden the face
Of the brother who sleeps by the sea.
The vehement voice of the South
Is loud where the journalist lies;
But calm hath encompassed his mouth,
And sweet is the peace in his eyes.
Called hence by the Power who knows
When the work of a hero is done,
He turned at the message, and rose
With the harness of diligence on.
In the midst of magnificent toil,
He bowed at the holy decree;
And green is the grass on the soil
Of the grave by the cliffs of the sea.
I knew him, indeed; and I knew,
Having suffered so much in his day,
What a beautiful nature and true
In Bennett was hidden away.
In the folds of a shame without end,
When the lips of the scorner were curled,
I found in this brother a friend —
The last that was left in the world.
Ah! under the surface austere
Compassion was native to thee;
I send from my solitude here
This rose for the grave by the sea.
To the high, the heroic intent
Of a life that was never at rest,
He held, with a courage unspent,
Through the worst of his days and the best.
Far back in the years that are dead
He knew of the bitterness cold
That saddens with silver the head
And makes a man suddenly old.
The dignity gracing his grief
Was ever a lesson to me;
He lies under blossom and leaf
In a grave by the cliffs of the sea.
Above him the wandering face
Of the moon is a loveliness now,
And anthems encompass the place
From lutes of the luminous bough.
The forelands are fiery with foam
Where often and often he roved;
He sleeps in the sight of the home
That he built by the waters he loved.
The wave is his fellow at night,
And the sun, shining over the lea,
Sheds out an unspeakable light
On this grave by the cliffs of the sea.
A silver slope, a fall of firs, a league of gleaming grasses,
And fiery cones, and sultry spurs, and swarthy pits and passes!
* * * * *
The long-haired Cyclops bated breath, and bit his lip and hearkened,
And dug and dragged the stone of death, by ways that dipped and darkened.
Across a tract of furnaced flints there came a wind of water,
From yellow banks with tender hints of Tethys’ white-armed daughter.
She sat amongst wild singing weeds, by beds of myrrh and môly;
And Acis made a flute of reeds, and drew its accents slowly;
And taught its spirit subtle sounds that leapt beyond suppression,
And paused and panted on the bounds of fierce and fitful passion.
Then he who shaped the cunning tune, by keen desire made bolder,
Fell fainting, like a fervent noon, upon the sea-nymph’s shoulder.
Sicilian suns had laid a dower of light and life about her:
Her beauty was a gracious flower — the heart fell dead without her.
“Ah, Galatê,” said Polypheme, “I would that I could find thee
Some finest tone of hill or stream, wherewith to lull and bind thee!
“What lyre is left of marvellous range, whose subtle strings, containing
Some note supreme, might catch and change, or set thy passion waning? —
“Thy passion for the fair-haired youth whose fleet, light feet perplex me
By ledges rude, on paths uncouth, and broken ways that vex me?
Ah, turn to me! else violent sleep shall track the cunning lover;
And thou wilt wait and thou wilt weep when I his haunts discover.”
But golden Galatea laughed, and Thôsa’s son, like thunder,
Broke through a rifty runnel shaft, and dashed its rocks asunder,
And poised the bulk, and hurled the stone, and crushed the hidden Acis,
And struck with sorrow drear and lone the sweetest of all faces.
To Zeus, the mighty Father, she, with plaint and prayer, departed:
Then from fierce Ætna to the sea a fountained water started —
A lucent stream of lutes and lights — cool haunt of flower and feather,
Whose silver days and yellow nights made years of hallowed weather.
Here Galatea used to come, and rest beside the river;
Because, in faint, soft, blowing foam, her shepherd lived for ever.
Kate, they say, is seventeen —
Do not count her sweet, you know.
Arms of her are rather lean —
Ditto, calves and feet, you know.
Features of Hellenic type
Are not patent here, you see.
Katie loves a black clay pipe —
Doesn’t hate her beer, you see.
Spartan Helen used to wear
Tresses in a plait, perhaps:
Kate has ochre in her hair —
Nose is rather flat, perhaps.
Rose Lorraine’s surpassing dress
Glitters at the ball, you see:
Daughter of the wilderness
Has no dress at all, you see.
Laura’s lovers every day
In sweet verse embody her:
Katie’s have a different way,
Being frank, they “waddy” her.
Amy by her suitor kissed,
Every nightfall looks for him:
Kitty’s sweetheart isn’t missed —
Kitty “humps” and cooks for him.
Smith, and Brown, and Jenkins, bring
Roses to the fair, you know.
Darkies at their Katie fling
Hunks of native bear, you know.
English girls examine well
All the food they take, you twig:
Kate is hardly keen of smell —
Kate will eat a snake, you twig.
Yonder lady’s sitting room —
Clean and cool and dark it is:
Kitty’s chamber needs no broom —
Just a sheet of bark it is.
You may find a pipe or two
If you poke and grope about:
Not a bit of starch or blue —
Not a sign of soap about.
Girl I know reads Lalla Rookh —
Poem of the “heady” sort:
Kate is better as a cook
Of the rough and ready sort.
Byron’s verse on Waterloo,
Makes my darling glad, you see:
Kate prefers a kangaroo —
Which is very sad, you see.
Other ladies wear a hat
Fit to write a sonnet on:
Kitty has — the naughty cat —
Neither hat nor bonnet on!
Fifty silks has Madame Tate —
She who loves to spank it on:
All her clothes are worn by Kate
When she has her blanket on.
Let her rip! the Phrygian boy
Bolted with a brighter one;
And the girl who ruined Troy
Was a rather whiter one.
Katie’s mouth is hardly Greek —
Hardly like a rose it is:
Katie’s nose is not antique —
Not the classic nose it is.
Dryad in the grand old day,
Though she walked the woods about,
Didn’t smoke a penny clay —
Didn’t “hump” her goods about.
Daphne by the fairy lake,
Far away from din and all,
Never ate a yard of snake,
Head and tail and skin and all.
To the servants of God that are to be found in every denomination, these verses, of course, do not apply. — H.K.
You may have heard of Proclus, sir,
If you have been a reader;
And you may know a bit of her
Who helped the Lycian leader.
I have my doubts — the head you “sport”
(Now mark me, don’t get crusty)
Is hardly of the classic sort —
Your lore, I think, is fusty.
Most likely you have stuck to tracts
Flushed through with flaming curses —
I judge you, neighbour, by your acts —
So don’t you d——n my verses.
But to my theme. The Asian sage,
Whose name above I mention,
Lived in the pitchy Pagan age,
A life without pretension.
He may have worshipped gods like Zeus,
And termed old Dis a master;
But then he had a strong excuse —
He never heard a pastor.
However, it occurs to me
That, had he cut Demeter
And followed you, or followed me,
He wouldn’t have been sweeter.
No doubt with “shepherds” of this time
He’s not the “clean potato”,
Because — excuse me for my rhyme —
He pinned his faith to Plato.
But these are facts you can’t deny,
My pastor, smudged and sooty,
His mind was like a summer sky —
He lived a life of beauty —
To lift his brothers’ thoughts above
This earth he used to labour:
His heart was luminous with love —
He didn’t wound his neighbour.
To him all men were just the same —
He never foamed at altars,
Although he lived ere Moody came —
Ere Sankey dealt in psalters.
The Lycian sage, my “reverend” sir,
Had not your chances ample;
But, after all, I must prefer
His perfect, pure example.
You, having read the Holy Writ —
The Book the angels foster —
Say have you helped us on a bit,
You overfed impostor?
What have you done to edify,
You clammy chapel tinker?
What act like his of days gone by —
The grand old Asian thinker?
Is there no deed of yours at all
With beauty shining through it?
Ah, no! your heart reveals its gall
On every side I view it.
A blatant bigot with a big
Fat heavy fetid carcass,
You well become your greasy “rig” —
You’re not a second Arcas.
What sort of “gospel” do you preach?
What “Bible” is your Bible?
There’s worse than wormwood in your speech,
You livid, living libel!
How many lives are growing gray
Through your depraved behaviour!
I tell you plainly — every day
You crucify the Saviour!
Some evil spirit curses you —
Your actions never vary:
You cannot point your finger to
One fact to the contrary.
You seem to have a wicked joy
In your malicious labour,
Endeavouring daily to destroy
The neighbour’s love for neighbour.
The brutal curses you eject
Make strong men dread to hear you.
The world outside your petty sect
Feels sick when it is near you.
No man who shuns that little hole
You call your tabernacle
Can have, you shriek, a ransomed soul —
He wears the devil’s shackle.
And, hence the “Papist” by your clan
Is dogged with words inhuman,
Because he loves that friend of man
The highest type of woman —
Because he has that faith which sees
Before the high Creator
A Virgin pleading on her knees —
A shining Mediator!
God help the souls who grope in night —
Who in your ways have trusted!
I’ve said enough! the more I write,
The more I feel disgusted.
The warm, soft air is tainted through
With your pernicious leaven.
I would not live one hour with you
In your peculiar heaven!
Now mount your musty pulpit — thump,
And muddle flat clodhoppers;
And let some long-eared booby “hump”
The plate about for coppers.
At priest and parson spit and bark,
And shake your “church” with curses,
You bitter blackguard of the dark —
With this I close my verses.
(Inscribed To G.L.Fagan, Esq.)
Across bleak widths of broken sea
A fierce north-easter breaks,
And makes a thunder on the lea —
A whiteness of the lakes.
Here, while beyond the rainy stream
The wild winds sobbing blow,
I see the river of my dream
Four wasted years ago.
Narrara of the waterfalls,
The darling of the hills,
Whose home is under mountain walls
By many-luted rills!
Her bright green nooks and channels cool
I never more may see;
But, ah! the Past was beautiful —
The sights that used to be.
There was a rock-pool in a glen
Beyond Narrara’s sands;
The mountains shut it in from men
In flowerful fairy lands;
But once we found its dwelling-place —
The lovely and the lone —
And, in a dream, I stooped to trace
Our names upon a stone.
Above us, where the star-like moss
Shone on the wet, green wall
That spanned the straitened stream across,
We saw the waterfall —
A silver singer far away,
By folded hills and hoar;
Its voice is in the woods to-day —
A voice I hear no more.
I wonder if the leaves that screen
The rock-pool of the past
Are yet as soft and cool and green
As when we saw them last!
I wonder if that tender thing,
The moss, has overgrown
The letters by the limpid spring —
Our names upon the stone!
Across the face of scenes we know
There may have come a change —
The places seen four years ago
Perhaps would now look strange.
To you, indeed, they cannot be
What haply once they were:
A friend beloved by you and me
No more will greet us there.
Because I know the filial grief
That shrinks beneath the touch —
The noble love whose words are brief —
I will not say too much;
But often when the night-winds strike
Across the sighing rills,
I think of him whose life was like
The rock-pool’s in the hills.
A beauty like the light of song
Is in my dreams, that show
The grand old man who lived so long
As spotless as the snow.
A fitting garland for the dead
I cannot compass yet;
But many things he did and said
I never will forget.
In dells where once we used to rove
The slow, sad water grieves;
And ever comes from glimmering grove
The liturgy of leaves.
But time and toil have marked my face,
My heart has older grown
Since, in the woods, I stooped to trace
Our names upon the stone.
Lordly harp, by lordly master wakened from majestic sleep,
Yet shall speak and yet shall sing the words which make the fathers weep!
Voice surpassing human voices — high, unearthly harmony —
Yet shall tell the tale of hero, in exalted years to be!
In the ranges, by the rivers, on the uplands, down the dells,
Where the sound of wind and wave is, where the mountain anthem swells,
Yet shall float the song of lustre, sweet with tears and fair with flame,
Shining with a theme of beauty, holy with our Leichhardt’s name!
Name of him who faced for science thirsty tracts of bitter glow,
Lurid lands that no one knows of — two-and-thirty years ago.
Born by hills of hard grey weather, far beyond the northern seas,
German mountains were his sponsors, and his mates were German trees;
Grandeur of the old-world forests passed into his radiant soul,
With the song of stormy crescents where the mighty waters roll.
Thus he came to be a brother of the river and the wood —
Thus the leaf, the bird, the blossom, grew a gracious sisterhood;
Nature led him to her children, in a space of light divine:
Kneeling down, he said — “My mother, let me be as one of thine!”
So she took him — thence she loved him — lodged him in her home of dreams,
Taught him what the trees were saying, schooled him in the speech of streams.
For her sake he crossed the waters — loving her, he left the place
Hallowed by his father’s ashes, and his human mother’s face —
Passed the seas and entered temples domed by skies of deathless beam,
Walled about by hills majestic, stately spires and peaks supreme!
Here he found a larger beauty — here the lovely lights were new
On the slopes of many flowers, down the gold-green dells of dew.
In the great august cathedral of his holy lady, he
Daily worshipped at her altars, nightly bent the reverent knee —
Heard the hymns of night and morning, learned the psalm of solitudes;
Knew that God was very near him — felt His presence in the woods!
But the starry angel, Science, from the home of glittering wings,
Came one day and talked to Nature by melodious mountain springs:
“Let thy son be mine,” she pleaded; “lend him for a space,” she said,
“So that he may earn the laurels I have woven for his head!”
And the lady, Nature, listened; and she took her loyal son
From the banks of moss and myrtle — led him to the Shining One!
Filled his lordly soul with gladness — told him of a spacious zone
Eye of man had never looked at, human foot had never known.
Then the angel, Science, beckoned, and he knelt and whispered low —
“I will follow where you lead me” — two-and-thirty years ago.
On the tracts of thirst and furnace — on the dumb, blind, burning plain,
Where the red earth gapes for moisture, and the wan leaves hiss for rain,
In a land of dry, fierce thunder, did he ever pause and dream
Of the cool green German valley and the singing German stream?
When the sun was as a menace, glaring from a sky of brass,
Did he ever rest, in visions, on a lap of German grass?
Past the waste of thorny terrors, did he reach a sphere of rills,
In a region yet untravelled, ringed by fair untrodden hills?
Was the spot where last he rested pleasant as an old-world lea?
Did the sweet winds come and lull him with the music of the sea?
Let us dream so — let us hope so! Haply in a cool green glade,
Far beyond the zone of furnace, Leichhardt’s sacred shell was laid!
Haply in some leafy valley, underneath blue, gracious skies,
In the sound of mountain water, the heroic traveller lies!
Down a dell of dewy myrtle, where the light is soft and green,
And a month like English April sits, an immemorial queen,
Let us think that he is resting — think that by a radiant grave
Ever come the songs of forest, and the voices of the wave!
Thus we want our sons to find him — find him under floral bowers,
Sleeping by the trees he loved so, covered with his darling flowers!
The song that once I dreamed about,
The tender, touching thing,
As radiant as the rose without —
The love of wind and wing —
The perfect verses, to the tune
Of woodland music set,
As beautiful as afternoon,
Remain unwritten yet.
It is too late to write them now —
The ancient fire is cold;
No ardent lights illume the brow,
As in the days of old.
I cannot dream the dream again;
But when the happy birds
Are singing in the sunny rain,
I think I hear its words.
I think I hear the echo still
Of long-forgotten tones,
When evening winds are on the hill
And sunset fires the cones;
But only in the hours supreme,
With songs of land and sea,
The lyrics of the leaf and stream,
This echo comes to me.
No longer doth the earth reveal
Her gracious green and gold;
I sit where youth was once, and feel
That I am growing old.
The lustre from the face of things
Is wearing all away;
Like one who halts with tired wings,
I rest and muse to-day.
There is a river in the range
I love to think about;
Perhaps the searching feet of change
Have never found it out.
Ah! oftentimes I used to look
Upon its banks, and long
To steal the beauty of that brook
And put it in a song.
I wonder if the slopes of moss,
In dreams so dear to me —
The falls of flower, and flower-like floss —
Are as they used to be!
I wonder if the waterfalls,
The singers far and fair,
That gleamed between the wet, green walls,
Are still the marvels there!
Ah! let me hope that in that place
The old familiar things
To which I turn a wistful face
Have never taken wings.
Let me retain the fancy still
That, past the lordly range,
There always shines, in folds of hill,
One spot secure from change!
I trust that yet the tender screen
That shades a certain nook,
Remains, with all its gold and green,
The glory of the brook.
It hides a secret to the birds
And waters only known:
The letters of two lovely words —
A poem on a stone.
Perhaps the lady of the past
Upon these lines may light,
The purest verses, and the last
That I may ever write.
She need not fear a word of blame —
Her tale the flowers keep —
The wind that heard me breathe her name
Has been for years asleep.
But in the night, and when the rain
The troubled torrent fills,
I often think I see again
The river in the hills;
And when the day is very near,
And birds are on the wing,
My spirit fancies it can hear
The song I cannot sing.
Project Gutenberg Australia