Part 3 out of 9
For He knew he was one of the few He could choose
To fight out His battles and carry His news
Of a marvellous truth through the dark and the dews,
And the desert lands furnaced!
He knew he was one of the few He could take
For His mission supernal,
Whose feet would not falter, whose limbs would not ache,
Through the waterless lands of the thorn and the snake,
And the ways of the wild -- bearing up for the sake
Of a Beauty eternal.
And therefore the road to Damascus was burned
With a swift, sudden brightness;
While Saul, with his face in the bitter dust, learned
Of the sin which he did ere he tumbled, and turned
Aghast at God's whiteness!
Of the sin which he did ere he covered his head
From the strange revelation.
But, thereafter, you know of the life that he led --
How he preached to the peoples, and suffered, and sped
With the wonderful words which his Master had said,
From nation to nation.
Now would we be like him, who suffer and see,
If the Chooser should choose us!
For I tell you, brave brothers, whoever you be,
It is right, till all learn to look further, and see,
That our Master should use us!
It is right, till all learn to discover and class,
That our Master should task us:
For now we may judge of the Truth through a glass;
And the road over which they must evermore pass,
Who would think for the many, and fight for the mass,
Is the road to Damascus.
By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountain, where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;
Through brakes of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers.
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.
The silver-voiced bell-birds, the darlings of day-time,
They sing in September their songs of the May-time.
When shadows wax strong and the thunder-bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather,
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.
October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters knee-deep in the grasses to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten.
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the morning.
Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to thirsty far-comers.
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever.
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels whose torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and leaves in the currents.
Often I sit, looking back to a childhood
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of passion --
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys,
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.
A Death in the Bush
The hut was built of bark and shrunken slabs,
That wore the marks of many rains, and showed
Dry flaws wherein had crept and nestled rot.
Moreover, round the bases of the bark
Were left the tracks of flying forest fires,
As you may see them on the lower bole
Of every elder of the native woods.
For, ere the early settlers came and stocked
These wilds with sheep and kine, the grasses grew
So that they took the passing pilgrim in
And whelmed him, like a running sea, from sight.
And therefore, through the fiercer summer months,
While all the swamps were rotten; while the flats
Were baked and broken; when the clayey rifts
Yawned wide, half-choked with drifted herbage past,
Spontaneous flames would burst from thence and race
Across the prairies all day long.
The winds were up, and then, with four-fold speed
A harsh gigantic growth of smoke and fire
Would roar along the bottoms, in the wake
Of fainting flocks of parrots, wallaroos,
And 'wildered wild things, scattering right and left,
For safety vague, throughout the general gloom.
Anon the nearer hillside-growing trees
Would take the surges; thus from bough to bough
Was borne the flaming terror! Bole and spire,
Rank after rank, now pillared, ringed, and rolled
In blinding blaze, stood out against the dead,
Down-smothered dark, for fifty leagues away.
For fifty leagues; and when the winds were strong
For fifty more! But in the olden time
These fires were counted as the harbingers
Of life-essential storms, since out of smoke
And heat there came across the midnight ways
Abundant comfort, with upgathered clouds
And runnels babbling of a plenteous fall.
So comes the southern gale at evenfall
(The swift brick-fielder of the local folk),
About the streets of Sydney, when the dust
Lies burnt on glaring windows, and the men
Look forth from doors of drouth and drink the change
With thirsty haste, and that most thankful cry
Of "Here it is -- the cool, bright, blessed rain!"
The hut, I say, was built of bark and slabs,
And stood, the centre of a clearing, hemmed
By hurdle-yards, and ancients of the blacks;
These moped about their lazy fires, and sang
Wild ditties of the old days, with a sound
Of sorrow, like an everlasting wind
Which mingled with the echoes of the noon
And moaned amongst the noises of the night.
From thence a cattle track, with link to link,
Ran off against the fish-pools to the gap
Which sets you face to face with gleaming miles
Of broad Orara*, winding in amongst
Black, barren ridges, where the nether spurs
Are fenced about by cotton scrub, and grass
Blue-bitten with the salt of many droughts.
* A tributary of the river Clarence, N.S.W.
'Twas here the shepherd housed him every night,
And faced the prospect like a patient soul,
Borne up by some vague hope of better days,
And God's fine blessing in his faithful wife,
Until the humour of his malady
Took cunning changes from the good to bad,
And laid him lastly on a bed of death.
Two months thereafter, when the summer heat
Had roused the serpent from his rotten lair,
And made a noise of locusts in the boughs,
It came to this, that as the blood-red sun
Of one fierce day of many slanted down
Obliquely past the nether jags of peaks
And gulfs of mist, the tardy night came vexed
By belted clouds and scuds that wheeled and whirled
To left and right about the brazen clifts
Of ridges, rigid with a leaden gloom.
Then took the cattle to the forest camps
With vacant terror, and the hustled sheep
Stood dumb against the hurdles, even like
A fallen patch of shadowed mountain snow;
And ever through the curlew's call afar,
The storm grew on, while round the stinted slabs
Sharp snaps and hisses came, and went, and came,
The huddled tokens of a mighty blast
Which ran with an exceeding bitter cry
Across the tumbled fragments of the hills,
And through the sluices of the gorge and glen.
So, therefore, all about the shepherd's hut
That space was mute, save when the fastened dog,
Without a kennel, caught a passing glimpse
Of firelight moving through the lighted chinks,
For then he knew the hints of warmth within,
And stood and set his great pathetic eyes,
In wind and wet, imploring to be loosed.
Not often now the watcher left the couch
Of him she watched, since in his fitful sleep
His lips would stir to wayward themes, and close
With bodeful catches. Once she moved away,
Half-deafened by terrific claps, and stooped
And looked without -- to see a pillar dim
Of gathered gusts and fiery rain.
The sick man woke, and, startled by the noise,
Stared round the room with dull, delirious sight,
At this wild thing and that: for through his eyes
The place took fearful shapes, and fever showed
Strange crosswise lights about his pillow-head.
He, catching there at some phantasmic help,
Sat upright on the bolster with a cry
Of "Where is Jesus? It is bitter cold!"
And then, because the thunder-calls outside
Were mixed for him with slanders of the past,
He called his weeping wife by name, and said,
"Come closer, darling! We shall speed away
Across the seas, and seek some mountain home
Shut in from liars and the wicked words
That track us day and night and night and day."
So waned the sad refrain. And those poor lips,
Whose latest phrases were for peace, grew mute,
And into everlasting silence passed.
As fares a swimmer who hath lost his breath
In 'wildering seas afar from any help --
Who, fronting Death, can never realize
The dreadful Presence, but is prone to clutch
At every weed upon the weltering wave --
So fared the watcher, poring o'er the last
Of him she loved, with dazed and stupid stare;
Half conscious of the sudden loss and lack
Of all that bound her life, but yet without
The power to take her mighty sorrow in.
Then came a patch or two of starry sky,
And through a reef of cloven thunder-cloud
The soft moon looked: a patient face beyond
The fierce impatient shadows of the slopes
And the harsh voices of the broken hills!
A patient face, and one which came and wrought
A lovely silence, like a silver mist,
Across the rainy relics of the storm.
For in the breaks and pauses of her light
The gale died out in gusts: yet, evermore
About the roof-tree on the dripping eaves,
The damp wind loitered, and a fitful drift
Sloped through the silent curtains, and athwart
There, when the glare had dropped behind
A mighty ridge of gloom, the woman turned
And sat in darkness, face to face with God,
And said, "I know," she said, "that Thou art wise;
That when we build and hope, and hope and build,
And see our best things fall, it comes to pass
For evermore that we must turn to Thee!
And therefore, now, because I cannot find
The faintest token of Divinity
In this my latest sorrow, let Thy light
Inform mine eyes, so I may learn to look
On something past the sight which shuts and blinds
And seems to drive me wholly, Lord, from Thee."
Now waned the moon beyond complaining depths,
And as the dawn looked forth from showery woods
(Whereon had dropped a hint of red and gold)
There went about the crooked cavern-eaves
Low flute-like echoes, with a noise of wings,
And waters flying down far-hidden fells.
Then might be seen the solitary owl
Perched in the clefts, scared at the coming light,
And staring outward (like a sea-shelled thing
Chased to his cover by some bright, fierce foe),
As at a monster in the middle waste.
At last the great kingfisher came, and called
Across the hollows, loud with early whips,
And lighted, laughing, on the shepherd's hut,
And roused the widow from a swoon like death.
This day, and after it was noised abroad
By blacks, and straggling horsemen on the roads,
That he was dead "who had been sick so long",
There flocked a troop from far-surrounding runs,
To see their neighbour, and to bury him;
And men who had forgotten how to cry
(Rough, flinty fellows of the native bush)
Now learned the bitter way, beholding there
The wasted shadow of an iron frame,
Brought down so low by years of fearful pain,
And marking, too, the woman's gentle face,
And all the pathos in her moaned reply
Of "Masters, we have lived in better days."
One stooped -- a stockman from the nearer hills --
To loose his wallet-strings, from whence he took
A bag of tea, and laid it on her lap;
Then sobbing, "God will help you, missus, yet,"
He sought his horse, with most bewildered eyes,
And, spurring, swiftly galloped down the glen.
Where black Orara nightly chafes his brink,
Midway between lamenting lines of oak
And Warra's Gap, the shepherd's grave was built;
And there the wild dog pauses, in the midst
Of moonless watches, howling through the gloom
At hopeless shadows flitting to and fro,
What time the east wind hums his darkest hymn,
And rains beat heavy on the ruined leaf.
There, while the autumn in the cedar trees
Sat cooped about by cloudy evergreens
The widow sojourned on the silent road,
And mutely faced the barren mound, and plucked
A straggling shrub from thence, and passed away,
Heart-broken, on to Sydney, where she took
Her passage in an English vessel bound
To London, for her home of other years.
At rest! Not near, with Sorrow on his grave,
And roses quickened into beauty -- wrapt
In all the pathos of perennial bloom;
But far from these, beneath the fretful clay
Of lands within the lone perpetual cry
Of hermit plovers and the night-like oaks,
All moaning for the peace which never comes.
At rest! And she who sits and waits behind
Is in the shadows; but her faith is sure,
And ~one~ fine promise of the coming days
Is breaking, like a blessed morning, far
On hills that "slope through darkness up to God."
A Spanish Love Song
From Andalusian gardens
I bring the rose and rue,
And leaves of subtle odour,
To weave a gift for you.
You'll know the reason wherefore
The sad is with the sweet;
My flowers may lie, as I would,
A carpet for your feet!
The heart -- the heart is constant;
It holds its secret, Dear!
But often in the night time
I keep awake for fear.
I have no hope to whisper,
I have no prayer to send,
God save you from such passion!
God help you from such end!
You first, you last, you false love!
In dreams your lips I kiss,
And thus I greet your Shadow,
"Take this, and this, and this!"
When dews are on the casement,
And winds are in the pine,
I have you close beside me --
In sleep your mouth is mine.
I never see you elsewhere;
You never think of me;
But fired with fever for you
Content I am to be.
You will not turn, my Darling,
Nor answer when I call;
But yours are soul are body
And love of mine and all!
You splendid Spaniard! Listen --
My passion leaps to flame
For neck and cheek and dimple,
And cunning shades of shame!
I tell you, I would gladly
Give Hell myself to keep,
To cling to, half a moment,
The lips I taste in sleep.
The Last of His Tribe
He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,
Or think of the loneliness there --
Of the loss and the loneliness there.
The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
And turn to their coverts for fear;
But he sits in the ashes and lets them pass
Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear --
With the nullah, the sling and the spear.
Uloola, behold him! The thunder that breaks
On the tops of the rocks with the rain,
And the wind which drives up with the salt of the lakes,
Have made him a hunter again --
A hunter and fisher again.
For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought;
But he dreams of the hunts of yore,
And of foes that he sought, and of fights that he fought
With those who will battle no more --
Who will go to the battle no more.
It is well that the water which tumbles and fills,
Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an echo rolls out from the sides of the hills,
And he starts at a wonderful song --
At the sound of a wonderful song.
And he sees, through the rents of the scattering fogs,
The corroboree warlike and grim,
And the lubra who sat by the fire on the logs,
To watch, like a mourner, for him --
Like a mother and mourner for him.
Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face --
Like a marvellous dream in his face?
* A promontory on the coast of New South Wales.
Lo! in storms, the triple-headed
Hill, whose dreaded
Bases battle with the seas,
Looms across fierce widths of fleeting
Evermore on roaring leas!
Arakoon, the black, the lonely!
Housed with only
Cloud and rain-wind, mist and damp;
Round whose foam-drenched feet and nether
Sullen sprites of thunder tramp!
There the East hums loud and surly,
Late and early,
Through the chasms and the caves,
And across the naked verges
Leap the surges!
White and wailing waifs of waves.
Day by day the sea-fogs gathered --
Pitch their tents on yonder peak,
Yellow drifts and fragments lying
Where the flying
Torrents chafe the cloven creek!
And at nightfall, when the driven
Bolts of heaven
Smite the rock and break the bluff,
Thither troop the elves whose home is
Where the foam is,
And the echo and the clough.
Ever girt about with noises,
And the salt breath of the Strait,
Stands the steadfast Mountain Giant,
Dark as Death, and firm as Fate.
So when trouble treads, like thunder,
Weak men under --
Treads and breaks the thews of these --
Set thyself to bear it bravely,
Like the hill in yonder seas;
Since the wrestling and endurance
To the faint at bay with pain,
That no soul to strong endeavour
Yoked for ever,
Works against the tide in vain.
The Voyage of Telegonus
Ill fares it with the man whose lips are set
To bitter themes and words that spite the gods;
For, seeing how the son of Saturn sways
With eyes and ears for all, this one shall halt
As on hard, hurtful hills; his days shall know
The plaintive front of sorrow; level looks
With cries ill-favoured shall be dealt to him;
And ~this~ shall be that he may think of peace
As one might think of alienated lips
Of sweetness touched for once in kind, warm dreams.
Yea, fathers of the high and holy face,
This soul thus sinning shall have cause to sob
"Ah, ah," for sleep, and space enough to learn
The wan, wild Hyrie's aggregated song
That starts the dwellers in distorted heights,
With all the meaning of perpetual sighs
Heard in the mountain deserts of the world,
And where the green-haired waters glide between
The thin, lank weeds and mallows of the marsh.
But thou to whom these things are like to shapes
That come of darkness -- thou whose life slips past
Regarding rather these with mute fast mouth --
Hear none the less how fleet Telegonus,
The brass-clad hunter, first took oar and smote
Swift eastward-going seas, with face direct
For narrowing channels and the twofold coasts
Past Colchis and the fierce Symplegades,
And utmost islands, washed by streams unknown.
For in a time when Phasis whitened wide
And drove with violent waters blown of wind
Against the bare, salt limits of the land,
It came to pass that, joined with Cytheraea,
The black-browed Ares, chafing for the wrong
Ulysses did him on the plains of Troy,
Set heart against the king; and when the storms
Sang high in thunder and the Thracian rain,
The god bethought him of a pale-mouthed priest
Of Thebae, kin to ancient Chariclo,
And of an omen which the prophet gave
That touched on death and grief to Ithaca;
Then, knowing how a heavy-handed fate
Had laid itself on Circe's brass-clad son,
He pricked the hunter with a lust that turned
All thoughts to travel and the seas remote;
But chiefly now he stirred Telegonus
To longings for his father's exiled face,
And dreams of rest and honey-hearted love
And quiet death with much of funeral flame
Far in the mountains of a favoured land
Beyond the wars and wailings of the waves.
So, past the ridges where the coast abrupt
Dips greyly westward, Circe's strong-armed son
Swept down the foam of sharp-divided straits
And faced the stress of opening seas. Sheer out
The vessel drave; but three long moons the gale
Moaned round; and swift, strong streams of fire revealed
The labouring rowers and the lightening surf,
Pale watchers deafened of sonorous storm,
And dipping decks and rents of ruined sails.
Yea, when the hollow ocean-driven ship
Wheeled sideways, like a chariot cloven through
In hard hot battle, and the night came up
Against strange headlands lying east and north,
Behold a black, wild wind with death to all
Ran shoreward, charged with flame and thunder-smoke,
Which blew the waters into wastes of white,
And broke the bark, as lightning breaks the pine;
Whereat the sea in fearful circles showed
Unpitied faces turned from Zeus and light --
Wan swimmers wasted with their agony,
And hopeless eyes and moaning mouths of men.
But one held by the fragments of the wreck,
And Ares knew him for Telegonus,
Whom heavy-handed Fate had chained to deeds
Of dreadful note with sin beyond a name.
So, seeing this, the black-browed lord of war,
Arrayed about by Jove's authentic light,
Shot down amongst the shattered clouds and called
With mighty strain, betwixt the gaps of storm
"Oceanus! Oceanus!" Whereat
The surf sprang white, as when a keel divides
The gleaming centre of a gathered wave;
And, ringed with flakes of splendid fire of foam,
The son of Terra rose half-way and blew
The triple trumpet of the water-gods,
At which great winds fell back and all the sea
Grew dumb, as on the land a war-feast breaks
When deep sleep falls upon the souls of men.
Then Ares of the night-like brow made known
The brass-clad hunter of the facile feet,
Hard clinging to the slippery logs of pine,
And told the omen to the hoary god
That touched on death and grief to Ithaca;
Wherefore Oceanus, with help of hand,
Bore by the chin the warrior of the North,
A moaning mass, across the shallowing surge,
And cast him on the rocks of alien shores
Against a wintry morning shot with storm.
Hear also, thou, how mighty gods sustain
The men set out to work the ends of Fate
Which fill the world with tales of many tears
And vex the sad face of humanity:
Six days and nights the brass-clad chief abode
Pent up in caverns by the straitening seas
And fed on ferns and limpets; but the dawn,
Before the strong sun of the seventh, brought
A fume of fire and smells of savoury meat
And much rejoicing, as from neighbouring feasts;
At which the hunter, seized with sudden lust,
Sprang up the crags, and, like a dream of fear,
Leapt, shouting, at a huddled host of hinds
Amongst the fragments of their steaming food;
And as the hoarse wood-wind in autumn sweeps
To every zone the hissing latter leaves,
So fleet Telegonus, by dint of spear
And strain of thunderous voice, did scatter these
East, south, and north. 'Twas then the chief had rest,
Hard by the outer coast of Ithaca,
Unknown to him who ate the spoil and slept.
Nor stayed he hand thereafter; but when noon
Burned dead on misty hills of stunted fir,
This man shook slumber from his limbs and sped
Against hoar beaches and the kindled cliffs
Of falling waters. These he waded through,
Beholding, past the forests of the West,
A break of light and homes of many men,
And shining corn, and flowers, and fruits of flowers.
Yea, seeing these, the facile-footed chief
Grasped by the knot the huge Aeaean lance
And fell upon the farmers; wherefore they
Left hoe and plough, and crouched in heights remote,
Companioned with the grey-winged fogs; but he
Made waste their fields and throve upon their toil --
As throve the boar, the fierce four-footed curse
Which Artemis did raise in Calydon
To make stern mouths wax white with foreign fear,
All in the wild beginning of the world.
So one went down and told Laertes' son
Of what the brass-clad stranger from the straits
Had worked in Ithaca; whereat the King
Rose, like a god, and called his mighty heir,
Telemachus, the wisest of the wise;
And these two, having counsel, strode without,
And armed them with the arms of warlike days --
The helm, the javelin, and the sun-like shield,
And glancing greaves and quivering stars of steel.
Yea, stern Ulysses, rusted not with rest,
But dread as Ares, gleaming on his car
Gave out the reins; and straightway all the lands
Were struck by noise of steed and shouts of men,
And furious dust, and splendid wheels of flame.
Meanwhile the hunter (starting from a sleep
In which the pieces of a broken dream
Had shown him Circe with most tearful face),
Caught at his spear, and stood like one at bay
When Summer brings about Arcadian horns
And headlong horses mixt with maddened hounds;
Then huge Ulysses, like a fire of fight,
Sprang sideways on the flying car, and drave
Full at the brass-clad warrior of the North
His massive spear; but fleet Telegonus
Stooped from the death, but heard the speedy lance
Sing like a thin wind through the steaming air;
Yet he, dismayed not by the dreadful foe --
Unknown to him -- dealt out his strength, and aimed
A strenuous stroke at great Laertes' son,
Which missed the shield, but bit through flesh and bone,
And drank the blood, and dragged the soul from thence.
So fell the King! And one cried "Ithaca!
Ah, Ithaca!" and turned his face and wept.
Then came another -- wise Telemachus --
Who knelt beside the man of many days
And pored upon the face; but lo, the life
Was like bright water spilt in sands of thirst,
A wasted splendour swiftly drawn away.
Yet held he by the dead: he heeded not
The moaning warrior who had learnt his sin --
Who waited now, like one in lairs of pain,
Apart with darkness, hungry for his fate;
For had not wise Telemachus the lore
Which makes the pale-mouthed seer content to sleep
Amidst the desolations of the world?
So therefore he, who knew Telegonus,
The child of Circe by Laertes' son,
Was set to be a scourge of Zeus, smote not,
But rather sat with moody eyes, and mused,
And watched the dead. For who may brave the gods?
Yet, O my fathers, when the people came,
And brought the holy oils and perfect fire,
And built the pile, and sang the tales of Troy --
Of desperate travels in the olden time,
By shadowy mountains and the roaring sea,
Near windy sands and past the Thracian snows --
The man who crossed them all to see his sire,
And had a loyal heart to give the king,
Instead of blows -- this man did little more
Than moan outside the fume of funeral rites,
All in a rushing twilight full of rain,
And clap his palms for sharper pains than swords.
Yea, when the night broke out against the flame,
And lonely noises loitered in the fens,
This man nor stirred nor slept, but lay at wait,
With fastened mouth. For who may brave the gods?
Sitting by the Fire
Ah! the solace in the sitting,
Sitting by the fire,
When the wind without is calling
And the fourfold clouds are falling,
With the rain-racks intermitting,
Over slope and spire.
Ah! the solace in the sitting,
Sitting by the fire.
Then, and then, a man may ponder,
Sitting by the fire,
Over fair far days, and faces
Shining in sweet-coloured places
Ere the thunder broke asunder
Life and dear Desire.
Thus, and thus, a man may ponder,
Sitting by the fire.
Waifs of song pursue, perplex me,
Sitting by the fire:
Just a note, and lo, the change then!
Like a child, I turn and range then,
Till a shadow starts to vex me --
Passion's wasted pyre.
So do songs pursue, perplex me,
Sitting by the fire.
Night by night -- the old, old story --
Sitting by the fire,
Night by night, the dead leaves grieve me:
Ah! the touch when youth shall leave me,
Like my fathers, shrunken, hoary,
With the years that tire.
Night by night -- that old, old story,
Sitting by the fire.
Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
Sitting by the fire.
I could hide my head and sleep now,
Far from those who laugh and weep now,
Like a trammelled, faint wayfarer,
'Neath yon mountain-spire.
Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
Sitting by the fire.
Sing her a song of the sun:
Fill it with tones of the stream, --
Echoes of waters that run
Glad with the gladdening gleam.
Let it be sweeter than rain,
Lit by a tropical moon:
Light in the words of the strain,
Love in the ways of the tune.
Softer than seasons of sleep:
Dearer than life at its best!
Give her a ballad to keep,
Wove of the passionate West:
Give it and say of the hours --
"Haunted and hallowed of thee,
Flower-like woman of flowers,
What shall the end of them be?"
You that have loved her so much,
Loved her asleep and awake,
Trembled because of her touch,
What have you said for her sake?
Far in the falls of the day,
Down in the meadows of myrrh,
What has she left you to say
Filled with the beauty of her?
Take her the best of your thoughts,
Let them be gentle and grave,
Say, "I have come to thy courts,
Maiden, with all that I have."
So she may turn with her sweet
Face to your love and to you,
Learning the way to repeat
Words that are brighter than dew.
Where Harpur lies, the rainy streams,
And wet hill-heads, and hollows weeping,
Are swift with wind, and white with gleams,
And hoarse with sounds of storms unsleeping.
Fit grave it is for one whose song
Was tuned by tones he caught from torrents,
And filled with mountain breaths, and strong,
Wild notes of falling forest currents.
So let him sleep, the rugged hymns
And broken lights of woods above him!
And let me sing how sorrow dims
The eyes of those that used to love him.
As April in the wilted wold
Turns faded eyes on splendours waning,
What time the latter leaves are old,
And ruin strikes the strays remaining;
So we that knew this singer dead,
Whose hands attuned the harp Australian,
May set the face and bow the head,
And mourn his fate and fortunes alien.
The burden of a perished faith
Went sighing through his speech of sweetness,
With human hints of time and death,
And subtle notes of incompleteness.
But when the fiery power of youth
Had passed away and left him nameless,
Serene as light, and strong as truth,
He lived his life, untired and tameless.
And, far and free, this man of men,
With wintry hair and wasted feature,
Had fellowship with gorge and glen,
And learned the loves and runes of Nature.
Strange words of wind, and rhymes of rain,
And whispers from the inland fountains
Are mingled, in his various strain,
With leafy breaths of piny mountains.
But as the undercurrents sigh
Beneath the surface of a river,
The music of humanity
Dwells in his forest-psalms for ever.
No soul was he to sit on heights
And live with rocks apart and scornful:
Delights of men were his delights,
And common troubles made him mournful.
The flying forms of unknown powers
With lofty wonder caught and filled him;
But there were days of gracious hours
When sights and sounds familiar thrilled him.
The pathos worn by wayside things,
The passion found in simple faces,
Struck deeper than the life of springs
Or strength of storms and sea-swept places.
But now he sleeps, the tired bard,
The deepest sleep; and, lo! I proffer
These tender leaves of my regard,
With hands that falter as they offer.
Sing the song of wave-worn Coogee, Coogee in the distance white,
With its jags and points disrupted, gaps and fractures fringed with light;
Haunt of gledes, and restless plovers of the melancholy wail
Ever lending deeper pathos to the melancholy gale.
There, my brothers, down the fissures, chasms deep and wan and wild,
Grows the sea-bloom, one that blushes like a shrinking, fair, blind child;
And amongst the oozing forelands many a glad, green rock-vine runs,
Getting ease on earthy ledges, sheltered from December suns.
Often, when a gusty morning, rising cold and grey and strange,
Lifts its face from watery spaces, vistas full with cloudy change,
Bearing up a gloomy burden which anon begins to wane,
Fading in the sudden shadow of a dark, determined rain,
Do I seek an eastern window, so to watch the breakers beat
Round the steadfast crags of Coogee, dim with drifts of driving sleet:
Hearing hollow mournful noises sweeping down a solemn shore,
While the grim sea-caves are tideless, and the storm strives at their core.
Often when the floating vapours fill the silent autumn leas,
Dreaming mem'ries fall like moonlight over silver sleeping seas.
Youth and I and Love together! Other times and other themes
Come to me unsung, unwept for, through the faded evening gleams:
Come to me and touch me mutely -- I that looked and longed so well,
Shall I look and yet forget them? -- who may know or who foretell?
Though the southern wind roams, shadowed with its immemorial grief,
Where the frosty wings of Winter leave their whiteness on the leaf.
Friend of mine beyond the waters, here and here these perished days
Haunt me with their sweet dead faces and their old divided ways.
You that helped and you that loved me, take this song, and when you read,
Let the lost things come about you, set your thoughts and hear and heed.
Time has laid his burden on us -- we who wear our manhood now,
We would be the boys we have been, free of heart and bright of brow --
Be the boys for just an hour, with the splendour and the speech
Of thy lights and thunders, Coogee, flying up thy gleaming beach.
Heart's desire and heart's division! who would come and say to me,
With the eyes of far-off friendship, "You are as you used to be"?
Something glad and good has left me here with sickening discontent,
Tired of looking, neither knowing what it was or where it went.
So it is this sight of Coogee, shining in the morning dew,
Sets me stumbling through dim summers once on fire with youth and you --
Summers pale as southern evenings when the year has lost its power
And the wasted face of April weeps above the withered flower.
Not that seasons bring no solace, not that time lacks light and rest;
But the old things were the dearest and the old loves seem the best.
We that start at songs familiar, we that tremble at a tone
Floating down the ways of music, like a sigh of sweetness flown,
We can never feel the freshness, never find again the mood
Left among fair-featured places, brightened of our brotherhood.
This and this we have to think of when the night is over all,
And the woods begin to perish and the rains begin to fall.
Stand out, swift-footed leaders of the horns,
And draw strong breath, and fill the hollowy cliff
With shocks of clamour, -- let the chasm take
The noise of many trumpets, lest the hunt
Should die across the dim Aonian hills,
Nor break through thunder and the surf-white cave
That hems about the old-eyed Ogyges
And bars the sea-wind, rain-wind, and the sea!
Much fierce delight hath old-eyed Ogyges
(A hairless shadow in a lion's skin)
In tumult, and the gleam of flying spears,
And wild beasts vexed to death; "for," sayeth he,
"Here lying broken, do I count the days
For every trouble; being like the tree --
The many-wintered father of the trunks
On yonder ridges: wherefore it is well
To feel the dead blood kindling in my veins
At sound of boar or battle; yea to find
A sudden stir, like life, about my feet,
And tingling pulses through this frame of mine
What time the cold clear dayspring, like a bird
Afar off, settles on the frost-bound peaks,
And all the deep blue gorges, darkening down,
Are filled with men and dogs and furious dust!"
So in the time whereof thou weetest well --
The melancholy morning of the World --
He mopes or mumbles, sleeps or shouts for glee,
And shakes his sides -- a cavern-hutted King!
But when the ouzel in the gaps at eve
Doth pipe her dreary ditty to the surge
All tumbling in the soft green level light,
He sits as quiet as a thick-mossed rock,
And dreameth in his cold old savage way
Of gliding barges on the wine-dark waves,
And glowing shapes, and sweeter things than sleep,
But chiefly, while the restless twofold bat
Goes flapping round the rainy eaves above,
Where one broad opening letteth in the moon,
He starteth, thinking of that grey-haired man,
His sire: then oftentimes the white-armed child
Of thunder-bearing Jove, young Thebe, comes
And droops above him with her short sweet sighs
For Love distraught -- for dear Love's faded sake
That weeps and sings and weeps itself to death
Because of casual eyes, and lips of frost,
And careless mutterings, and most weary years.
Bethink you, doth the wan Egyptian count
This passion, wasting like an unfed flame,
Of any worth now; seeing that his thighs
Are shrunken to a span and that the blood,
Which used to spin tumultuous down his sides
Of life in leaping moments of desire,
Is drying like a thin and sluggish stream
In withered channels -- think you, doth he pause
For golden Thebe and her red young mouth?
Ah, golden Thebe -- Thebe, weeping there,
Like some sweet wood-nymph wailing for a rock,
If Octis with the Apollonian face --
That fair-haired prophet of the sun and stars --
Could take a mist and dip it in the West
To clothe thy limbs of shine about with shine
And all the wonder of the amethyst,
He'd do it -- kneeling like a slave for thee!
If he could find a dream to comfort thee,
He'd bring it: thinking little of his lore,
But marvelling greatly at those eyes of thine.
Yea, if the Shepherd waiting for thy steps,
Pent down amongst the dank black-weeded rims,
Could shed his life like rain about thy feet,
He'd count it sweetness past all sweets of love
To die by thee -- his life's end in thy sight.
Oh, but he loves the hunt, doth Ogyges!
And therefore should we blow the horn for him:
He, sitting mumbling in his surf-white cave
With helpless feet and alienated eyes,
Should hear the noises nathless dawn by dawn
Which send him wandering swiftly through the days
When like a springing cataract he leapt
From crag to crag, the strongest in the chase
To spear the lion, leopard, or the boar!
Oh, but he loves the hunt; and, while the shouts
Of mighty winds are in this mountained World,
Behold the white bleak woodman, Winter, halts
And bends to him across a beard of snow
For wonder; seeing Summer in his looks
Because of dogs and calls from throats of hair
All in the savage hills of Hyria!
And, through the yellow evenings of the year,
What time September shows her mooned front
And poppies burnt to blackness droop for drouth,
The dear Demeter, splashed from heel to thigh
With spinning vine-blood, often stoops to him
To crush the grape against his wrinkled lips
Which sets him dreaming of the thickening wolves
In darkness, and the sound of moaning seas.
So with the blustering tempest doth he find
A stormy fellowship: for when the North
Comes reeling downwards with a breath like spears,
Where Dryope the lonely sits all night
And holds her sorrow crushed betwixt her palms,
He thinketh mostly of that time of times
When Zeus the Thunderer -- broadly-blazing King --
Like some wild comet beautiful but fierce,
Leapt out of cloud and fire and smote the tops
Of black Ogygia with his red right hand,
At which great fragments tumbled to the Deeps --
The mighty fragments of a mountain-land --
And all the World became an awful Sea!
But, being tired, the hairless Ogyges
Best loveth night and dim forgetfulness!
"For," sayeth he, "to look for sleep is good
When every sleep is as a sleep of death
To men who live, yet know not why they live,
Nor how they live! I have no thought to tell
The people when this time of mine began;
But forest after forest grows and falls,
And rock by rock is wasted with the rime,
While I sit on and wait the end of all;
Here taking every footstep for a sign;
An ancient shadow whiter than the foam!"
By the Sea
The caves of the sea have been troubled to-day
With the water which whitens, and widens, and fills;
And a boat with our brother was driven away
By a wind that came down from the tops of the hills.
Behold I have seen on the threshold again
A face in a dazzle of hair!
Do you know that she watches the rain, and the main,
And the waves which are moaning there?
Ah, moaning and moaning there!
Now turn from your casements, and fasten your doors,
And cover your faces, and pray, if you can;
There are wails in the wind, there are sighs on the shores,
And alas, for the fate of a storm-beaten man!
Oh, dark falls the night on the rain-rutted verge,
So sad with the sound of the foam!
Oh, wild is the sweep and the swirl of the surge;
And his boat may never come home!
Ah, never and never come home!
King Saul at Gilboa
With noise of battle and the dust of fray,
Half hid in fog, the gloomy mountain lay;
But Succoth's watchers, from their outer fields,
Saw fits of flame and gleams of clashing shields;
For, where the yellow river draws its spring,
The hosts of Israel travelled, thundering!
There, beating like the storm that sweeps to sea
Across the reefs of chafing Galilee,
The car of Abner and the sword of Saul
Drave Gaza down Gilboa's southern wall;
But swift and sure the spears of Ekron flew,
Till peak and slope were drenched with bloody dew.
"Shout, Timnath, shout!" the blazing leaders cried,
And hurled the stone and dashed the stave aside.
"Shout, Timnath, shout! Let Hazor hold the height,
Bend the long bow and break the lords of fight!"
From every hand the swarthy strangers sprang,
Chief leaped on chief, with buckler buckler rang!
The flower of armies! Set in Syrian heat,
The ridges clamoured under labouring feet;
Nor stayed the warriors till, from Salem's road,
The crescent horns of Abner's squadrons glowed.
Then, like a shooting splendour on the wing,
The strong-armed son of Kish came thundering;
And as in Autumn's fall, when woods are bare,
Two adverse tempests meet in middle air,
So Saul and Achish, grim with heat and hate,
Met by the brook and shook the scales of Fate.
For now the struggle swayed, and, firm as rocks
Against the storm-wind of the equinox,
The rallied lords of Judah stood and bore,
All day, the fiery tides of fourfold war.
But he that fasted in the secret cave
And called up Samuel from the quiet grave,
And stood with darkness and the mantled ghosts
A bitter night on shrill Samarian coasts,
Knew well the end -- of how the futile sword
Of Israel would be broken by the Lord;
How Gath would triumph, with the tawny line
That bend the knee at Dagon's brittle shrine;
And how the race of Kish would fall to wreck,
Because of vengeance stayed at Amalek.
Yet strove the sun-like king, nor rested hand
Till yellow evening filled the level land.
Then Judah reeled before a biting hail
Of sudden arrows shot from Achor's vale,
Where Libnah, lapped in blood from thigh to heel,
Drew the tense string, and pierced the quivering steel.
There fell the sons of Saul, and, man by man,
The chiefs of Israel, up to Jonathan;
And while swift Achish stooped and caught the spoil,
Ten chosen archers, red with sanguine toil,
Sped after Saul, who, faint and sick, and sore
With many wounds, had left the thick of war.
He, like a baffled bull by hunters pressed,
Turned sharp about, and faced the flooded west,
And saw the star-like spears and moony spokes
Gleam from the rocks and lighten through the oaks --
A sea of splendour! How the chariots rolled
On wheels of blinding brightness manifold!
While stumbling over spike and spine and spur
Of sultry lands, escaped the son of Ner
With smitten men. At this the front of Saul
Grew darker than a blasted tower wall;
And seeing how there crouched upon his right,
Aghast with fear, a black Amalekite,
He called, and said: "I pray thee, man of pain,
Red from the scourge, and recent from the chain,
Set thou thy face to mine, and stoutly stand
With yonder bloody sword-hilt in thy hand,
And fall upon me." But the faltering hind
Stood trembling, like a willow in the wind.
Then further Saul: "Lest Ashdod's vaunting hosts
Should bear me captive to their bleak-blown coasts,
I pray thee, smite me! seeing peace has fled,
And rest lies wholly with the quiet dead."
At this a flood of sunset broke, and smote
Keen, blazing sapphires round a kingly throat,
Touched arm and shoulder, glittered in the crest,
And made swift starlights on a jewelled breast.
So, starting forward, like a loosened hound,
The stranger clutched the sword and wheeled it round,
And struck the Lord's Anointed. Fierce and fleet
Philistia came, with shouts and clattering feet;
By gaping gorges and by rough defile
Dark Ashdod beat across a dusty mile;
Hot Hazor's bowmen toiled from spire to spire,
And Gath sprang upwards, like a gust of fire;
On either side did Libnah's lords appear,
And brass-clad Timnath thundered in the rear.
"Mark, Achish, mark!" -- South-west and south there sped
A dabbled hireling from the dreadful dead.
"Mark, Achish, mark!" -- The mighty front of Saul,
Great in his life and god-like in his fall!
This was the arm that broke Philistia's pride,
Where Kishon chafes his seaward-going tide;
This was the sword that smote till set of sun
Red Gath, from Michmash unto Ajalon,
Low in the dust. And Israel scattered far!
And dead the trumps and crushed the hoofs of war!
So fell the king, as it was said by him
Who hid his forehead in a mantle dim
At bleak Endor, what time unholy rites
Vexed the long sleep of still Samarian heights;
For, bowed to earth before the hoary priest,
Did he of Kish withstand the smoking feast,
To fast, in darkness and in sackcloth rolled,
And house with wild things in the biting cold,
Because of sharpness lent to Gaza's sword,
And Judah widowed by the angry Lord.
So silence came. As when the outer verge
Of Carmel takes the white and whistling surge,
Hoarse, hollow noises fill the caves, and roar
Along the margin of the echoing shore,
Thus war had thundered; but as evening breaks
Across the silver of Assyrian lakes,
When reapers rest, and through the level red
Of sunset, peace, like holy oil, is shed,
Thus silence fell. But Israel's daughters crept
Outside their thresholds, waited, watched, and wept.
Then they that dwell beyond the flats and fens
Of sullen Jordan, and in gelid glens
Of Jabesh-Gilead -- chosen chiefs and few --
Around their loins the hasty girdle drew,
And faced the forests, huddled fold on fold,
And dells of glimmering greenness manifold.
What time Orion in the west did set
A shining foot on hills of wind and wet;
These journeyed nightly till they reached the capes
Where Ashdod revelled over heated grapes;
And while the feast was loud and scouts were turned,
From Saul's bound body cord by cord they burned,
And bore the king athwart the place of tombs,
And hasted eastward through the tufted glooms;
Nor broke the cake nor stayed the step till morn
Shot over Debir's cones and crags forlorn.
From Jabesh then the weeping virgins came;
In Jabesh then they built the funeral flame;
With costly woods they piled the lordly pyre,
Brought yellow oils and fed the perfect fire;
While round the crescent stately elders spread
The flashing armour of the mighty dead,
With crown and spear, and all the trophies won
From many wars by Israel's dreadful son.
Thence, when the feet of evening paused and stood
On shadowy mountains and the roaring flood,
(As through a rushing twilight, full of rain,
The weak moon looked athwart Gadara's plain),
The younger warriors bore the urn, and broke
The humid turf about a wintering oak,
And buried Saul; and, fasting, went their ways,
And hid their faces seven nights and days.
In the Valley
Said the yellow-haired Spirit of Spring
To the white-footed Spirit of Snow,
"On the wings of the tempest take wing,
And leave me the valleys, and go."
And, straightway, the streams were unchained,
And the frost-fettered torrents broke free,
And the strength of the winter-wind waned
In the dawn of a light on the sea.
Then a morning-breeze followed and fell,
And the woods were alive and astir
With the pulse of a song in the dell,
And a whisper of day in the fir.
Swift rings of sweet water were rolled
Down the ways where the lily-leaves grew,
And the green, and the white, and the gold,
Were wedded with purple and blue.
But the lips of the flower of the rose
Said, "where is the ending hereof?
Is it sweet with you, life, at the close?
Is it sad to be emptied of love?"
And the voice of the flower of the peach
Was tender and touching in tone,
"When each has been grafted on each,
It is sorrow to live on alone."
Then the leaves of the flower of the vine
Said, "what will there be in the day
When the reapers are red with my wine,
And the forests are yellow and grey?"
And the tremulous flower of the quince
Made answer, "three seasons ago
My sisters were star-like, but since,
Their graves have been made in the snow."
Then the whispering flower of the fern
Said, "who will be sad at the death,
When Summer blows over the burn,
With the fierceness of fire in her breath?"
And the mouth of the flower of the sedge
Was opened to murmur and sigh,
"Sweet wind-breaths that pause at the edge
Of the nightfall, and falter, and die."
Twelve Sonnets --
A Mountain Spring
Peace hath an altar there. The sounding feet
Of thunder and the 'wildering wings of rain
Against fire-rifted summits flash and beat,
And through grey upper gorges swoop and strain;
But round that hallowed mountain-spring remain,
Year after year, the days of tender heat,
And gracious nights, whose lips with flowers are sweet,
And filtered lights, and lutes of soft refrain.
A still, bright pool. To men I may not tell
The secret that its heart of water knows,
The story of a loved and lost repose;
Yet this I say to cliff and close-leaved dell:
A fitful spirit haunts yon limpid well,
Whose likeness is the faithless face of Rose.
If Laura -- lady of the flower-soft face --
Should light upon these verses, she may take
The tenderest line, and through its pulses trace
What man can suffer for a woman's sake.
For in the nights that burn, the days that break,
A thin pale figure stands in Passion's place,
And peace comes not, nor yet the perished grace
Of youth, to keep old faiths and fires awake.
Ah! marvellous maid. Life sobs, and sighing saith,
"She left me, fleeting like a fluttered dove;
But I would have a moment of her breath,
So I might taste the sweetest sense thereof,
And catch from blossoming, honeyed lips of love
Some faint, some fair, some dim, delicious death."
By a River
By red-ripe mouth and brown, luxurious eyes
Of her I love, by all your sweetness shed
In far, fair days, on one whose memory flies
To faithless lights, and gracious speech gainsaid,
I pray you, when yon river-path I tread,
Make with the woodlands some soft compromise,
Lest they should vex me into fruitless sighs
With visions of a woman's gleaming head!
For every green and golden-hearted thing
That gathers beauty in that shining place,
Beloved of beams and wooed by wind and wing,
Is rife with glimpses of her marvellous face;
And in the whispers of the lips of Spring
The music of her lute-like voice I trace.
What though his feet were shod with sharp, fierce flame,
And death and ruin were his daily squires,
The Scythian, helped by Heaven's thunders, came:
The time was ripe for God's avenging fires.
Lo! loose, lewd trulls, and lean, luxurious liars
Had brought the fair, fine face of Rome to shame,
And made her one with sins beyond a name --
That queenly daughter of imperial sires!
The blood of elders like the blood of sheep,
Was dashed across the circus. Once while din
And dust and lightnings, and a draggled heap
Of beast-slain men made lords with laughter leap,
Night fell, with rain. The earth, so sick of sin,
Had turned her face into the dark to weep.
Because a steadfast flame of clear intent
Gave force and beauty to full-actioned life;
Because his way was one of firm ascent,
Whose stepping-stones were hewn of change and strife;
Because as husband loveth noble wife
He loved fair Truth; because the thing he meant
To do, that thing he did, nor paused, nor bent
In face of poor and pale conclusions; yea!
Because of this, how fares the Leader dead?
What kind of mourners weep for him to-day?
What golden shroud is at his funeral spread?
Upon his brow what leaves of laurel, say?
~About his breast is tied a sackcloth grey,
And knots of thorns deface his lordly head.~
A handmaid to the genius of thy song
Is sweet, fair Scholarship. 'Tis she supplies
The fiery spirit of the passioned eyes
With subtle syllables, whose notes belong
To some chief source of perfect melodies;
And glancing through a laurelled, lordly throng
Of shining singers, lo! my vision flies
To William Shakespeare! He it is whose strong,
Full, flute-like music haunts thy stately verse.
A worthy Levite of his court thou art!
One sent among us to defeat the curse
That binds us to the Actual. Yea, thy part,
Oh, lute-voiced lover! is to lull the heart
Of love repelled, its darkness to disperse.
The Stanza of Childe Harold
Who framed the stanza of Childe Harold? He
It was who, halting on a stormy shore,
Knew well the lofty voice which evermore,
In grand distress, doth haunt the sleepless sea
With solemn sounds. And as each wave did roll
Till one came up, the mightiest of the whole,
To sweep and surge across the vacant lea,
Wild words were wedded to wild melody.
This poet must have had a speechless sense
Of some dead summer's boundless affluence;
Else, whither can we trace the passioned lore
Of Beauty, steeping to the very core
His royal verse, and that rare light which lies
About it, like a sunset in the skies?
A Living Poet
He knows the sweet vexation in the strife
Of Love with Time, this bard who fain would stray
To fairer place beyond the storms of life,
With astral faces near him day by day.
In deep-mossed dells the mellow waters flow
Which best he loves; for there the echoes, rife
With rich suggestions of his long ago,
Astarte, pass with thee! And, far away,
Dear southern seasons haunt the dreamy eye:
Spring, flower-zoned, and Summer, warbling low
In tasselled corn, alternate come and go,
While gypsy Autumn, splashed from heel to thigh
With vine-blood, treads the leaves; and, halting nigh,
Wild Winter bends across a beard of snow.
Dante and Virgil
When lost Francesca sobbed her broken tale
Of love and sin and boundless agony,
While that wan spirit by her side did wail
And bite his lips for utter misery --
The grief which could not speak, nor hear, nor see --
So tender grew the superhuman face
Of one who listened, that a mighty trace
Of superhuman woe gave way, and pale
The sudden light up-struggled to its place;
While all his limbs began to faint and fail
With such excess of pity. But, behind,
The Roman Virgil stood -- the calm, the wise --
With not a shadow in his regal eyes,
A stately type of all his stately kind.
Sometimes we feel so spent for want of rest,
We have no thought beyond. I know to-day,
When tired of bitter lips and dull delay
With faithless words, I cast mine eyes upon
The shadows of a distant mountain-crest,
And said "That hill must hide within its breast
Some secret glen secluded from the sun.
Oh, mother Nature! would that I could run
Outside to thee; and, like a wearied guest,
Half blind with lamps, and sick of feasting, lay
An aching head on thee. Then down the streams
The moon might swim, and I should feel her grace,
While soft winds blew the sorrows from my face,
So quiet in the fellowship of dreams."
I cannot tell what change hath come to you
To vex your splendid hair. I only know
~One~ grief. The passion left betwixt us two,
Like some forsaken watchfire, burneth low.
'Tis sad to turn and find it dying so,
Without a hope of resurrection! Yet,
O radiant face that found me tired and lone!
I shall not for the dear, dead past forget
The sweetest looks of all the summers gone.
Ah! time hath made familiar wild regret;
For now the leaves are white in last year's bowers,
And now doth sob along the ruined leas
The homeless storm from saddened southern seas,
While March sits weeping over withered flowers.
The silvery dimness of a happy dream
I've known of late. Methought where Byron moans,
Like some wild gulf in melancholy zones,
I passed tear-blinded. Once a lurid gleam
Of stormy sunset loitered on the sea,
While, travelling troubled like a straitened stream,
The voice of Shelley died away from me.
Still sore at heart, I reached a lake-lit lea.
And then the green-mossed glades with many a grove,
Where lies the calm which Wordsworth used to love,
And, lastly, Locksley Hall, from whence did rise
A haunting song that blew and breathed and blew
With rare delights. 'Twas ~there~ I woke and knew
The sumptuous comfort left in drowsy eyes.
* Sutherland: Forby Sutherland, one of Captain Cook's seamen,
who died shortly after the ~Endeavour~ anchored in Botany Bay, 1770.
He was the first Englishman buried in Australia.
All night long the sea out yonder -- all night long the wailful sea,
Vext of winds and many thunders, seeketh rest unceasingly!
Seeketh rest in dens of tempest, where, like one distraught with pain,
Shouts the wild-eyed sprite, Confusion -- seeketh rest, and moans in vain:
Ah! but you should hear it calling, calling when the haggard sky
Takes the darks and damps of Winter with the mournful marsh-fowl's cry;
Even while the strong, swift torrents from the rainy ridges come
Leaping down and breaking backwards -- million-coloured shapes of foam!
Then, and then, the sea out yonder chiefly looketh for the boon
Portioned to the pleasant valleys and the grave sweet summer moon:
Boon of Peace, the still, the saintly spirit of the dew-dells deep --
Yellow dells and hollows haunted by the soft, dim dreams of sleep.
All night long the flying water breaks upon the stubborn rocks --
Ooze-filled forelands burnt and blackened,
smit and scarred with lightning shocks;
But above the tender sea-thrift, but beyond the flowering fern,
Runs a little pathway westward -- pathway quaint with turn on turn --
Westward trending, thus it leads to shelving shores and slopes of mist:
Sleeping shores, and glassy bays of green and gold and amethyst!
~There~ tread gently -- ~gently~, pilgrim;
~there~ with thoughtful eyes look round;
Cross thy breast and bless the silence: lo, the place is holy ground!
Holy ground for ever, stranger! All the quiet silver lights
Dropping from the starry heavens through the soft Australian nights --
Dropping on those lone grave-grasses -- come serene, unbroken, clear,
Like the love of God the Father, falling, falling, year by year!
Yea, and like a Voice supernal, ~there~ the daily wind doth blow
In the leaves above the sailor buried ninety years ago.
A heap of low, dark, rocky coast,
Unknown to foot or feather!
A sea-voice moaning like a ghost;
And fits of fiery weather!
The flying Syrinx turned and sped
By dim, mysterious hollows,
Where night is black, and day is red,
And frost the fire-wind follows.
Strong, heavy footfalls in the wake
Came up with flights of water:
The gods were mournful for the sake
Of Ladon's lovely daughter.
For when she came to spike and spine,
Where reef and river gather,
Her feet were sore with shell and chine;
She could not travel farther.
Across a naked strait of land
Blown sleet and surge were humming;
But trammelled with the shifting sand,
She heard the monster coming!
A thing of hoofs and horns and lust:
A gaunt, goat-footed stranger!
She bowed her body in the dust
And called on Zeus to change her;
And called on Hermes, fair and fleet,
And her of hounds and quiver,
To hide her in the thickets sweet
That sighed above the river.
So he that sits on flaming wheels,
And rules the sea and thunder,
Caught up the satyr by the heels
And tore his skirts asunder.
While Arcas, of the glittering plumes,
Took Ladon's daughter lightly,
And set her in the gracious glooms
That mix with moon-mist nightly;
And touched her lips with wild-flower wine,
And changed her body slowly,
Till, in soft reeds of song and shine,
Her life was hidden wholly.
On the Paroo
* The name of a watercourse, often dry, which in flood-time
reaches the river Darling.
As when the strong stream of a wintering sea
Rolls round our coast, with bodeful breaks of storm,
And swift salt rain, and bitter wind that saith
Wild things and woeful of the White South Land
Alone with God and silence in the cold --
As when this cometh, men from dripping doors
Look forth, and shudder for the mariners
Abroad, so we for absent brothers looked
In days of drought, and when the flying floods
Swept boundless; roaring down the bald, black plains
Beyond the farthest spur of western hills.
For where the Barwon cuts a rotten land,
Or lies unshaken, like a great blind creek,
Between hot mouldering banks, it came to this,
All in a time of short and thirsty sighs,
That thirty rainless months had left the pools
And grass as dry as ashes: then it was
Our kinsmen started for the lone Paroo,
From point to point, with patient strivings, sheer
Across the horrors of the windless downs,
Blue gleaming like a sea of molten steel.
But never drought had broke them: never flood
Had quenched them: they with mighty youth and health,
And thews and sinews knotted like the trees --
~They~, like the children of the native woods,
Could stem the strenuous waters, or outlive
The crimson days and dull, dead nights of thirst
Like camels: yet of what avail was strength
Alone to them -- though it was like the rocks
On stormy mountains -- in the bloody time
When fierce sleep caught them in the camps at rest,
And violent darkness gripped the life in them
And whelmed them, as an eagle unawares
Is whelmed and slaughtered in a sudden snare.
All murdered by the blacks; smit while they lay
In silver dreams, and with the far, faint fall
Of many waters breaking on their sleep!
Yea, in the tracts unknown of any man
Save savages -- the dim-discovered ways
Of footless silence or unhappy winds --
The wild men came upon them, like a fire
Of desert thunder; and the fine, firm lips
That touched a mother's lips a year before,
And hands that knew a dearer hand than life,
Were hewn -- a sacrifice before the stars,
And left with hooting owls and blowing clouds,
And falling leaves and solitary wings!
Aye, you may see their graves -- you who have toiled
And tripped and thirsted, like these men of ours;
For, verily, I say that ~not~ so deep
Their bones are that the scattered drift and dust
Of gusty days will never leave them bare.
O dear, dead, bleaching bones! I know of those
Who have the wild, strong will to go and sit
Outside all things with you, and keep the ways
Aloof from bats, and snakes, and trampling feet
That smite your peace and theirs -- who have the heart,
Without the lusty limbs, to face the fire
And moonless midnights, and to be, indeed,
For very sorrow, like a moaning wind
In wintry forests with perpetual rain.
Because of this -- because of sisters left
With desperate purpose and dishevelled hair,
And broken breath, and sweetness quenched in tears --
Because of swifter silver for the head,
And furrows for the face -- because of these
That should have come with age, that come with pain --
O Master! Father! sitting where our eyes
Are tired of looking, say for once are we --
Are ~we~ to set our lips with weary smiles
Before the bitterness of Life and Death,
And call it honey, while we bear away
A taste like wormwood?
Turn thyself, and sing --
Sing, Son of Sorrow! Is there any gain
For breaking of the loins, for melting eyes,
And knees as weak as water? -- any peace,
Or hope for casual breath and labouring lips,
For clapping of the palms, and sharper sighs
Than frost; or any light to come for those
Who stand and mumble in the alien streets
With heads as grey as Winter? -- any balm
For pleading women, and the love that knows
Of nothing left to love?
They sleep a sleep
Unknown of dreams, these darling friends of ours.
And we who taste the core of many tales
Of tribulation -- we whose lives are salt
With tears indeed -- we therefore hide our eyes
And weep in secret, lest our grief should risk
The rest that hath no hurt from daily racks
Of fiery clouds and immemorial rains.
Faith in God
Have faith in God. For whosoever lists
To calm conviction in these days of strife,
Will learn that in this steadfast stand exists
The scholarship severe of human life.
This face to face with doubt! I know how strong
His thews must be who fights and falls and bears,
By sleepless nights and vigils lone and long,
And many a woeful wraith of wrestling prayers.
Yet trust in Him! Not in an old man throned
With thunders on an everlasting cloud,
But in that awful Entity enzoned
By no wild wraths nor bitter homage loud.
When from the summit of some sudden steep
Of speculation you have strength to turn
To things too boundless for the broken sweep
Of finer comprehension, wait and learn
That God hath been "His own interpreter"
From first to last. So you will understand
The tribe who best succeed, when men most err,
To suck through fogs the fatness of the land.
One thing is surer than the autumn tints
We saw last week in yonder river bend --
That all our poor expression helps and hints,
However vaguely, to the solemn end
That God is truth; and if our dim ideal
Fall short of fact -- so short that we must weep --
Why shape specific sorrows, though the real
Be not the song which erewhile made us sleep?
Remember, truth draws upward. This to us
Of steady happiness should be a cause
Beyond the differential calculus
Or Kant's dull dogmas and mechanic laws.
A man is manliest when he wisely knows
How vain it is to halt and pule and pine;
Whilst under every mystery haply flows
The finest issue of a love divine.
It lies amongst the sleeping stones,
Far down the hidden mountain glade;
And past its brink the torrent moans
For ever in a dreamy shade.
A little patch of dark-green moss,
Whose softness grew of quiet ways
(With all its deep, delicious floss)
In slumb'rous suns of summer days.
You know the place? With pleasant tints
The broken sunset lights the bowers;
And then the woods are full with hints
Of distant, dear, voluptuous flowers!
'Tis often now the pilgrim turns
A faded face towards that seat,
And cools his brow amongst the ferns;
The runnel dabbling at his feet.
There fierce December seldom goes,
With scorching step and dust and drouth;
But, soft and low, October blows
Sweet odours from her dewy mouth.
And Autumn, like a gipsy bold,
Doth gather near it grapes and grain,
Ere Winter comes, the woodman old,
To lop the leaves in wind and rain.
O, greenest moss of mountain glen,
The face of Rose is known to thee;
But we shall never share with men
A knowledge dear to love and me!
For are they not between us saved,
The words my darling used to say,
What time the western waters laved
The forehead of the fainting day?
Cool comfort had we on your breast
While yet the fervid noon burned mute
O'er barley field and barren crest,
And leagues of gardens flushed with fruit.
Oh, sweet and low, we whispered so,
And sucked the pulp of plum and peach;
But it was many years ago,
When each, you know, was loved of each.
The Glen of Arrawatta
A sky of wind! And while these fitful gusts
Are beating round the windows in the cold,
With sullen sobs of rain, behold I shape
A settler's story of the wild old times:
One told by camp-fires when the station drays
Were housed and hidden, forty years ago;
While swarthy drivers smoked their pipes, and drew,
And crowded round the friendly gleaming flame
That lured the dingo, howling, from his caves,
And brought sharp sudden feet about the brakes.
A tale of Love and Death. And shall I say
A tale of love ~in~ death -- for all the patient eyes
That gathered darkness, watching for a son
And brother, never dreaming of the fate --
The fearful fate he met alone, unknown,
Within the ruthless Australasian wastes?
For in a far-off, sultry summer, rimmed
With thundercloud and red with forest fires,
All day, by ways uncouth and ledges rude,
The wild men held upon a stranger's trail,
Which ran against the rivers and athwart
The gorges of the deep blue western hills.
And when a cloudy sunset, like the flame
In windy evenings on the Plains of Thirst
Beyond the dead banks of the far Barcoo,
Lay heavy down the topmost peaks, they came,
With pent-in breath and stealthy steps, and crouched,
Like snakes, amongst the grasses, till the night
Had covered face from face, and thrown the gloom
Of many shadows on the front of things.
There, in the shelter of a nameless glen,
Fenced round by cedars and the tangled growths
Of blackwood, stained with brown and shot with grey,
The jaded white man built his fire, and turned
His horse adrift amongst the water-pools
That trickled underneath the yellow leaves
And made a pleasant murmur, like the brooks
Of England through the sweet autumnal noons.
Then, after he had slaked his thirst and used
The forest fare, for which a healthful day
Of mountain life had brought a zest, he took
His axe, and shaped with boughs and wattle-forks
A wurley, fashioned like a bushman's roof:
The door brought out athwart the strenuous flame
The back thatched in against a rising wind.
And while the sturdy hatchet filled the clifts
With sounds unknown, the immemorial haunts
Of echoes sent their lonely dwellers forth,
Who lived a life of wonder: flying round
And round the glen -- what time the kangaroo
Leapt from his lair and huddled with the bats --
Far scattering down the wildly startled fells.