Part 4 out of 9
Then came the doleful owl; and evermore
The bleak morass gave out the bittern's call,
The plover's cry, and many a fitful wail
Of chilly omen, falling on the ear
Like those cold flaws of wind that come and go
An hour before the break of day.
The stranger held from toil, and, settling down,
He drew rough solace from his well-filled pipe,
And smoked into the night, revolving there
The primal questions of a squatter's life;
For in the flats, a short day's journey past
His present camp, his station yards were kept,
With many a lodge and paddock jutting forth
Across the heart of unnamed prairie-lands,
Now loud with bleating and the cattle bells,
And misty with the hut-fire's daily smoke.
Wide spreading flats, and western spurs of hills
That dipped to plains of dim perpetual blue;
Bold summits set against the thunder heaps;
And slopes behacked and crushed by battling kine,
Where now the furious tumult of their feet
Gives back the dust, and up from glen and brake
Evokes fierce clamour, and becomes indeed
A token of the squatter's daring life,
Which, growing inland -- growing year by year --
Doth set us thinking in these latter days,
And makes one ponder of the lonely lands
Beyond the lonely tracks of Burke and Wills,
Where, when the wandering Stuart fixed his camps
In central wastes, afar from any home
Or haunt of man, and in the changeless midst
Of sullen deserts and the footless miles
Of sultry silence, all the ways about
Grew strangely vocal, and a marvellous noise
Became the wonder of the waxing glooms.
Now, after darkness, like a mighty spell
Amongst the hills and dim, dispeopled dells,
Had brought a stillness to the soul of things,
It came to pass that, from the secret depths
Of dripping gorges, many a runnel-voice
Came, mellowed with the silence, and remained
About the caves, a sweet though alien sound;
Now rising ever, like a fervent flute
In moony evenings, when the theme is love;
Now falling, as ye hear the Sunday bells
While hastening fieldward from the gleaming town.
Then fell a softer mood, and memory paused
With faithful love, amidst the sainted shrines
Of youth and passion in the valleys past
Of dear delights which never grow again.
And if the stranger (who had left behind
Far anxious homesteads in a wave-swept isle,
To face a fierce sea-circle day by day,
And hear at night the dark Atlantic's moan)
~Now~ took a hope and planned a swift return,
With wealth and health and with a youth unspent,
To those sweet ones that stayed with want at home,
Say ~who~ shall blame him -- though the years are long,
And life is hard, and waiting makes the heart grow old?
Thus passed the time, until the moon serene
Stood over high dominion like a dream
Of peace: within the white, transfigured woods;
And o'er the vast dew-dripping wilderness
Of slopes illumined with her silent fires.
Then, far beyond the home of pale red leaves
And silver sluices, and the shining stems
Of runnel blooms, the dreamy wanderer saw,
The wilder for the vision of the moon,
Stark desolations and a waste of plain,
All smit by flame and broken with the storms;
Black ghosts of trees, and sapless trunks that stood
Harsh hollow channels of the fiery noise,
Which ran from bole to bole a year before,
And grew with ruin, and was like, indeed,
The roar of mighty winds with wintering streams
That foam about the limits of the land
And mix their swiftness with the flying seas.
Now, when the man had turned his face about
To take his rest, behold the gem-like eyes
Of ambushed wild things stared from bole and brake
With dumb amaze and faint-recurring glance,
And fear anon that drove them down the brush;
While from his den the dingo, like a scout
In sheltered ways, crept out and cowered near
To sniff the tokens of the stranger's feast
And marvel at the shadows of the flame.
Thereafter grew the wind; and chafing depths
In distant waters sent a troubled cry
Across the slumb'rous forest; and the chill
Of coming rain was on the sleeper's brow,
When, flat as reptiles hutted in the scrub,
A deadly crescent crawled to where he lay --
A band of fierce, fantastic savages
That, starting naked round the faded fire,
With sudden spears and swift terrific yells,
Came bounding wildly at the white man's head,
And faced him, staring like a dream of Hell!
Here let me pass! I would not stay to tell
Of hopeless struggles under crushing blows;
Of how the surging fiends, with thickening strokes,
Howled round the stranger till they drained his strength;
How Love and Life stood face to face with Hate
And Death; and then how Death was left alone
With Night and Silence in the sobbing rains.
So, after many moons, the searchers found
The body mouldering in the mouldering dell
Amidst the fungi and the bleaching leaves,
And buried it, and raised a stony mound
Which took the mosses. Then the place became
The haunt of fearful legends and the lair
Of bats and adders.
There he lies and sleeps
From year to year -- in soft Australian nights,
And through the furnaced noons, and in the times
Of wind and wet! Yet never mourner comes
To drop upon that grave the Christian's tear
Or pluck the foul, dank weeds of death away.
But while the English autumn filled her lap
With faded gold, and while the reapers cooled
Their flame-red faces in the clover grass,
They looked for him at home: and when the frost
Had made a silence in the mourning lanes
And cooped the farmers by December fires,
They looked for him at home: and through the days
Which brought about the million-coloured Spring,
With moon-like splendours, in the garden plots,
They looked for him at home: while Summer danced,
A shining singer, through the tasselled corn,
They looked for him at home. From sun to sun
They waited. Season after season went,
And Memory wept upon the lonely moors,
And hope grew voiceless, and the watchers passed,
Like shadows, one by one away.
Whose fate was hidden under forest leaves
And in the darkness of untrodden dells
Became a marvel. Often by the hearths
In winter nights, and when the wind was wild
Outside the casements, children heard the tale
Of how he left their native vales behind
(Where he had been a child himself) to shape
New fortunes for his father's fallen house;
Of how he struggled -- how his name became,
By fine devotion and unselfish zeal,
A name of beauty in a selfish land;
And then of how the aching hours went by,
With patient listeners praying for the step
Which never crossed the floor again. So passed
The tale to children; but the bitter end
Remained a wonder, like the unknown grave,
Alone with God and Silence in the hills.
Child of Light, the bright, the bird-like! wilt thou float and float to me,
Facing winds and sleets and waters, flying glimpses of the sea?
Down amongst the hills of tempest, where the elves of tumult roam --
Blown wet shadows of the summits, dim sonorous sprites of foam?
Here and here my days are wasted, shorn of leaf and stript of fruit:
Vexed because of speech half spoken, maiden with the marvellous lute!
Vexed because of songs half-shapen, smit with fire and mixed with pain:
Part of thee, and part of Sorrow, like a sunset pale with rain.
Child of Light, the bright, the bird-like! wilt thou float and float to me
Facing winds and sleets and waters, flying glimpses of the sea?
All night long, in fluent pauses, falling far, but full, but fine,
Faultless friend of flowers and fountains, do I hear that voice of thine --
All night long, amidst the burden of the lordly storm, that sings
High above the tumbled forelands, fleet and fierce with thunderings!
Then and then, my love, Euterpe, lips of life replete with dreams
Murmur for thy sweet, sharp fragments dying down Lethean streams:
Murmur for thy mouth's marred music, splendid hints that burn and break,
Heavy with excess of beauty: murmur for thy music's sake.
All night long, in fluent pauses, falling far, but full, but fine,
Faultless friend of flowers and fountains, do I hear that voice of thine.
In the yellow flame of evening sound of thee doth come and go
Through the noises of the river, and the drifting of the snow:
In the yellow flame of evening -- at the setting of the day --
Sound that lightens, falls and lightens, flickers, faints and fades away.
I am famished of thy silence -- broken for the tender note
Caught with its surpassing passion -- caught and strangled in thy throat!
We have nought to help thy trouble -- nought for that which lieth mute
On the harpstring and the lutestring and the spirit of the lute.
In the yellow flame of evening sound of thee doth come and go
Through the noises of the river, and the drifting of the snow.
Daughter of the dead red summers! Men that laugh and men that weep
Call thee Music -- shall I follow, choose their name, and turn and sleep?
What thou art, behold, I know not; but thy honey slakes and slays
Half the want which whitens manhood in the stress of alien days!
Even as a wondrous woman, struck with love and great desire,
Hast thou been to me, Euterpe! half of tears and half of fire.
But thy joy is swift and fitful; and a subtle sense of pain
Sighs through thy melodious breathing, takes the rapture from thy strain,
Daughter of the dead red summers! Men that laugh and men that weep
Call thee Music -- shall I follow, choose their name, and turn and sleep?
A quiet song for Ellen --
The patient Ellen Ray,
A dreamer in the nightfall,
A watcher in the day.
The wedded of the sailor
Who keeps so far away:
A shadow on his forehead
For patient Ellen Ray.
When autumn winds were driving
Across the chafing bay,
He said the words of anger
That wasted Ellen Ray:
He said the words of anger
And went his bitter way:
Her dower was the darkness --
The patient Ellen Ray.
Your comfort is a phantom,
My patient Ellen Ray;
You house it in the night-time,
It fronts you in the day;
And when the moon is very low
And when the lights are grey,
You sit and hug a sorry hope,
My patient Ellen Ray!
You sit and hug a sorry hope --
Yet who will dare to say,
The sweetness of October
Is not for Ellen Ray?
The bearer of a burden
Must rest at fall of day;
And you have borne a heavy one,
My patient Ellen Ray.
At dusk, like flowers that shun the day,
Shy thoughts from dim recesses break,
And plead for words I dare not say
For your sweet sake.
My early love! my first, my last!
Mistakes have been that both must rue;
But all the passion of the past
Survives for you.
The tender message Hope might send
Sinks fainting at the lips of speech,
For, are you lover -- are you friend,
That I would reach?
How much to-night I'd give to win
A banished peace -- an old repose;
But here I sit, and sigh, and sin
When no one knows.
The stern, the steadfast reticence,
Which made the dearest phrases halt,
And checked a first and finest sense,
Was not my fault.
I held my words because there grew
About my life persistent pride;
And you were loved, who never knew
What love could hide!
This purpose filled my soul like flame:
To win you wealth and take the place
Where care is not, nor any shame
To vex your face.
I said "Till then my heart must keep
Its secrets safe and unconfest;"
And days and nights unknown to sleep
The vow attest.
Yet, oh! my sweet, it seems so long
Since you were near; and fates retard
The sequel of a struggle strong,
And life is hard --
Too hard, when one is left alone
To wrestle passion, never free
To turn and say to you, "My own,
Come home to me!"
Strong pinions bore Safi, the dreamer,
Through the dazzle and whirl of a race,
And the earth, raying up in confusion,
Like a sea thundered under his face!
And the earth, raying up in confusion,
Passed flying and flying afar,
Till it dropped like a moon into silence,
And waned from a moon to a star.
Was it light, was it shadow he followed,
That he swept through those desperate tracts,
With his hair beating back on his shoulders
Like the tops of the wind-hackled flax?
"I come," murmured Safi, the dreamer,
"I come, but thou fliest before:
But thy way hath the breath of the honey,
And the scent of the myrrh evermore!"
His eyes were the eyes of a watcher
Held on by luxurious faith,
And his lips were the lips of a longer
Amazed with the beauty of Death.
"For ever and ever," he murmured,
"My love, for the sweetness with thee,
Do I follow thy footsteps," said Safi,
"Like the wind on a measureless sea."
And, fronting the furthermost spaces,
He kept through the distances dim,
Till the days, and the years, and the cycles
Were lost and forgotten by him.
When he came to the silver star-portals,
The Queen of that wonderful place
Looked forth from her towers resplendent,
And started, and dreamed in his face.
And one said, "This is Safi the Only,
Who lived in a planet below,
And housed him apart from his fellows,
A million of ages ago.
"He erred, if he suffers, to clutch at
High lights from the wood and the street;
Not caring to see how his brothers
Were content with the things at their feet."
But she whispered, "Ah, turn to the stranger!
He looks like a lord of the land;
For his eyes are the eyes of an angel,
And the thought on his forehead is grand!
"Is there never a peace for the sinner
Whose sin is in this, that he mars
The light of his worship of Beauty,
Forgetting the flower for the stars?"
"Behold him, my Sister immortal,
And doubt that he knoweth his shame,
Who raves in the shadow for sweetness,
And gloats on the ghost of a flame!
"His sin is his sin, if he suffers,
Who wilfully straitened the truth;
And his doom is his doom, if he follows
A lie without sorrow or ruth."
And another from uttermost verges
Ran out with a terrible voice --
"Let him go -- it is well that he goeth,
Though he break with the lot of his choice!"
"I come," murmured Safi, the dreamer,
"I come, but thou fliest before:
But thy way hath the breath of the honey,
And the scent of the myrrh evermore."
"My Queen," said the first of the Voices,
"He hunteth a perilous wraith,
Arrayed with voluptuous fancies
And ringed with tyrannical faith.
"Wound up in the heart of his error
He must sweep through the silences dire,
Like one in the dark of a desert
Allured by fallacious fire."
And she faltered, and asked, like a doubter,
"When he hangs on those Spaces sublime
With the Terror that knoweth no limit,
And holdeth no record of Time --
"Forgotten of God and the demons --
Will he keep to his fancy amain?
Can he live for that horrible chaos
Of flame and perpetual rain?"
But an answer as soft as a prayer
Fell down from a high, hidden land,
And the words were the words of a language
Which none but the gods understand.
Daniel Henry Deniehy
Take the harp, but very softly for our brother touch the strings:
Wind and wood shall help to wail him, waves and mournful mountain-springs.
Take the harp, but very softly, for the friend who grew so old
Through the hours we would not hear of -- nights we would not fain behold!
Other voices, sweeter voices, shall lament him year by year,
Though the morning finds us lonely, though we sit and marvel here:
Marvel much while Summer cometh, trammelled with November wheat,
Gold about her forehead gleaming, green and gold about her feet;
Yea, and while the land is dark with plover, gull, and gloomy glede,
Where the cold, swift songs of Winter fill the interlucent reed.
Yet, my harp -- and oh, my fathers! never look for Sorrow's lay,
Making life a mighty darkness in the patient noon of day;
Since he resteth whom we loved so, out beyond these fleeting seas,
Blowing clouds and restless regions paved with old perplexities,
In a land where thunder breaks not, in a place unknown of snow,
Where the rain is mute for ever, where the wild winds never go:
Home of far-forgotten phantoms -- genii of our peaceful prime,
Shining by perpetual waters past the ways of Change and Time:
Haven of the harried spirit, where it folds its wearied wings,
Turns its face and sleeps a sleep with deep forgetfulness of things.
His should be a grave by mountains, in a cool and thick-mossed lea,
With the lone creek falling past it -- falling ever to the sea.
His should be a grave by waters, by a bright and broad lagoon,
Making steadfast splendours hallowed of the quiet, shining moon.
There the elves of many forests -- wandering winds and flying lights --
Born of green, of happy mornings, dear to yellow summer nights,
Full of dole for him that loved them, then might halt and then might go,
Finding fathers of the people to their children speaking low --
Speaking low of one who, failing, suffered all the poet's pain,
Dying with the dead leaves round him -- hopes which never grow again.
Far in the ways of the hyaline wastes -- in the face of the splendid
Six of the sisters -- the star-dowered sisters ineffably bright,
Merope sitteth, the shadow-like wife of a monarch unfriended
Of Ades -- of Orcus, the fierce, the implacable god of the night.
Merope -- fugitive Merope! lost to thyself and thy lover,
Cast, like a dream, out of thought,
with the moons which have passed into sleep,
What shall avail thee? Alcyone's tears, or the sight to discover
Of Sisyphus pallid for thee by the blue, bitter lights of the deep --
Pallid, but patient for sorrow? Oh, thou of the fire and the water,
Half with the flame of the sunset, and kin to the streams of the sea,
Hast thou the songs of old times for desire of thy dark-featured daughter,
Sweet with the lips of thy yearning, O Aethra! with tokens of thee --
Songs that would lull her, like kisses forgotten of silence where speech was
Less than the silence that bound it as passion is bound by a ban;
Seeing we know of thee, Mother, we turning and hearing how each was
Wrapt in the other ere Merope faltered and fell for a man?
Mortal she clave to, forgetting her birthright, forgetting the lordlike
Sons of the many-winged Father, and chiefs of the plume and the star,
Therefore, because that her sin was the grief of the grand and the godlike,
Sitteth thy child than a morning-moon bleaker, the faded, and far.
Ringed with the flower-like Six of the Seven, arrayed and anointed
Ever with beautiful pity, she watches, she weeps, and she wanes,
Blind as a flame on the hills of the Winter in hours appointed
For the life of the foam and the thunder --
the strength of the imminent rains.
Who hath a portion, Alcyone, like her? Asterope, fairer
Than sunset on snow, and beloved of all brightness, say what is there left
Sadder and paler than Pleione's daughter, disconsolate bearer
Of trouble that smites like a sword of the gods to the break of the heft?
Demeter, and Dryope, known to the forests, the falls, and the fountains,
Yearly, because of their walking and wailing and wringing of hands,
~Are~ they as one with this woman? -- of Hyrie, wild in the mountains,
Breaking her heart in the frosts and the fires of the uttermost lands?
~These~ have their bitterness. This, for Persephone, that for Oechalian
Homes, and the lights of a kindness blown out with the stress of her shame:
One for her child, and one for her sin; but thou above all art an alien,
Girt with the halos that vex thee, and wrapt in a grief beyond name.
Yet sayeth Sisyphus -- Sisyphus, stricken and chained of the minioned
Kings of great darkness, and trodden in dust by the feet of the Fates --
"Sweet are the ways of thy watching, and pallid and perished and pinioned,
Moon amongst maidens, I leap for thy love like a god at the gates --
Leap for the dreams of a rose of the heavens, and beat at the portals
Paved with the pain of unsatisfied pleadings for thee and for thine!
But Zeus is immutable Master, and these are the walls the immortals
Build for our sighing, and who may set lips at the lords and repine?
Therefore," he saith, "I am sick for thee, Merope, faint for the tender
Touch of thy mouth, and the eyes like the lights of an altar to me;
But, lo, thou art far; and thy face is a still and a sorrowful splendour!
And the storm is abroad with the rain on the perilous straits of the sea."
After the Hunt
Underneath the windy mountain walls
Forth we rode, an eager band,
By the surges and the verges and the gorges,
Till the night was on the land --
On the hazy, mazy land!
Far away the bounding prey
Leapt across the ruts and logs,
But we galloped, galloped, galloped on,
Till we heard the yapping of the dogs --
The yapping and the yelping of the dogs.
Oh, it was a madly merry day
We shall not so soon forget,
And the edges and the ledges and the ridges
Haunt us with their echoes yet --
Echoes, echoes, echoes yet!
While the moon is on the hill
Gleaming through the streaming fogs,
Don't you hear the yapping of the dogs --
The yapping and the yelping of the dogs?
Sweet water-moons, blown into lights
Of flying gold on pool and creek,
And many sounds and many sights
Of younger days are back this week.
I cannot say I sought to face
Or greatly cared to cross again
The subtle spirit of the place
Whose life is mixed with Rose Lorraine.
What though her voice rings clearly through
A nightly dream I gladly keep,
No wish have I to start anew
Heart fountains that have ceased to leap.
Here, face to face with different days,
And later things that plead for love,
It would be worse than wrong to raise
A phantom far too fain to move.
But, Rose Lorraine -- ah! Rose Lorraine,
I'll whisper now, where no one hears --
If you should chance to meet again
The man you kissed in soft, dead years,
Just say for once "He suffered much,"
And add to this "His fate was worst
Because of me, my voice, my touch."
There is no passion like the first!
If I that breathe your slow sweet name,
As one breathes low notes on a flute,
Have vext your peace with word of blame,
The phrase is dead -- the lips are mute.
Yet when I turn towards the wall,
In stormy nights, in times of rain,
I often wish you could recall
Your tender speeches, Rose Lorraine.
Because, you see, I thought them true,
And did not count you self-deceived,
And gave myself in all to you,
And looked on Love as Life achieved.
Then came the bitter, sudden change,
The fastened lips, the dumb despair.
The first few weeks were very strange,
And long, and sad, and hard to bear.
No woman lives with power to burst
My passion's bonds, and set me free;
For Rose is last where Rose was first,
And only Rose is fair to me.
The faintest memory of her face,
The wilful face that hurt me so,
Is followed by a fiery trace
That Rose Lorraine must never know.
I keep a faded ribbon string
You used to wear about your throat;
And of this pale, this perished thing,
I think I know the threads by rote.
God help such love! To touch your hand,
To loiter where your feet might fall,
You marvellous girl, my soul would stand
The worst of hell -- its fires and all!
[End of Leaves from Australian Forests.]
Songs from the Mountains
To a Mountain
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!
Jim the Splitter
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.
Bill the Bullock-Driver
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
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.
The Voice in the Wild Oak
(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!