Part 9 out of 9
* Introductory verses for "The Sydney University Review", 1881.
Where in a green, moist, myrtle dell
The torrent voice rings strong
And clear, above a star-bright well,
I write this woodland song.
The melodies of many leaves
Float in a fragrant zone;
And here are flowers by deep-mossed eaves
That day has never known.
I'll weave a garland out of these,
The darlings of the birds,
And send it over singing seas
With certain sunny words --
With certain words alive with light
Of welcome for a thing
Of promise, born beneath the white,
Soft afternoon of Spring.
The faithful few have waited long
A life like this to see;
And they will understand the song
That flows to-day from me.
May every page within this book
Be as a radiant hour;
Or like a bank of mountain brook,
All flower and leaf and flower.
May all the strength and all the grace
Of Letters make it beam
As beams a lawn whose lovely face
Is as a glorious dream.
And may that strange divinity
That men call Genius write
Some deathless thing in days to be,
To fill those days with light.
Here where the free, frank waters run,
I pray this book may grow
A sacred candour like the sun
Above the morning snow.
May noble thoughts in faultless words --
In clean white diction -- make
It shine as shines the home of birds
And moss and leaf and lake.
This fair fresh life with joy I hail,
And this belief express,
Its days will be a brilliant tale
Of effort and success.
Here ends my song; I have a dream
Of beauty like the grace
Which lies upon the land of stream
In yonder mountain place.
John Bede Polding
* Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
With reverent eyes and bowed, uncovered head,
A son of sorrow kneels by fanes you knew;
But cannot say the words that should be said
To crowned and winged divinities like you.
The perfect speech of superhuman spheres
Man has not heard since He of Nazareth,
Slain for the sins of twice two thousand years,
Saw Godship gleaming through the gates of Death.
And therefore he who in these latter days
Has lost a Father -- falling by the shrine,
Can only use the world's ephemeral phrase,
Not, Lord, the faultless language that is Thine.
But he, Thy son upon whose shoulders shone
So long Elisha's gleaming garments, may
Be pleased to hear a pleading human tone
To sift the spirit of the words I say.
O, Master, since the gentle Stenhouse died
And left the void that none can ever fill,
One harp at least has sorrow thrown aside,
Its strings all broken, and its notes all still.
Some lofty lord of music yet may find
Its pulse of passion. I can never touch
The chords again -- my life has been too blind;
I've sinned too long and suffered far too much.
But you will listen to the voice, although
The harp is silent -- you who glorified
Your great, sad gift of life, because you know
How souls are tempted and how hearts are tried.
O marvellous follower in the steps of Christ,
How pure your spirit must have been to see
That light beyond our best expression priced
The effluence of benignant Deity.
You saw it, Father? Let me think you did
Because I, groping in the mists of Doubt,
Am sometimes fearful that God's face is hid
From all -- that none can read His riddle out!
A hope from lives like yours must everywhere
Become like faith -- that blessing undefiled,
The refuge of the grey philosopher --
The consolation of the simple child.
Here in a land of many sects, where God
As shaped by man in countless forms appears,
Few comprehend how carefully you trod
Without a slip for two and forty years.
How wonderful the self-repression must
Have been, that made you to the lovely close
The Christian crowned with universal trust,
The foe-less Father in a land of foes.
How patiently -- with how divine a strength
Of tolerance you must have watched the frays
Of fighting churches -- warring through the length
Of your bright, beautiful, unruffled days!
Because men strove you did not love them less;
You felt for each -- for everyone and all --
With that same apostolic tenderness
Which Samuel felt when yearning over Saul.
A crowned hierophant -- a high Chief-Priest
On flame with robes of light, you used to be;
But yet you were as humble as the least
Of those who followed Him of Galilee.
'Mid splendid forms of faith which flower and fill
God's oldest Church with gleams ineffable
You stand, Our Lord's serene disciple still,
In all the blaze which on your pallium fell.
The pomp of altars, chasubles, and fires
Of incense, moved you not; nor yet the dome
Of haughty beauty -- follower of the Sires --
Who made a holiness of elder Rome.
A lord of scholarship whose knowledge ran
Through every groove of human history, you
Were this and more -- a Christian gentleman;
A fount of learning with a heart like dew.
O Father! I who at your feet have knelt,
On wings of singing fall, and fail to sing,
Remembering the immense compassion felt
By you for every form of suffering.
As dies a gentle April in a sky
Of faultless beauty -- after many days
Of loveliness and grand tranquillity --
So passed your presence from our human gaze.
But though your stately face is as the dust
That windy hills to wintering hollows give,
Your memory like a deity august
Is with us still, to teach us how to live.
Ah! may it teach us -- may the lives that are
Take colour from the life that was; and may
Those souls be helped that in the dark so far
Have strayed, and have forgotten how to pray!
Let one of these at least retain the hope
That fine examples, like a blessed dew
Of summer falling in a fruitful scope,
Give birth to issues beautiful and true.
Such hope, O Master, is a light indeed
To him that knows how hard it is to save
The spirit resting on no certain creed
Who kneels to plant this blossom on your grave.
I see, as one in dreaming,
A broad, bright, quiet sea;
Beyond it lies a haven --
The only home for me.
Some men grow strong with trouble,
But all my strength is past,
And tired and full of sorrow,
I long to sleep at last.
By force of chance and changes
Man's life is hard at best;
And, seeing rest is voiceless,
The dearest thing is rest.
Beyond the sea -- behold it,
The home I wish to seek
The refuge of the weary,
The solace of the weak!
Sweet angel fingers beckon,
Sweet angel voices ask
My soul to cross the waters;
And yet I dread the task.
God help the man whose trials
Are tares that he must reap;
He cannot face the future --
His only hope is sleep.
Across the main a vision
Of sunset coasts and skies,
And widths of waters gleaming,
Enchant my human eyes.
I, who have sinned and suffered,
Have sought -- with tears have sought --
To rule my life with goodness,
And shape it to my thought;
And yet there is no refuge
To shield me from distress,
Except the realm of slumber
And great forgetfulness.
[End of Other Poems, 1871-82.]
Note on corrections made: Less than a dozen errors were corrected,
mostly punctuation, and one incorrect letter. However, one correction
is in question. On p. 339 of this 1920 edition, or in this etext,
the 1st line of the 9th stanza of "On a Street", the copy reads:
I tell you, this not a tale
which is neither grammatically nor rhythmically correct,
for the poem in question. It has been corrected as:
I tell you, this is not a tale
which is probably correct. As this is the most serious error
noticed in the text, I trust the reader will find the whole
to be satisfactory. -- A. L.