I said, "We have often showered our loves Upon something as dry as the dust; And the faith that is crost, and the hearts that are lost— Oh! how can we wittingly trust? Like the stream which flows, And wails as it goes, Through the moonlight so white and so still, To beat and to beat All night at the feet Of a cold and flinty hill— Of a hard and senseless hill?
"River, I stay where the sweet roses blow, And drink of their pleasant perfumes! Oh, why do you moan, in this wide world alone, When so much affection here blooms? The winds wax faint, And the Moon like a Saint Glides over the woodlands so white and so still! But you beat and you beat All night at the feet Of that cold and flinty hill— Of that hard and senseless hill!"
The Fate of the Explorers
Set your face toward the darkness—tell of deserts weird and wide, Where unshaken woods are huddled, and low, languid waters glide; Turn and tell of deserts lonely, lying pathless, deep and vast, Where in utter silence ever Time seems slowly breathing past— Silence only broken when the sun is flecked with cloudy bars, Or when tropic squalls come hurtling underneath the sultry stars! Deserts thorny, hot and thirsty, where the feet of men are strange, And eternal Nature sleeps in solitudes which know no change.
Weakened with their lengthened labours, past long plains of stone and sand, Down those trackless wilds they wandered, travellers from a far-off land, Seeking now to join their brothers, struggling on with faltering feet, For a glorious work was finished, and a noble task complete. And they dreamt of welcome faces—dreamt that soon unto their ears Friendly greetings would be thronging, with a nation's well-earned cheers; Since their courage never failed them, but with high, unflinching soul Each was pressing forward, hoping, trusting all should reach the goal.
. . . . .
Though he rallied in the morning, long before the close of day He had sunk, the worn-out hero, fainting, dying by the way! But with Death he wrestled hardly; three times rising from the sod, Yet a little further onward o'er the weary waste he trod. Facing Fate with heart undaunted, still the chief would totter on Till the evening closed about him—till the strength to move was gone; Then he penned his latest writings, and, before his life was spent, Gave the records to his comrade—gave the watch he said was lent— Gave them with his last commandments, charging him that night to stay And to let him lie unburied when the soul had passed away.
Through that night he uttered little, rambling were the words he spoke: And he turned and died in silence, when the tardy morning broke. Many memories come together whilst in sight of death we dwell, Much of sweet and sad reflection through the weary mind must well. As those long hours glided past him, till the east with light was fraught, Who may know the mournful secret—who can tell us what he thought?
Very lone and very wretched was the brave man left behind, Wandering over leagues of waste-land, seeking, hoping help to find; Sleeping in deserted wurleys, fearful many nightfalls through Lest unfriendly hands should rob him of his hoard of wild nardoo.
. . . . .
Ere he reached their old encampment—ere the well-known spot was gained, Something nerved him—something whispered that his other chief remained. So he searched for food to give him, trusting they might both survive Till the aid so long expected from the cities should arrive; So he searched for food and took it to the gunyah where he found Silence broken by his footfalls—death and darkness on the ground.
Weak and wearied with his journey, there the lone survivor stooped, And the disappointment bowed him and his heart with sadness drooped, And he rose and raked a hollow with his wasted, feeble hands, Where he took and hid the hero, in the rushes and the sands; But he, like a brother, laid him out of reach of wind and rain, And for many days he sojourned near him on that wild-faced plain; Whilst he stayed beside the ruin, whilst he lingered with the dead, Oh! he must have sat in shadow, gloomy as the tears he shed.
. . . . .
Where our noble Burke was lying—where his sad companion stood, Came the natives of the forest—came the wild men of the wood; Down they looked, and saw the stranger—he who there in quiet slept— Down they knelt, and o'er the chieftain bitterly they moaned and wept: Bitterly they mourned to see him all uncovered to the blast— All uncovered to the tempest as it wailed and whistled past; And they shrouded him with bushes, so in death that he might lie, Like a warrior of their nation, sheltered from the stormy sky.
. . . . .
Ye must rise and sing their praises, O ye bards with souls of fire, For the people's voice shall echo through the wailings of your lyre; And we'll welcome back their comrade, though our eyes with tears be blind At the thoughts of promise perished, and the shadow left behind; Now the leaves are bleaching round them—now the gales above them glide, But the end was all accomplished, and their fame is far and wide. Though this fadeless glory cannot hide a grateful nation's grief, And their laurels have been blended with the gloomy cypress leaf.
Let them rest where they have laboured! but, my country, mourn and moan; We must build with human sorrow grander monuments than stone. Let them rest, for oh! remember, that in long hereafter time Sons of Science oft shall wander o'er that solitary clime! Cities bright shall rise about it, Age and Beauty there shall stray, And the fathers of the people, pointing to the graves, shall say: "Here they fell, the glorious martyrs! when these plains were woodlands deep; Here a friend, a brother, laid them; here the wild men came to weep."
(Inscribed to Madame Lucy Escott.)
As you glided and glided before us that time, A mystical, magical maiden, We fancied we looked on a face from the clime Where the poets have builded their Aidenn! And oh, the sweet shadows! And oh, the warm gleams Which lay on the land of our beautiful dreams, While we walked by the margins of musical streams And heard your wild warbling around us!
We forgot what we were when we stood with the trees Near the banks of those silvery waters; As ever in fragments they came on the breeze, The songs of old Rhine and his daughters! And then you would pass with those radiant eyes Which flashed like a light in the tropical skies— And ah! the bright thoughts that would sparkle and rise While we heard your wild warbling around us.
Will you ever fly back to this city of ours With your harp and your voice and your beauty? God knows we rejoice when we meet with such flowers On the hard road of Life and of Duty! Oh! come as you did, with that face and that tone, For we wistfully look to the hours which have flown, And long for a glimpse of the gladness that shone When we heard your wild warbling around us.
Under the Figtree
Like drifts of balm from cedared glens, those darling memories come, With soft low songs, and dear old tales, familiar to our home. Then breathe again that faint refrain, so tender, sad, and true, My soul turns round with listening eyes unto the harp and you! The fragments of a broken Past are floating down the tide, And she comes gleaming through the dark, my love, my life, my bride! Oh! sit and sing—I know her well, that phantom deadly fair With large surprise, and sudden sighs, and streaming midnight hair! I know her well, for face to face we stood amongst the sheaves, Our voices mingling with a mist of music in the leaves! I know her well, for hand in hand we walked beside the sea, And heard the huddling waters boom beneath this old Figtree.
God help the man that goes abroad amongst the windy pines, And wanders, like a gloomy bat, where never morning shines! That steals about amidst the rout of broken stones and graves, When round the cliffs the merry skiffs go scudding through the waves; When, down the bay, the children play, and scamper on the sand, And Life and Mirth illume the Earth, and Beauty fills the Land! God help the man! He only hears and fears the sleepless cries Of smitten Love—of homeless Love and moaning Memories. Oh! when a rhyme of olden time is sung by one so dear, I feel again the sweetest pain I've known for many a year; And from a deep, dull sea of sleep faint fancies come to me, And I forget how lone we sit beneath this old Figtree.
Drowned at Sea
Gloomy cliffs, so worn and wasted with the washing of the waves, Are ye not like giant tombstones round those lonely ocean graves? Are ye not the sad memorials, telling of a mighty grief— Dark with records ground and lettered into caverned rock and reef? Oh! ye show them, and I know them, and my thoughts in mourning go Down amongst your sunless chasms, deep into the surf below! Oh! ye bear them, and declare them, and o'er every cleft and scar, I have wept for dear dead brothers perished in the lost Dunbar! Ye smitten—ye battered, And splintered and shattered Cliffs of the Sea!
Restless waves, so dim with dreams of sudden storms and gusty surge, Roaring like a gathered whirlwind reeling round a mountain verge, Were ye not like loosened maniacs, in the night when Beauty pale Called upon her God, beseeching through the uproar of the gale? Were ye not like maddened demons while young children faint with fear Cried and cried and cried for succour, and no helping hand was near? Oh, the sorrow of the morrow!—lamentations near and far!— Oh, the sobs for dear dead sisters perished in the lost Dunbar!— Ye ruthless, unsated, And hateful, and hated Waves of the Sea!
Ay, we stooped and moaned in darkness— eyes might strain and hearts might plead, For their darlings crying wildly, they would never rise nor heed! Ay, we yearned into their faces looking for the life in vain, Wailing like to children blinded with a mist of sudden pain! Dear hands clenched, and dear eyes rigid in a stern and stony stare, Dear lips white from past affliction, dead to all our mad despair, Ah, the groaning and the moaning—ah, the thoughts which rise in tears When we turn to all those loved ones, looking backward five long years! The fathers and mothers, The sisters and brothers Drowned at Sea!
Morning in the Bush
(A Juvenile Fragment.)
Above the skirts of yellow clouds, The god-like Sun, arrayed In blinding splendour, swiftly rose, And looked athwart the glade; The sleepy dingo watched him break The bonds that curbed his flight; And from his golden tresses shake The fading gems of Night! And wild goburras laughed aloud Their merry morning songs, As Echo answered in the depths With a thousand thousand tongues; The gully-depths where many a vine Of ancient growth had crept, To cluster round the hoary pine, Where scanty mosses wept.
Huge stones, and damp and broken crags, In wild chaotic heap, Were lying at the barren base Of the ferny hillside steep; Between those fragments hollows lay, Upfilled with fruitful ground, Where many a modest floweret grew, To scent the wind-breaths round; As fertile patches bloom within A dried and worldly heart, When some that look can only see The cold, the barren part! The Miser, full with thoughts of gain, The meanest of his race, May in his breast some verdure hide, Though none that verdure trace.
Where time-worn cliffs were jutting out, With rough and ragged edges, The snowy mountain-lily slept Behind the earthy ledges; Like some sweet Oriental Maid, Who blindly deems it duty To wear a veil before her face, And hide her peerless beauty; Or like to Innocence that thrives In midst of sin and sorrows, Nor from the cheerless scene around The least infection borrows, But stayeth out her mortal life— Though in that lifetime lonely— With Virtue's lustre round her heart, And Virtue's lustre only.
A patch of sunshine here and there Lay on a leaf-strewn water-pool, Whose tribute trickled down the rocks In gurgling ripples, clear and cool! As iguanas, from the clefts, Would steal along with rustling sound, To where the restless eddies roamed Amongst the arrowy rushes round. While, scanning them with angry eyes From off a fallen myrtle log That branchless bridged the brushy creek, There stood and barked, a Shepherd's Dog! And underneath a neighbouring mass Of wattles intertwining, His Master lay—his back against The grassy banks reclining.
Beneath the shade of ironbarks, Stretched o'er the valley's sloping bed— Half hidden in a tea-tree scrub, A flock of dusky sheep were spread; And fitful bleating faintly came On every joyous breath of wind, That up the stony hills would fly, And leave the hollows far behind! Wild tones of music from the Creek Were intermingling with the breeze, The loud, rich lays of countless birds Perched on the dark mimosa trees; Those merry birds, with wings of light Which rival every golden ray Out-flashing from the lamps of Night, Or streaming o'er the brow of Day.
Amongst the gnarly apple-trees, A gorgeous tribe of parrots came; And screaming, leapt from bough to bough, Like living jets of crimson flame! And where the hillside-growing gums Their web-like foliage upward threw, Old Nature rang with echoes from The loud-voiced mountain cockatoo; And a thousand nameless twittering things, Between the rustling sapling sprays, Were flashing through the fragrant leaves, And dancing like to fabled fays; Rejoicing in the glorious light That beauteous Morning had unfurled To make the heart of Nature glad, And clothe with smiles a weeping World.
The Girl I Left Behind Me
(New Words to an Old Air.)
With sweet Regret—(the dearest thing that Yesterday has left us)— We often turn our homeless eyes to scenes whence Fate has reft us. Here sitting by a fading flame, wild waifs of song remind me Of Annie with her gentle ways, the Girl I left behind me.
I stood beside the surging sea, with lips of silent passion— I faced you by the surging sea, O brows of mild repression! I never said—"my darling, stay!"—the moments seemed to bind me To something stifling all my words for the Girl I left behind me.
The pathos worn by common things—by every wayside flower, Or Autumn leaf on lonely winds, revives the parting hour. Ye swooning thoughts without a voice—ye tears which rose to blind me, Why did she fade into the Dark, the Girl I left behind me.
At night they always come to me, the tender and true-hearted; And in my dreams we join again the hands which now are parted; And, looking through the gates of Sleep, the pleasant Moon doth find me For ever wandering with my Love, the Girl I left behind me.
You know my life is incomplete, O far-off faint Ideal! When shall I reach you from a depth of darkness which is real? So I may mingle, soul in soul, with her that Heaven assigned me; So she may lean upon my love, the Girl I left behind me.
Amongst the Roses
I walked through a Forest, beneath the hot noon, On Etheline calling and calling! One said: "She will hear you and come to you soon, When the coolness, my brother, is falling." But I whispered: "O Darling, I falter with pain!" And the thirsty leaves rustled, and hissed for the rain, Where a wayfarer halted and slept on the plain; And dreamt of a garden of Roses! Of a cool sweet place, And a nestling face In a dance and a dazzle of Roses.
In the drouth of a Desert, outwearied, I wept, O Etheline, darkened with dolours! But, folded in sunset, how long have you slept By the Roses all reeling with colours? A tree from its tresses a blossom did shake, It fell on her face, and I feared she would wake, So I brushed it away for her sweet sake; In that garden of beautiful Roses! In the dreamy perfumes From ripe-red blooms In a dance and a dazzle of Roses.
It is better, O day, that you go to your rest, For you go like a guest who was loth to remain! Swing open, ye gates of the east and the west, And let out the wild shadows—the night and the rain.
Ye winds, ye are dead, with your voices attuned, That thrilled the green life in the sweet-scented sheaves, When I touched a warm hand which has faded, and swooned To a trance of the darkness, and blight on the leaves.
I had studied the lore in her maiden-like ways, And the large-hearted love of my Annie was won, 'Ere Summer had passed into passionate days, Or Autumn made ready her fruits for the Sun.
So my life was complete, and the hours that went by, And the moon and the willow-wooed waters around, Might have known that we rested, my Annie and I, In happiness calm as the slumber of sound.
On Sundays we wandered, as glad as a breeze, By the rocks and the waves on a glittering beach; Or we loitered in gardens melodious with bees, And sucked the sweet pulp of the plum and the peach.
"The Forest will show me the secrets of Fame," I said to myself in the gum-shadowed glen, "I will call every blossom and tree by its name, And the people shall deem me a man of the men.
"I will gather Roses of Sharon, my Soul,— The Roses of Sharon so cool and so sweet; And our brothers shall see me entwining the whole For a garland to drop at my dear Annie's feet."
It is better, O day, that you go to your rest, For you go like a guest who was loth to remain! Swing open, ye gates of the east and the west, And let out the wild shadows—the night and the rain.
A Brother wandered forth with me, Beside a barren beach: He harped on things beyond the sea, And out of reach.
He hinted once of unknown skies, And then I would not hark, But turned away from steadfast eyes, Into the dark.
And said—"an ancient faith is dead And wonder fills my mind: I marvel how the blind have led So long the blind.
"Behold this truth we only know That night is on the land! And we a weary way must go To find God's hand."
I wept—"Our fathers told us, Lord, That Thou wert kind and just, But lo! our wailings fly abroad For broken trust.
"How many evil ones are here Who mocking go about, Because we are too faint with fear To wrestle Doubt!
"Thy riddles are beyond the ken Of creatures of the sod: Remember that we are but men, And Thou art God!
"O, doting world, methinks your stay Is weaker than a reed! Our Father turns His face away; 'Tis dark indeed."
The evening woods lay huddled there, All wrapped in silence strange: A sudden wind—and lo! the air Was filled with change.
"Your words are wild," my brother said, "For God's voice fills the breeze; Go—hide yourself, as Adam did, Amongst the trees.
"I pluck the shoes from off my feet, But dare to look around; Behold," he said, "my Lord I greet, On holy ground!"
And God spake through the wind to me— "Shake off that gloom of Fear, You fainting soul who could not see That I was near.
"Why vex me crying day and night?— You call on me to hark! But when I bless your world with light, Who makes it dark?
"Is there a ravelled riddle left That you would have undone? What other doubts are there to sift?" I answered—"None."
"My son, look up, if you would see The Promise on your way, And turn a trustful face to me." I whispered—"Yea."
My head is filled with olden rhymes beside this moaning sea, But many and many a day has gone since I was dear to thee! I know my passion fades away, and therefore oft regret That some who love indeed can part and in the years forget. Ah! through the twilights when we stood the wattle trees between, We did not dream of such a time as this, fair Geraldine.
I do not say that all has gone of passion and of pain; I yearn for many happy thoughts I shall not think again! And often when the wind is up, and wailing round the eaves, You sigh for withered Purpose shred and scattered like the leaves, The Purpose blooming when we met each other on the green; The sunset heavy in your curls, my golden Geraldine.
I think we lived a loftier life through hours of Long Ago, For in the largened evening earth our spirits seemed to grow. Well, that has passed, and here I stand, upon a lonely place, While Night is stealing round the land, like Time across my face; But I can calmly recollect our shadowy parting scene, And swooning thoughts that had no voice—no utterance, Geraldine.
Hath he not followed a star through the darkness, Ye people who sit at the table of Jephthah? Oh! turn with the face to a light in the mountains, Behold it is further from Achan than ever!
"I know how it is with my brothers in Mizpeh," Said Achan, the swift-footed runner of Zorah, "They look at the wood they have hewn for the altar; And think of a shadow in sackcloth and ashes.
"I know how it is with the daughter of Jephthah, (O Ada, my love, and the fairest of women!) She wails in the time when her heart is so zealous For God who hath stricken the children of Ammon.
"I said I would bring her the odours of Edom, And armfuls of spices to set at the banquet! Behold I have fronted the chieftain her father; And strong men have wept for the leader of thousands!
"My love is a rose of the roses of Sharon, All lonely and bright as the Moon in the myrtles! Her lips, like to honeycombs, fill with the sweetness That Achan the thirsty is hindered from drinking.
"Her women have wept for the love that is wasted Like wine, which is spilt when the people are wanting, And hot winds have dried all the cisterns of Elim! For love that is wasted her women were wailing!
"The timbrels fall silent! And dost thou not hear it, A voice, like the sound of a lute when we loiter, And sit by the pools in the valleys of Arnon, And suck the cool grapes that are growing in clusters?
"She glides, like a myrrh-scented wind, through the willows, O Ada! behold it is Achan that speaketh: I know thou art near me, but never can see thee, Because of the horrible drouth in mine eyelids."
[End of Poems and Songs.]
LEAVES FROM AUSTRALIAN FORESTS
To her who, cast with me in trying days, Stood in the place of health and power and praise; Who, when I thought all light was out, became A lamp of hope that put my fears to shame; Who faced for love's sole sake the life austere That waits upon the man of letters here; Who, unawares, her deep affection showed By many a touching little wifely mode; Whose spirit, self-denying, dear, divine, Its sorrows hid, so it might lessen mine— To her, my bright, best friend, I dedicate This book of songs—'t will help to compensate For much neglect. The act, if not the rhyme, Will touch her heart, and lead her to the time Of trials past. That which is most intense Within these leaves is of her influence; And if aught here is sweetened with a tone Sincere, like love, it came of love alone.
I purposed once to take my pen and write, Not songs, like some, tormented and awry With passion, but a cunning harmony Of words and music caught from glen and height, And lucid colours born of woodland light And shining places where the sea-streams lie. But this was when the heat of youth glowed white, And since I've put the faded purpose by. I have no faultless fruits to offer you Who read this book; but certain syllables Herein are borrowed from unfooted dells And secret hollows dear to noontide dew; And these at least, though far between and few, May catch the sense like subtle forest spells.
So take these kindly, even though there be Some notes that unto other lyres belong, Stray echoes from the elder sons of song; And think how from its neighbouring native sea The pensive shell doth borrow melody. I would not do the lordly masters wrong By filching fair words from the shining throng Whose music haunts me as the wind a tree. Lo, when a stranger in soft Syrian glooms Shot through with sunset, treads the cedar dells, And hears the breezy ring of elfin bells Far down be where the white-haired cataract booms, He, faint with sweetness caught from forest smells, Bears thence, unwitting, plunder of perfumes.
The Hut by the Black Swamp
Now comes the fierce north-easter, bound About with clouds and racks of rain, And dry, dead leaves go whirling round In rings of dust, and sigh like pain Across the plain.
Now twilight, with a shadowy hand Of wild dominionship, doth keep Strong hold of hollow straits of land, And watery sounds are loud and deep By gap and steep.
Keen, fitful gusts, that fly before The wings of storm when day hath shut Its eyes on mountains, flaw by flaw, Fleet down by whistling box-tree butt, Against the hut.
And, ringed and girt with lurid pomp, Far eastern cliffs start up, and take Thick steaming vapours from a swamp That lieth like a great blind lake, Of face opaque.
The moss that, like a tender grief, About an English ruin clings— What time the wan autumnal leaf Faints, after many wanderings On windy wings—
That gracious growth, whose quiet green Is as a love in days austere, Was never seen—hath never been— On slab or roof, deserted here For many a year.
Nor comes the bird whose speech is song— Whose songs are silvery syllables That unto glimmering woods belong, And deep, meandering mountain dells By yellow wells.
But rather here the wild-dog halts, And lifts the paw, and looks, and howls; And here, in ruined forest vaults, Abide dim, dark, death-featured owls, Like monks in cowls.
Across this hut the nettle runs, And livid adders make their lair In corners dank from lack of suns, And out of foetid furrows stare The growths that scare.
Here Summer's grasp of fire is laid On bark and slabs that rot, and breed Squat ugly things of deadly shade, The scorpion, and the spiteful seed Of centipede.
Unhallowed thunders, harsh and dry, And flaming noontides, mute with heat, Beneath the breathless, brazen sky, Upon these rifted rafters beat With torrid feet.
And night by night the fitful gale Doth carry past the bittern's boom, The dingo's yell, the plover's wail, While lumbering shadows start, and loom, And hiss through gloom.
No sign of grace—no hope of green, Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot; But chained to iron doom, I ween, 'Tis left, like skeleton, to rot Where ruth is not.
For on this hut hath murder writ, With bloody fingers, hellish things; And God will never visit it With flower or leaf of sweet-faced Springs, Or gentle wings.
September in Australia
Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest, And, behold, for repayment, September comes in with the wind of the West And the Spring in her raiment! The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers, While the forest discovers Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours, And the music of lovers.
September, the maid with the swift, silver feet! She glides, and she graces The valleys of coolness, the slopes of the heat, With her blossomy traces; Sweet month, with a mouth that is made of a rose, She lightens and lingers In spots where the harp of the evening glows, Attuned by her fingers.
The stream from its home in the hollow hill slips In a darling old fashion; And the day goeth down with a song on its lips, Whose key-note is passion. Far out in the fierce, bitter front of the sea I stand, and remember Dead things that were brothers and sisters of thee, Resplendent September!
The West, when it blows at the fall of the noon And beats on the beaches, Is filled with a tender and tremulous tune That touches and teaches; The stories of Youth, of the burden of Time, And the death of Devotion, Come back with the wind, and are themes of the rhyme In the waves of the ocean.
We, having a secret to others unknown, In the cool mountain-mosses, May whisper together, September, alone Of our loves and our losses! One word for her beauty, and one for the grace She gave to the hours; And then we may kiss her, and suffer her face To sleep with the flowers.
High places that knew of the gold and the white On the forehead of Morning Now darken and quake, and the steps of the Night Are heavy with warning. Her voice in the distance is lofty and loud Through the echoing gorges; She hath hidden her eyes in a mantle of cloud, And her feet in the surges.
On the tops of the hills, on the turreted cones— Chief temples of thunder— The gale, like a ghost, in the middle watch moans, Gliding over and under. The sea, flying white through the rack and the rain, Leapeth wild at the forelands; And the plover, whose cry is like passion with pain, Complains in the moorlands.
Oh, season of changes—of shadow and shine— September the splendid! My song hath no music to mingle with thine, And its burden is ended; But thou, being born of the winds and the sun, By mountain, by river, Mayst lighten and listen, and loiter and run, With thy voices for ever!
"Shut your ears, stranger, or turn from Ghost Glen now, For the paths are grown over, untrodden by men now; Shut your ears, stranger," saith the grey mother, crooning Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in.
To-night the north-easter goes travelling slowly, But it never stoops down to that hollow unholy; To-night it rolls loud on the ridges red-litten, But it cannot abide in that forest, sin-smitten.
For over the pitfall the moon-dew is thawing, And, with never a body, two shadows stand sawing— The wraiths of two sawyers (step under and under), Who did a foul murder and were blackened with thunder!
Whenever the storm-wind comes driven and driving, Through the blood-spattered timber you may see the saw striving— You may see the saw heaving, and falling, and heaving, Whenever the sea-creek is chafing and grieving!
And across a burnt body, as black as an adder, Sits the sprite of a sheep-dog (was ever sight sadder?) For, as the dry thunder splits louder and faster, This sprite of a sheep-dog howls for his master.
"Oh, count your beads deftly," saith the grey mother, crooning Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in. And well may she mutter, for the dark, hollow laughter You will hear in the sawpits and the bloody logs after.
Ay, count your beads deftly, and keep your ways wary, For the sake of the Saviour and sweet Mother Mary. Pray for your peace in these perilous places, And pray for the laying of horrible faces.
One starts, with a forehead wrinkled and livid, Aghast at the lightnings sudden and vivid; One telleth, with curses, the gold that they drew there (Ah! cross your breast humbly) from him whom they slew there:
The stranger, who came from the loved, the romantic Island that sleeps on the moaning Atlantic, Leaving behind him a patient home, yearning For the steps in the distance—never returning;
Who was left in the forest, shrunken and starkly, Burnt by his slayers (so men have said, darkly), With the half-crazy sheep-dog, who cowered beside there, And yelled at the silence, and marvelled, and died there.
Yea, cross your breast humbly and hold your breath tightly, Or fly for your life from those shadows unsightly, From the set staring features (cold, and so young, too), And the death on the lips that a mother hath clung to.
I tell you—that bushman is braver than most men Who even in daylight doth go through the Ghost Glen, Although in that hollow, unholy and lonely, He sees the dank sawpits and bloody logs only.
Daphne! Ladon's daughter, Daphne! Set thyself in silver light, Take thy thoughts of fairest texture, weave them into words of white— Weave the rhyme of rose-lipped Daphne, nymph of wooded stream and shade, Flying love of bright Apollo,—fleeting type of faultless maid! She, when followed from the forelands by the lord of lyre and lute, Sped towards far-singing waters, past deep gardens flushed with fruit; Took the path against Peneus, panted by its yellow banks; Turned, and looked, and flew the faster through grey-tufted thicket ranks; Flashed amongst high flowered sedges: leaped across the brook, and ran Down to where the fourfold shadows of a nether glade began; There she dropped, like falling Hesper, heavy hair of radiant head Hiding all the young abundance of her beauty's white and red.
Came the yellow-tressed Far-darter—came the god whose feet are fire, On his lips the name of Daphne, in his eyes a great desire; Fond, full lips of lord and lover, sad because of suit denied; Clear, grey eyes made keen by passion, panting, pained, unsatisfied. Here he turned, and there he halted, now he paused, and now he flew, Swifter than his sister's arrows, through soft dells of dreamy dew. Vext with gleams of Ladon's daughter, dashed along the son of Jove, Fast upon flower-trammelled Daphne fleeting on from grove to grove; Flights of seawind hard behind him, breaths of bleak and whistling straits; Drifts of driving cloud above him, like a troop of fierce-eyed Fates! So he reached the water-shallows; then he stayed his steps, and heard Daphne drop upon the grasses, fluttering like a wounded bird.
Was there help for Ladon's daughter? Saturn's son is high and just: Did he come between her beauty and the fierce Far-darter's lust? As she lay, the helpless maiden, caught and bound in fast eclipse, Did the lips of god drain pleasure from her sweet and swooning lips? Now that these and all Love's treasures blushed, before the spoiler, bare, Was the wrong that shall be nameless done, and seen, and suffered there? No! for Zeus is King and Father. Weary nymph and fiery god, Bend the knee alike before him—he is kind, and he is lord! Therefore sing how clear-browed Pallas—Pallas, friend of prayerful maid, Lifted dazzling Daphne lightly, bore her down the breathless glade, Did the thing that Zeus commanded: so it came to pass that he Who had chased a white-armed virgin, caught at her, and clasped a tree.
— * The Dingo, or Wild Dog of Australia. —
The warrigal's lair is pent in bare, Black rocks at the gorge's mouth; It is set in ways where Summer strays With the sprites of flame and drouth; But when the heights are touched with lights Of hoar-frost, sleet, and shine, His bed is made of the dead grass-blade And the leaves of the windy pine.
Through forest boles the storm-wind rolls, Vext of the sea-driv'n rain; And, up in the clift, through many a rift, The voices of torrents complain. The sad marsh-fowl and the lonely owl Are heard in the fog-wreaths grey, When the warrigal wakes, and listens, and takes To the woods that shelter the prey.
In the gully-deeps the blind creek sleeps, And the silver, showery moon Glides over the hills, and floats, and fills, And dreams in the dark lagoon; While halting hard by the station yard, Aghast at the hut-flame nigh, The warrigal yells—and flats and fells Are loud with his dismal cry.
On the topmost peak of mountains bleak The south wind sobs, and strays Through moaning pine and turpentine, And the rippling runnel ways; And strong streams flow, and great mists go, Where the warrigal starts to hear The watch-dog's bark break sharp in the dark, And flees like a phantom of fear.
The swift rains beat, and the thunders fleet On the wings of the fiery gale, And down in the glen of pool and fen, The wild gums whistle and wail, As over the plains and past the chains Of waterholes glimmering deep, The warrigal flies from the shepherd's cries, And the clamour of dogs and sheep.
He roves through the lands of sultry sands, He hunts in the iron range, Untamed as surge of the far sea verge, And fierce and fickle and strange. The white man's track and the haunts of the black He shuns, and shudders to see; For his joy he tastes in lonely wastes Where his mates are torrent and tree.
On the storm-cloven Cape The bitter waves roll, With the bergs of the Pole, And the darks and the damps of the Northern Sea: For the storm-cloven Cape Is an alien Shape With a fearful face; and it moans, and it stands Outside all lands Everlastingly!
When the fruits of the year Have been gathered in Spain, And the Indian rain Is rich on the evergreen lands of the Sun, There comes to this Cape To this alien Shape, As the waters beat in and the echoes troop forth, The Wind of the North, Euroclydon!
And the wilted thyme, And the patches past Of the nettles cast In the drift of the rift, and the broken rime, Are tumbled and blown To every zone With the famished glede, and the plovers thinned By this fourfold Wind— This Wind sublime!
On the wrinkled hills, By starts and fits, The wild Moon sits; And the rindles fill and flash and fall In the way of her light, Through the straitened night, When the sea-heralds clamour, and elves of the war, In the torrents afar, Hold festival!
From ridge to ridge The polar fires On the naked spires, With a foreign splendour, flit and flow; And clough and cave And architrave Have a blood-coloured glamour on roof and on wall, Like a nether hall In the hells below!
The dead, dry lips Of the ledges, split By the thunder fit And the stress of the sprites of the forked flame, Anon break out, With a shriek and a shout, Like a hard, bitter laughter, cracked and thin, From a ghost with a sin Too dark for a name!
And all thro' the year, The fierce seas run From sun to sun, Across the face of a vacant world! And the Wind flies forth From the wild, white North, That shivers and harries the heart of things, And shapes with its wings A chaos uphurled!
Like one who sees A rebel light In the thick of the night, As he stumbles and staggers on summits afar— Who looks to it still, Up hill and hill, With a steadfast hope (though the ways be deep, And rough, and steep), Like a steadfast star—
So I, that stand On the outermost peaks Of peril, with cheeks Blue with the salts of a frosty sea, Have learnt to wait, With an eye elate And a heart intent, for the fuller blaze Of the Beauty that rays Like a glimpse for me—
Of the Beauty that grows Whenever I hear The winds of Fear From the tops and the bases of barrenness call; And the duplicate lore Which I learn evermore, Is of Harmony filling and rounding the Storm, And the marvellous Form That governs all!
— * A stream in the Braidwood district, New South Wales. —
River, myrtle rimmed, and set Deep amongst unfooted dells— Daughter of grey hills of wet, Born by mossed and yellow wells;
Now that soft September lays Tender hands on thee and thine, Let me think of blue-eyed days, Star-like flowers and leaves of shine!
Cities soil the life with rust; Water banks are cool and sweet; River, tired of noise and dust, Here I come to rest my feet.
Now the month from shade to sun Fleets and sings supremest songs, Now the wilful wood-winds run Through the tangled cedar throngs.
Here are cushioned tufts and turns Where the sumptuous noontide lies: Here are seen by flags and ferns Summer's large, luxurious eyes.
On this spot wan Winter casts Eyes of ruth, and spares its green From his bitter sea-nursed blasts, Spears of rain and hailstones keen.
Rather here abideth Spring, Lady of a lovely land, Dear to leaf and fluttering wing, Deep in blooms—by breezes fanned.
Faithful friend beyond the main, Friend that time nor change makes cold; Now, like ghosts, return again Pallid, perished days of old.
Ah, the days!—the old, old theme, Never stale, but never new, Floating like a pleasant dream, Back to me and back to you.
Since we rested on these slopes Seasons fierce have beaten down Ardent loves and blossoming hopes— Loves that lift and hopes that crown.
But, believe me, still mine eyes Often fill with light that springs From divinity, which lies Ever at the heart of things.
Solace do I sometimes find Where you used to hear with me Songs of stream and forest wind, Tones of wave and harp-like tree.
Araluen—home of dreams, Fairer for its flowerful glade Than the face of Persian streams Or the slopes of Syrian shade;
Why should I still love it so, Friend and brother far away? Ask the winds that come and go, What hath brought me here to-day.
Evermore of you I think, When the leaves begin to fall, Where our river breaks its brink, And a rest is over all.
Evermore in quiet lands, Friend of mine beyond the sea, Memory comes with cunning hands, Stays, and paints your face for me.
— * Charles Harpur was buried at Euroma, N.S.W., but this poem refers to the grave of a stranger whose name is unknown. —
They built his mound of the rough, red ground, By the dip of a desert dell, Where all things sweet are killed by the heat, And scattered o'er flat and fell; In a burning zone they left him alone, Past the uttermost western plain, And the nightfall dim heard his funeral hymn In the voices of wind and rain.
The songs austere of the forests drear, And the echoes of clift and cave, When the dark is keen where the storm hath been, Fleet over the far-away grave. And through the days when the torrid rays Strike down on a coppery gloom, Some spirit grieves in the perished leaves, Whose theme is that desolate tomb.
No human foot or paw of brute Halts now where the stranger sleeps; But cloud and star his fellows are, And the rain that sobs and weeps. The dingo yells by the far iron fells, The plover is loud in the range, But they never come near to the slumberer here, Whose rest is a rest without change.
Ah! in his life, had he mother or wife, To wait for his step on the floor? Did beauty wax dim while watching for him Who passed through the threshold no more? Doth it trouble his head? He is one with the dead; He lies by the alien streams; And sweeter than sleep is death that is deep And unvexed by the lordship of dreams.
A strong sea-wind flies up and sings Across the blown-wet border, Whose stormy echo runs and rings Like bells in wild disorder.
Fierce breath hath vexed the foreland's face, It glistens, glooms, and glistens; But deep within this quiet place Sweet Illa lies and listens.
Sweet Illa of the shining sands, She sleeps in shady hollows, Where August flits with flowerful hands, And silver Summer follows.
Far up the naked hills is heard A noise of many waters, But green-haired Illa lies unstirred Amongst her star-like daughters.
The tempest, pent in moaning ways, Awakes the shepherd yonder, But Illa dreams unknown to days Whose wings are wind and thunder.
Here fairy hands and floral feet Are brought by bright October; Here, stained with grapes and smit with heat, Comes Autumn, sweet and sober.
Here lovers rest, what time the red And yellow colours mingle, And daylight droops with dying head Beyond the western dingle.
And here, from month to month, the time Is kissed by peace and pleasure, While Nature sings her woodland rhyme And hoards her woodland treasure.
Ah, Illa Creek! ere evening spreads Her wings o'er towns unshaded, How oft we seek thy mossy beds To lave our foreheads faded!
For, let me whisper, then we find The strength that lives, nor falters, In wood and water, waste and wind, And hidden mountain altars.
Moss on a Wall
Dim dreams it hath of singing ways, Of far-off woodland water-heads, And shining ends of April days Amongst the yellow runnel-beds.
Stoop closer to the ruined wall, Whereon the wilful wilding sleeps, As if its home were waterfall By dripping clefts and shadowy steeps.
A little waif, whose beauty takes A touching tone because it dwells So far away from mountain lakes, And lily leaves, and lightening fells.
Deep hidden in delicious floss It nestles, sister, from the heat— A gracious growth of tender moss Whose nights are soft, whose days are sweet.
Swift gleams across its petals run With winds that hum a pleasant tune, Serene surprises of the sun, And whispers from the lips of noon.
The evening-coloured apple-trees Are faint with July's frosty breath. But lo! this stranger getteth ease, And shines amidst the strays of Death.
And at the turning of the year, When August wanders in the cold, The raiment of the nursling here Is rich with green and glad with gold.
Oh, friend of mine, to one whose eyes Are vexed because of alien things, For ever in the wall moss lies The peace of hills and hidden springs.
From faithless lips and fickle lights The tired pilgrim sets his face, And thinketh here of sounds and sights In many a lovely forest-place.
And when by sudden fits and starts The sunset on the moss doth burn, He often dreams, and, lo! the marts And streets are changed to dells of fern.
For, let me say, the wilding placed By hands unseen amongst these stones, Restores a Past by Time effaced, Lost loves and long-forgotten tones!
As sometimes songs and scenes of old Come faintly unto you and me, When winds are wailing in the cold, And rains are sobbing on the sea.
Turn from the ways of this Woman! Campaspe we call her by name— She is fairer than flowers of the fire— she is brighter than brightness of flame. As a song that strikes swift to the heart with the beat of the blood of the South, And a light and a leap and a smart, is the play of her perilous mouth. Her eyes are as splendours that break in the rain at the set of the sun, But turn from the steps of Campaspe—a Woman to look at and shun!
Dost thou know of the cunning of Beauty? Take heed to thyself and beware Of the trap in the droop in the raiment—the snare in the folds of the hair! She is fulgent in flashes of pearl, the breeze with her breathing is sweet, But fly from the face of the girl—there is death in the fall of her feet! Is she maiden or marvel of marble? Oh, rather a tigress at wait To pounce on thy soul for her pastime—a leopard for love or for hate.
Woman of shadow and furnace! She biteth her lips to restrain Speech that springs out when she sleepeth, by the stirs and the starts of her pain. As music half-shapen of sorrow, with its wants and its infinite wail, Is the voice of Campaspe, the beauty at bay with her passion dead-pale. Go out from the courts of her loving, nor tempt the fierce dance of desire Where thy life would be shrivelled like stubble in the stress and the fervour of fire!
I know of one, gentle as moonlight—she is sad as the shine of the moon, But touching the ways of her eyes are: she comes to my soul like a tune— Like a tune that is filled with faint voices of the loved and the lost and the lone, Doth this stranger abide with my silence: like a tune with a tremulous tone. The leopard, we call her, Campaspe! I pluck at a rose and I stir To think of this sweet-hearted maiden—what name is too tender for her?
On a Cattle Track
Where the strength of dry thunder splits hill-rocks asunder, And the shouts of the desert-wind break, By the gullies of deepness and ridges of steepness, Lo, the cattle track twists like a snake! Like a sea of dead embers, burnt white by Decembers, A plain to the left of it lies; And six fleeting horses dash down the creek courses With the terror of thirst in their eyes.
The false strength of fever, that deadly deceiver, Gives foot to each famishing beast; And over lands rotten, by rain-winds forgotten, The mirage gleams out in the east. Ah! the waters are hidden from riders and ridden In a stream where the cattle track dips; And Death on their faces is scoring fierce traces, And the drouth is a fire on their lips.
It is far to the station, and gaunt Desolation Is a spectre that glooms in the way; Like a red smoke the air is, like a hell-light its glare is, And as flame are the feet of the day. The wastes are like metal that forges unsettle When the heat of the furnace is white; And the cool breeze that bloweth when an English sun goeth, Is unknown to the wild desert night.
A cry of distress there! a horseman the less there! The mock-waters shine like a moon! It is "Speed, and speed faster from this hole of disaster! And hurrah for yon God-sent lagoon!" Doth a devil deceive them? Ah, now let us leave them— We are burdened in life with the sad; Our portion is trouble, our joy is a bubble, And the gladdest is never too glad.
From the pale tracts of peril, past mountain heads sterile, To a sweet river shadowed with reeds, Where Summer steps lightly, and Winter beams brightly, The hoof-rutted cattle track leads. There soft is the moonlight, and tender the noon-light; There fiery things falter and fall; And there may be seen, now, the gold and the green, now, And the wings of a peace over all.
Hush, bittern and plover! Go, wind, to thy cover Away by the snow-smitten Pole! The rotten leaf falleth, the forest rain calleth; And what is the end of the whole? Some men are successful after seasons distressful [Now, masters, the drift of my tale]; But the brink of salvation is a lair of damnation For others who struggle, yet fail.
Where the sinister sun of the Syrians beat On the brittle, bright stubble, And the camels fell back from the swords of the heat, Came Saul, with a fire in the soles of his feet, And a forehead of trouble.
And terrified faces to left and to right, Before and behind him, Fled away with the speed of a maddening fright To the cloughs of the bat and the chasms of night, Each hoping the zealot would fail in his flight To find him and bind him.
For, behold you! the strong man of Tarsus came down With breathings of slaughter, From the priests of the city, the chiefs of the town (The lords with the sword, and the sires with the gown), To harry the Christians, and trample, and drown, And waste them like water.
He was ever a fighter, this son of the Jews— A fighter in earnest; And the Lord took delight in the strength of his thews, 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.
At night 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.
Anon 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 The dead.
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 Waters beating 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 Depths, together 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— Tempest-fathered— 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, Stormy voices, And the salt breath of the Strait, Stands the steadfast Mountain Giant, Grim, reliant, 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, Greatly, gravely, Like the hill in yonder seas;
Since the wrestling and endurance Give assurance 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."