Then the whispering flower of the fern Said, "who will be sad at the death, When Summer blows over the burn, With the fierceness of fire in her breath?" And the mouth of the flower of the sedge Was opened to murmur and sigh, "Sweet wind-breaths that pause at the edge Of the nightfall, and falter, and die."
A Mountain Spring
Peace hath an altar there. The sounding feet Of thunder and the 'wildering wings of rain Against fire-rifted summits flash and beat, And through grey upper gorges swoop and strain; But round that hallowed mountain-spring remain, Year after year, the days of tender heat, And gracious nights, whose lips with flowers are sweet, And filtered lights, and lutes of soft refrain. A still, bright pool. To men I may not tell The secret that its heart of water knows, The story of a loved and lost repose; Yet this I say to cliff and close-leaved dell: A fitful spirit haunts yon limpid well, Whose likeness is the faithless face of Rose.
If Laura—lady of the flower-soft face— Should light upon these verses, she may take The tenderest line, and through its pulses trace What man can suffer for a woman's sake. For in the nights that burn, the days that break, A thin pale figure stands in Passion's place, And peace comes not, nor yet the perished grace Of youth, to keep old faiths and fires awake. Ah! marvellous maid. Life sobs, and sighing saith, "She left me, fleeting like a fluttered dove; But I would have a moment of her breath, So I might taste the sweetest sense thereof, And catch from blossoming, honeyed lips of love Some faint, some fair, some dim, delicious death."
By a River
By red-ripe mouth and brown, luxurious eyes Of her I love, by all your sweetness shed In far, fair days, on one whose memory flies To faithless lights, and gracious speech gainsaid, I pray you, when yon river-path I tread, Make with the woodlands some soft compromise, Lest they should vex me into fruitless sighs With visions of a woman's gleaming head! For every green and golden-hearted thing That gathers beauty in that shining place, Beloved of beams and wooed by wind and wing, Is rife with glimpses of her marvellous face; And in the whispers of the lips of Spring The music of her lute-like voice I trace.
What though his feet were shod with sharp, fierce flame, And death and ruin were his daily squires, The Scythian, helped by Heaven's thunders, came: The time was ripe for God's avenging fires. Lo! loose, lewd trulls, and lean, luxurious liars Had brought the fair, fine face of Rome to shame, And made her one with sins beyond a name— That queenly daughter of imperial sires! The blood of elders like the blood of sheep, Was dashed across the circus. Once while din And dust and lightnings, and a draggled heap Of beast-slain men made lords with laughter leap, Night fell, with rain. The earth, so sick of sin, Had turned her face into the dark to weep.
Because a steadfast flame of clear intent Gave force and beauty to full-actioned life; Because his way was one of firm ascent, Whose stepping-stones were hewn of change and strife; Because as husband loveth noble wife He loved fair Truth; because the thing he meant To do, that thing he did, nor paused, nor bent In face of poor and pale conclusions; yea! Because of this, how fares the Leader dead? What kind of mourners weep for him to-day? What golden shroud is at his funeral spread? Upon his brow what leaves of laurel, say? About his breast is tied a sackcloth grey, And knots of thorns deface his lordly head.
A handmaid to the genius of thy song Is sweet, fair Scholarship. 'Tis she supplies The fiery spirit of the passioned eyes With subtle syllables, whose notes belong To some chief source of perfect melodies; And glancing through a laurelled, lordly throng Of shining singers, lo! my vision flies To William Shakespeare! He it is whose strong, Full, flute-like music haunts thy stately verse. A worthy Levite of his court thou art! One sent among us to defeat the curse That binds us to the Actual. Yea, thy part, Oh, lute-voiced lover! is to lull the heart Of love repelled, its darkness to disperse.
The Stanza of Childe Harold
Who framed the stanza of Childe Harold? He It was who, halting on a stormy shore, Knew well the lofty voice which evermore, In grand distress, doth haunt the sleepless sea With solemn sounds. And as each wave did roll Till one came up, the mightiest of the whole, To sweep and surge across the vacant lea, Wild words were wedded to wild melody. This poet must have had a speechless sense Of some dead summer's boundless affluence; Else, whither can we trace the passioned lore Of Beauty, steeping to the very core His royal verse, and that rare light which lies About it, like a sunset in the skies?
A Living Poet
He knows the sweet vexation in the strife Of Love with Time, this bard who fain would stray To fairer place beyond the storms of life, With astral faces near him day by day. In deep-mossed dells the mellow waters flow Which best he loves; for there the echoes, rife With rich suggestions of his long ago, Astarte, pass with thee! And, far away, Dear southern seasons haunt the dreamy eye: Spring, flower-zoned, and Summer, warbling low In tasselled corn, alternate come and go, While gypsy Autumn, splashed from heel to thigh With vine-blood, treads the leaves; and, halting nigh, Wild Winter bends across a beard of snow.
Dante and Virgil
When lost Francesca sobbed her broken tale Of love and sin and boundless agony, While that wan spirit by her side did wail And bite his lips for utter misery— The grief which could not speak, nor hear, nor see— So tender grew the superhuman face Of one who listened, that a mighty trace Of superhuman woe gave way, and pale The sudden light up-struggled to its place; While all his limbs began to faint and fail With such excess of pity. But, behind, The Roman Virgil stood—the calm, the wise— With not a shadow in his regal eyes, A stately type of all his stately kind.
Sometimes we feel so spent for want of rest, We have no thought beyond. I know to-day, When tired of bitter lips and dull delay With faithless words, I cast mine eyes upon The shadows of a distant mountain-crest, And said "That hill must hide within its breast Some secret glen secluded from the sun. Oh, mother Nature! would that I could run Outside to thee; and, like a wearied guest, Half blind with lamps, and sick of feasting, lay An aching head on thee. Then down the streams The moon might swim, and I should feel her grace, While soft winds blew the sorrows from my face, So quiet in the fellowship of dreams."
I cannot tell what change hath come to you To vex your splendid hair. I only know One grief. The passion left betwixt us two, Like some forsaken watchfire, burneth low. 'Tis sad to turn and find it dying so, Without a hope of resurrection! Yet, O radiant face that found me tired and lone! I shall not for the dear, dead past forget The sweetest looks of all the summers gone. Ah! time hath made familiar wild regret; For now the leaves are white in last year's bowers, And now doth sob along the ruined leas The homeless storm from saddened southern seas, While March sits weeping over withered flowers.
The silvery dimness of a happy dream I've known of late. Methought where Byron moans, Like some wild gulf in melancholy zones, I passed tear-blinded. Once a lurid gleam Of stormy sunset loitered on the sea, While, travelling troubled like a straitened stream, The voice of Shelley died away from me. Still sore at heart, I reached a lake-lit lea. And then the green-mossed glades with many a grove, Where lies the calm which Wordsworth used to love, And, lastly, Locksley Hall, from whence did rise A haunting song that blew and breathed and blew With rare delights. 'Twas there I woke and knew The sumptuous comfort left in drowsy eyes.
— * Sutherland: Forby Sutherland, one of Captain Cook's seamen, who died shortly after the Endeavour anchored in Botany Bay, 1770. He was the first Englishman buried in Australia. —
All night long the sea out yonder—all night long the wailful sea, Vext of winds and many thunders, seeketh rest unceasingly! Seeketh rest in dens of tempest, where, like one distraught with pain, Shouts the wild-eyed sprite, Confusion—seeketh rest, and moans in vain: Ah! but you should hear it calling, calling when the haggard sky Takes the darks and damps of Winter with the mournful marsh-fowl's cry; Even while the strong, swift torrents from the rainy ridges come Leaping down and breaking backwards—million-coloured shapes of foam! Then, and then, the sea out yonder chiefly looketh for the boon Portioned to the pleasant valleys and the grave sweet summer moon: Boon of Peace, the still, the saintly spirit of the dew-dells deep— Yellow dells and hollows haunted by the soft, dim dreams of sleep.
All night long the flying water breaks upon the stubborn rocks— Ooze-filled forelands burnt and blackened, smit and scarred with lightning shocks; But above the tender sea-thrift, but beyond the flowering fern, Runs a little pathway westward—pathway quaint with turn on turn— Westward trending, thus it leads to shelving shores and slopes of mist: Sleeping shores, and glassy bays of green and gold and amethyst! There tread gently—gently, pilgrim; there with thoughtful eyes look round; Cross thy breast and bless the silence: lo, the place is holy ground! Holy ground for ever, stranger! All the quiet silver lights Dropping from the starry heavens through the soft Australian nights— Dropping on those lone grave-grasses—come serene, unbroken, clear, Like the love of God the Father, falling, falling, year by year! Yea, and like a Voice supernal, there the daily wind doth blow In the leaves above the sailor buried ninety years ago.
A heap of low, dark, rocky coast, Unknown to foot or feather! A sea-voice moaning like a ghost; And fits of fiery weather!
The flying Syrinx turned and sped By dim, mysterious hollows, Where night is black, and day is red, And frost the fire-wind follows.
Strong, heavy footfalls in the wake Came up with flights of water: The gods were mournful for the sake Of Ladon's lovely daughter.
For when she came to spike and spine, Where reef and river gather, Her feet were sore with shell and chine; She could not travel farther.
Across a naked strait of land Blown sleet and surge were humming; But trammelled with the shifting sand, She heard the monster coming!
A thing of hoofs and horns and lust: A gaunt, goat-footed stranger! She bowed her body in the dust And called on Zeus to change her;
And called on Hermes, fair and fleet, And her of hounds and quiver, To hide her in the thickets sweet That sighed above the river.
So he that sits on flaming wheels, And rules the sea and thunder, Caught up the satyr by the heels And tore his skirts asunder.
While Arcas, of the glittering plumes, Took Ladon's daughter lightly, And set her in the gracious glooms That mix with moon-mist nightly;
And touched her lips with wild-flower wine, And changed her body slowly, Till, in soft reeds of song and shine, Her life was hidden wholly.
On the Paroo
— * The name of a watercourse, often dry, which in flood-time reaches the river Darling. —
As when the strong stream of a wintering sea Rolls round our coast, with bodeful breaks of storm, And swift salt rain, and bitter wind that saith Wild things and woeful of the White South Land Alone with God and silence in the cold— As when this cometh, men from dripping doors Look forth, and shudder for the mariners Abroad, so we for absent brothers looked In days of drought, and when the flying floods Swept boundless; roaring down the bald, black plains Beyond the farthest spur of western hills.
For where the Barwon cuts a rotten land, Or lies unshaken, like a great blind creek, Between hot mouldering banks, it came to this, All in a time of short and thirsty sighs, That thirty rainless months had left the pools And grass as dry as ashes: then it was Our kinsmen started for the lone Paroo, From point to point, with patient strivings, sheer Across the horrors of the windless downs, Blue gleaming like a sea of molten steel.
But never drought had broke them: never flood Had quenched them: they with mighty youth and health, And thews and sinews knotted like the trees— They, like the children of the native woods, Could stem the strenuous waters, or outlive The crimson days and dull, dead nights of thirst Like camels: yet of what avail was strength Alone to them—though it was like the rocks On stormy mountains—in the bloody time When fierce sleep caught them in the camps at rest, And violent darkness gripped the life in them And whelmed them, as an eagle unawares Is whelmed and slaughtered in a sudden snare.
All murdered by the blacks; smit while they lay In silver dreams, and with the far, faint fall Of many waters breaking on their sleep! Yea, in the tracts unknown of any man Save savages—the dim-discovered ways Of footless silence or unhappy winds— The wild men came upon them, like a fire Of desert thunder; and the fine, firm lips That touched a mother's lips a year before, And hands that knew a dearer hand than life, Were hewn—a sacrifice before the stars, And left with hooting owls and blowing clouds, And falling leaves and solitary wings!
Aye, you may see their graves—you who have toiled And tripped and thirsted, like these men of ours; For, verily, I say that not so deep Their bones are that the scattered drift and dust Of gusty days will never leave them bare. O dear, dead, bleaching bones! I know of those Who have the wild, strong will to go and sit Outside all things with you, and keep the ways Aloof from bats, and snakes, and trampling feet That smite your peace and theirs—who have the heart, Without the lusty limbs, to face the fire And moonless midnights, and to be, indeed, For very sorrow, like a moaning wind In wintry forests with perpetual rain.
Because of this—because of sisters left With desperate purpose and dishevelled hair, And broken breath, and sweetness quenched in tears— Because of swifter silver for the head, And furrows for the face—because of these That should have come with age, that come with pain— O Master! Father! sitting where our eyes Are tired of looking, say for once are we— Are we to set our lips with weary smiles Before the bitterness of Life and Death, And call it honey, while we bear away A taste like wormwood?
Turn thyself, and sing— Sing, Son of Sorrow! Is there any gain For breaking of the loins, for melting eyes, And knees as weak as water?—any peace, Or hope for casual breath and labouring lips, For clapping of the palms, and sharper sighs Than frost; or any light to come for those Who stand and mumble in the alien streets With heads as grey as Winter?—any balm For pleading women, and the love that knows Of nothing left to love?
They sleep a sleep Unknown of dreams, these darling friends of ours. And we who taste the core of many tales Of tribulation—we whose lives are salt With tears indeed—we therefore hide our eyes And weep in secret, lest our grief should risk The rest that hath no hurt from daily racks Of fiery clouds and immemorial rains.
Faith in God
Have faith in God. For whosoever lists To calm conviction in these days of strife, Will learn that in this steadfast stand exists The scholarship severe of human life.
This face to face with doubt! I know how strong His thews must be who fights and falls and bears, By sleepless nights and vigils lone and long, And many a woeful wraith of wrestling prayers.
Yet trust in Him! Not in an old man throned With thunders on an everlasting cloud, But in that awful Entity enzoned By no wild wraths nor bitter homage loud.
When from the summit of some sudden steep Of speculation you have strength to turn To things too boundless for the broken sweep Of finer comprehension, wait and learn
That God hath been "His own interpreter" From first to last. So you will understand The tribe who best succeed, when men most err, To suck through fogs the fatness of the land.
One thing is surer than the autumn tints We saw last week in yonder river bend— That all our poor expression helps and hints, However vaguely, to the solemn end
That God is truth; and if our dim ideal Fall short of fact—so short that we must weep— Why shape specific sorrows, though the real Be not the song which erewhile made us sleep?
Remember, truth draws upward. This to us Of steady happiness should be a cause Beyond the differential calculus Or Kant's dull dogmas and mechanic laws.
A man is manliest when he wisely knows How vain it is to halt and pule and pine; Whilst under every mystery haply flows The finest issue of a love divine.
It lies amongst the sleeping stones, Far down the hidden mountain glade; And past its brink the torrent moans For ever in a dreamy shade.
A little patch of dark-green moss, Whose softness grew of quiet ways (With all its deep, delicious floss) In slumb'rous suns of summer days.
You know the place? With pleasant tints The broken sunset lights the bowers; And then the woods are full with hints Of distant, dear, voluptuous flowers!
'Tis often now the pilgrim turns A faded face towards that seat, And cools his brow amongst the ferns; The runnel dabbling at his feet.
There fierce December seldom goes, With scorching step and dust and drouth; But, soft and low, October blows Sweet odours from her dewy mouth.
And Autumn, like a gipsy bold, Doth gather near it grapes and grain, Ere Winter comes, the woodman old, To lop the leaves in wind and rain.
O, greenest moss of mountain glen, The face of Rose is known to thee; But we shall never share with men A knowledge dear to love and me!
For are they not between us saved, The words my darling used to say, What time the western waters laved The forehead of the fainting day?
Cool comfort had we on your breast While yet the fervid noon burned mute O'er barley field and barren crest, And leagues of gardens flushed with fruit.
Oh, sweet and low, we whispered so, And sucked the pulp of plum and peach; But it was many years ago, When each, you know, was loved of each.
The Glen of Arrawatta
A sky of wind! And while these fitful gusts Are beating round the windows in the cold, With sullen sobs of rain, behold I shape A settler's story of the wild old times: One told by camp-fires when the station drays Were housed and hidden, forty years ago; While swarthy drivers smoked their pipes, and drew, And crowded round the friendly gleaming flame That lured the dingo, howling, from his caves, And brought sharp sudden feet about the brakes.
A tale of Love and Death. And shall I say A tale of love in death—for all the patient eyes That gathered darkness, watching for a son And brother, never dreaming of the fate— The fearful fate he met alone, unknown, Within the ruthless Australasian wastes?
For in a far-off, sultry summer, rimmed With thundercloud and red with forest fires, All day, by ways uncouth and ledges rude, The wild men held upon a stranger's trail, Which ran against the rivers and athwart The gorges of the deep blue western hills.
And when a cloudy sunset, like the flame In windy evenings on the Plains of Thirst Beyond the dead banks of the far Barcoo, Lay heavy down the topmost peaks, they came, With pent-in breath and stealthy steps, and crouched, Like snakes, amongst the grasses, till the night Had covered face from face, and thrown the gloom Of many shadows on the front of things.
There, in the shelter of a nameless glen, Fenced round by cedars and the tangled growths Of blackwood, stained with brown and shot with grey, The jaded white man built his fire, and turned His horse adrift amongst the water-pools That trickled underneath the yellow leaves And made a pleasant murmur, like the brooks Of England through the sweet autumnal noons.
Then, after he had slaked his thirst and used The forest fare, for which a healthful day Of mountain life had brought a zest, he took His axe, and shaped with boughs and wattle-forks A wurley, fashioned like a bushman's roof: The door brought out athwart the strenuous flame The back thatched in against a rising wind.
And while the sturdy hatchet filled the clifts With sounds unknown, the immemorial haunts Of echoes sent their lonely dwellers forth, Who lived a life of wonder: flying round And round the glen—what time the kangaroo Leapt from his lair and huddled with the bats— Far scattering down the wildly startled fells. Then came the doleful owl; and evermore The bleak morass gave out the bittern's call, The plover's cry, and many a fitful wail Of chilly omen, falling on the ear Like those cold flaws of wind that come and go An hour before the break of day.
Anon The stranger held from toil, and, settling down, He drew rough solace from his well-filled pipe, And smoked into the night, revolving there The primal questions of a squatter's life; For in the flats, a short day's journey past His present camp, his station yards were kept, With many a lodge and paddock jutting forth Across the heart of unnamed prairie-lands, Now loud with bleating and the cattle bells, And misty with the hut-fire's daily smoke.
Wide spreading flats, and western spurs of hills That dipped to plains of dim perpetual blue; Bold summits set against the thunder heaps; And slopes behacked and crushed by battling kine, Where now the furious tumult of their feet Gives back the dust, and up from glen and brake Evokes fierce clamour, and becomes indeed A token of the squatter's daring life, Which, growing inland—growing year by year— Doth set us thinking in these latter days, And makes one ponder of the lonely lands Beyond the lonely tracks of Burke and Wills, Where, when the wandering Stuart fixed his camps In central wastes, afar from any home Or haunt of man, and in the changeless midst Of sullen deserts and the footless miles Of sultry silence, all the ways about Grew strangely vocal, and a marvellous noise Became the wonder of the waxing glooms.
Now, after darkness, like a mighty spell Amongst the hills and dim, dispeopled dells, Had brought a stillness to the soul of things, It came to pass that, from the secret depths Of dripping gorges, many a runnel-voice Came, mellowed with the silence, and remained About the caves, a sweet though alien sound; Now rising ever, like a fervent flute In moony evenings, when the theme is love; Now falling, as ye hear the Sunday bells While hastening fieldward from the gleaming town.
Then fell a softer mood, and memory paused With faithful love, amidst the sainted shrines Of youth and passion in the valleys past Of dear delights which never grow again. And if the stranger (who had left behind Far anxious homesteads in a wave-swept isle, To face a fierce sea-circle day by day, And hear at night the dark Atlantic's moan) Now took a hope and planned a swift return, With wealth and health and with a youth unspent, To those sweet ones that stayed with want at home, Say who shall blame him—though the years are long, And life is hard, and waiting makes the heart grow old?
Thus passed the time, until the moon serene Stood over high dominion like a dream Of peace: within the white, transfigured woods; And o'er the vast dew-dripping wilderness Of slopes illumined with her silent fires.
Then, far beyond the home of pale red leaves And silver sluices, and the shining stems Of runnel blooms, the dreamy wanderer saw, The wilder for the vision of the moon, Stark desolations and a waste of plain, All smit by flame and broken with the storms; Black ghosts of trees, and sapless trunks that stood Harsh hollow channels of the fiery noise, Which ran from bole to bole a year before, And grew with ruin, and was like, indeed, The roar of mighty winds with wintering streams That foam about the limits of the land And mix their swiftness with the flying seas.
Now, when the man had turned his face about To take his rest, behold the gem-like eyes Of ambushed wild things stared from bole and brake With dumb amaze and faint-recurring glance, And fear anon that drove them down the brush; While from his den the dingo, like a scout In sheltered ways, crept out and cowered near To sniff the tokens of the stranger's feast And marvel at the shadows of the flame.
Thereafter grew the wind; and chafing depths In distant waters sent a troubled cry Across the slumb'rous forest; and the chill Of coming rain was on the sleeper's brow, When, flat as reptiles hutted in the scrub, A deadly crescent crawled to where he lay— A band of fierce, fantastic savages That, starting naked round the faded fire, With sudden spears and swift terrific yells, Came bounding wildly at the white man's head, And faced him, staring like a dream of Hell!
Here let me pass! I would not stay to tell Of hopeless struggles under crushing blows; Of how the surging fiends, with thickening strokes, Howled round the stranger till they drained his strength; How Love and Life stood face to face with Hate And Death; and then how Death was left alone With Night and Silence in the sobbing rains.
So, after many moons, the searchers found The body mouldering in the mouldering dell Amidst the fungi and the bleaching leaves, And buried it, and raised a stony mound Which took the mosses. Then the place became The haunt of fearful legends and the lair Of bats and adders.
There he lies and sleeps From year to year—in soft Australian nights, And through the furnaced noons, and in the times Of wind and wet! Yet never mourner comes To drop upon that grave the Christian's tear Or pluck the foul, dank weeds of death away.
But while the English autumn filled her lap With faded gold, and while the reapers cooled Their flame-red faces in the clover grass, They looked for him at home: and when the frost Had made a silence in the mourning lanes And cooped the farmers by December fires, They looked for him at home: and through the days Which brought about the million-coloured Spring, With moon-like splendours, in the garden plots, They looked for him at home: while Summer danced, A shining singer, through the tasselled corn, They looked for him at home. From sun to sun They waited. Season after season went, And Memory wept upon the lonely moors, And hope grew voiceless, and the watchers passed, Like shadows, one by one away.
And he Whose fate was hidden under forest leaves And in the darkness of untrodden dells Became a marvel. Often by the hearths In winter nights, and when the wind was wild Outside the casements, children heard the tale Of how he left their native vales behind (Where he had been a child himself) to shape New fortunes for his father's fallen house; Of how he struggled—how his name became, By fine devotion and unselfish zeal, A name of beauty in a selfish land; And then of how the aching hours went by, With patient listeners praying for the step Which never crossed the floor again. So passed The tale to children; but the bitter end Remained a wonder, like the unknown grave, Alone with God and Silence in the hills.
Child of Light, the bright, the bird-like! wilt thou float and float to me, Facing winds and sleets and waters, flying glimpses of the sea? Down amongst the hills of tempest, where the elves of tumult roam— Blown wet shadows of the summits, dim sonorous sprites of foam? Here and here my days are wasted, shorn of leaf and stript of fruit: Vexed because of speech half spoken, maiden with the marvellous lute! Vexed because of songs half-shapen, smit with fire and mixed with pain: Part of thee, and part of Sorrow, like a sunset pale with rain. Child of Light, the bright, the bird-like! wilt thou float and float to me Facing winds and sleets and waters, flying glimpses of the sea?
All night long, in fluent pauses, falling far, but full, but fine, Faultless friend of flowers and fountains, do I hear that voice of thine— All night long, amidst the burden of the lordly storm, that sings High above the tumbled forelands, fleet and fierce with thunderings! Then and then, my love, Euterpe, lips of life replete with dreams Murmur for thy sweet, sharp fragments dying down Lethean streams: Murmur for thy mouth's marred music, splendid hints that burn and break, Heavy with excess of beauty: murmur for thy music's sake. All night long, in fluent pauses, falling far, but full, but fine, Faultless friend of flowers and fountains, do I hear that voice of thine.
In the yellow flame of evening sound of thee doth come and go Through the noises of the river, and the drifting of the snow: In the yellow flame of evening—at the setting of the day— Sound that lightens, falls and lightens, flickers, faints and fades away. I am famished of thy silence—broken for the tender note Caught with its surpassing passion—caught and strangled in thy throat! We have nought to help thy trouble—nought for that which lieth mute On the harpstring and the lutestring and the spirit of the lute. In the yellow flame of evening sound of thee doth come and go Through the noises of the river, and the drifting of the snow.
Daughter of the dead red summers! Men that laugh and men that weep Call thee Music—shall I follow, choose their name, and turn and sleep? What thou art, behold, I know not; but thy honey slakes and slays Half the want which whitens manhood in the stress of alien days! Even as a wondrous woman, struck with love and great desire, Hast thou been to me, Euterpe! half of tears and half of fire. But thy joy is swift and fitful; and a subtle sense of pain Sighs through thy melodious breathing, takes the rapture from thy strain, Daughter of the dead red summers! Men that laugh and men that weep Call thee Music—shall I follow, choose their name, and turn and sleep?
A quiet song for Ellen— The patient Ellen Ray, A dreamer in the nightfall, A watcher in the day. The wedded of the sailor Who keeps so far away: A shadow on his forehead For patient Ellen Ray.
When autumn winds were driving Across the chafing bay, He said the words of anger That wasted Ellen Ray: He said the words of anger And went his bitter way: Her dower was the darkness— The patient Ellen Ray.
Your comfort is a phantom, My patient Ellen Ray; You house it in the night-time, It fronts you in the day; And when the moon is very low And when the lights are grey, You sit and hug a sorry hope, My patient Ellen Ray!
You sit and hug a sorry hope— Yet who will dare to say, The sweetness of October Is not for Ellen Ray? The bearer of a burden Must rest at fall of day; And you have borne a heavy one, My patient Ellen Ray.
At dusk, like flowers that shun the day, Shy thoughts from dim recesses break, And plead for words I dare not say For your sweet sake.
My early love! my first, my last! Mistakes have been that both must rue; But all the passion of the past Survives for you.
The tender message Hope might send Sinks fainting at the lips of speech, For, are you lover—are you friend, That I would reach?
How much to-night I'd give to win A banished peace—an old repose; But here I sit, and sigh, and sin When no one knows.
The stern, the steadfast reticence, Which made the dearest phrases halt, And checked a first and finest sense, Was not my fault.
I held my words because there grew About my life persistent pride; And you were loved, who never knew What love could hide!
This purpose filled my soul like flame: To win you wealth and take the place Where care is not, nor any shame To vex your face.
I said "Till then my heart must keep Its secrets safe and unconfest;" And days and nights unknown to sleep The vow attest.
Yet, oh! my sweet, it seems so long Since you were near; and fates retard The sequel of a struggle strong, And life is hard—
Too hard, when one is left alone To wrestle passion, never free To turn and say to you, "My own, Come home to me!"
Strong pinions bore Safi, the dreamer, Through the dazzle and whirl of a race, And the earth, raying up in confusion, Like a sea thundered under his face!
And the earth, raying up in confusion, Passed flying and flying afar, Till it dropped like a moon into silence, And waned from a moon to a star.
Was it light, was it shadow he followed, That he swept through those desperate tracts, With his hair beating back on his shoulders Like the tops of the wind-hackled flax?
"I come," murmured Safi, the dreamer, "I come, but thou fliest before: But thy way hath the breath of the honey, And the scent of the myrrh evermore!"
His eyes were the eyes of a watcher Held on by luxurious faith, And his lips were the lips of a longer Amazed with the beauty of Death.
"For ever and ever," he murmured, "My love, for the sweetness with thee, Do I follow thy footsteps," said Safi, "Like the wind on a measureless sea."
And, fronting the furthermost spaces, He kept through the distances dim, Till the days, and the years, and the cycles Were lost and forgotten by him.
When he came to the silver star-portals, The Queen of that wonderful place Looked forth from her towers resplendent, And started, and dreamed in his face.
And one said, "This is Safi the Only, Who lived in a planet below, And housed him apart from his fellows, A million of ages ago.
"He erred, if he suffers, to clutch at High lights from the wood and the street; Not caring to see how his brothers Were content with the things at their feet."
But she whispered, "Ah, turn to the stranger! He looks like a lord of the land; For his eyes are the eyes of an angel, And the thought on his forehead is grand!
"Is there never a peace for the sinner Whose sin is in this, that he mars The light of his worship of Beauty, Forgetting the flower for the stars?"
"Behold him, my Sister immortal, And doubt that he knoweth his shame, Who raves in the shadow for sweetness, And gloats on the ghost of a flame!
"His sin is his sin, if he suffers, Who wilfully straitened the truth; And his doom is his doom, if he follows A lie without sorrow or ruth."
And another from uttermost verges Ran out with a terrible voice— "Let him go—it is well that he goeth, Though he break with the lot of his choice!"
"I come," murmured Safi, the dreamer, "I come, but thou fliest before: But thy way hath the breath of the honey, And the scent of the myrrh evermore."
"My Queen," said the first of the Voices, "He hunteth a perilous wraith, Arrayed with voluptuous fancies And ringed with tyrannical faith.
"Wound up in the heart of his error He must sweep through the silences dire, Like one in the dark of a desert Allured by fallacious fire."
And she faltered, and asked, like a doubter, "When he hangs on those Spaces sublime With the Terror that knoweth no limit, And holdeth no record of Time—
"Forgotten of God and the demons— Will he keep to his fancy amain? Can he live for that horrible chaos Of flame and perpetual rain?"
But an answer as soft as a prayer Fell down from a high, hidden land, And the words were the words of a language Which none but the gods understand.
Daniel Henry Deniehy
Take the harp, but very softly for our brother touch the strings: Wind and wood shall help to wail him, waves and mournful mountain-springs. Take the harp, but very softly, for the friend who grew so old Through the hours we would not hear of—nights we would not fain behold! Other voices, sweeter voices, shall lament him year by year, Though the morning finds us lonely, though we sit and marvel here: Marvel much while Summer cometh, trammelled with November wheat, Gold about her forehead gleaming, green and gold about her feet; Yea, and while the land is dark with plover, gull, and gloomy glede, Where the cold, swift songs of Winter fill the interlucent reed.
Yet, my harp—and oh, my fathers! never look for Sorrow's lay, Making life a mighty darkness in the patient noon of day; Since he resteth whom we loved so, out beyond these fleeting seas, Blowing clouds and restless regions paved with old perplexities, In a land where thunder breaks not, in a place unknown of snow, Where the rain is mute for ever, where the wild winds never go: Home of far-forgotten phantoms—genii of our peaceful prime, Shining by perpetual waters past the ways of Change and Time: Haven of the harried spirit, where it folds its wearied wings, Turns its face and sleeps a sleep with deep forgetfulness of things.
His should be a grave by mountains, in a cool and thick-mossed lea, With the lone creek falling past it—falling ever to the sea. His should be a grave by waters, by a bright and broad lagoon, Making steadfast splendours hallowed of the quiet, shining moon. There the elves of many forests—wandering winds and flying lights— Born of green, of happy mornings, dear to yellow summer nights, Full of dole for him that loved them, then might halt and then might go, Finding fathers of the people to their children speaking low— Speaking low of one who, failing, suffered all the poet's pain, Dying with the dead leaves round him—hopes which never grow again.
Far in the ways of the hyaline wastes—in the face of the splendid Six of the sisters—the star-dowered sisters ineffably bright, Merope sitteth, the shadow-like wife of a monarch unfriended Of Ades—of Orcus, the fierce, the implacable god of the night. Merope—fugitive Merope! lost to thyself and thy lover, Cast, like a dream, out of thought, with the moons which have passed into sleep, What shall avail thee? Alcyone's tears, or the sight to discover Of Sisyphus pallid for thee by the blue, bitter lights of the deep— Pallid, but patient for sorrow? Oh, thou of the fire and the water, Half with the flame of the sunset, and kin to the streams of the sea, Hast thou the songs of old times for desire of thy dark-featured daughter, Sweet with the lips of thy yearning, O Aethra! with tokens of thee— Songs that would lull her, like kisses forgotten of silence where speech was Less than the silence that bound it as passion is bound by a ban; Seeing we know of thee, Mother, we turning and hearing how each was Wrapt in the other ere Merope faltered and fell for a man? Mortal she clave to, forgetting her birthright, forgetting the lordlike Sons of the many-winged Father, and chiefs of the plume and the star, Therefore, because that her sin was the grief of the grand and the godlike, Sitteth thy child than a morning-moon bleaker, the faded, and far. Ringed with the flower-like Six of the Seven, arrayed and anointed Ever with beautiful pity, she watches, she weeps, and she wanes, Blind as a flame on the hills of the Winter in hours appointed For the life of the foam and the thunder— the strength of the imminent rains. Who hath a portion, Alcyone, like her? Asterope, fairer Than sunset on snow, and beloved of all brightness, say what is there left Sadder and paler than Pleione's daughter, disconsolate bearer Of trouble that smites like a sword of the gods to the break of the heft? Demeter, and Dryope, known to the forests, the falls, and the fountains, Yearly, because of their walking and wailing and wringing of hands, Are they as one with this woman?—of Hyrie, wild in the mountains, Breaking her heart in the frosts and the fires of the uttermost lands? These have their bitterness. This, for Persephone, that for Oechalian Homes, and the lights of a kindness blown out with the stress of her shame: One for her child, and one for her sin; but thou above all art an alien, Girt with the halos that vex thee, and wrapt in a grief beyond name. Yet sayeth Sisyphus—Sisyphus, stricken and chained of the minioned Kings of great darkness, and trodden in dust by the feet of the Fates— "Sweet are the ways of thy watching, and pallid and perished and pinioned, Moon amongst maidens, I leap for thy love like a god at the gates— Leap for the dreams of a rose of the heavens, and beat at the portals Paved with the pain of unsatisfied pleadings for thee and for thine! But Zeus is immutable Master, and these are the walls the immortals Build for our sighing, and who may set lips at the lords and repine? Therefore," he saith, "I am sick for thee, Merope, faint for the tender Touch of thy mouth, and the eyes like the lights of an altar to me; But, lo, thou art far; and thy face is a still and a sorrowful splendour! And the storm is abroad with the rain on the perilous straits of the sea."
After the Hunt
Underneath the windy mountain walls Forth we rode, an eager band, By the surges and the verges and the gorges, Till the night was on the land— On the hazy, mazy land! Far away the bounding prey Leapt across the ruts and logs, But we galloped, galloped, galloped on, Till we heard the yapping of the dogs— The yapping and the yelping of the dogs.
Oh, it was a madly merry day We shall not so soon forget, And the edges and the ledges and the ridges Haunt us with their echoes yet— Echoes, echoes, echoes yet! While the moon is on the hill Gleaming through the streaming fogs, Don't you hear the yapping of the dogs— The yapping and the yelping of the dogs?
Sweet water-moons, blown into lights Of flying gold on pool and creek, And many sounds and many sights Of younger days are back this week. I cannot say I sought to face Or greatly cared to cross again The subtle spirit of the place Whose life is mixed with Rose Lorraine.
What though her voice rings clearly through A nightly dream I gladly keep, No wish have I to start anew Heart fountains that have ceased to leap. Here, face to face with different days, And later things that plead for love, It would be worse than wrong to raise A phantom far too fain to move.
But, Rose Lorraine—ah! Rose Lorraine, I'll whisper now, where no one hears— If you should chance to meet again The man you kissed in soft, dead years, Just say for once "He suffered much," And add to this "His fate was worst Because of me, my voice, my touch." There is no passion like the first!
If I that breathe your slow sweet name, As one breathes low notes on a flute, Have vext your peace with word of blame, The phrase is dead—the lips are mute. Yet when I turn towards the wall, In stormy nights, in times of rain, I often wish you could recall Your tender speeches, Rose Lorraine.
Because, you see, I thought them true, And did not count you self-deceived, And gave myself in all to you, And looked on Love as Life achieved. Then came the bitter, sudden change, The fastened lips, the dumb despair. The first few weeks were very strange, And long, and sad, and hard to bear.
No woman lives with power to burst My passion's bonds, and set me free; For Rose is last where Rose was first, And only Rose is fair to me. The faintest memory of her face, The wilful face that hurt me so, Is followed by a fiery trace That Rose Lorraine must never know.
I keep a faded ribbon string You used to wear about your throat; And of this pale, this perished thing, I think I know the threads by rote. God help such love! To touch your hand, To loiter where your feet might fall, You marvellous girl, my soul would stand The worst of hell—its fires and all!
[End of Leaves from Australian Forests.]
SONGS FROM THE MOUNTAINS
To a Mountain
To thee, O father of the stately peaks, Above me in the loftier light—to thee, Imperial brother of those awful hills Whose feet are set in splendid spheres of flame, Whose heads are where the gods are, and whose sides Of strength are belted round with all the zones Of all the world, I dedicate these songs. And if, within the compass of this book, There lives and glows one verse in which there beats The pulse of wind and torrent—if one line Is here that like a running water sounds, And seems an echo from the lands of leaf, Be sure that line is thine. Here, in this home, Away from men and books and all the schools, I take thee for my Teacher. In thy voice Of deathless majesty, I, kneeling, hear God's grand authentic Gospel! Year by year, The great sublime cantata of thy storm Strikes through my spirit—fills it with a life Of startling beauty! Thou my Bible art, With holy leaves of rock, and flower, and tree, And moss, and shining runnel. From each page That helps to make thy awful volume, I Have learned a noble lesson. In the psalm Of thy grave winds, and in the liturgy Of singing waters, lo! my soul has heard The higher worship; and from thee, indeed, The broad foundations of a finer hope Were gathered in; and thou hast lifted up The blind horizon for a larger faith! Moreover, walking in exalted woods Of naked glory, in the green and gold Of forest sunshine, I have paused like one With all the life transfigured; and a flood Of light ineffable has made me feel As felt the grand old prophets caught away By flames of inspiration; but the words Sufficient for the story of my Dream Are far too splendid for poor human lips. But thou, to whom I turn with reverent eyes— O stately Father, whose majestic face Shines far above the zone of wind and cloud, Where high dominion of the morning is— Thou hast the Song complete of which my songs Are pallid adumbrations! Certain sounds Of strong authentic sorrow in this book May have the sob of upland torrents—these, And only these, may touch the great World's heart; For, lo! they are the issues of that grief Which makes a man more human, and his life More like that frank, exalted life of thine. But in these pages there are other tones In which thy large, superior voice is not— Through which no beauty that resembles thine Has ever shone. These are the broken words Of blind occasions, when the World has come Between me and my Dream. No song is here Of mighty compass; for my singing robes I've worn in stolen moments. All my days Have been the days of a laborious life, And ever on my struggling soul has burned The fierce heat of this hurried sphere. But thou, To whose fair majesty I dedicate My book of rhymes—thou hast the perfect rest Which makes the heaven of the highest gods! To thee the noises of this violent time Are far, faint whispers; and, from age to age, Within the world and yet apart from it, Thou standest! Round thy lordly capes the sea Rolls on with a superb indifference For ever; in thy deep, green, gracious glens The silver fountains sing for ever. Far Above dim ghosts of waters in the caves, The royal robe of morning on thy head Abides for ever. Evermore the wind Is thy august companion; and thy peers Are cloud, and thunder, and the face sublime Of blue mid-heaven! On thy awful brow Is Deity; and in that voice of thine There is the great imperial utterance Of God for ever; and thy feet are set Where evermore, through all the days and years, There rolls the grand hymn of the deathless wave.
Path beside the silver waters, flashing in October's sun— Walk, by green and golden margins where the sister streamlets run— Twenty shining springs have vanished, full of flower, and leaf, and bird, Since the step of Mary Rivers in your lawny dell was heard! Twenty white-haired Junes have left us— grey with frost and bleak with gale— Since the hand of her we loved so plucked the blossoms in your dale. Twenty summers, twenty autumns, from the grand old hills have passed, With their robes of royal colour, since we saw the darling last.
Morning comes—the blessed morning! and the slow song of the sea, Like a psalm from radiant altars, floats across a rose-red lea; Then the fair, strong noonday blossoms, and the reaper seeks the cool Valley of the moss and myrtle, and the glimmering water-pool. Noonday flames and evening follows; and the lordly mountains rest Heads arrayed with tenfold splendour on the rich heart of the West. Evening walks with moon and music where the higher life has been; But the face of Mary Rivers there will nevermore be seen.
Ah! when autumn dells are dewy, and the wave is very still, And that grey ghost called the Twilight passes from the distant hill— Even in the hallowed nightfall, when the fathers sit and dream, And the splendid rose of heaven sees a sister in the stream— Often do I watch the waters gleaming in a starry bay, Thinking of a bygone beauty, and a season far away; Musing on the grace that left us in a time of singing rain, On the lady who will never walk amongst these heaths again.
Four there were, but two were taken; and this darling we deplore, She was sweetest of the circle—she was dearest of the four! In the daytime and the dewtime comes the phantom of her face: None will ever sit where she did—none will ever fill her place. With the passing of our Mary, like a sunset out of sight, Passed away our pure first passion—all its life and all its light! All that made the world a dreamland—all the glory and the glow Of the fine, fresh, morning feeling vanished twenty years ago.
Girl, whose strange, unearthly beauty haunts us ever in our sleep, Many griefs have worn our hearts out—we are now too tired to weep! Time has tried us, years have changed us; but the sweetness shed by you Falls upon our spirits daily, like divine, immortal dew. Shining are our thoughts about you—of the blossoms past recall, You are still the rose of lustre—still the fairest of them all; In the sleep that brings the garland gathered from the bygone hours, You are still our Mary Rivers—still the queen of all the flowers.
Let me ask, where none can hear me—When you passed into the shine, And you heard a great love calling, did you know that it was mine? In your life of light and music, tell me did you ever see, Shining in a holy silence, what was as a flame in me? Ah, my darling! no one saw it. Purer than untrodden dew Was that first unhappy passion buried in the grave with you. Bird and leaf will keep the secret—wind and wood will never tell Men the thing that I have whispered. Mary Rivers, fare you well!
A waving of hats and of hands, The voices of thousands in one, A shout from the ring and the stands, And a glitter of heads in the sun! "They are off—they are off!" is the roar, As the cracks settle down to the race, With the "yellow and black" to the fore, And the Panic blood forcing the pace.
At the back of the course, and away Where the running-ground home again wheels, Grubb travels in front on the bay, With a feather-weight hard at his heels. But Yeomans, you see, is about, And the wily New Zealander waits, Though the high-blooded flyer is out, Whose rider and colours are Tait's.
Look! Ashworth comes on with a run To the head of the Levity colt; And the fleet—the magnificent son Of Panic is shooting his bolt. Hurrah for the Weatherbit strain! A Fireworks is first in the straight; And "A Kelpie will win it again!" Is the roar from the ring to the gate.
The leader must have it—but no! For see, full of running, behind A beautiful, wonderful foe With the speed of the thunder and wind! A flashing of whips, and a cry, And Ashworth sits down on his horse, With Kingsborough's head at his thigh And the "field" scattered over the course!
In a clamour of calls and acclaim The pair race away from the ruck: The horse to the last of it game— A marvel of muscle and pluck! But the foot of the Sappho is there, And Kingston's invincible strength; And the numbers go up in the air— The colt is the first by a length!
The first, and the favourite too! The terror that came from his stall, With the spirit of fire and of dew, To show the road home to them all; From the back of the field to the straight He has come, as is ever his wont, And carried his welter-like weight, Like a tradesman, right through to the front.
Nor wonder at cheering a wit, For this is the popular horse, That never was beaten when "fit" By any four hoofs on the course; To starter for Leger or Cup, Has he ever shown feather of fear When saddle and rider were up And the case to be argued was clear?
No! rather the questionless pluck Of the blood unaccustomed to yield, Preferred to spread-eagle the ruck, And make a long tail of the "field". Bear witness, ye lovers of sport, To races of which he can boast, When flyer by flyer was caught, And beaten by lengths on the post!
Lo! this is the beautiful bay— Of many, the marvellous one Who showed us last season the way That a Leger should always be won. There was something to look at and learn, Ye shrewd irreproachable "touts", When the Panic colt tired at the turn, And the thing was all over—but shouts!
Aye, that was the spin, when the twain Came locked by the bend of the course, The Zealander pulling his rein, And the veteran hard on his horse! When Ashworth was "riding" 'twas late For his friends to applaud on the stands, And the Sappho colt entered the straight With the race of the year in his hands.
Just look at his withers, his thighs! And the way that he carries his head! Has Richmond more wonderful eyes, Or Melbourne that spring in his tread? The grand, the intelligent glance From a spirit that fathoms and feels, Makes the heart of a horse-lover dance Till the warm-blooded life in him reels.
What care have I ever to know His owner by sight or by name? The horse that I glory in so Is still the magnificent same. I own I am proud of the pluck Of the sportsman that never was bought; But the nag that spread-eagled the ruck Is bound to be first in my thought.
For who that has masculine flame, Or who that is thorough at all, Can help feeling joy in the fame Of this king of the kings of the stall? What odds if assumption has sealed His soulless hereafter abode, So long as he shows to his "field" The gleam of his hoofs, and the road?
Down in the South, by the waste without sail on it, Far from the zone of the blossom and tree, Lieth, with winter and whirlwind and wail on it, Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea. Weird is the mist from the summit to base of it; Sun of its heaven is wizened and grey; Phantom of life is the light on the face of it— Never is night on it, never is day! Here is the shore without flower or bird on it; Here is no litany sweet of the springs— Only the haughty, harsh thunder is heard on it, Only the storm, with the roar in its wings!
Shadow of moon is the moon in the sky of it— Wan as the face of a wizard, and far! Never there shines from the firmament high of it Grace of the planet or glory of star. All the year round, in the place of white days on it— All the year round where there never is night— Lies a great sinister, bitter, blind haze on it: Growth that is neither of darkness nor light! Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it— Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow; Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it— Down in the south, where the ships never go.
Storm from the Pole is the singer that sings to it Hymns of the land at the planet's grey verge. Thunder discloses dark, wonderful things to it— Thunder and rain, and the dolorous surge. Hills with no hope of a wing or a leaf on them, Scarred with the chronicles written by flame, Stare, through the gloom of inscrutable grief on them, Down on the horns of the gulfs without name. Cliffs, with the records of fierce flying fires on them— Loom over perilous pits of eclipse; Alps, with anathema stamped in the spires on them— Out by the wave with a curse on its lips.
Never is sign of soft, beautiful green on it— Never the colour, the glory of rose! Neither the fountain nor river is seen on it, Naked its crags are, and barren its snows! Blue as the face of the drowned is the shore of it— Shore, with the capes of indefinite cave. Strange is the voice of its wind, and the roar of it Startles the mountain and hushes the wave. Out to the south and away to the north of it, Spectral and sad are the spaces untold! All the year round a great cry goeth forth of it— Sob of this leper of lands in the cold.
No man hath stood, all its bleak, bitter years on it— Fall of a foot on its wastes is unknown: Only the sound of the hurricane's spears on it Breaks with the shout from the uttermost zone. Blind are its bays with the shadow of bale on them; Storms of the nadir their rocks have uphurled; Earthquake hath registered deeply its tale on them— Tale of distress from the dawn of the world! There are the gaps, with the surges that seethe in them— Gaps in whose jaws is a menace that glares! There the wan reefs, with the merciless teeth in them, Gleam on a chaos that startles and scares!
Back in the dawn of this beautiful sphere, on it— Land of the dolorous, desolate face— Beamed the blue day; and the bountiful year on it Fostered the leaf and the blossom of grace. Grand were the lights of its midsummer noon on it— Mornings of majesty shone on its seas; Glitter of star and the glory of moon on it Fell, in the march of the musical breeze. Valleys and hills, with the whisper of wing in them, Dells of the daffodil—spaces impearled, Flowered and flashed with the splendour of Spring in them— Back in the morn of this wonderful world.
Soft were the words that the thunder then said to it— Said to this lustre of emerald plain; Sun brought the yellow, the green, and the red to it— Sweet were the songs of its silvery rain. Voices of water and wind in the bays of it Lingered, and lulled like the psalm of a dream. Fair were the nights and effulgent the days of it— Moon was in shadow and shade in the beam. Summer's chief throne was the marvellous coast of it, Home of the Spring was its luminous lea: Garden of glitter! But only the ghost of it Moans in the south by the ghost of a sea.
The gloved and jewelled bards who sing Of Pippa, Maud, and Dorothea, Have hardly done the handsome thing For you, my inky Cytherea.
Flower of a land whose sunny skies Are like the dome of Dante's clime, They might have praised your lips, your eyes, And, eke, your ankles in their rhyme!
But let them pass! To right your wrong, Aspasia of the ardent South, Your poet means to sing a song With some prolixity of mouth.
I'll even sketch you as you are In Herrick's style of carelessness, Not overstocked with things that bar An ample view—to wit, with dress.
You have your blanket, it is true; But then, if I am right at all, What best would suit a dame like you Was worn by Eve before the Fall.
Indeed, the "fashion" is a thing That never cramped your cornless toes: Your single jewel is a ring Slung in your penetrated nose.
I can't detect the flowing lines Of Grecian features in your face, Nor are there patent any signs That link you with the Roman race.
In short, I do not think your mould Resembles, with its knobs of bone, The fair Hellenic shapes of old Whose perfect forms survive in stone.
Still, if the charm called Beauty lies In ampleness of ear and lip, And nostrils of exceeding size, You are a gem, my ladyship!
Here, squatting by the doubtful flame Of three poor sticks, without a roof Above your head, impassive dame You live on—somewhat hunger-proof.
The current scandals of the day Don't trouble you—you seem to take Things in the coolest sort of way— And wisest—for you have no ache.
You smoke a pipe—of course, you do! About an inch in length or less, Which, from a sexual point of view, Mars somehow your attractiveness.
But, rather than resign the weed, You'd shock us, whites, by chewing it; For etiquette is not indeed A thing that bothers you a bit.
Your people—take them as a whole— Are careless on the score of grace; And hence you needn't comb your poll Or decorate your unctuous face.
Still, seeing that a little soap Would soften an excess of tint, You'll pardon my advance, I hope, In giving you a gentle hint.
You have your lovers—dusky beaux Not made of the poetic stuff That sports an Apollonian nose, And wears a sleek Byronic cuff.
But rather of a rougher clay Unmixed with overmuch romance, Far better at the wildwood fray Than spinning in a ballroom dance.
These scarcely are the sonneteers That sing their loves in faultless clothes: Your friends have more decided ears And more capaciousness of nose.
No doubt they suit you best—although They woo you roughly it is said: Their way of courtship is a blow Struck with a nullah on the head.
It doesn't hurt you much—the thing Is hardly novel to your life; And, sans the feast and marriage ring, You make a good impromptu wife.
This hasty sort of wedding might, In other cases, bring distress; But then, your draper's bills are light— You're frugal in regard to dress.
You have no passion for the play, Or park, or other showy scenes; And, hence, you have no scores to pay, And live within your husband's means.
Of course, his income isn't large,— And not too certain—still you thrive By steering well inside the marge, And keep your little ones alive.
In short, in some respects you set A fine example; and a few Of those white matrons I have met Would show some sense by copying you.
Here let us part! I will not say, O lady free from scents and starch, That you are like, in any way, The authoress of "Middlemarch".
One cannot match her perfect phrase With commonplaces from your lip; And yet there are some sexual traits That show your dim relationship.
Indeed, in spite of all the mists That grow from social codes, I see The liberal likeness which exists Throughout our whole humanity.
And though I've laughed at your expense, O Dryad of the dusky race, No man who has a heart and sense Would bring displeasure to your face.
"Daughter," said the ancient father, pausing by the evening sea, "Turn thy face towards the sunset—turn thy face and kneel with me! Prayer and praise and holy fasting, lips of love and life of light, These and these have made thee perfect—shining saint with seraph's sight! Look towards that flaming crescent—look beyond that glowing space— Tell me, sister of the angels, what is beaming in thy face?" And the daughter, who had fasted, who had spent her days in prayer, Till the glory of the Saviour touched her head and rested there, Turned her eyes towards the sea-line—saw beyond the fiery crest, Floating over waves of jasper, far Hy-Brasil in the west.
All the calmness and the colour—all the splendour and repose, Flowing where the sunset flowered, like a silver-hearted rose! There indeed was singing Eden, where the great gold river runs Past the porch and gates of crystal, ringed by strong and shining ones! There indeed was God's own garden, sailing down the sapphire sea— Lawny dells and slopes of summer, dazzling stream and radiant tree! Out against the hushed horizon—out beneath the reverent day, Flamed the Wonder on the waters—flamed and flashed and passed away. And the maiden who had seen it felt a hand within her own, And an angel that we know not led her to the lands unknown.
Never since hath eye beheld it—never since hath mortal, dazed By its strange, unearthly splendour, on the floating Eden gazed! Only once since Eve went weeping through a throng of glittering wings, Hath the holy seen Hy-Brasil where the great gold river sings! Only once by quiet waters, under still, resplendent skies, Did the sister of the seraphs kneel in sight of Paradise! She, the pure, the perfect woman, sanctified by patient prayer, Had the eyes of saints of Heaven, all their glory in her hair: Therefore God the Father whispered to a radiant spirit near— "Show Our daughter fair Hy-Brasil—show her this, and lead her here."
But beyond the halls of sunset, but within the wondrous west, On the rose-red seas of evening, sails the Garden of the Blest. Still the gates of glassy beauty, still the walls of glowing light, Shine on waves that no man knows of, out of sound and out of sight. Yet the slopes and lawns of lustre, yet the dells of sparkling streams, Dip to tranquil shores of jasper, where the watching angel beams. But, behold, our eyes are human, and our way is paved with pain, We can never find Hy-Brasil, never see its hills again; Never look on bays of crystal, never bend the reverent knee In the sight of Eden floating—floating on the sapphire sea!
Jim the Splitter
The bard who is singing of Wollombi Jim Is hardly just now in the requisite trim To sit on his Pegasus fairly; Besides, he is bluntly informed by the Muse That Jim is a subject no singer should choose; For Jim is poetical rarely.
But being full up of the myths that are Greek— Of the classic, and noble, and nude, and antique, Which means not a rag but the pelt on; This poet intends to give Daphne the slip, For the sake of a hero in moleskin and kip, With a jumper and snake-buckle belt on.
No party is Jim of the Pericles type— He is modern right up from the toe to the pipe; And being no reader or roamer, He hasn't Euripides much in the head; And let it be carefully, tenderly said, He never has analysed Homer.
He can roar out a song of the twopenny kind; But, knowing the beggar so well, I'm inclined To believe that a "par" about Kelly, The rascal who skulked under shadow of curse, Is more in his line than the happiest verse On the glittering pages of Shelley.
You mustn't, however, adjudge him in haste, Because a red robber is more to his taste Than Ruskin, Rossetti, or Dante! You see, he was bred in a bangalow wood, And bangalow pith was the principal food His mother served out in her shanty.
His knowledge is this—he can tell in the dark What timber will split by the feel of the bark; And rough as his manner of speech is, His wits to the fore he can readily bring In passing off ash as the genuine thing When scarce in the forest the beech is.
In girthing a tree that he sells in the round, He assumes, as a rule, that the body is sound, And measures, forgetting to bark it! He may be a ninny, but still the old dog Can plug to perfection the pipe of a log And palm it away on the market.
He splits a fair shingle, but holds to the rule Of his father's, and, haply, his grandfather's school; Which means that he never has blundered, When tying his shingles, by slinging in more Than the recognized number of ninety and four To the bundle he sells for a hundred!
When asked by the market for ironbark red, It always occurs to the Wollombi head To do a "mahogany" swindle. In forests where never the ironbark grew, When Jim is at work, it would flabbergast you To see how the ironbarks dwindle.
He can stick to the saddle, can Wollombi Jim, And when a buckjumper dispenses with him, The leather goes off with the rider. And, as to a team, over gully and hill He can travel with twelve on the breadth of a quill And boss the unlucky offsider.
He shines at his best at the tiller of saw, On the top of the pit, where his whisper is law To the gentleman working below him. When the pair of them pause in a circle of dust, Like a monarch he poses—exalted, august— There's nothing this planet can show him!
For a man is a man who can sharpen and set, And he is the only thing masculine yet According to sawyer and splitter— Or rather according to Wollombi Jim; And nothing will tempt me to differ from him, For Jim is a bit of a hitter.
But, being full up, we'll allow him to rip, Along with his lingo, his saw, and his whip— He isn't the classical notion. And, after a night in his humpy, you see, A person of orthodox habits would be Refreshed by a dip in the ocean.
To tot him right up from the heel to the head, He isn't the Grecian of whom we have read— His face is a trifle too shady. The nymph in green valleys of Thessaly dim Would never "jack up" her old lover for him, For she has the tastes of a lady.
So much for our hero! A statuesque foot Would suffer by wearing that heavy-nailed boot— Its owner is hardly Achilles. However, he's happy! He cuts a great "fig" In the land where a coat is no part of the rig— In the country of damper and billies.
(Written in the shadow of 1872.)
Ah, to be by Mooni now, Where the great dark hills of wonder, Scarred with storm and cleft asunder By the strong sword of the thunder, Make a night on morning's brow! Just to stand where Nature's face is Flushed with power in forest places— Where of God authentic trace is— Ah, to be by Mooni now!
Just to be by Mooni's springs! There to stand, the shining sharer Of that larger life, and rarer Beauty caught from beauty fairer Than the human face of things! Soul of mine from sin abhorrent Fain would hide by flashing current, Like a sister of the torrent, Far away by Mooni's springs.
He that is by Mooni now Sees the water-sapphires gleaming Where the River Spirit, dreaming, Sleeps by fall and fountain streaming Under lute of leaf and bough— Hears, where stamp of storm with stress is, Psalms from unseen wildernesses Deep amongst far hill-recesses— He that is by Mooni now.
Yea, for him by Mooni's marge Sings the yellow-haired September, With the face the gods remember When the ridge is burnt to ember, And the dumb sea chains the barge! Where the mount like molten brass is, Down beneath fern-feathered passes, Noonday dew in cool green grasses Gleams on him by Mooni's marge.
Who that dwells by Mooni yet, Feels, in flowerful forest arches, Smiting wings and breath that parches Where strong Summer's path of march is, And the suns in thunder set? Housed beneath the gracious kirtle Of the shadowy water myrtle, Winds may hiss with heat, and hurtle— He is safe by Mooni yet!
Days there were when he who sings (Dumb so long through passion's losses) Stood where Mooni's water crosses Shining tracts of green-haired mosses, Like a soul with radiant wings; Then the psalm the wind rehearses— Then the song the stream disperses Lent a beauty to his verses, Who to-night of Mooni sings.
Ah, the theme—the sad, grey theme! Certain days are not above me, Certain hearts have ceased to love me, Certain fancies fail to move me Like the affluent morning dream. Head whereon the white is stealing, Heart whose hurts are past all healing, Where is now the first pure feeling? Ah, the theme—the sad, grey theme!
Sin and shame have left their trace! He who mocks the mighty, gracious Love of Christ, with eyes audacious, Hunting after fires fallacious, Wears the issue in his face. Soul that flouted gift and Giver, Like the broken Persian river, Thou hast lost thy strength for ever! Sin and shame have left their trace.
In the years that used to be, When the large, supreme occasion Brought the life of inspiration, Like a god's transfiguration Was the shining change in me. Then, where Mooni's glory glances, Clear, diviner countenances Beamed on me like blessed chances, In the years that used to be.
Ah, the beauty of old ways! Then the man who so resembled Lords of light unstained, unhumbled, Touched the skirts of Christ, nor trembled At the grand benignant gaze! Now he shrinks before the splendid Face of Deity offended, All the loveliness is ended! All the beauty of old ways!
Still to be by Mooni cool— Where the water-blossoms glister, And, by gleaming vale and vista, Sits the English April's sister Soft and sweet and wonderful. Just to rest beyond the burning Outer world—its sneers and spurning— Ah! my heart—my heart is yearning Still to be by Mooni cool!
Now, by Mooni's fair hill heads, Lo, the gold green lights are glowing, Where, because no wind is blowing, Fancy hears the flowers growing In the herby watersheds! Faint it is—the sound of thunder From the torrents far thereunder, Where the meeting mountains ponder— Now, by Mooni's fair hill heads.
Just to be where Mooni is, Even where the fierce fall races Down august, unfathomed places, Where of sun or moon no trace is, And the streams of shadows hiss! Have I not an ample reason So to long for—sick of treason— Something of the grand old season, Just to be where Mooni is?
Gaul whose keel in far, dim ages ploughed wan widths of polar sea— Gray old sailor of Massilia, who hath woven wreath for thee? Who amongst the world's high singers ever breathed the tale sublime Of the man who coasted England in the misty dawn of time? Leaves of laurel, lights of music—these and these have never shed Glory on the name unheard of, lustre on the vanished head. Lords of song, and these are many, never yet have raised the lay For the white, wind-beaten seaman of a wild, forgotten day. Harp of shining son of Godhead still is as a voice august; But the man who first saw Britain sleeps beneath unnoticed dust.
From the fair, calm bays Hellenic, from the crescents and the bends, Round the wall of crystal Athens, glowing in gold evening-ends, Sailed abroad the grand, strong father, with his face towards the snow Of the awful northern mountains, twenty centuries ago. On the seas that none had heard of, by the shores where none had furled Wing of canvas, passed this elder to the limits of the world. Lurid limits, loud with thunder and the roar of flaming cone, Ghastly tracts of ice and whirlwind lying in a dim, blind zone, Bitter belts of naked region, girt about by cliffs of fear, Where the Spirit of the Darkness dwells in heaven half the year.
Yea, against the wild, weird Thule, steered the stranger through the gates Opened by a fire eternal, into tempest-trampled straits— Thule, lying like a nightmare on the borders of the Pole: Neither land, nor air, nor water, but a mixture of the whole! Dumb, dead chaos, grey as spectre, now a mist and now a cloud, Where the winds cry out for ever, and the wave is always loud. Here the lord of many waters, in the great exalted years, Saw the sight that no man knows of—heard the sound that no man hears— Felt that God was in the Shadow ere he turned his prow and sped To the sweet green fields of England with the sunshine overhead.
In the day when pallid Persia fled before the Thracian steel, By the land that now is London passed the strange Hellenic keel. Up the bends of quiet river, hard by banks of grove and flower, Sailed the father through a silence in the old majestic hour. Not a sound of fin or feather, not a note of wave or breeze, Vext the face of sleeping streamlets, broke the rest of stirless trees. Not a foot was in the forest, not a voice was in the wood, When the elder from Massilia over English waters stood. All was new, and hushed, and holy—all was pure untrodden space, When the lord of many oceans turned to it a reverent face.
Man who knew resplendent Athens, set and framed in silver sea, Did not dream a dream of England—England of the years to be! Friend of fathers like to Plato—bards august and hallowed seers— Did not see that tenfold glory, Britain of the future years! Spirit filled with Grecian music, songs that charm the dark away, On that large, supreme occasion, did not note diviner lay— Did not hear the voice of Shakespeare—all the mighty life was still, Down the slopes that dipped to seaward, on the shoulders of the hill; But the gold and green were brighter than the bloom of Thracian springs, And a strange, surpassing beauty shone upon the face of things.
In a grave that no man thinks of—back from far-forgotten bays— Sleeps the grey, wind-beaten sailor of the old exalted days. He that coasted Wales and Dover, he that first saw Sussex plains, Passed away with head unlaurelled in the wild Thessalian rains. In a space by hand untended, by a fen of vapours blind, Lies the king of many waters—out of sight and out of mind! No one brings the yearly blossom—no one culls the flower of grace, For the shell of mighty father buried in that lonely place; But the winds are low and holy, and the songs of sweetness flow, Where he fell asleep for ever, twenty centuries ago.
Bill the Bullock-Driver
The leaders of millions, the lords of the lands, Who sway the wide world with their will And shake the great globe with the strength of their hands, Flash past us—unnoticed by Bill.
The elders of science who measure the spheres And weigh the vast bulk of the sun— Who see the grand lights beyond aeons of years, Are less than a bullock to one.
The singers that sweeten all time with their song— Pure voices that make us forget Humanity's drama of marvellous wrong— To Bill are as mysteries yet.
By thunders of battle and nations uphurled, Bill's sympathies never were stirred: The helmsmen who stand at the wheel of the world By him are unknown and unheard.
What trouble has Bill for the ruin of lands, Or the quarrels of temple and throne, So long as the whip that he holds in his hands And the team that he drives are his own?
As straight and as sound as a slab without crack, Our Bill is a king in his way; Though he camps by the side of a shingle track, And sleeps on the bed of his dray.
A whip-lash to him is as dear as a rose Would be to a delicate maid; He carries his darlings wherever he goes, In a pocket-book tattered and frayed.
The joy of a bard when he happens to write A song like the song of his dream Is nothing at all to our hero's delight In the pluck and the strength of his team.
For the kings of the earth, for the faces august Of princes, the millions may shout; To Bill, as he lumbers along in the dust, A bullock's the grandest thing out.
His four-footed friends are the friends of his choice— No lover is Bill of your dames; But the cattle that turn at the sound of his voice Have the sweetest of features and names.
A father's chief joy is a favourite son, When he reaches some eminent goal, But the pride of Bill's heart is the hairy-legged one That pulls with a will at the pole.
His dray is no living, responsible thing, But he gives it the gender of life; And, seeing his fancy is free in the wing, It suits him as well as a wife.
He thrives like an Arab. Between the two wheels Is his bedroom, where, lying up-curled, He thinks for himself, like a sultan, and feels That his home is the best in the world.
For, even though cattle, like subjects, will break At times from the yoke and the band, Bill knows how to act when his rule is at stake, And is therefore a lord of the land.
Of course he must dream; but be sure that his dreams, If happy, must compass, alas! Fat bullocks at feed by improbable streams, Knee-deep in improbable grass.
No poet is Bill, for the visions of night To him are as visions of day; And the pipe that in sleep he endeavours to light Is the pipe that he smokes on the dray.
To the mighty, magnificent temples of God, In the hearts of the dominant hills, Bill's eyes are as blind as the fire-blackened clod That burns far away from the rills.
Through beautiful, bountiful forests that screen A marvel of blossoms from heat— Whose lights are the mellow and golden and green— Bill walks with irreverent feet.
The manifold splendours of mountain and wood By Bill like nonentities slip; He loves the black myrtle because it is good As a handle to lash to his whip.
And thus through the world, with a swing in his tread, Our hero self-satisfied goes; With his cabbage-tree hat on the back of his head, And the string of it under his nose.
Poor bullocky Bill! In the circles select Of the scholars he hasn't a place; But he walks like a man, with his forehead erect, And he looks at God's day in the face.
For, rough as he seems, he would shudder to wrong A dog with the loss of a hair; And the angels of shine and superlative song See his heart and the deity there.
Few know him, indeed; but the beauty that glows In the forest is loveliness still; And Providence helping the life of the rose Is a Friend and a Father to Bill.
Years fifty, and seven to boot, have smitten the children of men Since sound of a voice or a foot came out of the head of that glen. The brand of black devil is there—an evil wind moaneth around— There is doom, there is death in the air: a curse groweth up from the ground! No noise of the axe or the saw in that hollow unholy is heard, No fall of the hoof or the paw, no whirr of the wing of the bird; But a grey mother down by the sea, as wan as the foam on the strait, Has counted the beads on her knee these forty-nine winters and eight.
Whenever an elder is asked—a white-headed man of the woods— Of the terrible mystery masked where the dark everlastingly broods, Be sure he will turn to the bay, with his back to the glen in the range, And glide like a phantom away, with a countenance pallid with change. From the line of dead timber that lies supine at the foot of the glade, The fierce-featured eaglehawk flies—afraid as a dove is afraid; But back in that wilderness dread are a fall and the forks of a ford— Ah! pray and uncover your head, and lean like a child on the Lord.
A sinister fog at the wane—at the change of the moon cometh forth Like an ominous ghost in the train of a bitter, black storm of the north! At the head of the gully unknown it hangs like a spirit of bale. And the noise of a shriek and a groan strikes up in the gusts of the gale. In the throat of a feculent pit is the beard of a bloody-red sedge; And a foam like the foam of a fit sweats out of the lips of the ledge. But down in the water of death, in the livid, dead pool at the base— Bow low, with inaudible breath, beseech with the hands to the face!
A furlong of fetid, black fen, with gelid, green patches of pond, Lies dumb by the horns of the glen—at the gates of the horror beyond; And those who have looked on it tell of the terrible growths that are there— The flowerage fostered by hell, the blossoms that startle and scare. If ever a wandering bird should light on Gehennas like this Be sure that a cry will be heard, and the sound of the flat adder's hiss. But hard by the jaws of the bend is a ghastly Thing matted with moss— Ah, Lord! be a father, a friend, for the sake of the Christ of the Cross.
Black Tom, with the sinews of five—that never a hangman could hang— In the days of the shackle and gyve, broke loose from the guards of the gang. Thereafter, for seasons a score, this devil prowled under the ban; A mate of red talon and paw, a wolf in the shape of a man. But, ringed by ineffable fire, in a thunder and wind of the north, The sword of Omnipotent ire—the bolt of high Heaven went forth! But, wan as the sorrowful foam, a grey mother waits by the sea For the boys that have never come home these fifty-four winters and three.
From the folds of the forested hills there are ravelled and roundabout tracks, Because of the terror that fills the strong-handed men of the axe! Of the workers away in the range there is none that will wait for the night, When the storm-stricken moon is in change and the sinister fog is in sight. And later and deep in the dark, when the bitter wind whistles about, There is never a howl or a bark from the dog in the kennel without, But the white fathers fasten the door, and often and often they start, At a sound like a foot on the floor and a touch like a hand on the heart.
When Underneath the Brown Dead Grass
When underneath the brown dead grass My weary bones are laid, I hope I shall not see the glass At ninety in the shade. I trust indeed that, when I lie Beneath the churchyard pine, I shall not hear that startling cry "'Thermom' is ninety-nine!"
If one should whisper through my sleep "Come up and be alive," I'd answer—No, unless you'll keep The glass at sixty-five. I might be willing if allowed To wear old Adam's rig, And mix amongst the city crowd Like Polynesian "nig".
Far better in the sod to lie, With pasturing pig above, Than broil beneath a copper sky— In sight of all I love! Far better to be turned to grass To feed the poley cow, Than be the half boiled bream, alas, That I am really now!
For cow and pig I would not hear, And hoof I would not see; But if these items did appear They wouldn't trouble me. For ah! the pelt of mortal man Weighs less than half a ton, And any sight is better than A sultry southern sun.
The Voice in the Wild Oak
(Written in the shadow of 1872.)
Twelve years ago, when I could face High heaven's dome with different eyes— In days full-flowered with hours of grace, And nights not sad with sighs— I wrote a song in which I strove To shadow forth thy strain of woe, Dark widowed sister of the grove!— Twelve wasted years ago.
But youth was then too young to find Those high authentic syllables, Whose voice is like the wintering wind By sunless mountain fells; Nor had I sinned and suffered then To that superlative degree That I would rather seek, than men, Wild fellowship with thee!
But he who hears this autumn day Thy more than deep autumnal rhyme, Is one whose hair was shot with grey By Grief instead of Time. He has no need, like many a bard, To sing imaginary pain, Because he bears, and finds it hard, The punishment of Cain.
No more he sees the affluence Which makes the heart of Nature glad; For he has lost the fine, first sense Of Beauty that he had. The old delight God's happy breeze Was wont to give, to Grief has grown; And therefore, Niobe of trees, His song is like thine own!
But I, who am that perished soul, Have wasted so these powers of mine, That I can never write that whole, Pure, perfect speech of thine. Some lord of words august, supreme, The grave, grand melody demands; The dark translation of thy theme I leave to other hands.
Yet here, where plovers nightly call Across dim, melancholy leas— Where comes by whistling fen and fall The moan of far-off seas— A grey, old Fancy often sits Beneath thy shade with tired wings, And fills thy strong, strange rhyme by fits With awful utterings.
Then times there are when all the words Are like the sentences of one Shut in by Fate from wind and birds And light of stars and sun, No dazzling dryad, but a dark Dream-haunted spirit doomed to be Imprisoned, crampt in bands of bark, For all eternity.
Yea, like the speech of one aghast At Immortality in chains, What time the lordly storm rides past With flames and arrowy rains: Some wan Tithonus of the wood, White with immeasurable years— An awful ghost in solitude With moaning moors and meres.
And when high thunder smites the hill And hunts the wild dog to his den, Thy cries, like maledictions, shrill And shriek from glen to glen, As if a frightful memory whipped Thy soul for some infernal crime That left it blasted, blind, and stript— A dread to Death and Time!
But when the fair-haired August dies, And flowers wax strong and beautiful, Thy songs are stately harmonies By wood-lights green and cool— Most like the voice of one who shows Through sufferings fierce, in fine relief, A noble patience and repose— A dignity in grief.
But, ah! conceptions fade away, And still the life that lives in thee— The soul of thy majestic lay— Remains a mystery! And he must speak the speech divine— The language of the high-throned lords— Who'd give that grand old theme of thine Its sense in faultless words.
By hollow lands and sea-tracts harsh, With ruin of the fourfold gale, Where sighs the sedge and sobs the marsh, Still wail thy lonely wail; And, year by year, one step will break The sleep of far hill-folded streams, And seek, if only for thy sake Thy home of many dreams.
No song is this of leaf and bird, And gracious waters flowing; I'm sick at heart, for I have heard Big Billy Vickers "blowing".
He'd never take a leading place In chambers legislative: This booby with the vacant face— This hoddy-doddy native!
Indeed, I'm forced to say aside, To you, O reader, solely, He only wants the horns and hide To be a bullock wholly.
But, like all noodles, he is vain; And when his tongue is wagging, I feel inclined to copy Cain, And "drop" him for his bragging.
He, being Bush-bred, stands, of course, Six feet his dirty socks in; His lingo is confined to horse And plough, and pig and oxen.
Two years ago he'd less to say Within his little circuit; But now he has, besides a dray, A team of twelve to work it.
No wonder is it that he feels Inclined to clack and rattle About his bullocks and his wheels— He owns a dozen cattle.
In short, to be exact and blunt, In his own estimation He's "out and out" the head and front Top-sawyer of creation!
For, mark me, he can "sit a buck" For hours and hours together; And never horse has had the luck To pitch him from the leather.
If ever he should have a "spill" Upon the grass or gravel, Be sure of this, the saddle will With Billy Vickers travel.
At punching oxen you may guess There's nothing out can "camp" him: He has, in fact, the slouch and dress Which bullock-driver stamp him.
I do not mean to give offence, But I have vainly striven To ferret out the difference 'Twixt driver and the driven.
Of course, the statements herein made In every other stanza Are Billy's own; and I'm afraid They're stark extravaganza.
I feel constrained to treat as trash His noisy fiddle-faddle About his doings with the lash, His feats upon the saddle.
But grant he "knows his way about", Or grant that he is silly, There cannot be the slightest doubt Of Billy's faith in Billy.
Of all the doings of the day His ignorance is utter; But he can quote the price of hay, The current rate of butter.
His notions of our leading men Are mixed and misty very: He knows a cochin-china hen— He never speaks of Berry.
As you'll assume, he hasn't heard Of Madame Patti's singing; But I will stake my solemn word He knows what maize is bringing.
Surrounded by majestic peaks, By lordly mountain ranges, Where highest voice of thunder speaks His aspect never changes.
The grand Pacific there beyond His dirty hut is glowing: He only sees a big salt pond, O'er which his grain is going.
The sea that covers half the sphere, With all its stately speeches, Is held by Bill to be a mere Broad highway for his peaches.
Through Nature's splendid temples he Plods, under mountains hoary; But he has not the eyes to see Their grandeur and their glory.
A bullock in a biped's boot, I iterate, is Billy! He crushes with a careless foot The touching water-lily.
I've said enough—I'll let him go! If he could read these verses, He'd pepper me for hours, I know, With his peculiar curses.
But this is sure, he'll never change His manners loud and flashy, Nor learn with neatness to arrange His clothing, cheap and trashy.
Like other louts, he'll jog along, And swig at shanty liquors, And chew and spit. Here ends the song Of Mr. Billy Vickers.
I am writing this song at the close Of a beautiful day of the spring In a dell where the daffodil grows By a grove of the glimmering wing; From glades where a musical word Comes ever from luminous fall, I send you the song of a bird That I wish to be dear to you all.
I have given my darling the name Of a land at the gates of the day, Where morning is always the same, And spring never passes away. With a prayer for a lifetime of light, I christened her Persia, you see; And I hope that some fathers to-night Will kneel in the spirit with me.
She is only commencing to look At the beauty in which she is set; And forest and flower and brook, To her are all mysteries yet. I know that to many my words Will seem insignificant things; But you who are mothers of birds Will feel for the father who sings.
For all of you doubtless have been Where sorrows are many and wild; And you know what a beautiful scene Of this world can be made by a child: I am sure, if they listen to this, Sweet women will quiver, and long To tenderly stoop to and kiss The Persia I've put in a song.
And I'm certain the critic will pause, And excuse, for the sake of my bird, My sins against critical laws— The slips in the thought and the word. And haply some dear little face Of his own to his mind will occur— Some Persia who brightens his place— And I'll be forgiven for her.
A life that is turning to grey Has hardly been happy, you see; But the rose that has dropped on my way Is morning and music to me. Yea, she that I hold by the hand Is changing white winter to green, And making a light of the land— All fathers will know what I mean:
All women and men who have known The sickness of sorrow and sin, Will feel—having babes of their own— My verse and the pathos therein. For that must be touching which shows How a life has been led from the wild To a garden of glitter and rose, By the flower-like hand of a child.
She is strange to this wonderful sphere; One summer and winter have set Since God left her radiance here— Her sweet second year is not yet. The world is so lovely and new To eyes full of eloquent light, And, sisters, I'm hoping that you Will pray for my Persia to-night.
For I, who have suffered so much, And know what the bitterness is, Am sad to think sorrow must touch Some day even darlings like this! But sorrow is part of this life, And, therefore, a father doth long For the blessing of mother and wife On the bird he has put in a song.
Strange is the song, and the soul that is singing Falters because of the vision it sees; Voice that is not of the living is ringing Down in the depths where the darkness is clinging, Even when Noon is the lord of the leas, Fast, like a curse, to the ghosts of the trees!
Here in a mist that is parted in sunder, Half with the darkness and half with the day; Face of a woman, but face of a wonder, Vivid and wild as a flame of the thunder, Flashes and fades, and the wail of the grey Water is loud on the straits of the bay!
Father, whose years have been many and weary— Elder, whose life is as lovely as light Shining in ways that are sterile and dreary— Tell me the name of this beautiful peri, Flashing on me like the wonderful white Star, at the meeting of morning and night.
Look to thy Saviour, and down on thy knee, man, Lean on the Lord, as the Zebedee leaned; Daughter of hell is the neighbour of thee, man— Lilith, of Adam the luminous leman! Turn to the Christ to be succoured and screened, Saved from the eyes of a marvellous fiend!
Serpent she is in the shape of a woman, Brighter than woman, ineffably fair! Shelter thyself from the splendour, and sue, man; Light that was never a loveliness human Lives in the face of this sinister snare, Longing to strangle thy soul with her hair!
Lilith, who came to the father and bound him Fast with her eyes in the first of the springs; Lilith she is, but remember she drowned him, Shedding her flood of gold tresses around him— Lulled him to sleep with the lyric she sings: Melody strange with unspeakable things!
Low is her voice, but beware of it ever, Swift bitter death is the fruit of delay; Never was song of its beauty—ah! never— Heard on the mountain, or meadow, or river, Not of the night is it, not of the day— Fly from it, stranger, away and away.
Back on the hills are the blossom and feather, Glory of noon is on valley and spire; Here is the grace of magnificent weather, Where is the woman from gulfs of the nether? Where is the fiend with the face of desire? Gone, with a cry, in miraculous fire!
Sound that was not of this world, or the spacious Splendid blue heaven, has passed from the lea; Dead is the voice of the devil audacious: Only a dream is her music fallacious, Here, in the song and the shadow of tree, Down by the green and the gold of the sea.
Singer of songs of the hills— Dreamer, by waters unstirred, Back in a valley of rills, Home of the leaf and the bird!— Read in this fall of the year Just the compassionate phrase, Faded with traces of tear, Written in far-away days:
"Gone is the light of my lap (Lord, at Thy bidding I bow), Here is my little one's cap, He has no need of it now, Give it to somebody's boy— Somebody's darling"—she wrote. Touching was Bob in his joy— Bob without boots or a coat.
Only a cap; but it gave Capless and comfortless one Happiness, bright as the brave, Beautiful light of the sun. Soft may the sanctified sod Rest on the father who led Bob from the gutter, unshod— Covered his cold little head!
Bob from the foot to the crown Measured a yard, and no more— Baby alone in the town, Homeless, and hungry, and sore— Child that was never a child, Hiding away from the rain, Draggled and dirty and wild, Down in a pipe of the drain.
Poor little beggar was Bob— Couldn't afford to be sick, Getting a penny a job, Sometimes a curse and a kick. Father was killed by the drink; Mother was driven to shame; Bob couldn't manage to think— He had forgotten their name.
God was in heaven above, Flowers illumined the ground, Women of infinite love Lived in the palaces round— Saints with the character sweet Found in the fathers of old, Laboured in alley and street— Baby slept out in the cold.
Nobody noticed the child— Nobody knew of the mite Creeping about like a wild Thing in the shadow of night. Beaten by drunkards and cowed— Frightened to speak or to sob— How could he ask you aloud, "Have you a penny for Bob?"
Few were the pennies he got— Seldom could hide them away, Watched by the ravenous sot Ever at wait for his prey. Poor little man! He would weep Oft for a morsel of bread; Coppers he wanted to keep Went to the tavern instead.
This was his history, friend— Ragged, unhoused, and alone; How could the child comprehend Love that he never had known? Hunted about in the world, Crouching in crevices dim, Crust with a curse at him hurled Stood for a kindness with him.
Little excited his joy— Bun after doing a job; Mother of bright-headed boy, Think of the motherless Bob! High in the heavens august Providence saw him, and said— "Out of the pits of the dust Lift him, and cover his head."
Ah, the ineffable grace, Father of children, in Thee! Boy in a radiant place, Fanned by the breeze of the sea— Child on a lullaby lap Said, in the pause of his pain, "Mother, don't bury my cap— Give it to Bob in the lane."
Beautiful bidding of Death! What could she do but obey, Even when suffering Faith Hadn't the power to pray? So, in the fall of the year, Saint with the fatherly head Hunted for somebody's dear— "Somebody's darling," he said.
Bob, who was nobody's child, Sitting on nobody's lap, Draggled and dirty and wild— Bob got the little one's cap. Strange were compassionate words! Waif of the alley and lane Dreamed of the music of birds Floating about in the rain.
White-headed father in God, Over thy beautiful grave Green is the grass of the sod, Soft is the sound of the wave. Down by the slopes of the sea Often and often will sob Boy who was fostered by thee— This is the story of Bob.