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An Anthology of Australian Verse Edited by Bertram Stevens
Dedicated to DAVID SCOTT MITCHELL, Esq. Sydney
The Editor has endeavoured to make this selection representative of the best short poems written by Australians or inspired by Australian scenery and conditions of life, — "Australian" in this connection being used to include New Zealand. The arrangement is as nearly as possible chronological; and the appendix contains brief biographical particulars of the authors, together with notes which may be useful to readers outside Australia.
The Editor thanks Messrs. H. H. Champion, Henry Gyles Turner, E. B. Loughran, A. Brazier and Walter Murdoch (Melbourne), Mr. Sydney Jephcott (Upper Murray, Vic.), Mr. Fred. Johns (Adelaide), Mr. Thomas Cottle (Auckland), Mr. J. C. Andersen (Christchurch), Messrs. David Scott Mitchell, Alfred Lee, A. W. Jose, and J. Le Gay Brereton (Sydney), for their generous help. Mr. Douglas Sladen's anthologies, Messrs. Turner and Sutherland's "Development of Australian Literature", and 'The Bulletin' have also furnished much useful information.
William Charles Wentworth. Australasia "Australasia: a Poem"
Charles Harpur. Love Words A Coast View "Poems"
William Forster. 'The Love in her Eyes lay Sleeping' "Midas"
James Lionel Michael. 'Through Pleasant Paths' "John Cumberland" Personality Periodical (Sydney, 1858)
Daniel Henry Deniehy. Love in a Cottage A Song for the Night Periodical (Sydney, 1847)
Richard Rowe. Superstites Rosae Soul Ferry "Peter 'Possum's Portfolio"
Sir Henry Parkes. The Buried Chief "Fragmentary Thoughts"
Thomas Alexander Browne ('Rolf Boldrewood'). Perdita "Old Melbourne Memories"
Adam Lindsay Gordon. A Dedication "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes" Thora's Song "Ashtaroth: A Dramatic Lyric" The Sick Stock-rider "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes"
Henry Kendall. Prefatory Sonnets September in Australia Rose Lorraine "Leaves from Australian Forests" To a Mountain Araluen After Many Years Hy-Brasil "Songs from the Mountains" Outre Mer "Poems"
Marcus Clarke. The Song of Tigilau "Austral Edition of the collected Works of Marcus Clarke"
Patrick Moloney. Melbourne "An Easter Omelette" (Melbourne, 1879)
Alfred Domett. An Invitation A Maori Girl's Song "Ranolf and Amohia"
James Brunton Stephens. The Dominion of Australia The Dark Companion "Miscellaneous Poems" Day Night "Convict Once"
Thomas Bracken. Not Understood Spirit of Song "Musings in Maoriland"
Ada Cambridge. What of the Night? Good-bye The Virgin Martyr Honour Despair Faith Manuscript
Alexander Bathgate. The Clematis "Far South Fancies"
Philip Joseph Holdsworth. Quis Separabit? Manuscript My Queen of Dreams "Station Hunting on the Warrego"
Mary Hannay Foott. Where the Pelican Builds New Country No Message Happy Days "Morna Lee and other Poems"
Henry Lea Twisleton. To a Cabbage Rose "Poems"
Mrs. James Glenny Wilson. Fairyland A Winter Daybreak The Lark's Song "A Book of Verses"
Edward Booth Loughran. Dead Leaves Isolation Ishmonie "'Neath Austral Skies"
John Liddell Kelly. Immortality Heredity "Heather and Fern"
Robert Richardson. A Ballade of Wattle Blossom A Song "Willow and Wattle"
James Lister Cuthbertson. Australia Federata At Cape Schanck "Barwon Ballads" Wattle and Myrtle Periodical (Melbourne) The Australian Sunrise Periodical (Geelong)
John Farrell. Australia to England Periodical (Sydney, 1897)
Arthur Patchett Martin. Bushland "The Withered Jester, and other Verses"
Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen. Under the Wattle Periodical (1888)
Victor James Daley. Players Periodical (Sydney, 1900) Anna Periodical (Sydney, 1902) The Night Ride Manuscript
Alice Werner. Bannerman of the Dandenong "A Time and Times"
Ethel Castilla. An Australian Girl A Song of Sydney "The Australian Girl, and other Verses"
Francis William Lauderdale Adams. Something Gordon's Grave To A. L. Gordon "Poetical Works" Love and Death Manuscript
Thomas William Heney. Absence "In Middle Harbour, and other Verse" A Riverina Road Periodical (Sydney, 1891)
Patrick Edward Quinn. A Girl's Grave Periodical (Sydney, 1889)
John Sandes. 'With Death's Prophetic Ear' "Ballads of Battle"
Inez K. Hyland. To a Wave Bread and Wine "In Sunshine and in Shadow"
George Essex Evans. An Australian Symphony A Nocturne A Pastoral "Loraine, and other Verses" The Women of the West Periodical (Melbourne)
Mary Colborne-Veel. 'What Look hath She?' Saturday Night 'Resurgam' "The Fairest of the Angels, and other Verse" Distant Authors Periodical (London)
John Bernard O'Hara. Happy Creek A Country Village Flinders "Lyrics of Nature"
M. A. Sinclair. The Chatelaine Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)
Sydney Jephcott. Chaucer White Paper Splitting "The Secrets of the South" Home-woe A Ballad of the last King of Thule A Fragment Manuscript
Andrew Barton Paterson ('Banjo'). The Daylight is Dying Clancy of the Overflow Black Swans The Travelling Post Office "The Man from Snowy River" The Old Australian Ways By the Grey Gulf-Water "Rio Grande's Last Race, and other Verses"
Jessie Mackay. The Grey Company A Folk Song Dunedin in the Gloaming The Burial of Sir John Mackenzie Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)
Henry Lawson. Andy's gone with Cattle Out Back The Star of Australasia Middleton's Rouseabout The Vagabond The Sliprails and the Spur "In the Days when the World was Wide, and other Verses"
Arthur Albert Dawson Bayldon. Sunset The Sea To Poesy "The Western Track, and other Verses"
Jennings Carmichael. An Old Bush Road A Woman's Mood "Poems"
Agnes L. Storrie. Twenty Gallons of Sleep A Confession "Poems"
Martha M. Simpson. To an Old Grammar Periodical (Sydney)
William Gay. Primroses "Christ on Olympus, and other Poems" To M. Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum "Sonnets"
Edward Dyson. The Old Whim Horse "Rhymes from the Mines, and other Lines"
Dowell O'Reilly. The Sea-Maiden Periodical (Sydney, 1895)
David MacDonald Ross. Love's Treasure House The Sea to the Shell The Silent Tide The Watch on Deck Autumn "The After Glow"
Mary Gilmore. A Little Ghost Periodical (Orange, N.S.W.) Good-Night Periodical (Brisbane)
Bernard O'Dowd. Love's Substitute Our Duty Manuscript
Edwin James Brady. The Wardens of the Seas Manuscript
Will. H. Ogilvie. Queensland Opal Periodical (London) Wind o' the Autumn Periodical (London) Daffodils Periodical (Edinburgh) A Queen of Yore Periodical (Sydney) Drought Periodical (London) The Shadow on the Blind Periodical (London)
Roderic Quinn. The House of the Commonwealth Periodical (Sydney) The Lotus-Flower Manuscript
David McKee Wright. An Old Colonist's Reverie "Station Ballads, and other Verses"
Christopher John Brennan. Romance "XXI Poems: Towards the Source" Poppies Manuscript
John Le Gay Brereton. The Sea Maid "Oithona" Home "Sea and Sky" Wilfred Periodical (Sydney)
Arthur H. Adams. Bayswater, W. Manuscript Bond Street Periodical (London)
Ethel Turner. A Trembling Star 'Oh, if that Rainbow up there!' "Gum Leaves"
Johannes Carl Andersen. Soft, Low and Sweet "Songs Unsung" Maui Victor Periodical (Dunedin, N.Z.)
Dora Wilcox. In London "Verses from Maoriland"
Ernest Currie. Laudabunt Alii Periodical (Timaru, N.Z.)
George Charles Whitney. Sunset Manuscript
James Lister Cuthbertson. [reprise] Ode to Apollo Periodical (Melbourne)
Notes on the Poems
————————————————— An Anthology of Australian Verse —————————————————
As the literature of a country is, in certain respects, a reflex of its character, it may be advisable to introduce this Anthology with some account of the main circumstances which have affected the production of Australian poetry.
Australia was first settled by the British a little more than a century ago, so that we are still a young community. The present population, including that of New Zealand, is a little under five millions, or about the same as that of London; it is chiefly scattered along the coast and the few permanent waterways, and a vast central region is but sparsely inhabited as yet. All climates, from tropical to frigid, are included within the continent, but the want of satisfactory watersheds renders it peculiarly liable to long droughts and sudden floods. The absence of those broad, outward signs of the changing seasons which mark the pageant of the year in the old world is probably a greater disadvantage than we are apt to suspect. Here, too, have existed hardly any of the conditions which obtained in older communities where great literature arose. There is no glamour of old Romance about our early history, no shading off from the actual into a dim region of myth and fable; our beginnings are clearly defined and of an eminently prosaic character. The early settlers were engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with nature, and in the establishment of the primitive industries. Their strenuous pioneering days were followed by the feverish excitement of the gold period and a consequent rapid expansion of all industries. Business and politics have afforded ready roads to success, and have absorbed the energies of the best intellects. There has been no leisured class of cultured people to provide the atmosphere in which literature is best developed as an art; and, until recently, we have been content to look to the mother country for our artistic standards and supplies. The principal literary productions of our first century came from writers who had been born elsewhere, and naturally brought with them the traditions and sentiments of their home country.
We have not yet had time to settle down and form any decided racial characteristics; nor has any great crisis occurred to fuse our common sympathies and create a national sentiment. Australia has produced no great poet, nor has any remarkable innovation in verse forms been successfully attempted. But the old forms have been so coloured by the strange conditions of a new country, and so charged with the thoughts and feelings of a vigorous, restless democracy now just out of its adolescence, that they have an interest and a value beyond that of perhaps technically better minor poetry produced under English skies.
The first verses actually written and published in Australia seem to have been the Royal Birthday Odes of Michael Robinson, which were printed as broadsides from 1810 to 1821. Their publication in book form was announced in 'The Hobart Town Gazette' of 23rd March, 1822, but no copy of such a volume is at present known to exist. The famous "Prologue", said to have been recited at the first dramatic performance in Australia, on January 16th, 1796 (when Dr. Young's tragedy "The Revenge" and "The Hotel" were played in a temporary theatre at Sydney), was for a long time attributed to the notorious George Barrington, and ranked as the first verse produced in Australia. There is, however, no evidence to support this claim. The lines first appeared in a volume called "Original Poems and Translations" chiefly by Susannah Watts, published in London in 1802, a few months before the appearance of the "History of New South Wales" (1803) — known as George Barrington's — which also, in all probability, was not written by Barrington. In Susannah Watts' book the Prologue is stated to be written by "A Gentleman", but there is no clue to the name of the author. Mr. Barron Field, Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, printed in Sydney in 1819 his "First Fruits of Australian Poetry", for private circulation. Field was a friend of Charles Lamb, who addressed to him the letter printed in "The Essays of Elia" under the title of "Distant Correspondents". Lamb reviewed the "First Fruits" in 'The Examiner', and one wishes for his sake that the verses were more worthy.
The first poem of any importance by an Australian is William Charles Wentworth's "Australasia", written in 1823 at Cambridge University in competition for the Chancellor's medal. There were twenty-seven competitors, and the prize was awarded to W. Mackworth Praed, Wentworth being second on the list. Wentworth's poem was printed in London in the same year, and shortly afterwards in 'The Sydney Gazette', the first Australian newspaper. In 1826 there was printed at the Albion Press, Sydney, "Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel" by Charles Tompson, Junior, the first verse of an Australian-born writer published in this country. There was also published in Sydney in 1826 a book of verses by Dr. John Dunmore Lang, called "Aurora Australis". Both Lang and Wentworth afterwards conducted newspapers and wrote histories of New South Wales, but their names are more famous in the political than in the literary annals of the country. At Hobart Town in 1827 appeared "The Van Diemen's Land Warriors, or the Heroes of Cornwall" by "Pindar Juvenal", the first book of verse published in Tasmania. During the next ten years various poetical effusions were printed in the colonies, which are of bibliographical interest but of hardly any intrinsic value. Newspapers had been established at an early date, but until the end of this period they were little better than news-sheets or official gazettes, giving no opportunities for literature. The proportion of well-educated persons was small, the majority of the free settlers being members of the working classes, as very few representatives of British culture came willingly to this country until after the discovery of gold.
It was not until 1845 that the first genuine, though crude, Australian poetry appeared, in the form of a small volume of sonnets by Charles Harpur, who was born at Windsor, N.S.W., in 1817. He passed his best years in the lonely bush, and wrote largely under the influence of Wordsworth and Shelley. He had some imagination and poetic faculty of the contemplative order, but the disadvantages of his life were many. Harpur's best work is in his longer poems, from which extracts cannot conveniently be given here. The year 1842 had seen the publication of Henry Parkes' "Stolen Moments", the first of a number of volumes of verse which that statesman bravely issued, the last being published just before his eightieth year. The career of Parkes is coincident with a long and important period of our history, in which he is the most striking figure. Not the least interesting aspect of his character, which contained much of rugged greatness, was his love of poetry and his unfailing kindness to the struggling writers of the colony. Others who deserve remembrance for their services at this time are Nicol D. Stenhouse and Dr. Woolley. Among the writers of the period D. H. Deniehy, Henry Halloran, J. Sheridan Moore and Richard Rowe contributed fairly good verse to the newspapers, the principal of which were 'The Atlas' (1845-9), 'The Empire' (1850-8), and two papers still in existence — 'The Freeman's Journal' (1850) and 'The Sydney Morning Herald', which began as 'The Sydney Herald' in 1831. None of their writings, however, reflected to any appreciable extent the scenery or life of the new country.
With the discovery of gold a new era began for Australia. That event induced the flow of a large stream of immigration, and gave an enormous impetus to the development of the colonies. Among the ardent spirits attracted here were J. Lionel Michael, Robert Sealy, R. H. Horne, the Howitts, Henry Kingsley and Adam Lindsay Gordon. Michael was a friend of Millais, and an early champion of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Soon after his arrival in Sydney he abandoned the idea of digging for gold, and began to practise again as a solicitor. Later on he removed to Grafton on the Clarence River; there in 1857 Henry Kendall, a boy of 16, found work in his office, and Michael, discerning his promise, encouraged him to write. Most of the boy's earliest verses were sent from Michael's office to Parkes, who printed them in his paper 'The Empire'. When Kendall left Grafton, Michael gave him a letter of introduction to Stenhouse, which brought him in touch with the small literary group in Sydney; and his first volume, "Poems and Songs", was published in Sydney in 1862. It was not long before he recognised the extreme weakness of most of its contents, and did what he could to suppress the book. He sent specimens of his best work to the London 'Athenaeum', and wrote a pathetic letter to the Editor, which was printed in the issue of 27th September, 1862, together with some of the poems and a most kindly comment. Kendall soon wrote again, sending more poems, and received encouraging notices in 'The Athenaeum' on 19th September, 1863, 27th February, 1864, and 17th February, 1866. These form the first favourable pronouncement upon Australian poetry by an English critical journal of importance. Their stimulating effect upon Kendall was very great. From the indifference of the many and the carping criticisms of some of the magnates here, he had appealed to one of the highest literary authorities in England, and received praise beyond his wildest expectations.
Meanwhile the colony of Victoria, which began its independent career in 1851, had been advancing even more rapidly than New South Wales. 'The Argus' newspaper had been in existence since 1846, and other periodicals sprang up in Melbourne which gave further scope to letters. 'The Australasian' was established in 1854, and soon became the most important literary journal in Australia. Adam Lindsay Gordon, who had landed in Adelaide in the same year as Henry Kingsley — 1853 — published a little book of verse in 1864 at Mt. Gambier, S.A., and began to contribute verses to a Melbourne sporting paper in 1866. These were printed anonymously, and attracted some attention; but a collection of his ballads — "Sea Spray and Smoke Drift" — brought very little praise and no profit. Marcus Clarke came to Melbourne in 1864, and soon afterwards began to write for 'The Argus' and other papers. About the same time the presence of R. H. Horne, the distinguished author of "Orion", in Melbourne lent a lustre to that city, which was for the time the literary centre of Australia. Horne corresponded with Kendall, and contributed to a paper edited by Deniehy in Sydney — 'The Southern Cross' (1859-60). He was the presiding genius of the literary gatherings at Dwight's book-shop in Melbourne, and no doubt exercised a beneficial influence upon the writers around him.
In 1870, after a series of crushing disappointments, Gordon committed suicide. His dramatic end awakened sympathy and gave an additional interest to his writings. It was soon found that in the city and the bush many of his spirited racing ballads were well known. The virile, athletic tone of his verse, which taught "How a man should uphold the sports of his land And strike his best with a strong right hand And take his strokes in return" — and the practical philosophy, summed up in the well-known quatrain — "Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone; Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own" — appeal strongly to Australians. Gordon's work cannot be considered as peculiarly Australian in character; but much of it is concerned with the horse, and all of it is a-throb with the manly, reckless personality of the writer. Horses and horse-racing are especially interesting to Australians, the Swinburnian rush of Gordon's ballads charms their ear, and in many respects he embodies their ideal of a man. There are few Australians who do not know some of his poems, even if they know no others, and his influence upon subsequent writers has been very great.
Brunton Stephens, who came to Queensland in 1866, wrote there a long poem called "Convict Once" which, when published in London in 1871, gained high praise from competent critics, and gave the author an academic reputation. A little book of humorous verses issued in Melbourne in 1873 almost immediately became popular, and a later volume of "Miscellaneous Poems" (1880), containing some fine patriotic utterances as well as many in lighter vein, established him as one of our chief singers.
The first important poem from New Zealand — Domett's "Ranolf and Amohia" — was published in London in 1872. Domett spent thirty years in New Zealand. He wrote a good deal of verse before leaving England and after his return, but "Ranolf and Amohia" is the only poem showing traces of Australian influence. It is a miscellany in verse rather than an epic, and contains some fine descriptions of New Zealand scenery.
The death of Kendall in Sydney in 1882 closed what may be regarded as the second literary period. He had published his finest work in "Songs from the Mountains" (1880), and had the satisfaction of knowing that it was a success, financially and otherwise. Kendall's audience is not so large as Gordon's, but it is a steadily growing one; and many readers who have been affected by his musical verse hold the ill-fated singer in more tender regard than any other. He lived at a time when Australians had not learned to think it possible that any good thing in art could come out of Australia, and were too fully occupied with things of the market-place to concern themselves much about literature.
Several attempts have been made to maintain magazines and reviews in Sydney and Melbourne, but none of them could compete successfully with the imported English periodicals. 'The Colonial Monthly', 'The Melbourne Review', 'The Sydney Quarterly', and 'The Centennial Magazine' were the most important of these. They cost more to produce than their English models, and the fact that their contents were Australian was not sufficient in itself to obtain for them adequate support. Newspapers have played a far more important part in our literary world. 'The Australasian', 'Sydney Mail' and 'Queenslander' have done a good deal to encourage local writers, but the most powerful influence has been that of 'The Bulletin', started in Sydney in 1880. Its racy, irreverent tone and its humour are characteristically Australian, and through its columns the first realistic Australian verse of any importance — the writings of Henry Lawson and A. B. Paterson — became widely known. When published in book form, their verses met with phenomenal success; Paterson's "The Man from Snowy River" (1895) having already attained a circulation of over thirty thousand copies. It is the first of a long series of volumes, issued during the last ten years, whose character is far more distinctively Australian than that of their predecessors. Their number and success are evidences of the lively interest taken by the present generation here in its native literature.
Australia has now come of age, and is becoming conscious of its strength and its possibilities. Its writers to-day are, as a rule, self-reliant and hopeful. They have faith in their own country; they write of it as they see it, and of their work and their joys and fears, in simple, direct language. It may be that none of it is poetry in the grand manner, and that some of it is lacking in technical finish; but it is a vivid and faithful portrayal of Australia, and its ruggedness is in character. It is hoped that this selection from the verse that has been written up to the present time will be found a not unworthy contribution to the great literature of the English-speaking peoples.
William Charles Wentworth.
Celestial poesy! whose genial sway Earth's furthest habitable shores obey; Whose inspirations shed their sacred light, Far as the regions of the Arctic night, And to the Laplander his Boreal gleam Endear not less than Phoebus' brighter beam, — Descend thou also on my native land, And on some mountain-summit take thy stand; Thence issuing soon a purer font be seen Than charmed Castalia or famed Hippocrene; And there a richer, nobler fane arise, Than on Parnassus met the adoring eyes. And tho', bright goddess, on the far blue hills, That pour their thousand swift pellucid rills Where Warragamba's rage has rent in twain Opposing mountains, thundering to the plain, No child of song has yet invoked thy aid 'Neath their primeval solitary shade, — Still, gracious Pow'r, some kindling soul inspire, To wake to life my country's unknown lyre, That from creation's date has slumbering lain, Or only breathed some savage uncouth strain; And grant that yet an Austral Milton's song Pactolus-like flow deep and rich along, — An Austral Shakespeare rise, whose living page To nature true may charm in ev'ry age; — And that an Austral Pindar daring soar, Where not the Theban eagle reach'd before. And, O Britannia! shouldst thou cease to ride Despotic Empress of old Ocean's tide; — Should thy tamed Lion — spent his former might, — No longer roar the terror of the fight; — Should e'er arrive that dark disastrous hour, When bow'd by luxury, thou yield'st to pow'r; — When thou, no longer freest of the free, To some proud victor bend'st the vanquish'd knee; — May all thy glories in another sphere Relume, and shine more brightly still than here; May this, thy last-born infant, then arise, To glad thy heart and greet thy parent eyes; And Australasia float, with flag unfurl'd, A new Britannia in another world.
She loves me! From her own bliss-breathing lips The live confession came, like rich perfume From crimson petals bursting into bloom! And still my heart at the remembrance skips Like a young lion, and my tongue, too, trips As drunk with joy! while every object seen In life's diurnal round wears in its mien A clear assurance that no doubts eclipse. And if the common things of nature now Are like old faces flushed with new delight, Much more the consciousness of that rich vow Deepens the beauteous, and refines the bright, While throned I seem on love's divinest height 'Mid all the glories glowing round its brow.
Words are deeds. The words we hear May revolutionize or rear A mighty state. The words we read May be a spiritual deed Excelling any fleshly one, As much as the celestial sun Transcends a bonfire, made to throw A light upon some raree-show. A simple proverb tagged with rhyme May colour half the course of time; The pregnant saying of a sage May influence every coming age; A song in its effects may be More glorious than Thermopylae, And many a lay that schoolboys scan A nobler feat than Inkerman.
A Coast View
High 'mid the shelves of a grey cliff, that yet Riseth in Babylonian mass above, In a benched cleft, as in the mouldered chair Of grey-beard Time himself, I sit alone, And gaze with a keen wondering happiness Out o'er the sea. Unto the circling bend That verges Heaven, a vast luminous plain It stretches, changeful as a lover's dream — Into great spaces mapped by light and shade In constant interchange — either 'neath clouds The billows darken, or they shimmer bright In sunny scopes of measureless expanse. 'Tis Ocean dreamless of a stormy hour, Calm, or but gently heaving; — yet, O God! What a blind fate-like mightiness lies coiled In slumber, under that wide-shining face! While o'er the watery gleam — there where its edge Banks the dim vacancy, the topmost sails Of some tall ship, whose hull is yet unseen, Hang as if clinging to a cloud that still Comes rising with them from the void beyond, Like to a heavenly net, drawn from the deep And carried upward by ethereal hands.
'The Love in her Eyes lay Sleeping'
The love in her eyes lay sleeping, As stars that unconscious shine, Till, under the pink lids peeping, I wakened it up with mine; And we pledged our troth to a brimming oath In a bumper of blood-red wine. Alas! too well I know That it happened long ago; Those memories yet remain, And sting, like throbs of pain, And I'm alone below, But still the red wine warms, and the rosy goblets glow; If love be the heart's enslaver, 'Tis wine that subdues the head. But which has the fairest flavour, And whose is the soonest shed? Wine waxes in power in that desolate hour When the glory of love is dead. Love lives on beauty's ray, But night comes after day, And when the exhausted sun His high career has run, The stars behind him stay, And then the light that lasts consoles our darkening way. When beauty and love are over, And passion has spent its rage, And the spectres of memory hover, And glare on life's lonely stage, 'Tis wine that remains to kindle the veins And strengthen the steps of age. Love takes the taint of years, And beauty disappears, But wine in worth matures The longer it endures, And more divinely cheers, And ripens with the suns and mellows with the spheres.
James Lionel Michael.
'Through Pleasant Paths'
Through pleasant paths, through dainty ways, Love leads my feet; Where beauty shines with living rays, Soft, gentle, sweet; The placid heart at random strays, And sings, and smiles, and laughs and plays, And gathers from the summer days Their light and heat, That in its chambers burn and blaze And beam and beat.
I throw myself among the ferns Under the shade, And watch the summer sun that burns On dell and glade; To thee, my dear, my fancy turns, In thee its Paradise discerns, For thee it sighs, for thee it yearns, My chosen maid; And that still depth of passion learns Which cannot fade.
The wind that whispers in the night, Subtle and free, The gorgeous noonday's blinding light, On hill and tree, All lovely things that meet my sight, All shifting lovelinesses bright, Speak to my heart with calm delight, Seeming to be Cloth'd with enchantment, robed in white, To sing of thee.
The ways of life are hard and cold To one alone; Bitter the strife for place and gold — We weep and groan: But when love warms the heart grows bold; And when our arms the prize enfold, Dearest! the heart can hardly hold The bliss unknown, Unspoken, never to be told — My own, my own!
"Death is to us change, not consummation." Heart of Midlothian.
A change! no, surely, not a change, The change must be before we die; Death may confer a wider range, From pole to pole, from sea to sky, It cannot make me new or strange To mine own Personality!
For what am I? — this mortal flesh, These shrinking nerves, this feeble frame, For ever racked with ailments fresh And scarce from day to day the same — A fly within the spider's mesh, A moth that plays around the flame!
THIS is not I — within such coil The immortal spirit rests awhile: When this shall lie beneath the soil, Which its mere mortal parts defile, THAT shall for ever live and foil Mortality, and pain, and guile.
Whatever Time may make of me Eternity must see me still Clear from the dross of earth, and free From every stain of every ill; Yet still, where-e'er — what-e'er I be, Time's work Eternity must fill.
When all the worlds have ceased to roll, When the long light has ceased to quiver When we have reached our final goal And stand beside the Living River, This vital spark — this loving soul, Must last for ever and for ever.
To choose what I must be is mine, Mine in these few and fleeting days, I may be if I will, divine, Standing before God's throne in praise, — Through all Eternity to shine In yonder Heaven's sapphire blaze.
Father, the soul that counts it gain To love Thee and Thy law on earth, Unchanged but free from mortal stain, Increased in knowledge and in worth, And purified from this world's pain, Shall find through Thee a second birth.
A change! no surely not a change! The change must be before we die; Death may confer a wider range From world to world, from sky to sky, It cannot make me new or strange To mine own Personality!
Daniel Henry Deniehy.
Love in a Cottage
A cottage small be mine, with porch Enwreathed with ivy green, And brightsome flowers with dew-filled bells, 'Mid brown old wattles seen.
And one to wait at shut of eve, With eyes as fountain clear, And braided hair, and simple dress, My homeward step to hear.
On summer eves to sing old songs, And talk o'er early vows, While stars look down like angels' eyes Amid the leafy boughs.
When Spring flowers peep from flossy cells, And bright-winged parrots call, In forest paths be ours to rove Till purple evenings fall.
The curtains closed, by taper clear To read some page divine, On winter nights, the hearth beside, Her soft, warm hand in mine.
And so to glide through busy life, Like some small brook alone, That winds its way 'mid grassy knolls, Its music all its own.
A Song for the Night
O the Night, the Night, the solemn Night, When Earth is bound with her silent zone, And the spangled sky seems a temple wide, Where the star-tribes kneel at the Godhead's throne; O the Night, the Night, the wizard Night, When the garish reign of day is o'er, And the myriad barques of the dream-elves come In a brightsome fleet from Slumber's shore! O the Night for me, When blithe and free, Go the zephyr-hounds on their airy chase; When the moon is high In the dewy sky, And the air is sweet as a bride's embrace!
O the Night, the Night, the charming Night! From the fountain side in the myrtle shade, All softly creep on the slumbrous air The waking notes of the serenade; While bright eyes shine 'mid the lattice-vines, And white arms droop o'er the sculptured sills, And accents fall to the knights below, Like the babblings soft of mountain rills. Love in their eyes, Love in their sighs, Love in the heave of each lily-bright bosom; In words so clear, Lest the listening ear And the waiting heart may lose them.
O the silent Night, when the student dreams Of kneeling crowds round a sage's tomb; And the mother's eyes o'er the cradle rain Tears for her baby's fading bloom; O the peaceful Night, when stilled and o'er Is the charger's tramp on the battle plain, And the bugle's sound and the sabre's flash, While the moon looks sad over heaps of slain; And tears bespeak On the iron cheek Of the sentinel lonely pacing, Thoughts which roll Through his fearless soul, Day's sterner mood replacing.
O the sacred Night, when memory comes With an aspect mild and sweet to me, But her tones are sad as a ballad air In childhood heard on a nurse's knee; And round her throng fair forms long fled, With brows of snow and hair of gold, And eyes with the light of summer skies, And lips that speak of the days of old. Wide is your flight, O spirits of Night, By strath, and stream, and grove, But most in the gloom Of the Poet's room Ye choose, fair ones, to rove.
The grass is green upon her grave, The west wind whispers low; "The corn is changed, come forth, come forth, Ere all the blossoms go!"
In vain. Her laughing eyes are sealed, And cold her sunny brow; Last year she smiled upon the flowers — They smile above her now!
High and dry upon the shingle lies the fisher's boat to-night; From his roof-beam dankly drooping, raying phosphorescent light, Spectral in its pale-blue splendour, hangs his heap of scaly nets, And the fisher, lapt in slumber, surge and seine alike forgets.
Hark! there comes a sudden knocking, and the fisher starts from sleep, As a hollow voice and ghostly bids him once more seek the deep; Wearily across his shoulder flingeth he the ashen oar, And upon the beach descending finds a skiff beside the shore.
'Tis not his, but he must enter — rocking on the waters dim, Awful in their hidden presence, who are they that wait for him? Who are they that sit so silent, as he pulleth from the land — Nothing heard save rumbling rowlock, wave soft-breaking on the sand?
Chill adown the tossing channel blows the wailing, wand'ring breeze, Lonely in the murky midnight, mutt'ring mournful memories, — Summer lands where once it brooded, wrecks that widows' hearts have wrung — Swift the dreary boat flies onwards, spray, like rain, around it flung.
On a pebbled strand it grateth, ghastly cliffs around it loom, Thin and melancholy voices faintly murmur through the gloom; Voices only, lipless voices, and the fisherman turns pale, As the mother greets her children, sisters landing brothers hail.
Lightened of its unseen burden, cork-like rides the rocking bark, Fast the fisherman flies homewards o'er the billows deep and dark; THAT boat needs no mortal's mooring — sad at heart he seeks his bed, For his life henceforth is clouded — he hath piloted the Dead!
Sir Henry Parkes.
The Buried Chief
(November 6th, 1886)
With speechless lips and solemn tread They brought the Lawyer-Statesman home: They laid him with the gather'd dead, Where rich and poor like brothers come.
How bravely did the stripling climb, From step to step the rugged hill: His gaze thro' that benighted time Fix'd on the far-off beacon still.
He faced the storm that o'er him burst, With pride to match the proudest born: He bore unblench'd Detraction's worst, — Paid blow for blow, and scorn for scorn.
He scaled the summit while the sun Yet shone upon his conquer'd track: Nor falter'd till the goal was won, Nor struggling upward, once look'd back.
But what avails the "pride of place", Or winged chariot rolling past? He heeds not now who wins the race, Alike to him the first or last.
Thomas Alexander Browne ('Rolf Boldrewood').
She is beautiful yet, with her wondrous hair And eyes that are stormy with fitful light, The delicate hues of brow and cheek Are unmarred all, rose-clear and bright; That matchless frame yet holds at bay The crouching bloodhounds, Remorse, Decay.
There is no fear in her great dark eyes — No hope, no love, no care, Stately and proud she looks around With a fierce, defiant stare; Wild words deform her reckless speech, Her laugh has a sadness tears never reach.
Whom should she fear on earth? Can Fate One direr torment lend To her few little years of glitter and gloom With the sad old story to end When the spectres of Loneliness, Want and Pain Shall arise one night with Death in their train?
. . . . .
I see in a vision a woman like her Trip down an orchard slope, With rosy prattlers that shout a name In tones of rapture and hope; While the yeoman, gazing at children and wife, Thanks God for the pride and joy of his life.
. . . . .
Whose conscience is heavy with this dark guilt? Who pays at the final day For a wasted body, a murdered soul, And how shall he answer, I say, For her outlawed years, her early doom, And despair — despair — beyond the tomb?
Adam Lindsay Gordon.
They are rhymes rudely strung with intent less Of sound than of words, In lands where bright blossoms are scentless, And songless bright birds; Where, with fire and fierce drought on her tresses, Insatiable summer oppresses Sere woodlands and sad wildernesses, And faint flocks and herds.
Where in dreariest days, when all dews end, And all winds are warm, Wild Winter's large flood-gates are loosen'd, And floods, freed from storm, From broken-up fountain heads, dash on Dry deserts with long pent up passion — Here rhyme was first framed without fashion — Song shaped without form.
Whence gather'd? — The locust's glad chirrup May furnish a stave; The ring of a rowel and stirrup, The wash of a wave; The chaunt of the marsh frog in rushes, That chimes through the pauses and hushes Of nightfall, the torrent that gushes, The tempests that rave;
In the deep'ning of dawn, when it dapples The dusk of the sky, With streaks like the redd'ning of apples, The ripening of rye. To eastward, when cluster by cluster, Dim stars and dull planets, that muster, Wax wan in a world of white lustre That spreads far and high;
In the gathering of night gloom o'erhead, in The still silent change, All fire-flush'd when forest trees redden On slopes of the range. When the gnarl'd, knotted trunks Eucalyptian Seem carved, like weird columns Egyptian, With curious device, quaint inscription, And hieroglyph strange;
In the Spring, when the wattle gold trembles 'Twixt shadow and shine, When each dew-laden air draught resembles A long draught of wine; When the sky-line's blue burnish'd resistance Makes deeper the dreamiest distance, Some song in all hearts hath existence, — Such songs have been mine.
We severed in Autumn early, Ere the earth was torn by the plough; The wheat and the oats and the barley Are ripe for the harvest now. We sunder'd one misty morning Ere the hills were dimm'd by the rain; Through the flowers those hills adorning — Thou comest not back again.
My heart is heavy and weary With the weight of a weary soul; The mid-day glare grows dreary, And dreary the midnight scroll. The corn-stalks sigh for the sickle, 'Neath the load of their golden grain; I sigh for a mate more fickle — Thou comest not back again.
The warm sun riseth and setteth, The night bringeth moistening dew, But the soul that longeth forgetteth The warmth and the moisture too. In the hot sun rising and setting There is naught save feverish pain; There are tears in the night-dews wetting — Thou comest not back again.
Thy voice in my ear still mingles With the voices of whisp'ring trees, Thy kiss on my cheek still tingles At each kiss of the summer breeze. While dreams of the past are thronging For substance of shades in vain, I am waiting, watching and longing — Thou comest not back again.
Waiting and watching ever, Longing and lingering yet; Leaves rustle and corn-stalks quiver, Winds murmur and waters fret. No answer they bring, no greeting, No speech, save that sad refrain, Nor voice, save an echo repeating — He cometh not back again.
The Sick Stock-rider
Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade. Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I swayed, All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride. The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull and dense, The sun-rise was a sullen, sluggish lamp; I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence, I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp. We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze, And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth; To southward lay "Katawa", with the sand peaks all ablaze, And the flushed fields of Glen Lomond lay to north. Now westward winds the bridle-path that leads to Lindisfarm, And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff; From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm, You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough. Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch; 'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase Eight years ago — or was it nine? — last March. 'Twas merry in the glowing morn among the gleaming grass, To wander as we've wandered many a mile, And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass, Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while. 'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs, To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard, With a running fire of stock whips and a fiery run of hoofs; Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard! Aye! we had a glorious gallop after "Starlight" and his gang, When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat; How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang, To the strokes of "Mountaineer" and "Acrobat". Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath, Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd; And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath; And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd! We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey, And the troopers were three hundred yards behind, While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay, In the creek with stunted box-trees for a blind! There you grappled with the leader, man to man, and horse to horse, And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd; He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course — A narrow shave — his powder singed your beard!
In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young Come back to us; how clearly I recall Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung; And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall? Ay! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school, Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone; Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule, It seems that you and I are left alone. There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards, It matters little what became of him; But a steer ripp'd up Macpherson in the Cooraminta yards, And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim; And Mostyn — poor Frank Mostyn — died at last, a fearful wreck, In the "horrors" at the Upper Wandinong, And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck; Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!
Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen — The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead. Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then; And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.
I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil, And life is short — the longest life a span; I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil, Or for wine that maketh glad the heart of man. For good undone, and gifts misspent, and resolutions vain, 'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know — I should live the same life over, if I had to live again; And the chances are I go where most men go.
The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim, The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall; And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim, And on the very sun's face weave their pall. Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave, With never stone or rail to fence my bed; Should the sturdy station children pull the bush-flowers on my grave, I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
I don't suppose I shall though, for I feel like sleeping sound, That sleep, they say, is doubtful. True; but yet At least it makes no difference to the dead man underground What the living men remember or forget. Enigmas that perplex us in the world's unequal strife, The future may ignore or may reveal; Yet some, as weak as water, Ned, to make the best of life, Have been to face the worst as true as steel.
I purposed once to take my pen and write, Not songs, like some, tormented and awry With passion, but a cunning harmony Of words and music caught from glen and height, And lucid colours born of woodland light And shining places where the sea-streams lie. But this was when the heat of youth glowed white, And since I've put the faded purpose by. I have no faultless fruits to offer you Who read this book; but certain syllables Herein are borrowed from unfooted dells And secret hollows dear to noontide dew; And these at least, though far between and few, May catch the sense like subtle forest spells.
So take these kindly, even though there be Some notes that unto other lyres belong, Stray echoes from the elder sons of song; And think how from its neighbouring native sea The pensive shell doth borrow melody. I would not do the lordly masters wrong By filching fair words from the shining throng Whose music haunts me as the wind a tree! Lo, when a stranger in soft Syrian glooms Shot through with sunset treads the cedar dells, And hears the breezy ring of elfin bells Far down by where the white-haired cataract booms, He, faint with sweetness caught from forest smells, Bears thence, unwitting, plunder of perfumes.
September in Australia
Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest, And, behold, for repayment, September comes in with the wind of the West And the Spring in her raiment! The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers, While the forest discovers Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours, And the music of lovers.
September, the maid with the swift, silver feet! She glides, and she graces The valleys of coolness, the slopes of the heat, With her blossomy traces; Sweet month, with a mouth that is made of a rose, She lightens and lingers In spots where the harp of the evening glows, Attuned by her fingers.
The stream from its home in the hollow hill slips In a darling old fashion; And the day goeth down with a song on its lips Whose key-note is passion; Far out in the fierce, bitter front of the sea I stand, and remember Dead things that were brothers and sisters of thee, Resplendent September.
The West, when it blows at the fall of the noon And beats on the beaches, Is filled with a tender and tremulous tune That touches and teaches; The stories of Youth, of the burden of Time, And the death of Devotion, Come back with the wind, and are themes of the rhyme In the waves of the ocean.
We, having a secret to others unknown, In the cool mountain-mosses, May whisper together, September, alone Of our loves and our losses. One word for her beauty, and one for the grace She gave to the hours; And then we may kiss her, and suffer her face To sleep with the flowers.
. . . . .
Oh, season of changes — of shadow and shine — September the splendid! My song hath no music to mingle with thine, And its burden is ended; But thou, being born of the winds and the sun, By mountain, by river, Mayst lighten and listen, and loiter and run, With thy voices for ever.
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 vain 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!
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.
Take this rose, and very gently place it on the tender, deep Mosses where our little darling, Araluen, lies asleep. Put the blossom close to baby — kneel with me, my love, and pray; We must leave the bird we've buried — say good-bye to her to-day; In the shadow of our trouble we must go to other lands, And the flowers we have fostered will be left to other hands. Other eyes will watch them growing — other feet will softly tread Where two hearts are nearly breaking, where so many tears are shed. Bitter is the world we live in: life and love are mixed with pain; We will never see these daisies — never water them again. . . . . . Here the blue-eyed Spring will linger, here the shining month will stay, Like a friend, by Araluen, when we two are far away; But, beyond the wild, wide waters, we will tread another shore — We will never watch this blossom, never see it any more.
Girl, whose hand at God's high altar in the dear, dead year I pressed, Lean your stricken head upon me — this is still your lover's breast! She who sleeps was first and sweetest — none we have to take her place! Empty is the little cradle — absent is the little face. Other children may be given; but this rose beyond recall, But this garland of your girlhood, will be dearest of them all. None will ever, Araluen, nestle where you used to be, In my heart of hearts, you darling, when the world was new to me; We were young when you were with us, life and love were happy things To your father and your mother ere the angels gave you wings.
You that sit and sob beside me — you, upon whose golden head Many rains of many sorrows have from day to day been shed; Who, because your love was noble, faced with me the lot austere Ever pressing with its hardship on the man of letters here — Let me feel that you are near me, lay your hand within mine own; You are all I have to live for, now that we are left alone. Three there were, but one has vanished. Sins of mine have made you weep; But forgive your baby's father now that baby is asleep. Let us go, for night is falling, leave the darling with her flowers; Other hands will come and tend them — other friends in other hours.
After Many Years
The song that once I dreamed about, The tender, touching thing, As radiant as the rose without, The love of wind and wing: The perfect verses, to the tune Of woodland music set, As beautiful as afternoon, Remain unwritten yet.
It is too late to write them now — The ancient fire is cold; No ardent lights illume the brow, As in the days of old. I cannot dream the dream again; But, when the happy birds Are singing in the sunny rain, I think I hear its words.
I think I hear the echo still Of long-forgotten tones, When evening winds are on the hill And sunset fires the cones; But only in the hours supreme, With songs of land and sea, The lyrics of the leaf and stream, This echo comes to me.
No longer doth the earth reveal Her gracious green and gold; I sit where youth was once, and feel That I am growing old. The lustre from the face of things Is wearing all away; Like one who halts with tired wings, I rest and muse to-day.
There is a river in the range I love to think about; Perhaps the searching feet of change Have never found it out. Ah! oftentimes I used to look Upon its banks, and long To steal the beauty of that brook And put it in a song.
I wonder if the slopes of moss, In dreams so dear to me — The falls of flower, and flower-like floss — Are as they used to be! I wonder if the waterfalls, The singers far and fair, That gleamed between the wet, green walls, Are still the marvels there!
Ah! let me hope that in that place Those old familiar things To which I turn a wistful face Have never taken wings. Let me retain the fancy still That, past the lordly range, There always shines, in folds of hill, One spot secure from change!
I trust that yet the tender screen That shades a certain nook Remains, with all its gold and green, The glory of the brook. It hides a secret to the birds And waters only known: The letters of two lovely words — A poem on a stone.
Perhaps the lady of the past Upon these lines may light, The purest verses, and the last, That I may ever write: She need not fear a word of blame: Her tale the flowers keep — The wind that heard me breathe her name Has been for years asleep.
But in the night, and when the rain The troubled torrent fills, I often think I see again The river in the hills; And when the day is very near, And birds are on the wing, My spirit fancies it can hear The song I cannot sing.
"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!
I see, as one in dreaming, A broad, bright, quiet sea; Beyond it lies a haven — The only home for me. Some men grow strong with trouble, But all my strength is past, And tired and full of sorrow, I long to sleep at last. By force of chance and changes Man's life is hard at best; And, seeing rest is voiceless, The dearest thing is rest.
Beyond the sea — behold it, The home I wish to seek, The refuge of the weary, The solace of the weak! Sweet angel fingers beckon, Sweet angel voices ask My soul to cross the waters; And yet I dread the task. God help the man whose trials Are tares that he must reap! He cannot face the future — His only hope is sleep.
Across the main a vision Of sunset coasts, and skies, And widths of waters gleaming, Enchant my human eyes. I, who have sinned and suffered, Have sought — with tears have sought — To rule my life with goodness, And shape it to my thought. And yet there is no refuge To shield me from distress, Except the realm of slumber And great forgetfulness.
The Song of Tigilau
The song of Tigilau the brave, Sina's wild lover, Who across the heaving wave From Samoa came over: Came over, Sina, at the setting moon!
The moon shines round and bright; She, with her dark-eyed maidens at her side, Watches the rising tide. While balmy breathes the starry southern night, While languid heaves the lazy southern tide; The rising tide, O Sina, and the setting moon!
The night is past, is past and gone, The moon sinks to the West, The sea-heart beats opprest, And Sina's passionate breast Heaves like the sea, when the pale moon has gone, Heaves like the passionate sea, Sina, left by the moon alone!
Silver on silver sands, the rippling waters meet — Will he come soon? The rippling waters kiss her delicate feet, The rippling waters, lisping low and sweet, Ripple with the tide, The rising tide, The rising tide, O Sina, and the setting moon!
He comes! — her lover! Tigilau, the son of Tui Viti. Her maidens round her hover, The rising waves her white feet cover. O Tigilau, son of Tui Viti, Through the mellow dusk thy proas glide, So soon! So soon by the rising tide, The rising tide, my Sina, and the setting moon!
The mooring-poles are left, The whitening waves are cleft, By the prows of Tui Viti! By the sharp keels of Tui Viti! Broad is the sea, and deep, The yellow Samoans sleep, But they will wake and weep — Weep in their luxurious odorous vales, While the land breeze swells the sails Of Tui Viti! Tui Viti — far upon the rising tide, The rising tide — The rising tide, my Sina, beneath the setting moon!
She leaps to meet him! Her mouth to greet him Burns at his own. Away! To the canoes, To the yoked war canoes! The sea in murmurous tone Whispers the story of their loves, Re-echoes the story of their loves — The story of Tui Viti, Of Sina and Tui Viti, By the rising tide, The rising tide, Sina, beneath the setting moon!
She has gone! She has fled! Sina! Sina, for whom the warriors decked their shining hair, Wreathing with pearls their bosoms brown and bare, Flinging beneath her dainty feet Mats crimson with the feathers of the parrakeet. Ho, Samoans! rouse your warriors full soon, For Sina is across the rippling wave, With Tigilau, the bold and brave. Far, far upon the rising tide! Far upon the rising tide! Far upon the rising tide, Sina, beneath the setting moon.
O sweet Queen-city of the golden South, Piercing the evening with thy star-lit spires, Thou wert a witness when I kissed the mouth Of her whose eyes outblazed the skyey fires. I saw the parallels of thy long streets, With lamps like angels shining all a-row, While overhead the empyrean seats Of gods were steeped in paradisic glow. The Pleiades with rarer fires were tipt, Hesper sat throned upon his jewelled chair, The belted giant's triple stars were dipt In all the splendour of Olympian air, On high to bless, the Southern Cross did shine, Like that which blazed o'er conquering Constantine.
Well! if Truth be all welcomed with hardy reliance, All the lovely unfoldings of luminous Science, All that Logic can prove or disprove be avowed: Is there room for no faith — though such Evil intrude — In the dominance still of a Spirit of Good? Is there room for no hope — such a handbreadth we scan — In the permanence yet of the Spirit of Man? — May we bless the far seeker, nor blame the fine dreamer? Leave Reason her radiance — Doubt her due cloud; Nor their Rainbows enshroud? —
From our Life of realities — hard — shallow-hearted, Has Romance — has all glory idyllic departed — From the workaday World all the wonderment flown? Well, but what if there gleamed, in an Age cold as this, The divinest of Poets' ideal of bliss? Yea, an Eden could lurk in this Empire of ours, With the loneliest love in the loveliest bowers? — In an era so rapid with railway and steamer, And with Pan and the Dryads like Raphael gone — What if this could be shown?
O my friends, never deaf to the charms of Denial, Were its comfortless comforting worth a life-trial — Discontented content with a chilling despair? — Better ask as we float down a song-flood unchecked, If our Sky with no Iris be glory-bedecked? Through the gloom of eclipse as we wistfully steal If no darkling aureolar rays may reveal That the Future is haply not utterly cheerless: While the Present has joy and adventure as rare As the Past when most fair?
And if weary of mists you will roam undisdaining To a land where the fanciful fountains are raining Swift brilliants of boiling and beautiful spray In the violet splendour of skies that illume Such a wealth of green ferns and rare crimson tree-bloom; Where a people primeval is vanishing fast, With its faiths and its fables and ways of the past: O with reason and fancy unfettered and fearless, Come plunge with us deep into regions of Day — Come away — and away! —
A Maori Girl's Song
"Alas, and well-a-day! they are talking of me still: By the tingling of my nostril, I fear they are talking ill; Poor hapless I — poor little I — so many mouths to fill — And all for this strange feeling — O, this sad, sweet pain!
"O! senseless heart — O simple! to yearn so, and to pine For one so far above me, confest o'er all to shine, For one a hundred dote upon, who never can be mine! O, 'tis a foolish feeling — all this fond, sweet pain!
"When I was quite a child — not so many moons ago — A happy little maiden — O, then it was not so; Like a sunny-dancing wavelet then I sparkled to and fro; And I never had this feeling — O, this sad, sweet pain!
"I think it must be owing to the idle life I lead In the dreamy house for ever that this new bosom-weed Has sprouted up and spread its shoots till it troubles me indeed With a restless, weary feeling — such a sad, sweet pain!
"So in this pleasant islet, O, no longer will I stay — And the shadowy summer dwelling I will leave this very day; On Arapa I'll launch my skiff, and soon be borne away From all that feeds this feeling — O, this fond, sweet pain!
"I'll go and see dear Rima — she'll welcome me, I know, And a flaxen cloak — her gayest — o'er my weary shoulders throw, With purfle red and points so free — O, quite a lovely show — To charm away this feeling — O, this sad, sweet pain!
"Two feathers I will borrow, and so gracefully I'll wear Two feathers soft and snowy, for my long, black, lustrous hair. Of the albatross's down they'll be — O, how charming they'll look there — All to chase away this feeling — O, this fond, sweet pain!
"Then the lads will flock around me with flattering talk all day — And, with anxious little pinches, sly hints of love convey; And I shall blush with happy pride to hear them, I daresay, And quite forget this feeling — O, this sad, sweet pain!"
James Brunton Stephens.
The Dominion of Australia
(A Forecast, 1877)
She is not yet; but he whose ear Thrills to that finer atmosphere Where footfalls of appointed things, Reverberant of days to be, Are heard in forecast echoings, Like wave-beats from a viewless sea — Hears in the voiceful tremors of the sky Auroral heralds whispering, "She is nigh."
She is not yet; but he whose sight Foreknows the advent of the light, Whose soul to morning radiance turns Ere night her curtain hath withdrawn, And in its quivering folds discerns The mute monitions of the dawn, With urgent sense strained onward to descry Her distant tokens, starts to find Her nigh.
Not yet her day. How long "not yet"? . . . There comes the flush of violet! And heavenward faces, all aflame With sanguine imminence of morn, Wait but the sun-kiss to proclaim The Day of The Dominion born. Prelusive baptism! — ere the natal hour Named with the name and prophecy of power.
Already here to hearts intense, A spirit-force, transcending sense, In heights unscaled, in deeps unstirred, Beneath the calm, above the storm, She waits the incorporating word To bid her tremble into form. Already, like divining-rods, men's souls Bend down to where the unseen river rolls; —
For even as, from sight concealed, By never flush of dawn revealed, Nor e'er illumed by golden noon, Nor sunset-streaked with crimson bar, Nor silver-spanned by wake of moon, Nor visited of any star, Beneath these lands a river waits to bless (So men divine) our utmost wilderness, —
Rolls dark, but yet shall know our skies, Soon as the wisdom of the wise Conspires with nature to disclose The blessing prisoned and unseen, Till round our lessening wastes there glows A perfect zone of broadening green, — Till all our land, Australia Felix called, Become one Continent-Isle of Emerald;
So flows beneath our good and ill A viewless stream of Common Will, A gathering force, a present might, That from its silent depths of gloom At Wisdom's voice shall leap to light, And hide our barren feuds in bloom, Till, all our sundering lines with love o'ergrown, Our bounds shall be the girdling seas alone.
The Dark Companion
There is an orb that mocked the lore of sages Long time with mystery of strange unrest; The steadfast law that rounds the starry ages Gave doubtful token of supreme behest.
But they who knew the ways of God unchanging, Concluded some far influence unseen — Some kindred sphere through viewless ethers ranging, Whose strong persuasions spanned the void between.
And knowing it alone through perturbation And vague disquiet of another star, They named it, till the day of revelation, "The Dark Companion" — darkly guessed afar.
But when, through new perfection of appliance, Faith merged at length in undisputed sight, The mystic mover was revealed to science, No Dark Companion, but — a speck of light.
No Dark Companion, but a sun of glory; No fell disturber, but a bright compeer; The shining complement that crowned the story; The golden link that made the meaning clear.
Oh, Dark Companion, journeying ever by us, Oh, grim Perturber of our works and ways — Oh, potent Dread, unseen, yet ever nigh us, Disquieting all the tenor of our days —
Oh, Dark Companion, Death, whose wide embraces O'ertake remotest change of clime and skies — Oh, Dark Companion, Death, whose grievous traces Are scattered shreds of riven enterprise —
Thou, too, in this wise, when, our eyes unsealing, The clearer day shall change our faith to sight, Shalt show thyself, in that supreme revealing, No Dark Companion, but a thing of light.
No ruthless wrecker of harmonious order; No alien heart of discord and caprice; A beckoning light upon the Blissful Border; A kindred element of law and peace.
So, too, our strange unrest in this our dwelling, The trembling that thou joinest with our mirth, Are but thy magnet-communings compelling Our spirits farther from the scope of earth.
So, doubtless, when beneath thy potence swerving, 'Tis that thou lead'st us by a path unknown, Our seeming deviations all subserving The perfect orbit round the central throne.
. . . . .
The night wind moans. The Austral wilds are round me. The loved who live — ah, God! how few they are! I looked above; and heaven in mercy found me This parable of comfort in a star.
Linger, oh Sun, for a little, nor close yet this day of a million! Is there not glory enough in the rose-curtained halls of the West? Hast thou no joy in the passion-hued folds of thy kingly pavilion? Why shouldst thou only pass through it? Oh rest thee a little while, rest!
Why should the Night come and take it, the wan Night that cannot enjoy it, Bringing pale argent for golden, and changing vermilion to grey? Why should the Night come and shadow it, entering but to destroy it? Rest 'mid thy ruby-trailed splendours! Oh stay thee a little while, stay!
Rest thee at least a brief hour in it! 'Tis a right royal pavilion. Lo, there are thrones for high dalliance all gloriously canopied o'er! Lo, there are hangings of purple, and hangings of blue and vermilion, And there are fleeces of gold for thy feet on the diapered floor!
Linger, a little while linger. To-morrow my heart may not sing to thee: This shall be Yesterday, numbered with memories, folded away. Now should my flesh-fettered soul be set free! I would soar to thee, cling to thee, And be thy rere-ward Aurora, pursuing the skirts of To-day!
Hark how the tremulous night-wind is passing in joy-laden sighs; Soft through my window it comes, like the fanning of pinions angelic, Whispering to cease from myself, and look out on the infinite skies.
Out on the orb-studded night, and the crescent effulgence of Dian; Out on the far-gleaming star-dust that marks where the angels have trod; Out on the gem-pointed Cross, and the glittering pomp of Orion, Flaming in measureless azure, the coronal jewels of God;
Luminous streams of delight in the silent immensity flowing, Journeying surgelessly on through impalpable ethers of peace. How can I think of myself when infinitude o'er me is glowing, Glowing with tokens of love from the land where my sorrows shall cease?
Oh, summer-night of the South! Oh, sweet languor of zephyrs love-sighing! Oh, mighty circuit of shadowy solitude, holy and still! Music scarce audible, echo-less harmony joyously dying, Dying in faint suspirations o'er meadow, and forest, and hill!
I must go forth and be part of it, part of the night and its gladness. But a few steps, and I pause on the marge of the shining lagoon. Here then, at length, I have rest; and I lay down my burden of sadness, Kneeling alone 'neath the stars and the silvery arc of the moon.
Not understood, we move along asunder; Our paths grow wider as the seasons creep Along the years; we marvel and we wonder Why life is life, and then we fall asleep Not understood.
Not understood, we gather false impressions And hug them closer as the years go by; Till virtues often seem to us transgressions; And thus men rise and fall, and live and die Not understood.
Not understood! Poor souls with stunted vision Oft measure giants with their narrow gauge; The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision Are oft impelled 'gainst those who mould the age, Not understood.
Not understood! The secret springs of action Which lie beneath the surface and the show, Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction We judge our neighbours, and they often go Not understood.
Not understood! How trifles often change us! The thoughtless sentence and the fancied slight Destroy long years of friendship, and estrange us, And on our souls there falls a freezing blight; Not understood.
Not understood! How many breasts are aching For lack of sympathy! Ah! day by day How many cheerless, lonely hearts are breaking! How many noble spirits pass away, Not understood.
O God! that men would see a little clearer, Or judge less harshly where they cannot see! O God! that men would draw a little nearer To one another, — they'd be nearer Thee, And understood.
Spirit of Song
Where is thy dwelling-place? Echo of sweetness, Seraph of tenderness, where is thy home? Angel of happiness, herald of fleetness, Thou hast the key of the star-blazon'd dome. Where lays that never end Up to God's throne ascend, And our fond heart-wishes lovingly throng, Soaring with thee above, Bearer of truth and love, Teacher of heaven's tongue — Spirit of Song!
Euphony, born in the realms of the tearless, Mingling thy notes with the voices of Earth; Wanting thee, all would be dreary and cheerless, Weaver of harmony, giver of mirth. Comfort of child and sage, With us in youth and age, Soothing the weak and inspiring the strong, Illuming the blackest night, Making the day more bright, Oh! thou art dear to us, Spirit of Song!
Oft in the springtime, sweet words of affection Are whispered by thee in thy tenderest tone, And in the winter dark clouds of dejection By thee are dispelled till all sorrow has flown. Thou'rt with the zephyrs low, And with the brooklet's flow, And with the feathered choir all the year long; Happy each child of thine, Blest with thy gifts divine, Charming our senses, sweet Spirit of Song!
What of the Night?
To you, who look below, Where little candles glow — Who listen in a narrow street, Confused with noise of passing feet —
To you 'tis wild and dark; No light, no guide, no ark, For travellers lost on moor and lea, And ship-wrecked mariners at sea.
But they who stand apart, With hushed but wakeful heart — They hear the lulling of the gale, And see the dawn-rise faint and pale.
A dawn whereto they grope In trembling faith and hope, If haply, brightening, it may cast A gleam on path and goal at last.
Good-bye! — 'tis like a churchyard bell — good-bye! Poor weeping eyes! Poor head, bowed down with woe! Kiss me again, dear love, before you go. Ah, me, how fast the precious moments fly! Good-bye! Good-bye!
We are like mourners when they stand and cry At open grave in wintry wind and rain. Yes, it is death. But you shall rise again — Your sun return to this benighted sky. Good-bye! Good-bye!
The great physician, Time, shall pacify This parting anguish with another friend. Your heart is broken now, but it will mend. Though it is death, yet still you will not die. Good-bye! Good-bye!
Dear heart! dear eyes! dear tongue, that cannot lie! Your love is true, your grief is deep and sore; But love will pass — then you will grieve no more. New love will come. Your tears will soon be dry. Good-bye! Good-bye!
The Virgin Martyr
Every wild she-bird has nest and mate in the warm April weather, But a captive woman, made for love — no mate, no nest has she. In the spring of young desire, young men and maids are wed together, And the happy mothers flaunt their bliss for all the world to see: Nature's sacramental feast for these — an empty board for me.
I, a young maid once, an old maid now, deposed, despised, forgotten — I, like them have thrilled with passion and have dreamed of nuptial rest, Of the trembling life within me of my children unbegotten, Of a breathing new-born body to my yearning bosom prest, Of the rapture of a little soft mouth drinking at my breast.
Time, that heals so many sorrows, keeps mine ever freshly aching; Though my face is growing furrowed and my brown hair turning white, Still I mourn my irremediable loss, asleep or waking — Still I hear my son's voice calling "mother" in the dead of night, And am haunted by my girl's eyes that will never see the light.
O my children that I might have had! my children, lost for ever! O the goodly years that might have been — now desolate and bare! O malignant God or Fate, what have I done that I should never Take my birthright like the others, take the crown that women wear, And possess the common heritage to which all flesh is heir?
Me let the world disparage and despise — As one unfettered with its gilded chains, As one untempted by its sordid gains, Its pleasant vice, its profitable lies; Let Justice, blind and halt and maimed, chastise The rebel spirit surging in my veins, Let the Law deal me penalties and pains And make me hideous in my neighbours' eyes.
But let me fall not in mine own esteem, By poor deceit or selfish greed debased. Let me be clean from secret stain and shame, Know myself true, though false as hell I seem — Know myself worthy, howsoe'er disgraced — Know myself right, though every tongue should blame.
Alone! Alone! No beacon, far or near! No chart, no compass, and no anchor stay! Like melting fog the mirage melts away In all-surrounding darkness, void and clear. Drifting, I spread vain hands, and vainly peer And vainly call for pilot, — weep and pray; Beyond these limits not the faintest ray Shows distant coast whereto the lost may steer.
O what is life, if we must hold it thus As wind-blown sparks hold momentary fire? What are these gifts without the larger boon? O what is art, or wealth, or fame to us Who scarce have time to know what we desire? O what is love, if we must part so soon?
And is the great cause lost beyond recall? Have all the hopes of ages come to naught? Is life no more with noble meaning fraught? Is life but death, and love its funeral pall? Maybe. And still on bended knees I fall, Filled with a faith no preacher ever taught. O God — MY God — by no false prophet wrought — I believe still, in despite of it all!
Let go the myths and creeds of groping men. This clay knows naught — the Potter understands. I own that Power divine beyond my ken, And still can leave me in His shaping hands. But, O my God, that madest me to feel, Forgive the anguish of the turning wheel!