― 80 ―

Seen Again.

A Bush Vision.

It is winter again, and the odour of night and the look of the trees
As the breeze
Stirs the branches awaken within me a mem'ry long years do not kill;
And whenever it rises I kneel, for before me the river, the eyes,
And the faces of terror I witnessed of old at the fall of the hill
Group around like a frame, and within, like a picture, her dead body lies.

There was talk of the wonder long after. How was it I, chained to my bed,
With my head
In the swirl of a fever, could know she was drowned? I had sprung down the plain
To the edge of the river, they said, with my shroud of a fever-dress blown
By the wind, and my lips crying “Alice!” and found her and upwards again
To the bank had swum with her, and staring, had called her dead body my own.

  ― 81 ―
Radiant Alice! Her life, with the lustre of womanhood rising, was lit,
And, as flit
To and fro in the sunshine, the birds with the wings that make flowerless trees
Look bedecked by an artist, she moved, and the air, as it tremblingly broke
To admit her lithe figure, grew supple and glowed: and the plains', like the sea's
Open face when the cloud rift, or sky's when the sun breaks, to brightness awoke.

She had spoken in bitterness to me! Ho, man, have you felt how the speed
Of your steed
Will unconsciously quicken, with west wind in front, and the leaves of the gum
Underfoot, and the point of a spinifex blade now and then, as you spring
And touch ground pricking smartly? So! westward you go, and the hum
And the whirr and the song are above, and you reck not a womanish thing!

But you sometimes forget; or, a thing that's as bad, with the heat underneath
And the breath
Of the horse in your nostrils, you feel you are one, and that he, as he jumps,
Is as full as yourself of disdain for the risk of the race and the leap:
Swift along on the ledge of the chasm, right across the hole girt with jagged stumps,
And around to the bank of the river, and over the flood with a sweep!

It was thus that I thought. You can scarce call it thinking at all, as you know;
For you go

  ― 82 ―
By a kind of wild instinct at such times. So, on by the ridge, with my face
Looking full in the west, and my hat flying and held on with a string,
I and Hector went, length and length, right enough, right enough; space
There to plant his hoofs, hold his hoofs, length and length, right enough. Now! One last spring!

I suppose you can guess I went under. The bank of the river, they say,
Broke away.
It was rotten. It must have been. Ten nights thereafter I opened my eyes.
It was just as if some hours before I had fallen in a doze on the grass.
I sat up, looked around. But away, as if down in my infancy, cries
Were raised to me, and faces looked at me, but dimly, as if through a glass.

And my head! But at the very instant the door was moved gently apart,
And my heart
Leaped with sudden remembrance and joy, for a form and a face that I knew,
But tear-wet and white-garmented—Alice, a Spirit—broke on me; the room,
Filled with light, whirled around; there were earfuls of musical callings that flew
To the brain; and I stretched out my arms, and then up, like a ghost from the tomb.

I arose and rushed to her, she shrinking and holding apart; and we two

  ― 83 ―
For a few
Narrow seconds strove wildly, not touching in body, but wrestling in mind—
I to seize, she to fly, and while forward I pressed she shrank backwards, till air
Of the open, like wind armed with ice, struck my forehead, and leaving behind
The sick room, where the fever had chained me, I followed with passionate pray'r.

Then the vision of Alice spoke to me, and said, with a sob, “I have come
From my home—
From my home, O, my lover, where ever, while mornings awake and nights fall;
Until all the bright splendour of life has gone from thee, alone, all alone,
I must wait for thy touch; from my home I have come, O, my lover, to call
For thy pardon! I sinned by my words; may my words now, sweet lover, atone!”

I followed and, lit by the Spirit, I found her! Around me were cries,
And the skies
Overhead, for I looked there, were bright with white light, and among it the trees,
As it flowed to the earth, like an ether, kept shaking their branches, and keen,
As if born on an iceberg, and nursed there, swept through them the midwinter breeze;
But I held her, though dead and drowned—held her, my Alice, my Alice, my Queen!

It was just such a night as the present! O, Spirit of Alice, my love,

  ― 84 ―
Up above,
Where, alone, all alone, in thy home, thou awaitest my coming; behold,
Thou canst see that I see thee again as a picture, and round thee a frame
Made of turbulent waters, and cries, and white light, and canst see that I fold
Thy dear body again in my arms, and kneel down while I call on thy name!