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  ― 139 ―

Reveries in Rhyme.

Midsummer in a Hawkesbury Valley.

It was a day of sombre heat:
The still, dense air was void of sound
And life; no wing of bird did beat
A little breeze through it—the ground
Was like live ashes to the feet.
From the black hills that loomed around
The valley, many a sudden spire
Of flame shot up, and writhed, and curled,
And sank again for heaviness:
And heavy seemed to men that day
The burden of the weary world.
For evermore the sky did press
Closer upon the earth that lay
Fainting beneath, as one in dire
Dreams of the night upon whose breast



  ― 140 ―
Sits a black phamtom of unrest
That holds him down. The earth and sky
Did seem, unto the troubled eye,
A roof of smoke, a floor of fire.

There was no water in the land.
Deep in the night of each ravine
Men, vainly searching for it, found
Dry hollows in the gaping ground,
Like sockets where clear eyes had been,
Now burnt out with a scorching brand.
There was no water in the land
But the salt-sea tide, that did roll
Far past the places where, till then,
The sweet streams met and flung it back;
The beds of little brooks, that stole
In spring-time down each ferny glen,
And rippled over rock and sand,
Were drier than a cattle-track.
A dull, strange languor of disease
That ever with the heat increased,
Fell upon man, and bird, and beast;
The thin-flanked cattle gasped for breath,
The birds dropped dead from drooping trees,
And men, who drank the muddy lees
From each near-dry though deep-dug well,
Grew faint, and over all things fell
A heavy stupor, dank as Death.

Fierce Nature, glaring with a face
Of savage scorn at my despair,
Withered my heart. From cone to base
The hills were full of hollow eyes
That rayed out darkness, dead and dull;



  ― 141 ―
Gray rocks grinned under ridges bare,
Like dry teeth in a mouldered skull,
And ghastly gum-tree trunks did loom
Out of black clefts, and rifts of gloom
As sheeted spectres that arise
From yawning graves at dead of night
To fill the living with affright,
And, like to witches foul that bare
Their withered arms, and bend, and cast
Dread curses on the sleeping lands
In awful legends of the past;
Red gums, with outstretched, bloody hands,
Shook maledictions in the air.

Fear was around me everywhere;
The wrinkled foreheads of the rocks
Frowned on me, and methought I saw—
Deep down in dismal gulfs of awe,
Where grey death-adders have their lair,
With the fiend-bat, the flying-fox,
And dim sun-rays, down-groping far,
Pale as a dead man's fingers are—
The grisly image of Decay,
That at the root of Life does gnaw,
Sitting alone upon a throne
Of rotting skull and bleaching bone.

There is an end to all our griefs:
Little the red worm of the grave
Will vex us when our days are done,
So changed my thought; up-gazing them
On gray-piled stones, that seemed the cairns
Of dead and long-forgotten chiefs—
The men of old, the poor wild men



  ― 142 ―
Who, under dim lights, fought a brave,
Sad fight of Life, where hope was none,
In the vague, voiceless, far-off years—
It changed again to present pain,
And I saw Sorrow everywhere:
In blackened trees and rust-red ferns,
Blasted by bush-fires and the sun;
And by the salt-flood—salt as tears—
Where the wild apple-trees hung low,
And evermore did stoop and stare
At a drowned image in the wave,
Wringing their knotted hands of woe;
And the dark swamp-oaks, row on row,
Did line the banks—a sombre train
Of mourners with down-streaming hair.

Two Sunsets.

On the Shore.

The day and its delights are done;
So all delights and days expire:
Down in the dim, sad West the sun
Is dying like a dying fire.

The fiercest lances of his light
Are spent; I watch him droop and die
Like a great king who falls in fight;
None dared the duel of his eye
Living, but, now his eye is dim,
The eyes of all may stare at him.
How lovely in his strength at morn
He orbed along the burning blue!



  ― 143 ―
The blown gold of his flying hair
Was tangled in green-tressed trees,
And netted in the river sand
In gleaming links of amber clear.
But all his shining locks are shorn,
His brow of its bright crown is bare,
The golden sceptre leaves his hand,
And deeper, darker, grows the hue
Of the dim purple draperies
And cloudy banners round his bier.

O beautiful, rose-hearted dawn!—
O splendid noon of gold and blue!—
Is this wan glimmer all of you?
Where are the blush and bloom ye gave
To laughing land and smiling sea?—
The swift lights that did flash and shiver
In diamond rain upon the river,
And set a star in each blue wave?
Where are the merry lights and shades
That danced through wood and over lawn,
And flew across the dewy glades
Like white nymphs chased by satyr lovers?
Faded and perished utterly.
All delicate, and all rich colour
In flower and cloud, on lawn and lea,
On butterfly, and bird, and bee,
A little space and all are gone—
And darkness, like a raven, hovers
Over the death-bed of the day.

So, when the long, last night draws on,
And all the world grows ghastly gray,
We see our beautiful and brave



  ― 144 ―
Wither, and watch with heavy signs
The life-light dying in their eyes,
The love-light slowly fading out,
Leaving no faint hope in their place,
But only, on each dear wan face
The shadow of a weary doubt,
The ashen pallor of the grave.

O gracious morn and golden noon!
With what fair dreams did ye depart—
Beloved so well and lost so soon!
I could not fold ye to my breast;
I could not hide ye in my heart;
I saw the Watchers in the West—
Sad, shrouded shapes, with hands that wring,
And phantom fingers beckoning!

On the River.

Fade off' the ridges, rosy light,
Fade slowly from the last gray height,
And leave no gloomy cloud to grieve
The heart of this enchanted eve!

All things beneath the still sky seem
Bound by the spell of a sweet dream;
In the dusk forest, dreamingly,
Droops lowly down each plumèd head;
The river flowing softly by
Dreams of the sea; the quiet sea
Dreams of the unseen stars; and I
Am dreaming of the dreamless dead.

The river has a silken sheen,
But red rays of the sunset stain



  ― 145 ―
Its pictures, from the steep shore caught,
Till shades of rock, and fern, and tree
Glow like the figures on a pane
Of some old church by twilight seen,
Or like the rich devices wrought
Upon an ancient tapestry.

All lonely in a drifting boat
Through shine and shade I float and float,
Dreaming and dreaming, till I seem
Part of the picture and the dream.

There is no sound to break the spell;
No voice of bird or stir of bough.
Only the lisp of waters wreathing
In little ripples round the prow
And a low air, like Silence breathing,
That hardly dusks the sleepy swell
Whereon I float to that strange deep
That sighs upon the shores of Sleep.

But, in the silent heaven blooming,
Behold the wondrous sunset-flower
That blooms and fades within the hour—
The flower of fantasy, perfuming
With subtle melody of scent
The blue aisles of the firmament!

For colour, music, scent, are one;
From deeps of air to airless heights,
Lo, how he sweeps, the splendid sun,
His burning lyre of many lights!



  ― 146 ―
See the clear golden-lily blowing!
It shines as shone thy gentle soul,
O my most sweet, when from the goal
Of life, far-gazing, thou didst see—
While Death still feared to touch thine eyes,
Where such immortal light was glowing—
The vision of Eternity,
The pearly gates of Paradise!

Now richer hues the sky illume:
The pale-gold blushes into bloom,
Delicate as the flowering
Of first-love in the tender spring
Of life, when love is wizardry
That over narrow days can throw
A glamour and a glory; so
Did thine, my Beautiful, for me
So long ago; so long ago.

So long ago! so long ago!
Ah, who can Love and Grief estrange?
Or Memory and Sorrow part?
Lo, in the West, another change—
A deeper glow: a rose of fire:
A rose of passionate desire
Lone burning in a lonely heart.

A lonely heart; a lonely flood.
The wave that glassed her gleaming head
And smiling passed, it does not know
That gleaming head lies dark and low;
The myrtle-tree that bends above,
I pray that it might early bud,
For under its green boughs sate we—
We twain, we only, hand in hand,
When Love was lord of all the land—



  ― 147 ―
It does not know that she is dead
And all is over now with Love,
Is over now with Love and me.

Once more, once more, O shining years
Gone by; once more, O vanished days
Whose hours flew by on iris-wings,
Come back and bring my love to me!
My voice faints down the wooded ways
And dies along the darkling flood.
The past is past; I cry in vain,
For when did Death an answer deign
To Love's heart-broken questionings?
The dead are deaf; dust chokes their ears;
Only the rolling river hears
Far off the calling of the sea—
A shiver strikes through all my blood,
My eyes are full of sudden tears.

The shadows gather over all,
The valley, and the mountains old;
Shadow on shadow fast they fall
On glooming green and waning gold;
And on my heart they gather drear,
Damp as with grave-damps, dark with fear.

O Sorrow, Sorrow, couldst thou leave me
Not one brief hour to dream alone?
Hast thou not all my days to grieve me?
My nights, are they not all thine own?
Thou hauntest me at morning light,
Thou blackenest the white moonbeams—



  ― 148 ―
A hollow voice at noon; at night
A crowned ghost, sitting on a throne,
Ruling the kingdom of my dreams.

Maker of men, Thou gavest breath,
Thou gavest love to all that live.
Thou rendest loves and lives apart;
All wise art Thou; who questioneth
Thy will, or who can read Thy heart?
But couldst Thou not in mercy give
A sign to us—one little spark
Of sure hope that the end of all
Is not concealed beneath the pall,
Or wound up with the winding-sheet?
Who heedeth aught the preacher saith
When eyes wax dim, and limbs grow stark,
And fear sits on the darkened bed?
The dying man turns to the wall.
What hope have we above our dead?—
Tense fingers clutching at the dark,
And hopeless hands that vainly beat
Against the iron doors of Death!

Dreams.

I have been dreaming all a summer day
Of rare and dainty poems I would write;
Love-lyrics delicate as lilac-scent,
Soft idylls wov'n of wind, and flow'r, and stream
And songs and sonnets carven in fine gold.




  ― 149 ―
The day is fading, and the dusk is cold;
Out of the skies has gone the opal gleam,
Out of my heart has passed the high intent
Into the shadow of the falling night—
Must all my dreams in darkness pass away?

I have been dreaming all a summer day:
Shall I go dreaming so until Life's light
Fades in Death's dusk, and all my days are spent?
Ah, what am I the dreamer but a dream!
The day is fading, and the dusk is cold.

My songs and sonnets carven in fine gold
Have faded from me with the last day-beam
That purple lustre to the sea-line lent,
And flushed the clouds with rose and chrysolite;
So days and dreams in darkness pass away.

I have been dreaming all a summer day
Of songs and sonnets carven in fine gold;
But all my dreams in darkness pass away;
The day is fading, and the dusk is cold.

Hail to the Dead.

Hail to the dead whose cares are over,
Hail to the dead whose days are done.
Quiet they lie beneath the clover,
Maiden and young man, loved and lover,
While the old world spins around the sun.
Hail to the dead!




  ― 150 ―
Hail to the dead; their land is freehold;
For their low houses they pay no rent.
The fattest of soils the dead in fee hold;
Fretting and toil is ours, but, behold,
Who but the dead are well content?
Hail to the dead!

Hail to the dead, their thirst they're slaking
With the strong red juice from the vine at its root.
Down in the land where there is no waking,
No forgetting, and no forsaking,
While we toil hard for the sapless fruit.
Hail to the dead!

Husbands and wives in peace together,
There they lie with never a word;
Never a hitch in the marriage tether,
Never a storm through the stilly weather,
Above, long grass by the warm winds stirred.
Hail to the dead!

Even So.

The days go by; the days go by,
Sadly and wearily to die:
Each with its burden of small cares,
Each with its sad gift of grey hairs
For those who sit, like me, and sigh,
“The days go by! The days go by!”




  ― 151 ―
Ah, nevermore on shining plumes,
Shedding a rain of rare perfumes
That men call memories, they are borne
As in Life's many-visioned morn,
When Love sang in the myrtle-blooms:
Ah, nevermore on shining plumes!

Where is my Life? Where is my Life?
The morning of my youth was rife
With the promise of a golden day.
Where have my hopes gone? Where are they—
The passions and the splendid strife?
Where is my Life? Where is my Life?

My thoughts take hue from this wild day,
And, like the skies, are ashen grey;
The sharp rain, falling constantly
Lashes with whips of steel the sea:
What words are left for Hope to say?
My thoughts take hue from this wild day.

I dreamt—my Life is all a dream!—
That I should sing a song supreme
To gladden all sad eyes that weep;
And take the Harp of Time and sweep
Its chords to some eternal theme.
I dreamt—my Life is all a dream.

The world is very old and wan—
The sun that once so brightly shone
Is now as pale as the pale moon.
I would that Death came swift and soon:
For all my dreams are dead and gone.
The world is very old and wan.




  ― 152 ―
The world is young, the world is strong,
But I in dreams have wandered long.
God lives. What can Death do to me?
(The sun is shining on the sea).
Yet shall I sing my splendid song—
The world is young, the world is strong.

The First of May.

The waters make a music low:
The river reeds
Are trembling to the tunes of long ago—
Dead days and deeds

Become alive again, as on
We float, and float,
Through shadows of the golden Summers gone,
And Springs remote.

Above our heads the trees bloom out
In white and red
Great blossoms, that make glad the air about;
And old suns shed

Their rays athwart them. Ah, the light
Is bright and fair!
No suns that shine upon us now are bright
As those suns were.

And, gazing down into the stream,
We see a face,
As sweet as buds that blossom in a dream,
Ere sorrows chase




  ― 153 ―
Fair dreams from men, and send in lieu
Sad thoughts. A wreath
Of blue-bells binds the head—a bluer blue
The eyes beneath.

This is our little Annie's face.
Our child-sweetheart
Whom long ago we lost in that dark place
Where all lives part.

Beside us, still, we see her stand,
Who is no more.
She walked with us through childhood, hand in hand,
But at the door

Of Youth departed from us. Fain
Were we that day
To go with her. Ah, sweetheart, come again,
This First of May!

At the Opera.

The curtain rose—the play began—
The limelight on the gay garbs shone;
Yet carelessly I gazed upon
The painted players, maid and man,
As one with idle eyes who sees
The marble figures on a frieze.

Long lark notes clear the first act close,
So the soprano: then a hush—
The tenor, tender as a thrush.
Then loud and high the chorus rose,
Till, with a sudden rush and strong,
It ended in a storm of song.




  ― 154 ―
The curtain fell—the music died—
The lights grew bright, revealing there
The flash of jewelled fingers fair,
And wreaths of pearls on brows of pride;
Then, with a quick flushed cheek, I turned
And into mine her dark eyes burned.

Such eyes but once a man may see,
And, seeing once, his fancy dies
To thought of any other eyes:
So shadow-soft, they seemed to be
Twin-haunted lakes, lit by the gleams
Of a mysterious moon of dreams.

Silk lashes veiled their liquid light
With such a shade as tall reeds fling
From the lake-marge at sunsetting:
Their darkness might have hid the night—
Yet whoso saw their glance would say
Night dreamt therein, and saw the day.

Long looked I at them, wondering
What tender memories were hid
Beneath each blue-veined lily-lid;
What hopes of joys the years would bring;
What griefs? In vain: I might not guess
The secret of their silentness.

What of her face? Her face, meseems,
Was such as painters see who muse
By moonlight in dim avenues,
Yet cannot paint; or, as in dreams,
Strange poets see, but, when they try
To carve in verse are dumb—so I.

Yet well I know that I have seen
That sweet face in the long ago
In a rose-bower—well I know—



  ― 155 ―
Laughing the singing leaves between,
In that strange land of rose and rhyme—
The land of Once upon a Time.

O, unknown sweet, so sweetly known,
I know not what your name may be—
Madonna is your name to me—
Nor where your lines in life are thrown;
But soul sees soul—what is the rest?
A passing phantom, at the best.

Did your young bosom ever glow
To love? or burns your heart beneath
As burns the bud rose in its sheath?
I neither know nor wish to know:
I smell the rose upon the tree—
Who will may pluck, and wear for me—

May wear the rose, and watch it die,
And, leaf by red leaf, fade and fall,
Till there be nothing left at all
Of its sweet loveliness; but I
Love it so well, I leave it free—
The scent alone I take with me!

As one who visits sacred spots
Brings tokens back, so I from you
A glance, a smile, a rapture new!
And these are my forget-me-nots!
I take from you but only these—
Give all the rest to whom you please.

Sweet flowers no bitter weeds may choke,
I keep ye still to muse upon
When the dark night is creeping on,
And, drawing haughtily his cloak
Of purple cloud across his eyes,
The Cæsar of the heavens dies.




  ― 156 ―
Sweet eyes, your glance a light shall cast
On me, when dreaded ghosts arise
Of dead regrets with shrouded eyes,
And phantoms of the perished past—
Old thoughts, old hopes, and old desire—
Gather around my lonely fire!

Farewell! In rhyme, I kiss your hand—
Kiss not unsweet, although unheard!—
This is our secret, say no word
That I have been in Fairyland,
And seen for one brief moment's space
The Queen Titania face to face.

A Sunset Fantasy.

Spell-bound by a sweet fantasy
At evenglow I stand
Beside a strange sardonyx sea
That rings a sunset land.

The rich lights fade out one by one,
Like to a peony
And drowned in wine, the round red sun
Sinks down in that strange sea.

With red clouds has he chapléted
His brows, like him who tied
Of old a rose-wreath round his head,
And drank to Death, and died.

His wake across the ocean-floor
In a long glory lies,
Like a gold wave-way to the shore
Of some sea-paradise.




  ― 157 ―
My dream flies after him, and I
Am in another land;
The sun sets in another sky,
And we sit hand in hand.

Grey eyes look into mine; such eyes
I think the angels' are—
Soft as the soft light in the skies,
When shines the morning star.

And tremulous as morn when thin
Gold lights begin to glow,
Revealing the bright soul within
As dawns the sun below.

So, hand in hand, we watch the sun
Burn down the Western deeps,
Dreaming a charméd dream, as one
Who in enchantment sleeps.

A dream of how we twain some day,
Careless of map or chart,
Will both take ship and sail away
Into the sunset's heart.

Our ship shall be of sandal built,
Like ships in old-world tales,
Carven with cunning art and gilt,
And winged with scented sails

Of silver silk, whereon the red
Great gladioli burn,
A rainbow-flag at her mast-head,
A rose-flag at her stern.

And, perching on the point above
Wherefrom the pennon blows,
The figure of a flying dove,
And in her beak a rose.




  ― 158 ―
And from the fading land the breeze
Shall bring us, blowing low,
Old odours and old memories,
And airs of long ago—

A melody that has no words
Which are of speech a part,
Yet touching all the deepest chords
That tremble in the heart.

A scented song blown oversea,
As though, from bow'rs of bloom,
A wind-harp in a lilac-tree
Breathed music and perfume.

And we, no more with longings pale,
Will hearken to its blow—
I, in the shadow of the sail,
You, in the sunset glow.

For, with the fading land, our fond
Old fears shall all fade out,
Paled by the light from shores beyond
The dread of Death or Doubt.

And when Death from a cloud above
His awful shadow flings,
The Spirit of Immortal Love
Will shield us with his wings.

He is the Lord of dreams divine,
And lures us with his smiles
Along the splendour opaline
Unto the Blessed Isles.

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