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  ― 13 ―

A West Coast Silhouette

(Tasmania)

FAGUS and myrtle!
Spoil of an axe that will ring no more,
Heaped on a hearth that has long been cold:
Flame-wreaths leaping yellow and bright
From the hot red heart of a West Coast fire:
And a black Sou'wester screaming without,
Hard through the “horizontal” scrub,
Like the sibilant hissing of angry snakes,
Beating the bole and blighting the leaf,
While the pine hut rocked like a ship at sea,
And the wall-plates plucked at the ten-inch spikes,
Bedded deep in the myrtle logs —
O it comes back like a song to my brain:
I hear the thresh of the spiteful hail,
And I feel the lift of the wind beneath,
The forward heave and the lightning lurch
And the shuddering gasp like a living thing,
As we crouched in the heel of the tempest's grip
High on the shoulder of Hamilton!

O, children of softer climes,
You that welcome the violets
And watch the gold of the daffodil break
Its velvet bondage to greet the Spring;
That mark the peeping of snowdrop stars
(Pale, petulant tapers that bend and blow
At the soft caprices of every wind
That tosses the tassels of scented snow
On the nodding thorn by the garden gate);
You, fenced afar with the glad green years
From the stress and struggle of iron coasts
Torn by the teeth of the hurricane —
What should you know of the spears of sleet
Stabbing the skin and pricking the veins,



  ― 14 ―
And biting the bone as the axe-blade bites
To a mountain myrtle's shuddering heart?
Or the Fear that sleeps in his frozen lair
By the blasted crags of the nether pole,
The mad Sou'wester,
Biding the hour that the blind bergs keep,
Till a witch of hate at the turn of the moon
Wakens her nurseling to ride the gale?
And he groans and mutters and swells and comes,
(A buccaneer with a voice of dread
That rolls like the thunder of muffled drums)
Heaping the breast of the great South main
With moving mountains of moaning death,
And grips the land,
As a strong man grapples his mortal foe,
In the moonless madness of windy night
High on the shoulder of Hamilton.

Grey huts of pine!
Starting out from a mist of years,
Like sentinel ghosts on a spectral track,
In a long procession the years come back,
Pale dawn and dawn,
Solemn and grey o'er the bleak White Spur;
And a wistful wind
Whispers its immemorial tale
Of griefs that were old when the world was young.
Once more I stand —
Stand and look west from an open door,
With the world beneath me stretching away
Far and far as the eye can see
To Heemskirk out on the dim sea marge:
And hear, now muffled, now rising clear,
The jangling note of a single bell
And the beat of hoofs, on the corded track,
Of the pack-team toiling up from “the Lead”;
Yea, hear again
Through the hollow hush of the afternoon



  ― 15 ―
The brown thrush fluting her madrigal,
The axe-strokes ringing o'er ridge and spur,
And the clang of “steel”
At the change of shifts on the “number four”.

O pulsing and thrilling and vivid and near,
From the things that are leap the things that were,
And Time and Space are shadows that pass
Like cloud-furrows over a field of rye,
As I drowse and dream of an open door
Of a pine hut set by a bridle-track
High on the shoulder of Hamilton.

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