This is the story of one man’s soul.
The paths are stony and passion is blind,
And feet must bleed ere the light we find.
The cypher is writ on Life’s mighty scroll,
And the key is in each man’s mind.
But who read aright, ye have won release,
Ye have touched the joy in the heart of Peace.
THERE’S a bend of the river on Glenbar run
Which the wild duck haunt at the set of sun,
And the song of the waters is softened so
That scarcely its current is heard to flow;
And the blackfish hide by the shady bank
’Neath the sunken logs where the reeds are rank,
And the halcyon’s mail is an azure gleam
O’er the shifting shoals of the silver bream,
And the magpies chatter their idle whim,
And the wagtails flitter along the brim,
And tiny martins with breasts of snow
Keep fluttering restlessly to and fro,
And the weeping willows have framed the scene
With the trailing fall of their curtains green,
And the grass grows lush on the level leas
’Neath the low gnarled boughs of the apple trees,
Where the drowsy cattle dream away
The noon-tide hours of the summer day.
There’s a shady nook by the old tree where
The track comes winding from Bendemeer.
So faint are the marks of the bridle track,
From the old slip-rails on the ridge’s back,
That few can follow the lines I know—
But I ride with the shadows of long ago!
I am gaunt and gray, I am old and worn,
But my heart goes back to a radiant morn
When someone waited and watched for me
In the friendly shade of that grand old tree.
The winter of Memory brings again
The summer rapture of passionate pain,
And she comes to me with the morning grace
On her sun-gold hair and her lily face,
And her blue eyes soft with the dreamy light
She stole from the stars of the Southern night,
And her slender form like a springtide flower
That sprang from the earth in a magic hour,
With the trembling smile and the tender tone
And the welcome glance—that were mine alone.
And we sit once more as we sat of old
When the future lay in a haze of gold—
In the fairy days when the gods have lent
To our lips the silence of heart’s content.
Ah! those were the days of youth’s perfect spring,
When each wandering wind had a song to sing,
When the touch of care and the shade of woe
Were but empty words we could never know
As we rode ’neath the gum and the box trees high,
And our idle laughter went floating by,
As we rode o’er the leagues of the billowy plain
Where the grass grew green ’neath the summer rain,
And over the hills in the range’s heart
To the fern-decked glen where the waters dart,
And we railed at time and the laggard year
Ere a bride would be mistress of Bendemeer.
Now the old-time feud that was first begun
When the Gordons settled on Glenbar run,
It had passed away, it was buried deep
In the quiet graves where our fathers sleep,
And sweet Mary Gordon was left alone
In the quaint old station of rough-hewn stone,
The maiden whom lovers sought near and far—
The stately lily of old Glenbar.
Our kinsfolk had hated, from year to year,
Since the first Loraine came to Bendemeer
They have passed where none can cavil and strive;
How could she and I keep the feud alive!
I, James Loraine, who were better dead
Than harm one hair of her gentle head!
So we made the bond that would bind, one day,
Glenbar and Bendemeer for aye.
For at last, though it left me with saddened face,
I was master of all in my father’s place.
Of the gray old dwelling, rambling and wide,
With the homestead paddocks on either side,
And the deep verandahs and porches tall
Where the vine climbs high on the trellised wall,
Where the pine and cypress their dark crowns rear
O’er the garden—the glory of Bendemeer—
From whence you can dream o’er the tranquil scene
Of the scattered sheep on the lucerne green,
And the mighty plain in the sunlight spread,
With the brown hawk motionless overhead,
And the stockmen’s cottages clustering still
On the gentle slope of the station hill,
And the woolshed gray on the swelling rise
Where the creek winds blue ’neath the bluer skies.
And here in the days when our hearts were light
We lived life joyously day and night.
For the friend of my soul, who was dear to me
As no friend hath been or again can be,
Was Oliver Douglas. In cloud or shine
My heart was his and his heart was mine,
And we lived like brothers from year to year,
And toiled for the honour of Bendemeer,
And my life moved on thro’ a golden haze
The splendid glamour of fortunate days.
What more to a man can the high God send
Than the fairest maid and the firmest friend!
I have read in some poet how Friendship may
Stand strong as a tower in the darkest day,
When the lips of Love that were quick to vow
Have failed ’neath the frown upon Fortune’s brow.
What a friend was he, without fear or guile,
With his careless ways and his ready smile,
With the voice to cheer, and the eye to praise,
And the heart to toil through the hardest days!
How he won all hearts, were they high or low,
By the easy charm that I envied so!
For they say in jest I am true to race—
The dark Loraines of the haughty face—
Awkward, and shy, and unbending when
I am full of love for my fellow-men.
But I caught at the sunshine he flung about—
The man to whom all my heart went out.
Ah! how oft at dusk ’neath the evening star
Have we reined our horses at old Glenbar,
And sat in the quaint familiar room
Made sweet with the scent of the jasmine bloom,
Where my soul first saw in her dreamy eyes
The lights of the gateways of Paradise!
How we lingered over our hopes and fears
As we planned the course of the coming years
Whilst Oliver chatted with easy flow
To Margaret Bruce with the hair of snow—
The proud old dame of a proud old race
Who lived for the child with her sister’s face.
O the joyous days! O the morning air!
When the blood was young and the world was air!
When from Tara and Westmere and Boradaile,
And from Snowdon Hills and from Lilyvale,
And from Tallaran and the plains of Scar
All sent down their horses to old Glenbar.
From many a station for miles away
Came the happy faces on racing day,
Came the big bush buggies fast rolling in
With the four-in-hands and the merry din.
And if strife was keen in those days of old
’Twas for love of sport, not for lust of gold;
For then each man rode as a man should ride
With his honour at stake and the station’s pride,
When every racehorse was sent to race
And each run had a crack for the steeplechase.
And I see the last timber loom big and bare
As we held the field with a length to spare,
And Douglas crashed past me on Charioteer,
The big gray gelding from Bendemeer.
But I rode the bay with the tiny star
That had carried the Lily of old Glenbar.
And I rode for all that I cared for most
And I collared the gray ere he passed the post.
Ah! how gaily and lightly our pulses beat
As the night went out to the trip of feet!
And though all men sought her with hope and praise
It was I she loved—with my awkward ways—
It was I she loved in the golden days!
The drought came down upon Bendemeer,
And the grass grew yellow, and scant, and sere,
And the lucerne paddocks were eaten brown,
And half the trees on the run cut down,
And we toiled all day ’midst the dying sheep,
The tottering frames that could scarcely creep,
And the dead by scores lay over the plain,
But God seemed deaf—for He sent no rain.
And whilst Hope stood sounding her funeral knells
Who had heart to talk about wedding bells?
And the drought held on for a three-year span,
And I woke one morning a ruined man.
Yet Fate smote harder—a deadlier blow—
For on old Glenbar there was word to go.
For the mortgage hung over Glenbar run,
And their stock were dead and their credit done,
And the bank foreclosed. We were cast aside
From the homes where our fathers had lived and died.
So we said good-bye—ah! the bitter end—
At the trysting place on the river bend.
But the ground lay sullen and bare below,
And most of the river had ceased to flow,
And the springs of Hope in our souls were dried,
And in silence we stood there side by side,
And a leaden fear held my brain and heart,
And we strove to go, but we could not part.
O sweet is the dawn of Love’s perfect spring,
When the white arms clasp and the soft lips cling;
But fierce is the passion that fires the blood
When Love stands baulked in its summer flood!
In her dark-ringed eyes shone the sad unrest
That spoke in the heave of her troubled breast,
And her face was white as the chiselled stone,
And her lips pressed madly against my own,
And her heart beat wildly against my heart,
And we strove to go, but we could not part.
But these were the words she said to me—
“Whatever the fate of the years may be,
Hope and my heart will wait for thee.”
’TWAS a long last look and a mute farewell
To the homes where our fathers had loved to dwell,
And our faces turned to the wild north-west,
And we rode away on a roving quest.
But our hearts were young and we cheered the way
With the golden dreams of a coming day,
When Fate should lead ’neath a happier star
Back to Bendemeer and to old Glenbar.
And a vision rose of one bearded and brown,
A wanderer hasting to Melbourne town,
To the faithful eyes now with sorrow dim
That had suffered and waited and watched for him.
For the new home lay midst the city’s roar
And the Station’s calm would be her’s no more;
And from Douglas’ lips came the story strange
Of the wondrous wealth in a northern range.
The weeks grew months and the months were spent,
As we overlanded a continent—
A thousand miles over scrub and plain
In the sun’s fierce glare and the tropic rain.
But we laughed at hardships to undergo
As we smoked in the ring of the campfire’s glow
And we pushed ahead till, in tracks grown blind,
The last station fence had been left behind;
And the land of the mighty runs spread wide,
Unfenced and virgin on every side,
Where you move—a ship that has lost the strand—
O’er the grassy ocean of one man’s land,
Where a score of beasts or a mile the less
Are of little count in the wilderness,
But men count their grass and cattle instead
By the hundred miles and the thousand head.
I have seen the plains lying baked and bare
When drought and famine hold revel there,
And the cattle sink where the rotting shoals
Of the fish float dead in the waterholes.
I have seen the plains when the flood brings down
The leagues of its waters, sullen and brown,
When only the tops of the swaying trees
Mark the creek that wound thro’ the level leas,
And all is a sea to the straining eyes
Save some lonely hut on a distant rise.
I have seen the plains in the mad delight
Of the racing flames in their crimson flight,
When the whip of the wind will not stay or spare,
And woe to the rider who lingers there!
But, O! the plains when their beauty burst
On our wondering eyes as we crossed them first!
When the sun shone bright and a soft wind blew,
And the sky was clear with a fairy hue,
And afar, like an isle in a sea of mist,
Rose a mountain-cap, as of amethyst.
And the big-horned cattle, knee-deep in grass,
Wheeled scattered legions to watch us pass,
As we drifted onward from group to group,
And swift as a bolt came the wild hawk’s swoop
When the brown quail whirled ’neath our horses’ feet,
Or the bronzewing1 broke from his ground retreat;
And the lazy bustard on laggard wing
Out of easy gunshot was loitering;
And for miles around us, at daylight’s close,
The little flock pigeons in coveys rose,
And the squadrons flew, with a gathering force,
Till an army darkened the watercourse.
Thus we crossed the plains to their utmost rim,
To the timbered belts round the mountains grim,
Chain upon chain, to the north and west,
Rose the swelling ridge and the purple crest,
And the gorges hid from the light of God
Where the foot of a white man had never trod.
There’s a tiny flat where the grass grows green,
Like a bay it lies two dark hills between.
And a stream comes down through a narrow cleft:
Here the camp was fixed and the horses left.
’Twas the last sweet grass, and no man could ride
O’er the beetling fastness on either side.
Thence into the heart of the hills we bore,
Rich with ironstone masses and copper ore,
And once or twice in the gorges old
We found a trace of the colour of gold.
In a deep ravine, walled by rugged heights,
Through the toiling days and the restless nights
I felt, ’neath the spell of that gloomy place,
That a change had come o’er my comrade’s face;
Felt, rather than saw, as it seemed to me,
That all was not quite as it used to be;
The laughter and jest, and the glance and tone,
Were not of the man that I once had known,
And it seemed to me that he shunned to hear
Of Mary and Glenbar and Bendemeer.
And there rose a sense I could not define,
Like a widening stream ’twixt his soul and mine.
Then the light of the Past like a star shone out,
And I turned in scorn from my evil doubt.
But the passions that rule since the world began
Were working there in the heart of man,
And a breast that had guarded its secret well
Was burning then with the fires of hell.
’Tis the old, old tale of a woman’s face
More strong than the shadow of foul disgrace.
The old mad lust for the mastery
To pluck the flower that is not for thee.
For the dreamy light of a woman’s eyes
It can lead on to hell or to paradise.
Ah! little I dreamt in the days now done
That the eyes I loved were as dear to one
Whose heart had been eaten with jealous pride
Through the years of our brotherhood, side by side!
For once it chanced as I moved alone
That I stumbled and fell on the ironstone—
A stumble that might have been made in blood,
For a bullet hummed where my feet had stood.
And I turned and saw from my vantage place
The look that was written across his face.
“He had fired at a bird but too low by half,”
And he turned it off with an awkward laugh.
For as yet no shadow of what might be
The power ’neath the surface had come to me.
Yet a shadow crossed, and it left behind
A doubt that rankled within my mind;
And for weeks we played at the duel hard
Of an open candour but secret guard;
And the seeds of discord were subtly sown
When the fever seized me and struck me down;
And days there were when the blood coursed free,
To be followed by morrows of misery.
But the fever heightened, and day by day
I could feel the cords of my life give way.
And my strength went out like an ebbing sea,
Yet daily he tended and cared for me.
It may be some touch of the days of old
Made his hand draw back, made his heart cry “Hold.”
But I saw in his eyes, with all anguish dumb,
That he waited and hoped for the end to come.
Then I lost the power to move hand and head,
And at last I lay in a trance as dead,
Awake yet a-dream, for a day and night
Then I woke with a start—and the moon shone bright
But the tent and the tools and the guns were gone,
And all save the blanket I lay upon!
Not a sound came down from the mountains lone
Where the shadows huge by the moon were thrown.
In the gloomy gorge not a soul was near,
And I called his name with a bitter fear.
But no answer came to my feeble cry—
And I knew he had left me alone to die.
They speak the truth and they judge me well,
Who call me “the Man who has been in Hell.”
Though the sky be clear and the sun shine bright,
Men have walked on earth through that awful night,
Whose ears have heard and whose eyes have seen
The infernal shades, like the Florentine,
When the veil is rent and we see unroll
The heights and depths of the human soul;
And with whitened locks and with pallid cheek
Have known and felt what we may not speak.
My life had gone out like a brief light’s breath
Had no help come into that fight with death,
But the hands of Fate that are swift and strange
Brought a people down from the Western range,
Brought a wild black tribe down the gorges dark
Who had seen the prints of an unknown mark,
And quickly around me were clustering
Dark faces and spears in a bristling ring;
And I lay there still in a helpless shrift
With a silent prayer that the end be swift.
But a man spoke forth with a threatening spear
That I was the God of the mountains drear,
And accursed be he and his kin and wife,
Who should lay a hand on a sacred life!
So they succoured me. And I lay as a king
Who has dusky daughters to fetch and bring,
Boughs to shelter, and water and food,
And berries to temper the burning blood.
And they made me a shade from the tropic sun
Till the fire of the fever its course had run.
And at last new life, after weeks of pain,
Came stealing gently through every vein;
And I moved with the tribe, but I pondered long
Why Douglas had worked me this bitter wrong.
For as yet no word of the truth was told,
And I held that the motive was lust of gold.
We moved for the plain, and we passed between
The walls of the flat where the camp had been.
No sign of a horse in that grassy bay,
And Oliver Douglas was far away
Across the plains where the red sun dips,
A sin on his soul and a lie on his lips.
But, O! the joy when I found and knelt
By a full revolver and cartridge belt
Marked with his name, and a mark of the mind
In whose guilty haste they were left behind,
To be sacred things till the morn should rise
When men pay in full for their treacheries.
These gave me power and a stronger claim.
They called me, “The Lord of the Thunder and Flame.”
But they watched me close with a sleepless care:
Three years in the mountains still found me there.
But I learnt by heart all the gorges old,
And I found the granite and found the gold:
Wealth beyond dreams—to a savage man
As wild as the myalls with whom he ran!
Ah, God! Could ever my lot have been
To have lived and loved in a different scene,
To have seen love shine like a splendid star
In the eyes of the Lily of old Glenbar?
Five years had passed, and another year,
Since we turned our horses from Bendemeer.
And a bushman, wrinkled, and aged, and brown,
Had worked his passage to Melbourne town.
Let it matter not through what evil stress
He had battled out of the wilderness,
For the joy that was thrilling him through and through
With a secret music that no man knew—
The last sweet words that she said to me:
“Whatever the fate of the years may be,
Hope and my heart will wait for thee!”
Why do you tremble, and sob, and stare,
Old Margaret Bruce with the snowy hair,
And chatter of ghosts of the past to me?
I am here to claim what you hold in fee.
Give me back my own! I have done no wrong.
For the eyes I love I have suffered long.
Now the toil is over—the fierce unrest,
And the lily shall lie on the broad leaf’s breast.
And the heart that was faithful, and strong, and true,
Shall learn what the love of a man can do.
For the future calls both to her and me.
Thither Eden lies—and I hold the key.
Cease, woman, cease! I am waiting here
For a bride to be mistress of Bendemeer.
“Let be the past and this formless dread!
I am James Loraine who was long since dead.
Give me welcome now! Shall all things be vain
To the dead man come to his own again?
Have you naught of comfort for such as I?
The past is dead—let its memories die!
I am changed and worn, I am tired and old,
But I bring the secret of countless gold.
But a wish of hers, but a word of thine,
And Bendemeer and Glenbar are mine.
Bid her come to me that her eyes may see!
Bid her come to me! Bid her come to me!
Then Margaret faced me with words of lead:—
“Peace, peace, Loraine!—the poor child is dead.
Married and dead! You are parted far,
Dear friend, from the Lily of old Glenbar.
The Bendemeer and the Glenbar lands,
They have passed long since to the Douglas hands.
She had waited long, she had waited true,
She had knelt in her sorrow and wept for you.
When he came, at last, with a grave, sad face
To tell the tale of your resting place.
His were the hands—they were clasped in ours—
That had soothed and tended your dying hours;
That had dug the grave and had piled the stone
In the dim blue range where you slept alone.
And he spoke your word in his own sad pain,
‘Not to mourn for you—we should meet again
But whatever the fate of the years might send,
The friend of your soul—let him be her friend. ’
But the starlight died in her eyes that day,
And with roses white on her cheeks she lay,
And the summer faded and came again
Ere her shadow rose from its bed of pain.
But he came and went with an anxious air
As one consecrated to watch and care,
And from oversea came the call of race
To title and wealth and an ancient place,
And when Bendemeer and Glenbar were sold,
They were his for the sake of the days of old.
And he pressed his claim till she came to see
That their lives could be lived to your memory.
She was wedded here. She lies buried far.
The ocean divides her from old Glenbar.”
Married, and dead! Is it all a dream,
To melt away on the morning beam?
Some passing horror of night whose power
Still haunts the brain in its waking hour?
Can these trembling lips and these stony eyes,
And this heart grown numb in its agonies,
Be a man indeed? Do I see and hear?
Or roam a shade through some realm of fear?
“And of him?” I cried. “Shall no vengeance find
These soft lying lips and this double mind?
There are human snakes who have lived too long!”
But she said: “Loraine, let God judge the wrong.
For the man you seek—he is oversea
With ten thousand miles ’twixt his face and thee.”
In the fevered night when the gas-lamps flare,
And the human river sweeps here and there,
By terrace and church, and long lines of street,
And by dim-lit parks where the shadows meet,
I am drifting down with the human flood:
The poison of madness is in my blood.
Are there hearts as bitter and dead as mine
Where the faces throng in the moving line—
Numb with the chill of a black despair
That no man guesses or wants to share?
Unto each man once shall the gage be thrown:
He must fight the fight with his soul alone,
When all ways are barred and he stands at bay
Face to face with truth in the naked day.
I have fought the fight with my soul alone.
I have won my laurel—a heart of stone.
O never again when the white stars shine
Shall the eyes I love look their love in mine!
And never again when the soft winds blow
Shall we ride by the river, or whisper low
By the shady nook ’neath the old tree where
The track comes winding from Bendemeer!
And no bridal bells for our joy shall ring
When Nature wakes to the voice of Spring.
And no tiny hands with a touch divine
Shall link for ever her soul and mine!
She is dead! My lily! My shy bush flower!
The summer has fled where she bloomed an hour.
Do her sweet eyes shine from some lonely star
O’er the bend of the river on old Glenbar?
Mine is selfish grief, mine is selfish pain;
But her sorrow is seared on my heart and brain.
What she heard, I hear; what she saw, I see;
What she felt is bare as a page to me
Shall such evil thrive? Shall she droop and die
And the man who loved her stand idly by?
Let God right the wrong! Will he give the dead
The sunshine and grace of the summers fled?
Has He solace here for the silent tears
Of the hopeless days, of the wasted years?
Let God right the wrong! He is deaf and blind
To the griefs and passions that shake mankind!
Who has eyes to see, let him use his sight:
Wrong is not righted, but might is right.
Then be might my right and my hate the rod,
And my hand in anger the hand of God
And the power is gold, which no power can bend—
I have learnt the means—I can see the end
To my mountains then: there to toil and wait.
I have lived for love: I can live for hate.
Till the power be mine, till the way be sure,
I can face the future and still endure.
With a wild fire flaming through all my blood
I have called to Evil “Be thou my Good!”
Love has patient been: love was strong and true;
But the heart of hate can be patient too
Can be strong to suffer and calm to wait,
But swift to strike in the hour of Fate—
To strike at the heart that has wrought her dole,
To strike at the man who has killed my soul!
THE mountains swarm like a human hive,
The picks are swinging in many a drive,
The axe is ringing on many a tree,
And the blast of a charge thunders sullenly;
And the growing heaps of the dull gray stone
And the tents of men stud the hillside lone,
And the moan of the windlass comes again,
With an eerie sound like a soul in pain.
And across the plains, lying baked and brown,
Where the long teams creep till the sun goes down,
Comes the curse, and the whip like a pistol crack,
As the bullocks strain on the burning track.
Soon the battery’s thunder will rend the sky
From the gorge where he left me alone to die.
They have felt the stir in the cities south,
And the “Comrade Field” is in every mouth,
And northward rushes the wave of greed,
For the whole world knows of “The Devil’s Lead.”
“Four jewelled walls—there are millions there!”
But one man’s hand is on every share—
One who knows the mountains from crest to glen,
A hater of women and feared of men,
Who has heart for nothing save gold and gain.
A power to be reckoned with—James Loraine!
As a miser handles and counts his gold,
So I hoard my hate with a joy untold.
Let the weaklings sink ’neath their dumb despair!
Shall I spare the coward who did not spare
O, the joy of hate! O, the liquid fire!
When the strong soul throbs to one fierce desire!
So I thirst for life as a hound for blood,
And woe to the hunters who cross my mood!
To strike hard and home! Then to watch him die
And to soothe his death with my memory!
This were joy indeed, worth a few years’ breath!
This were joy indeed, though the price were death!
Then what holds my heart, and what stays my hand,
Who can cross at will to the motherland?
’Tis a voice that floats through my dreams at night,
And a white hand ringed with a fairy light,
From the world unseen, that has drawn anear,
A tremulous whisper—“At Bendemeer.”
I had planned the end in the mountains grim,
Where the dream of wealth would be lure to him.
Bound fast to a tree in some gloomy glen
Where no cry can reach to the ears of men,
And shot with the bullet he meant for me—
I have dug it out of the hardwood tree.
Then to loose his cords and to let him lie
With his false face turned to the smiling sky,
With his dying grip—in a death of shame—
On the pistol butt that still bears his name!
A fool I have been from my mother’s breast,
A fool who acted and thought for the best,
Made way for others and stood aside
And saw knaves feasted and deified.
With an open heart I have striven to do
“To men as ye would they would do to you.”
And what have I gained by the Christian rule?
A smile and a sneer at the trusting fool!
And the generous wish to be fair and just
Has been deemed but weakness and self-distrust.
Now these things are over. My soul is free.
I will deal with men as they deal with me.
For I care not whither my purpose tend,
Let Hell find the means so I gain the end
And no guile too subtle or dark shall prove;
I have done with scruple, and done with love.
The thud of the stampers all night and day
Is loud in the gorge where the campfire lay.
From the big hotel where the lights shine long
Comes the broken snatch of a drinking song.
For the roofs go up as the shafts go down
In the fever and rush of a mining town.
I sit in my office with busy pen,
The saddest and richest of mining men.
I have sat like a spider and spun and spun
Till I hold the mortgage on many a run.
I have land and houses and shares and gold,
My stock increase by the thousandfold.
I am feared and courted with flattering breath
And all that I live for is one man’s death.
I have worked his ruin. I hold his fate.
I have woven a web round the man I hate.
I have crossed his schemes, I have won the fight,
For tools can be willing when gold is bright.
And the deeds of mortgage are in their hands
Over Bendemeer and the Glenbar lands.
As I sleep at last on my bed of care
Comes the white hand floating upon the air,
And a woman’s whisper is in my ear,
“The man that you hate is at Bendemeer.”
The last crimson streak in the West was dead,
And the white stars broke through the blue o’erhead,
And the hornèd moon like a sceptre pale
Cast its thin blue ray on the old sliprail,
As I crossed Glenbar by the big tree where
The track goes winding to Bendemeer.
All the plain lay silent and silver-gray
Like a shroud for a bride on her bridal day.
I could feel the menace and the hand of Fate
As I stood once more at the garden gate.
With a passionate heart for a while I stood,
For the past came back like a rushing flood,
Then I moved the latch and I crept within—
A thief in the silence who fears his sin.
Like funeral plumes for some giant king
Rise the dark pine-crowns, and their shadows cling
Purple and solemn to path and lawn,
Like the shadow of murder that waits the dawn.
And the morepork’s call from the timbered knoll
Seems the hoot of fiends for a dead man’s soul.
I am creeping slow down the well-known way,
All round me is ruin and slow decay,
By the weed-choked beds and the paths o’ergrown,
And rank grass seeding on lawns unmown,
And a low fence matted with running vine,
In the home of my fathers that once was mine.
The old rambling pile and verandahs wide,
Like an isle half lost in some dim gray tide,
Seems to welcome me, seems to feel and know
That a ghost is here from the Long Ago!
And my fingers close, whilst my blood is flame,
Round the pistol-butt that still bears his name.
Creep, creep to the west where the ground is bare,
For a dim light shines from a window there.
I have toiled for this thro’ the gloomy past.
I have prayed for this—’tis my hour at last!
Hear, God of the Just, whilst I own Thy might
Who hast given this man to my hands this night!
Here I kneel and pray. Be my hand the rod,
Be my hand in anger the hand of God!
Where the fold of the curtain falls, half drawn,
By the windows, wide to the western lawn,
From the shadows vague of the outer gloom
I have slipped—a shadow—within the room.
In the shaded light, on the low white bed,
I can see his face . . . he is lying . . . dead
The hand of Time has not marred its grace,
Though the lines are deep on the well-known face.
And the brow is placid and white and chill
With the peace that comes when the heart is still.
And the lamplight falls on the golden hair
Of a weeping child who is kneeling there.
O human vengeance and human hate!
See, thine altars scattered and desolate!
Poor paltry things of a passing breath,
Ye are silent here in the halls of Death!
Be his soul at rest. Though his sin was deep,
Yet bitter the harvest he lived to reap.
He has suffered long, he has worn the chain
Of a life’s remorse in his heart and brain.
He has known the terror of hidden sin
When the soul stands bare to the judge within.
Be his heart at rest in the peace divine!
Be Thy mercy, Lord, on his soul . . . and mine!
For the child looks up with her mother’s face,
With the sungold hair and the lily’s grace.
From the lashes wet with their pearly dew
Shine the dark-blue depths of the eyes I knew,
The sweet eyes soft with the dreamy light
And the mystic spell of the southern night.
They have left me this—’tis the bond of Fate—
The woman I love and the man I hate!
Through the windows wide blows the gentle breeze,
And the wind-harp sighs in the shadowy trees,
And I see the rise of a splendid star
O’er the bend of the river on old Glenbar!