Names Upon A Stone: (Inscribed To G. L. Fagan, Esq.)
ACROSS bleak widths of broken sea
A fierce north-easter breaks,
And makes a thunder on the lea—
A whiteness of the lakes.
Here, while beyond the rainy stream
The wild winds sobbing blow,
I see the river of my dream
Four wasted years ago.
Narrara of the waterfalls,
The darling of the hills,
Whose home is under mountain walls
By many-luted rills!
Her bright green nooks and channels cool
I never more may see;
But, ah! the Past was beautiful—
The sights that used to be.
There was a rock-pool in a glen
Beyond Narrara’s sands;
The mountains shut it in from men
In flowerful fairy lands;
But once we found its dwelling-place—
The lovely and the lone—
And, in a dream, I stooped to trace
Our names upon a stone.
Above us, where the star-like moss
Shone on the wet, green wall
That spanned the straitened stream across,
We saw the waterfall—
A silver singer far away,
By folded hills and hoar;
Its voice is in the woods to-day—
A voice I hear no more.
I wonder if the leaves that screen
The rock-pool of the past
Are yet as soft and cool and green
As when we saw them last!
I wonder if that tender thing,
The moss, has overgrown
The letters by the limpid spring—
Our names upon the stone!
Across the face of scenes we know
There may have come a change—
The places seen four years ago
Perhaps would now look strange.
To you, indeed, they cannot be
What haply once they were:
A friend beloved by you and me
No more will greet us there.
Because I know the filial grief
That shrinks beneath the touch—
The noble love whose words are brief—
I will not say too much;
But often when the night-winds strike
Across the sighing rills,
I think of him whose life was like
The rock-pool’s in the hills.
A beauty like the light of song
Is in my dreams, that show
The grand old man who lived so long
As spotless as the snow.
A fitting garland for the dead
I cannot compass yet;
But many things he did and said
I never will forget.
In dells where once we used to rove
The slow, sad water grieves;
And ever comes from glimmering grove
The liturgy of leaves.
But time and toil have marked my face,
My heart has older grown
Since, in the woods, I stooped to trace
Our names upon the stone.
Twelve years ago our Jack was lost. All night,
Twelve years ago, the Spirit of the Storm
Sobbed round our camp. A wind of northern hills
That hold a cold companionship with clouds
Came down, and wrestled like a giant with
The iron-featured woods; and fall and ford,
The night our Jack was lost, sent forth a cry
Of baffled waters, where the Murray sucked
The rain-replenished torrents at his source,
And gathered strength, and started for the sea.
We took our Jack from Melbourne just two weeks
Before this day twelve years ago. He left
A home where Love upon the threshold paused,
And wept across the shoulder of the lad,
And blest us when we said we’d take good care
To keep the idol of the house from harm.
We were a band of three. We started thence
To look for watered lands and pastures new,
With faces set towards the down beyond
Where cool Monaro’s topmost mountain breaks
The wings of many a seaward-going storm,
And shapes them into wreaths of subtle fire.
We were, I say, a band of three in all,
With brother Tom for leader. Bright-eyed Jack,
Who thought himself as big a man as Tom,
Was self-elected second in command,
And I was cook and groom. A week slipt by,
Brimful of life — of health, and happiness;
For though our progress northward had been slow,
Because the country on the track was rough,
No one amongst us let his spirits flag;
Moreover, being young, and at the stage
When all things novel wear a fine romance,
We found in ridge and glen, and wood and rock
And waterfall, and everything that dwells
Outside with nature, pleasure of that kind
Which only lives for those whose hearts are tired
Of noisy cities, and are fain to feel
The peace and power of the mighty hills.
The second week we crossed the upper fork
Where Murray meets a river from the east;
And there one evening dark with coming storm,
We camped a furlong from the bank. Our Jack,
The little man that used to sing and shout
And start the merry echoes of the cliffs,
And gravely help me to put up the tent,
And try a thousand tricks and offices,
That made me scold and laugh by turns — the pet
Of sisters, and the youngest hope of one
Who grew years older in a single night —
Our Jack, I say, strayed off into the dusk,
Lured by the noises of a waterfall;
And though we hunted, shouting right and left,
The whole night long, through wind and rain, and searched
For five days afterwards, we never saw
The lad again.
I turned to Tom and said,
That wild fifth evening, “Which of us has heart
Enough to put the saddle on our swiftest horse,
And post away to Melbourne, there to meet
And tell his mother we have lost her son?
Or which of us can bear to stand and see
The white affliction of a faded face,
Made old by you and me? O, Tom, my boy,
Her heart will break!” Tom moaned, but did not speak
A word. He saddled horse, and galloped off.
O, Jack! Jack! Jack! When bright-haired Benjamin
Was sent to Egypt with his father’s sons,
Those rough half-brothers took more care of him
Than we of you! But shall we never see
Your happy face, my brave lad, any more?
Nor hear you whistling in the fields at eve?
Nor catch you up to mischief with your knife
Amongst the apple trees? Nor find you out
A truant playing on the road to school?
Nor meet you, boy, in any other guise
You used to take? Is this worn cap I hold
The only thing you’ve left us of yourself?
Are we to sit from night to night deceived
Through rainy seasons by presentiments
That make us start at shadows on the pane,
And fancy that we hear you in the dark,
And wonder that your step has grown so slow,
And listen for your hand upon the door?
The Glen Of Arrawatta
A SKY of wind! And while these fitful gusts
Are beating round the windows in the cold,
With sullen sobs of rain, behold I shape
A settler’s story of the wild old times:
One told by camp-fires when the station drays
Were housed and hidden, forty years ago;
While swarthy drivers smoked their pipes, and drew,
And crowded round the friendly gleaming flame
That lured the dingo, howling, from his caves,
And brought sharp sudden feet about the brakes.
A tale of Love and Death. And shall I say
A tale of love in death—for all the patient eyes
That gathered darkness, watching for a son
And brother, never dreaming of the fate—
The fearful fate he met alone, unknown,
Within the ruthless Australasian wastes?
For in a far-off, sultry summer, rimmed
With thundercloud and red with forest fires,
All day, by ways uncouth and ledges rude,
The wild men held upon a stranger’s trail,
Which ran against the rivers and athwart
The gorges of the deep blue western hills.
And when a cloudy sunset, like the flame
In windy evenings on the Plains of Thirst
Beyond the dead banks of the far Barcoo,
Lay heavy down the topmost peaks, they came,
With pent-in breath and stealthy steps, and crouched,
Like snakes, amongst the grasses, till the night
Had covered face from face, and thrown the gloom
Of many shadows on the front of things.
There, in the shelter of a nameless glen,
Fenced round by cedars and the tangled growths
Of blackwood, stained with brown and shot with grey,
The jaded white man built his fire, and turned
His horse adrift amongst the water-pools
That trickled underneath the yellow leaves
And made a pleasant murmur, like the brooks
Of England through the sweet autumnal noons.
Then, after he had slaked his thirst and used
The forest fare, for which a healthful day
Of mountain life had brought a zest, he took
His axe, and shaped with boughs and wattle-forks
A wurley, fashioned like a bushman’s roof:
The door brought out athwart the strenuous flame
The back thatched in against a rising wind.
And while the sturdy hatchet filled the clifts
With sounds unknown, the immemorial haunts
Of echoes sent their lonely dwellers forth,
Who lived a life of wonder: flying round
And round the glen—what time the kangaroo
Leapt from his lair and huddled with the bats—
Far scattering down the wildly startled fells.
Then came the doleful owl; and evermore
The bleak morass gave out the bittern’s call,
The plover’s cry, and many a fitful wail
Of chilly omen, falling on the ear
Like those cold flaws of wind that come and go
An hour before the break of day.
The stranger held from toil, and, settling down,
He drew rough solace from his well-filled pipe,
And smoked into the night, revolving there
The primal questions of a squatter’s life;
For in the flats, a short day’s journey past
His present camp, his station yards were kept,
With many a lodge and paddock jutting forth
Across the heart of unnamed prairie-lands,
Now loud with bleating and the cattle bells,
And misty with the hut-fire’s daily smoke.
Wide spreading flats, and western spurs of hills
That dipped to plains of dim perpetual blue;
Bold summits set against the thunder heaps;
And slopes behacked and crushed by battling kine,
Where now the furious tumult of their feet
Gives back the dust, and up from glen and brake
Evokes fierce clamour, and becomes indeed
A token of the squatter’s daring life,
Which, growing inland—growing year by year—
Doth set us thinking in these latter days,
And makes one ponder of the lonely lands
Beyond the lonely tracks of Burke and Wills,
Where, when the wandering Stuart fixed his camps
In central wastes, afar from any home
Or haunt of man, and in the changeless midst
Of sullen deserts and the footless miles
Of sultry silence, all the ways about
Grew strangely vocal, and a marvellous noise
Became the wonder of the waxing glooms.
Now, after darkness, like a mighty spell
Amongst the hills and dim, dispeopled dells,
Had brought a stillness to the soul of things,
It came to pass that, from the secret depths
Of dripping gorges, many a runnel-voice
Came, mellowed with the silence, and remained
About the caves, a sweet though alien sound;
Now rising ever, like a fervent flute
In moony evenings, when the theme is love;
Now falling, as ye hear the Sunday bells
While hastening fieldward from the gleaming town.
Then fell a softer mood, and memory paused
With faithful love, amidst the sainted shrines
Of youth and passion in the valleys past
Of dear delights which never grow again.
And if the stranger (who had left behind
Far anxious homesteads in a wave-swept isle,
To face a fierce sea-circle day by day,
And hear at night the dark Atlantic’s moan)
Now took a hope and planned a swift return,
With wealth and health and with a youth unspent,
To those sweet ones that stayed with want at home,
Say who shall blame him—though the years are long,
And life is hard, and waiting makes the heart grow old?
Thus passed the time, until the moon serene
Stood over high dominion like a dream
Of peace: within the white, transfigured woods;
And o’er the vast dew-dripping wilderness
Of slopes illumined with her silent fires.
Then, far beyond the home of pale red leaves
And silver sluices, and the shining stems
Of runnel blooms, the dreamy wanderer saw,
The wilder for the vision of the moon,
Stark desolations and a waste of plain,
All smit by flame and broken with the storms;
Black ghosts of trees, and sapless trunks that stood
Harsh hollow channels of the fiery noise,
Which ran from bole to bole a year before,
And grew with ruin, and was like, indeed,
The roar of mighty winds with wintering streams
That foam about the limits of the land
And mix their swiftness with the flying seas.
Now, when the man had turned his face about
To take his rest, behold the gem-like eyes
Of ambushed wild things stared from bole and brake
With dumb amaze and faint-recurring glance,
And fear anon that drove them down the brush;
While from his den the dingo, like a scout
In sheltered ways, crept out and cowered near
To sniff the tokens of the stranger’s feast
And marvel at the shadows of the flame.
Thereafter grew the wind; and chafing depths
In distant waters sent a troubled cry
Across the slumb’rous forest; and the chill
Of coming rain was on the sleeper’s brow,
When, flat as reptiles hutted in the scrub,
A deadly crescent crawled to where he lay—
A band of fierce, fantastic savages
That, starting naked round the faded fire,
With sudden spears and swift terrific yells,
Came bounding wildly at the white man’s head,
And faced him, staring like a dream of Hell!
Here let me pass! I would not stay to tell
Of hopeless struggles under crushing blows;
Of how the surging fiends, with thickening strokes,
Howled round the stranger till they drained his strength;
How Love and Life stood face to face with Hate
And Death; and then how Death was left alone
With Night and Silence in the sobbing rains.
So, after many moons, the searchers found
The body mouldering in the mouldering dell
Amidst the fungi and the bleaching leaves,
And buried it, and raised a stony mound
Which took the mosses. Then the place became
The haunt of fearful legends and the lair
Of bats and adders.
There he lies and sleeps
From year to year—in soft Australian nights,
And through the furnaced noons, and in the times
Of wind and wet! Yet never mourner comes
To drop upon that grave the Christian’s tear
Or pluck the foul, dank weeds of death away.
But while the English autumn filled her lap
With faded gold, and while the reapers cooled
Their flame-red faces in the clover grass,
They looked for him at home: and when the frost
Had made a silence in the mourning lanes
And cooped the farmers by December fires,
They looked for him at home: and through the days
Which brought about the million-coloured Spring,
With moon-like splendours, in the garden plots,
They looked for him at home: while Summer danced,
A shining singer, through the tasselled corn,
They looked for him at home. From sun to sun
They waited. Season after season went,
And Memory wept upon the lonely moors,
And hope grew voiceless, and the watchers passed,
Like shadows, one by one away.
Whose fate was hidden under forest leaves
And in the darkness of untrodden dells
Became a marvel. Often by the hearths
In winter nights, and when the wind was wild
Outside the casements, children heard the tale
Of how he left their native vales behind
(Where he had been a child himself) to shape
New fortunes for his father’s fallen house;
Of how he struggled—how his name became,
By fine devotion and unselfish zeal,
A name of beauty in a selfish land;
And then of how the aching hours went by,
With patient listeners praying for the step
Which never crossed the floor again. So passed
The tale to children; but the bitter end
Remained a wonder, like the unknown grave,
Alone with God and Silence in the hills.
The Sydney International Exhibition
Now, while Orion, flaming south, doth set
A shining foot on hills of wind and wet—
Far haughty hills beyond the fountains cold
And dells of glimmering greenness manifold—
While August sings the advent of the Spring,
And in the calm is heard September’s wing,
The lordly voice of song I ask of thee,
High, deathless radiance—crowned Calliope!
What though we never hear the great god’s lays
Which made all music the Hellenic days—
What though the face of thy fair heaven beams
Still only on the crystal Grecian streams—
What though a sky of new, strange beauty shines
Where no white Dryad sings within the pines:
Here is a land whose large, imperial grace
Must tempt thee, goddess, in thine holy place!
Here are the dells of peace and plenilune,
The hills of morning and the slopes of noon;
Here are the waters dear to days of blue,
And dark-green hollows of the noontide dew;
Here lies the harp, by fragrant wood-winds fanned,
That waits the coming of thy quickening hand!
And shall Australia, framed and set in sea,
August with glory, wait in vain for thee?
Shall more than Tempe’s beauty be unsung
Because its shine is strange—its colours young?
No! by the full, live light which puts to shame
The far, fair splendours of Thessalian flame—
By yonder forest psalm which sinks and swells
Like that of Phocis, grave with oracles—
By deep prophetic winds that come and go
Where whispering springs of pondering mountains flow—
By lute-like leaves and many-languaged caves,
Where sounds the strong hosanna of the waves,
This great new majesty shall not remain
Unhonoured by the high immortal strain!
Soon, soon, the music of the southern lyre
Shall start and blossom with a speech like fire!
Soon, soon, shall flower and flow in flame divine
Thy songs, Apollo, and Euterpe, thine!
Strong, shining sons of Delphicus shall rise
With all their father’s glory in their eyes;
And then shall beam on yonder slopes and springs
The light that swims upon the light of things.
And therefore, lingering in a land of lawn,
I, standing here, a singer of the dawn,
With gaze upturned to where wan summits lie
Against the morning flowing up the sky—
Whose eyes in dreams of many colours see
A glittering vision of the years to be—
Do ask of thee, Calliope, one hour
Of life pre-eminent with perfect power,
That I may leave a song whose lonely rays
May shine hereafter from these songless days.
For now there breaks across the faint grey range
The rose-red dawning of a radiant change.
A soft, sweet voice is in the valleys deep,
Where darkness droops and sings itself to sleep.
The grave, mute woods, that yet the silence hold
Of dim, dead ages, gleam with hints of gold.
Yon eastern cape that meets the straitened wave—
A twofold tower above the whistling cave—
Whose strength in thunder shields the gentle lea,
And makes a white wrath of a league of sea,
Now wears the face of peace; and in the bay
The weak, spent voice of Winter dies away.
In every dell there is a whispering wing,
On every lawn a glimmer of the Spring;
By every hill are growths of tender green—
On every slope a fair, new life is seen;
And lo! beneath the morning’s blossoming fires,
The shining city of a hundred spires,
In mists of gold, by countless havens furled,
And glad with all the flags of all the world!
These are the shores, where, in a dream of fear,
Cathay saw darkness dwelling half the year!
These are the coasts that old fallacious tales
Chained down with ice and ringed with sleepless gales!
This is the land that, in the hour of awe,
From Indian peaks the rapt Venetian saw!
Here is the long grey line of strange sea wall
That checked the prow of the audacious Gaul,
What time he steered towards the southern snow,
From zone to zone, four hundred years ago!
By yonder gulf, whose marching waters meet
The wine-dark currents from the isles of heat,
Strong sons of Europe, in a far dim year,
Faced ghastly foes, and felt the alien spear!
There, in a later dawn, by shipless waves,
The tender grasses found forgotten graves.
Far in the west, beyond those hills sublime,
Dirk Hartog anchored in the olden time;
There, by a wild-faced bay, and in a cleft,
His shining name the fair-haired Northman left;
And, on those broad imperial waters, far
Beneath the lordly occidental star,
Sailed Tasman down a great and glowing space
Whose softer lights were like his lady’s face.
In dreams of her he roved from zone to zone,
And gave her lovely name to coasts unknown
And saw, in streaming sunset everywhere,
The curious beauty of her golden hair,
By flaming tracts of tropic afternoon,
Where in low heavens hangs a fourfold moon.
Here, on the tides of a resplendent year,
By capes of jasper, came the buccaneer.
Then, then, the wild men, flying from the beach,
First heard the clear, bold sounds of English speech;
And then first fell across a Southern plain
The broad, strong shadows of a Saxon train.
Near yonder wall of stately cliff, that braves
The arrogance of congregated waves,
The daring son of grey old Yorkshire stood
And dreamed in a majestic solitude,
What time a gentle April shed its showers,
Aflame with sunset, on the Bay of Flowers.
The noble seaman who withheld the hand,
And spared the Hector of his native land—
The single savage, yelling on the beach
The dark, strange curses of barbaric speech.
Exalted sailor! whose benignant phrase
Shines full of beauty in these latter days;
Who met the naked tribes of fiery skies
With great, divine compassion in his eyes;
Who died, like Him of hoary Nazareth,
That death august—the radiant martyr’s death;
Who in the last hour showed the Christian face
Whose crumbling beauty shamed the alien race.
In peace he sleeps where deep eternal calms
Lie round the land of heavy-fruited palms.
Lo! in that dell, behind a singing bar,
Where deep, pure pools of glittering waters are,
Beyond a mossy, yellow, gleaming glade,
The last of Forby Sutherland was laid—
The blue-eyed Saxon from the hills of snow
Who fell asleep a hundred years ago.
In flowerful shades, where gold and green are rife,
Still rests the shell of his forgotten life.
Far, far away, beneath some northern sky
The fathers of his humble household lie;
But by his lonely grave are sapphire streams,
And gracious woodlands, where the fire-fly gleams;
And ever comes across a silver lea
The hymn sublime of the eternal sea.
On that bold hill, against a broad blue stream,
Stood Arthur Phillip in a day of dream:
What time the mists of morning westward rolled,
And heaven flowered on a bay of gold!
Here, in the hour that shines and sounds afar,
Flamed first old England’s banner like a star;
Here, in a time august with prayer and praise,
Was born the nation of these splendid days;
And here this land’s majestic yesterday
Of immemorial silence died away.
Where are the woods that, ninety summers back,
Stood hoar with ages by the water-track?
Where are the valleys of the flashing wing,
The dim green margins and the glimmering spring?
Where now the warrior of the forest race,
His glaring war-paint and his fearless face?
The banks of April and the groves of bird,
The glades of silence and the pools unstirred,
The gleaming savage and the whistling spear,
Passed with the passing of a wild old year!
A single torrent singing by the wave,
A shadowy relic in a mountain cave,
A ghost of fire in immemorial hills,
The whittled tree by folded wayside rills,
The call of bird that hides in hollows far,
Where feet of thunder, wings of winter are—
Of all that Past, these wrecks of wind and rain,
These touching memories—these alone remain!
What sun is this that beams and broadens west?
What wonder this, in deathless glory dressed?
What strange, sweet harp of highest god took flame
And gave this Troy its life, its light, its name?
What awful lyre of marvellous power and range
Upraised this Ilion—wrought this dazzling change?
No shining singer of Hellenic dreams
Set yonder splendour by the morning streams!
No god who glimmers in a doubtful sphere
Shed glory there—created beauty here!
This is the city that our fathers framed—
These are the crescents by the elders named!
The human hands of strong, heroic men
Broke down the mountain, filled the gaping glen,
Ran streets through swamp, built banks against the foam,
And bent the arch and raised the lordly dome!
Here are the towers that the founders made!
Here are the temples where these Romans prayed!
Here stand the courts in which their leaders met!
Here are their homes, and here their altars yet!
Here sleep the grand old men whose lives sublime
Of thought and action shine and sound through time!
Who worked in darkness—onward fought their ways
To bring about these large majestic days—
Who left their sons the hearts and high desires
Which built this city of the hundred spires!
A stately Morning rises on the wing,
The hills take colour, and the valleys sing.
A strong September flames beyond the lea—
A silver vision on a silver sea.
A new Age, “cast in a diviner mould”,
Comes crowned with lustre, zoned and shod with gold!
What dream is this on lawny spaces set?
What miracle of dome and minaret?
What great mute majesty is this that takes
The first of morning ere the song-bird wakes?
Lo, this was built to honour gathering lands
By Celtic, Saxon, Australasian hands!
These are the halls where all the flags unfurled
Break into speech that welcomes all the world.
And lo, our friends are here from every zone—
From isles we dream of and from tracts unknown!
Here are the fathers from the stately space
Where Ireland is and England’s sacred face!
Here are the Norsemen from their strong sea-wall,
The grave, grand Teuton and the brilliant Gaul!
From green, sweet groves the dark-eyed Lusians sail,
And proud Iberia leaves the grape-flushed vale.
Here are the lords whose starry banner shines
From fierce Magellan to the Arctic pines.
Here come the strangers from the gates of day—
From hills of sunrise and from white Cathay.
The spicy islands send their swarthy sons,
The lofty North its mailed and mighty ones.
Venetian keels are floating on our sea;
Our eyes are glad with radiant Italy!
Yea, North and South, and glowing West and East,
Are gathering here to grace our splendid feast!
The chiefs from peaks august with Asian snow,
The elders born where regal roses grow,
Come hither, with the flower of that fair land
That blooms beyond the fiery tracts of sand
Where Syrian suns their angry lustres fling
Across blind channels of the bygone spring.
And on this great, auspicious day, the flowers
Of labour glorify majestic hours.
The singing angel from the starry sphere
Of dazzling Science shows his wonders here;
And Art, the dream-clad spirit, starts, and brings
From Fairyland her strange, sweet, glittering things.
Here are the works man did, what time his face
Was touched by God in some exalted place;
Here glows the splendour—here the marvel wrought
When Heaven flashed upon the maker’s thought!
Yea, here are all the miracles sublime—
The lights of Genius and the stars of Time!
And, being lifted by this noble noon,
Australia broadens like a tropic moon.
Her white, pure lustre beams across the zones;
The nations greet her from their awful thrones.
From hence the morning beauty of her name
Will shine afar, like an exceeding flame.
Her place will be with mighty lords, whose sway
Controls the thunder and the marching day.
Her crown will shine beside the crowns of kings
Who shape the seasons, rule the course of things,
The fame of her across the years to be
Will spread like light on a surpassing sea;
And graced with glory, girt with power august,
Her life will last till all things turn to dust.
To Thee the face of song is lifted now,
O Lord! to whom the awful mountains bow;
Whose hands, unseen, the tenfold storms control;
Whose thunders shake the spheres from pole to pole;
Who from Thy highest heaven lookest down,
The sea Thy footstool, and the sun Thy crown;
Around whose throne the deathless planets sing
Hosannas to their high, eternal King.
To Thee the soul of prayer this morning turns,
With faith that glitters, and with hope that burns!
And, in the moments of majestic calm
That fill the heart in pauses of the psalm,
She asks Thy blessing for this fair young land
That flowers within the hollow of Thine hand!
She seeks of Thee that boon, that gift sublime,
The Christian radiance, for this hope of Time!
And Thou wilt listen! and Thy face will bend
To smile upon us—Master, Father, Friend!
The Christ to whom pure pleading heart hath crept
Was human once, and in the darkness wept;
The gracious love that helped us long ago
Will on us like a summer sunrise flow,
And be a light to guide the nation’s feet
On holy paths—on sacred ways and sweet