Stanzas For Music

Now once more the world is bright,
Gone the clouds that hid the light,
Gone the mists that dimmed my sight
Gone sigh and tear.
As the sunshine after rain
Mirth and gladness come again,
“Sweet is pleasure after pain,”
Hope after fear.

Now again the joyous Hours
Strew my path with leaves and flowers,
Leading where enchanted bowers
Bid Love repose.
And I follow full of glee,
Weary though the way may be,
For my love is waiting me
There at its close.

The night was creeping on the ground;
She crept and did not make a sound
Until she reached the tree, and then
She covered it, and sole again
Along the grass beside the wall.

I heard the rustle of her shawl
As she threw blackness everywhere
Upon the sky and ground and air,
And in the room where I was hid:
But no matter what she did
To everything that was without,
She could not put my candle out.

So I stared at the night, and she
Stared back solemnly at me.

[Sung at the Opening of the Queensland National Society's Exhibition,
While nations joining gifts
Their fanes of Art adorn,
Hear, Lord, the lowly voice that lifts
The song of the youngest-born.
The gifts of the youngest-born,
We spread them forth to Thee,—
What toil hath wrought, what skill hath taught,
What Freedom hath brought the free.

No storied name we vaunt,
Nor martial trophies raise;
No battle-riven banners flaunt
The triumphs of other days.
But triumphs of peaceful days
Adorn our jubilee:
Here toil and skill Thine ends fulfil,
With hands that from blood are free.

We pile the arms of Peace,
Her trophies manifold,
Her ploughshare swords, her shields of fleece,
Her armour of bloodless gold.
Our treasures of fleece and gold
We consecrate to Thee,
With choicest yield of fruitful field,
And spoil from the forest-tree.

We bless Thee for our land,
Broad streams and gladdening rills,
For flocks that roam on ev'ry hand,
For herds on a thousand hills.
From all its thousand hills
Our land doth call to Thee,
Still do Thou bless with happiness
This youngest of the free.

I had not thought again to be
A dreamer of such dreams as these.
The springtime is no more for me;
My summer died beyond the seas.
From what untimely source begin
These stirrings of the life within?

I had not thought again to taste
The bitter sweet, the joyous pain.
I dreamed that I had trodden waste,
Beyond the power of sun or rain,
The soil that grew the passion fruit;—
Then, whence this blossom underfoot?
I had not thought again to see
Beyond the homely pale of truth;—
The lights and shapes of witchery,
That glorify the skies of youth,
I only know as perished things;—
Whence, then, this flash of angel wings?

How spend the day, yet save the hours?
I had my day; the hours are fled.
How eat the fruit, yet hold the flowers?
I ate the fruit; the flowers are dead.
Oh, what divine or fiendish art
Hath twined fresh tendrils round my heart?

I said, 'tis good to be alone,
No alien hand to urge or check.
I said, my spirit is my own,
To loose or bind, to save or wreck.
I trod on Love, called Reason lord;—
Lo, whence this subtle silken cord?

Oh, who shall tell if this be strength
Re-risen, or ghost of old defect?
The truth of manhood come at length,
Or weakness born of purpose wrecked?
I only know it is the whole
Arch-craving of a hungry soul.

I only know that all the hordes
Of buried hopes and jealousies

Are risen again and crossing swords,
And that 'twas but an armistice,
A breathing time 'twixt strife and strife,
Which I had deemed a peace for life.

Oh! who can tell where duty lies—
To urge, repress, advance, or stay?
To grasp at Good in Beauty's guise,
Or brush the pretty lure away,
Ere doubtful war of hopes and fears
Consume the hoarded strength of years?

Upon the orient utmost of the land,
Enfranchised of the world, alone, and free,
I stood; before me, and on either hand,
The interminable solace of the sea.

A white-winged hour of heaven, a fugitive
Of which the angels wist not, hither fled,
Whose plumy, rustling whispers bid me live
Its length of moments as if grief were dead.

Oh memorable hour of beauteous things!
The heaving azure melting into light;
The chequered sport of fleet o'ershadowings;
The nearer emerald curling into white;

The shoreward billows merging each in each,
To sunder yet again, fold, and unfold;
The shining curve of far-receptive beach;
The silvery wave-kiss on the gladdened gold;

The grandeur of the lone old promontory;
The distant bourne of hills in purple guise,
Athrob with soft enchantment; high in glory
The peak of Warning bosomed in the skies!

Oh all too fair to be so seldom seen,
This shadowy purple on the mountains sleeping—
This sapphire of unutterable sheen—
This beauty-harvest ever ripe for reaping!

For what high end is all this daily boon,
Unseen of man, in sightless silence spent?
Doth lavish Nature vainly importune
The unconscious witness of the firmament?

Or is it that the influent God, whose breath
Informs with glory sea and shore and hill,
His infinite lone rejoicing nourisheth
Upon the beauteous outcome of His will?
Or is it but a patient waiting-while
Against a day when many an eye shall bless,
From lowly cottage and imperial pile,
This wide tranquillity of loveliness;—

Against a day of many-thronging feet,
Of virtues, valours, all that builds and saves—

Of human loves responsive to the sweet
Melodious importunity of waves?

I only know that this empurpled range,
This golden shore, this great transcendent sea,
Are now a memory that will not change
Till I become as they—a memory.

Oh where the deuce is the track, the track?
Round an' round, an' forrard, an' back!
“Keep the sun on yer right,” they said—
But, hang it, he's gone an' got over my head!

“Make for a belt of apple trees;”—
Jist so. But where's yer belt, if ye please?
By gum, it's hot! This child'll melt,
An' there ain't no apples, nor ain't no belt.

“Keep clear o' the timber-getters' tracks,”
But wich is wich, I'd beg to ax?
They forks and jines, the devil knows how—
I wish I'd a sight o' either now!

“Leave the track,” sez they, “when you sees
Some yards to the right two big grass trees.”
Two! It's dozens on dozens I pass—
Most on 'em big, an' all on 'em grass.

Oh where the deuce is the track, the track?
I'm fairly taken aback, aback.
“Keep tow'rd the river. You can't go wrong.”
Whew? Can't I, though! That was rayther strong.

“Follow the lay o' the land,” sez they;
But, Lord, this flat ain't got no lay!
Whew! Ain't it hot on the pint o' the nose?
An' the more I mops the hotter I grows.

“An' when you comes to the foot o' the range”—
WHEN! That's the pint. But ain't it strange,
That the further I goes, to left or right,
The more there ain't no range in sight.

Gum trees, gum trees, slim an' high,
Timber green an' timber dry.
Blackened stumps an' fallen logs—
Lively work as on we jogs!
Oh the devil an' all take the flat, the flat!
I'm one myself for the matter o' that.
I'm mazed, an' so is the brute I rides,
An' the sun's getting over the left besides.

Dash it, I'll follow my nose, my nose!
Step out, straight forrard, here goes, here goes!

Let the sun be left, or the sun be right,
Summat or other must come in sight.

* * * * *
Well, well! If this ain't too bad by half!
Lor', how the beggars 'll laugh an' chaff!
Back to my startin' point? Yes; tis so.
I put up them slip-rails six hours ago.

The Dominion Of Australia

She is not yet; but he whose ear
Thrills to that finer atmosphere
Where footfalls of appointed things,
Reverberant of days to be,
Are heard in forecast echoings,
Like wave-beats from a viewless sea—
Hears in the voiceful tremors of the sky
Auroral heralds whispering, “She is nigh.”

She is not yet; but he whose sight
Foreknows the advent of the light,
Whose soul to morning radiance turns
Ere night her curtain hath withdrawn,
And in its quivering folds discerns
The mute monitions of the dawn,
With urgent sense strained onward to descry
Her distant tokens, starts to find Her nigh.

Not yet her day. How long “not yet?” . . .
There comes the flush of violet!
And heavenward faces, all aflame
With sanguine imminence of morn,
Wait but the sun-kiss to proclaim
The Day of The Dominion born.
Prelusive baptism!—ere the natal hour
Named with the name and prophecy of power.

Already here to hearts intense,
A spirit-force, transcending sense,
In heights unscaled, in deeps unstirred,
Beneath the calm, above the storm,
She waits the incorporating word
To bid her tremble into form.
Already, like divining-rods, men's souls
Bend down to where the unseen river rolls;—

For even as, from sight concealed,
By never flush of dawn revealed,
Nor e'er illumed by golden noon,
Nor sunset-streaked with crimson bar,
Nor silver-spanned by wake of moon,

Nor visited of any star,
Beneath these lands a river waits to bless
(So men divine) our utmost wilderness,—

Rolls dark, but yet shall know our skies,
Soon as the wisdom of the wise
Conspires with nature to disclose
The blessing prisoned and unseen,
Till round our lessening wastes there glows
A perfect zone of broadening green,—
Till all our land, Australia Felix called,
Become one Continent-Isle of Emerald;

So flows beneath our good and ill
A viewless stream of Common Will,
A gathering force, a present might,
That from its silent depths of gloom
At Wisdom's voice shall leap to light,
And hide our barren feuds in bloom,
Till, all our sundering lines with love o'ergrown,
Our bounds shall be the girdling seas alone.

Quart Pot Creek

On an evening ramble lately, as I wandered on sedately,
Linking curious fancies, modern, mediaeval, and antique—
Suddenly the sun descended, and a radiance ruby-splendid,
With the gleam of water blended, thrilled my sensitive physique—
Thrilled me, filled me with emotion to the tips of my physique,
Fired my eye, and flushed my cheek.

Heeding not where I was going, I had wandered, all unknowing,
Where a river gently flowing caught the radiant ruby-streak;
And this new-found stream beguiling my sedateness into smiling,
Set me classically styling it with Latin names and Greek,
Names Idalian and Castalian, such as lovers of the Greek
Roll like quids within their cheek.

On its marge was many a burrow, many a mound, and many a furrow,
Where the fossickers of fortune play at Nature's hide-and-seek;
And instead of bridge to span it, there were stepping-stones of granite,
And where'er the river ran, it seemed of hidden wealth to speak.
Presently my soul grew stronger, and I, too, was fain to speak:—
I assumed a pose plastique.

“Stream,” said I, “I'll celebrate thee! Rhymes and rhythms galore await thee!
In the weekly ‘poet's corner’ I'll a niche for thee bespeak:
But, to aid my lucubration, thou must tell thine appellation,
Tell thy Naiad-designation—for the journal of next week—
Give thy sweet Pactolian title to my poem of next week.
Whisper, whisper it—in Greek!”

But the river gave no token, and the name remained unspoken,
Though I kept apostrophising till my voice became a shriek;—
When there hove in sight the figure of a homeward veering digger,
Looming big, and looming bigger, and ejecting clouds of reek—
In fuliginous advance emitting clouds of noisome reek
From a tube beneath his beak.

“Neighbour mine,” said I, “and miner,”—here I showed a silver shiner—
“For a moment, and for sixpence, take thy pipe from out thy cheek.
This the guerdon of thy fame is; very cheap indeed the same is;
Tell me only what the name is—('tis the stream whereof I speak)—
Name the Naiad-name Pactolian! Digger, I adjure thee, speak!”
Quoth the digger, “Quart Pot Creek.”

Oh, Pol! Edepol! Mecastor! Oh most luckless poetaster!
I went home a trifle faster in a twitter of a pique;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living rhyming being
Ever yet was cursed with seeing, in his poem for the week,

Brook or river made immortal in his poem for the week,
With such name as “Quart Pot Creek!”

* * * * *
But the river, never minding, still is winding, still is winding,
By the gardens where the Mongol tends the cabbage and the leek;
And the ruby radiance nightly touches it with farewell lightly,
But the name sticks to it tightly,—and this sensitive physique,
The already-mentioned (vide supra) sensitive physique,
Shudders still at “Quart Pot Creek!”

Oh, fair Ideal, unto whom,
Through days of doubt and nights of gloom,
Brave hearts have clung, while lips of scorn,
Made mock of thee as but a dream—
Already on the heights of morn
We see thy golden sandals gleam,
And, glimmering through the clouds that wrap thee yet,
The seven stars that are thy coronet.

Why tarriest thou 'twixt earth and heaven?
Go forth to meet her, Sisters seven!
'Tis but your welcome she awaits
Ere, casting off the veil of cloud,
The bodied Hope of blending States,
She stands revealed, imperial, proud;
As from your salutation sprung full-grown,
With green for raiment and with gold for zone.

From where beneath unclouded skies
Thy peerless haven glittering lies;
From where o'er pleasant pastures rove
The flocks from which thy greatness sprang;
From vine-clad slope and orange-grove:
From “grave mute woods” thy Minstrel sang;
From Alpine peaks aglow with flush of morn,
Go forth to meet her, thou, the eldest-born.

From where, reverberant at thy feet,
The billows of two oceans meet;
From where the rocks thy treasures hide;
From mart and wharf, and harbour-mouth;
From where the city of thy pride
Ennobles all the teeming South—
To meet her, thou with loftiest zeal inflamed,
Go forth, Victoria, queen and queenly named.

And thou, the youngest, yet most fair,
First to discern, and first to dare;
Whose lips, sun-smitten, earliest spoke
The herald words of coming good,
And with their clarion-summons broke
The slumber of the sisterhood—
Foremost of all thy peers press on to greet

Her advent, strewing flowers before her feet.

And thou, around whose brow benign
Vine-leaf and olive intertwine;
Upon whose victories the Star
Of Peace looks down with no rebuke,
The weapons of whose warfare are
The ploughshare and the pruning-hook—
Take with thee gifts of corn, and wine, and oil,
To greet thy liege with homage of the soil.

Thou, too, whom last the morning-beams
Wake from thy sleep by peaceful streams
Slow westering to the Indian main—
Thou, too, beneath thy later sun
Conspire with these in glad refrain
Of welcome to the coming One,
And from thy fragrant forests tribute bring
Of grateful incense for thine offering.

And thou, Pomona of the South,
Ruddy of cheek, and ripe of mouth,
Who from thy couch of orchard-bloom
With fearless foot are wont to stray
By mountain lakes, or in the gloom
Of forest-depths unknown of day—
Be thy shrill greeting borne upon the breeze
Above the thunder of thy girdling seas.

Nor thou delay, who dwell'st apart,
To join thy peers with gladsome heart—
Whether the summons thee o'ertake
On icy steep or fruitful plain,
Or where thy craggy bulwarks break
The onslaught of the warring main,
Or find thee couched within some ferny lair,
Flax-flower and hyacinth mingling with thy hair.

Bind ye the sevenfold cord apace;
Weave ye the sevenfold wreath, to grace
The brow of her whose avatar
The mighty Mother waits to bless;
In sevenfold choir be borne afar
The music of your joyfulness.
Till o'er the world's disquiet your song prevail—
“Australia Foederata! Hail! all hail!”

New Chum And Old Monarch

“Chieftain, enter my verandah;
Sit not in the blinding glare;
Thou shalt have a refuge, and a
Remnant of my household fare.

“Ill becomes thy princely haunches
Such a seat upon the ground:
Doubtless on a throne of branches
Thou hast sat, banana-crowned.

“By the brazen tablet gleaming
On the darkness of thy breast,
Which, unto all outward seeming,
Serves for trousers, coat, and vest;—

“By the words thereon engraven,
Of thy royal rank the gage,
Hail! true King, in all things save in
Unessential acreage.

“Such divinity doth hedge thee,
I had guessed thy rank with ease—
Such divinity—(but edge thee
Somewhat more to leeward, please).

“Though thy lineage I know not,
Thou art to the manner born;
Every inch a king, although not
King of one square barleycorn.

“Enter, sire; no longer linger;
Cease thy signals grandly dumb:
Point not thus with royal finger
To thy hungry vacuum.

“Though thy pangs are multifarious,
Soon they all shall pass away:
Come, my begging Belisarius—
Belisorious I should say.

“Fear not; I am the intruder;
I, and white men such as I:
Simpler though thou art, and ruder,

Thou art heir of earth and sky.

“Thine the mountain, thine the river,
Thine the endless miles of scrub:
Shall I grudge thee, then—oh never!—
Useless ends of refuse grub?

“Lay aside thy spears—(I doubt them),
Lay aside thy tomahawk;
I prefer thee, sire, without them,
By a somewhat longish chalk.

“Lay aside thy nullah-nullahs;
Is there war betwixt us two?
Soon the pipe of peace shall lull us—
Pipe a-piece, bien entendu.

“Seat thee in this canvas chair here;
Heed not thou the slumbering hound;
Fear not; all is on the square here,
Though thou strangely lookest round.

“Or if thou, my chair deriding,
Follow thine ancestral bent,
To the naked floor subsiding
Down the groove of precedent,—

“If the boards have more temptation,
Wherefore should I say thee No,
Seeing caudal induration
Must have set in long ago?

“Take thou now this refuse mince-meat;
Pick this bone, my regal guest:
Shall a fallen warrior-prince meet
Other welcome than the best?

“Treated like a very rebel,
Chased from town at set of sun,
Wert thou ev'n the debbil-debbil,
Thou shouldst eat—when I am done.”

On the bare floor sat the sable
Chieftain of a fallen race,
Two black knees his only table,
“Wai-a-roo” his simple grace.

Stood I by and ruminated
On the chief's Decline and Fall,
While his highness masticated
What I gave him, bone and all.

“Chief,” said I, when all had vanished,
“Fain am I thou shouldst relate
Why thou roam'st discrowned and banished
From thy scrub-palatinate.”

Stared the chief, and wildly muttered,
As if words refused to come;
“Want him rum,” at length he uttered;
“Black f'lo plenty like him rum!”

“Nay! 'Twill make thee mad—demoniac!
Set thee all a-fire within!
Law forbids thee rum and cognac,
Though in mercy spares thy gin.

“Come; thy tale, if thou hast any.”—
Forth the chieftain stretched his hand,
Stood erect, and shouted “Penny!”
In a voice of stern command.

“Out upon thee! savage squalid!
Mine ideal thus to crush,
With thy beggary gross and solid,
All for money and for lush!

“Out upon thee! prince degenerate!
Get thee to thy native scrub!
Die a dog's death!—or, at any rate,
Trouble me no more for grub!

“At him, Ginger! Up and at him!
Go it, lad! On, Ginger, on!
King, indeed! the beggar! . . Drat him!
One more fond illusion gone.”

Brunton Stephens

Dedicated by special permission to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.

We cried, “How long!” We sighed, “Not yet;”
And still with faces dawnward set
“Prepare the way,” said each to each,
And yet again, “Prepare,” we said;
And toil, re-born of resolute speech,
Made straight the path her feet should tread:—
Now triumph, faithful hands and steadfast wills,
For, lo! whose pomp the bannered Orient fills?
Whose feet are these upon the morning hills?

Farewell, Sweet Faith! thy silver ray
Now dies into the golden day.
Farewell, Bright Dream, by minstrels sung!
For She whom all our dreams foreran
Has leaped to life, a Pallas sprung
Consummate from the brain of man,
Whom now we hail in mortal guise and gait,
Thought clothed with flesh, partaker of our state,
Made corporal in us now corporate!

Ah, now we know the long delay
But served to assure a prouder day,
For while we waited came the call
To prove and make our title good—
To face the fiery ordeal
That tries the claim to Nationhood—
And now in pride of challenge we unroll,
For all the world to read, the record-scroll
Whose bloody script attests a Nation's soul.

O ye, our Dead, who at the call
Fared forth to fall as heroes fall,
Whose consecrated souls we failed
To note beneath the common guise
Till all-revealing Death unveiled
The splendour of your sacrifice,
Now, crowned with more than perishable bays,
Immortal in your country's love and praise,
Ye, too, have portion in this day of days!

And ye who sowed where now we reap,
Whose waiting eyes, now sealed in sleep,
Beheld far off with prescient sight
This triumph of rejoicing lands—
Yours, too, the day! for though its light
Can pierce not to your folded hands,
These shining hours of advent but fulfil
The cherished purpose of your constant will,
Whose onward impulse liveth in us still.

Still lead thou vanward of our line,
Who, shaggy, massive, leonine,
Could'st yet most finely phrase the event—
For if a Pisgah view was all
Vouchsafed to thine uncrowned intent,
The echoes of thy herald-call
Not faintlier strive with our saluting guns,
And at thy words through all Australia's sons
The “crimson thread of kinship” redder runs.

But not the memory of the dead,
How loved so'er each sacred head,
To-day can change from glad to grave
The chords that quire a Nation born—
Twin offspring of the birth that gave,
When yester-midnight chimed to morn,
Another age to the Redeemer's reign,
Another cycle to the widening gain
Of Good o'er Ill and Remedy o'er Pain.

Our sundering lines with love o'ergrown,
Our bounds the girdling seas alone—
Be this the burden of the psalm
That every resonant hour repeats,
Till day-fall dusk the fern and palm
That forest our transfigured streets,
And night still vibrant with the note of praise
Thrill brother-hearts to song in woodland ways,
When gum-leaves whisper o'er the camp-fire's blaze.
* * * * *
The Charter's read: the rites are o'er;
The trumpet's blare and cannon's roar
Are silent, and the flags are furled;
But so not ends the task to build
Into the fabric of the world
The substance of our hope fulfilled—

To work as those who greatly have divined
The lordship of a continent assigned
As God's own gift for service of mankind.

O People of the onward will,
Unit of Union greater still
Than that to-day hath made you great,
Your true Fulfilment waiteth there,
Embraced within the larger fate
Of Empire ye are born to share—
No vassal progeny of subject brood,
No satellite shed from Britain's plenitude,
But orbed with her in one wide sphere of good!
* * * * *
O Lady, in whose sovereign name
The crowning word of Union came
That sheds upon thine honoured age
The glory of a rising light,
Across our record's earliest page,
Its earliest word, thy name we write . . .
Symbol, Embodiment, and Guarantee
Of all that makes us and maintains us free,
Woman and Queen, God's grace abide with thee.

Daughter of Eve, draw near—I would behold thee.
Good Heavens! Could ever arm of man enfold thee?
Did the same Nature that made Phryne mould thee?

Come thou to leeward; for thy balmy presence
Savoureth not a whit of mille-fleurescence:—
My nose is no insentient excrescence.

Thou art not beautiful, I tell thee plainly,
Oh! thou ungainliest of things ungainly;
Who thinks thee less than hideous doats insanely.

Most unaesthetical of things terrestrial,
Hadst thou indeed an origin celestial?—
Thy lineaments are positively bestial!

Yet thou my sister art, the clergy tell me;
Though, truth to state, thy brutish looks compel me
To hope these parsons merely want to sell me.

A hundred times and more I've heard and read it;
But if Saint Paul himself came down and said it,
Upon my soul I could not give it credit.

“God's image cut in ebony,” says someone;
'Tis to be hoped some day thou may'st become one;
The present image is a very rum one.
Thy face “the human face divine!” . . . Oh, Moses!
Whatever trait divine thy face discloses,
Some vile Olympian cross-play pre-supposes.

Thy nose appeareth but a transverse section:
Thy mouth hath no particular direction,—
A flabby-rimmed abyss of imperfection.

Thy skull development mine eye displeases;
Thou wilt not suffer much from brain diseases;
Thy facial angle forty-five degrees is.

The coarseness of thy tresses is distressing,
With grease and raddle firmly coalescing,
I cannot laud thy system of “top-dressing.”

Thy dress is somewhat scant for proper feeling;
As is thy flesh, too,—scarce thy bones concealing:
Thy calves unquestionably want re-vealing.

Thy rugged skin is hideous with tattooing,
And legible with hieroglyphic wooing—
Sweet things in art of some fierce lover's doing.

For thou some lover hast, I bet a guinea,—
Some partner in thy fetid ignominy,
The raison d'être of this piccaninny.

What must he be whose eye thou hast delighted?
His sense of beauty hopelessly benighted!
The canons of his taste how badly sighted!

What must his gauge be, if thy features pleased him?
If lordship of such limbs as thine appeased him,
It was not “calf-love” certainly that seized him.

And is he amorously sympathetic?
And doth he kiss thee? . . . Oh my soul prophetic!
The very notion is a strong emetic!

And doth he smooth thine hours with oily talking?
And take thee conjugally out-a-walking?
And crown thy transports with a tom-a-hawking?

I guess his love and anger are combined so;
His passions on thy shoulders are defined so;
“His passages of love” are underlined so.

Tell me thy name. What? . . . Helen? . . . (Oh, OEnone,
That name bequeathed to one so foul and bony
Avengeth well thy ruptured matrimony!)

Eve's daughter! with that skull! and that complexion?
What principle of “Natural Selection”
Gave thee with Eve the most remote connection?

Sister of L. E. L. . . . of Mrs. Stowe, too!
Of E. B. Browning! Harriet Martineau, too!
Do theologians know where fibbers go to?

Of great George Eliot, whom I worship daily!
Of Charlotte Brontë! and Joanna Baillie!—
Methinks that theory is rather “scaly.”

Thy primal parents came a period later—
The handiwork of some vile imitator;
I fear they had the devil's imprimatur.

This in the retrospect.—Now, what's before thee?
The white man's heaven, I fear, would simply bore thee;
Ten minutes of doxology would floor thee.

Thy Paradise should be some land of Goshen,
Where appetite should be thy sole devotion,
And surfeit be the climax of emotion;—

A land of Bunya-bunyas towering splendid,—
Of honey-bags on every tree suspended,—
A Paradise of sleep and riot blended;—

Of tons of 'baccy, and tons more to follow,—
Of wallaby as much as thou couldst swallow,—
Of hollow trees, with 'possums in the hollow;—

There, undismayed by frost, or flood, or thunder,
As joyous as the skies thou roamest under,
There shouldst thou . . . Oooey! . . Stop! She's off.
. . . No wonder.

Lo by the “humpy” door a smockless Venus!
Unblushing bronze, she shrinks not, having seen us,
Though there is nought but short couch-grass between us.

She hath no polonaise, no Dolly Varden;
Yet turns she not away, nor asketh pardon;
Fact is, she doesn't care a copper “farden.”

Ah yet, her age her reputation spareth;
At three years old pert Venus little careth,
She puts her hand upon her hip and stareth;

All unabashed, unhaberdashed, unheeding,
No Medicean, charmingly receding,
But quite unconscious of improper breeding.

'Tis well; it smacks of Eden ere came sin in,
Or any rag of consciousness or linen,
Or anything that one could stick a pin in.

Could boundaries be neater? posture meeter?
Could bronze antique or terra cotta beat her?
Saw ever artist any thing completer?

A shade protuberant, beyond contesting,
Where this day's 'possum is just now digesting,
But otherwise, all over interesting;

Trim without trimming, furbelow, or bow on;
Was ever sable skin with such a glow on?
So darkly soft, so softly sleek, and—so on?

Was ever known so dark, so bright an iris,
Where sleep of light, but never play of fire is—
Where not a soupçon of a wild desire is?

O swarthy statuette! hast thou no notion
That life is fire and war and wild commotion?
A burning bush, a chafed and raging ocean?

Hast thou no questioning of what's before thee?
Of who shall envy thee, or who adore thee?
Or whose the jealous weapon that shall score thee?

Hast thou no faint prevision of disaster—
Of dark abduction from thy lord and master—
Of aliens fleeing, kindred following faster?

No faint forehearing of the waddies banging,
Of club and heelaman together clanging,
War shouts, and universal boomeranging?

And thou the bone of all the fierce contention—
The direful spring of broken-nosed dissension—
A Helen in the nigger apprehension?

Nay, my black tulip, I congratulate thee,
Thou canst not guess the troubles that await thee,
Nor carest who shall love or who shall hate thee:

Recking as little of the human passions
As of the very latest Paris fashions,
And soaring not beyond thy daily rations!

Die young, for mercy's sake! If thou grow older,
Thou shalt grow lean at calf and sharp at shoulder,
And daily greedier and daily bolder;

A pipe between thy savage grinders thrusting,
For rum and everlasting 'baccy lusting,
And altogether filthy and disgusting;

Just such another as the dam that bore thee—
That haggard Sycorax now bending o'er thee!
Die young, my sable pippin, I implore thee!

Why shouldst thou live to know deterioration?
To walk a spectre of emaciation?
To grow, like that, all over corrugation?

A trifle miscellaneous like her, too,
An object not “de luxe” and not “de vertu”—
A being odious even to refer to?

Her childhood, too, like thine, was soft and tender;
Her womanhood hath nought to recommend her;
At thirty she is not of any gender.

Oh, dusky fondling, let the warning teach thee!
Through muddiest brain-pulp may the lesson reach thee.
Oh, die of something fatal, I beseech thee!

While yet thou wear'st the crown of morning graces,
While yet the touch of dawn upon thy face is—
Back, little nigger, to the night's embraces!

Hope nought: each year some new defect discloses;
As sure as o'er thy mouth thy little nose is,
Thy only hope is in metempsychosis.

Who knows but after some few short gradations,
After a brace or so of generations,
We two may have exchanged our hues and stations?

Methinks I see thee suddenly grow bigger,
White in the face and stately in the figure,
And I a miserable little nigger!

Should this be thus—oh come not moralising!
Approach not thou my humpy poetising!
Spare thine Iambics and apostrophising!

Let subtle nature, if it suit her, black me,
Let vesture lack me, bigger niggers whack me,
Let hunger rack me, let disaster track me,
And anguish hoist me to her highest acme—

Let me bear all thine incidental curses,
Nor share the smallest of thy scanty mercies,
But put me not—oh, put me not in verses!

She grins. She heedeth not advice or warning,
Alike philosophy and triplets scorning.
Adieu, then. Fare thee well. Ta-ta. Good morning

A Brisbane Reverie

As I sit beside my little study window, looking down
From the heights of contemplation (attic front) upon the town
(Attic front, per week — with board, of course — a sov'reign and a crown);—

As I sit—(these sad digressions, though, are much to be deplored)—
In my lonely little attic—(it is all I can afford;
And I should have mentioned, washing not included in the board);—

As I sit—(these wild parentheses my very soul abhors)—
High above the ills of life, its petty rumours, paltry wars—
(The attic back is cheaper, but it wants a chest of drawers);—

In the purpling light of half-past six before the stars are met,
While the stricken sun clings fondly to his royal mantle yet,
Dying glorious on the hill-tops in reluctant violet,—
Just the time that favours vision, blissful moments that unbar
The inner sight (assisted by a very mild cigar),
To behold the things that are not, side by side with those that are,—

Just the very light and very time that suit the bard's complaint,
When through present, past, and future, roams his soul without restraint—
When no clearer are the things that are than are the things that ain't;—

With a dual apperception, metaphysical, profound,
Past and present running parallel, I scan the scene around—
(Were there two of us the attic front would only be a pound).—

Beneath mine eyes the buried past arises from the tomb,
Not cadaverous or ghostly, but in all its living bloom—
(I would rather pay the odds than have a partner in my room).

How the complex now contrasteth with the elemental then!
Tide of change outflowing flow of ink, outstripping stride of pen!
(Unless it were . . . . but no . . . . they only take in single men).

Where trackless wilderness lay wide, a hundred ages through—
I can see a man with papers, from my attic point of view,
Who for gath'ring house assessments gets a very decent screw.

Where forest-contiguity assuaged the summer heats,
It is now an argued question, when the City Council meets,
If we mightn't buy a tree or two to shade the glaring streets.

Where no sound announced the flight of time, not even crow of cock,
I can see the gun that stuns the town with monitory shock,

And a son of that same weapon hired to shoot at one o'clock.

Where the kangaroo gave hops, the “old man” fleetest of the fleet,
Mrs. Pursy gives a “hop” to-night to all the town's élite,
But her “old man” cannot hop because of bunions on his feet.

Where the emu, “at its own sweet will,” went wandering all the day,
And left its bill-prints on whate'er came handy in its way,
There are printed bills that advertise “The Emu for the Bay.”

Where of old, with awful mysteries and diabolic din,
They “kippered” adolescents in the presence of their kin,
There's a grocer selling herrings kippered, half-a-crown per tin.

Where the savage only used his club to supplement his fist,
The white man uses his for friendly intercourse and whist,
Not to mention sherry, port, bordeaux, et cetera—see list.

Where dress was at a discount, or at most a modest “fall,”
Rise “Criterion,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “City Clothing Hall,”
And neither men nor women count for much—the dress is all.

Where a bride's trousseau consisted of an extra coat of grease,
And Nature gave the pair a suit of glossy black apiece,
Now the matrimonial outfit is a perfect golden fleece.

Where lorn widows wore the knee-joints of the late lamented dead,
We have dashing wives who wear their living husbands' joints instead—
Yea, their vitals, for embellishment of bosom, neck, and head.

Where the blacks, ignoring livers, lived according to their wills,
Nor knew that flesh is heir to quite a lexicon of ills,
Five white chemists in one street grow rich through antibilious pills.

Where the only bell was the bell-bird's note, now many mingling bells
“Make Catholic the trembling air,” as famed George Eliot tells
Of another town somewhere between more northern parallels.

(But in case the name of Catholic offend protesting ear,
Let Wesleyan or Baptist be interpolated here,
Or that bells make Presbyterian the trembling atmosphere.)
Where the savage learned no love from earth, nor from the “shining frame,”
And merely feared the devil under some outlandish name,
There are heaps of Britishers whose creed is—very much the same!

Where the gin was black—(methinks'tis time the bard were shutting up:
The bell is ringing for the non-inebriating cup,
And even attic bards must have their little “bite and sup.”)

[It is stated that a shepherd, who had for many years grazed his flocks in
a district in which a rich tin-mining town in Queensland now stands, went
mad on learning of the great discoveries made there.]
Just to miss it by a hair's breadth! Nay, not miss it! To have held it
In my hand, and ofttimes through my fingers run the swarthy ore!
Minus only the poor trick of Art or Science that compelled it
To unveil for others' good the hidden value, and to pour
On a thousand hearts the light of Hope, that shines for me no more!

To have held it in my hand in vacant listlessness of wonder,
Taken with its dusky lustre, all incurious of its worth—
To have trod for years upon it, I above, and Fortune under—
To have scattered it a thousand times like seed upon the earth!
Who shall say I am not justified who curse my day of birth?

To have built my hovel o'er it—to have dreamed above it nightly—
Pillowed on the weal of thousand lives, and dead unto my own!
Planning paltry profits wrung from year-long toil, and holding lightly
What lay acres wide around me, naked-bright, or grass-o'ergrown—
Holding lightly—and for that I curse—no, not myself alone!

For a youth made vain with riot, for the golden graces squandered,
Home forsaken, dear ones alienated, Love itself aggrieved,
I had sworn a full atonement, to the ends of earth had wandered,
Drunk the dregs of expiation, unbelauded, unperceived—
Heav'n alone beheld, and—mocks me with what “might have been” achieved!

All the cold suspicion of the world I took for my demerit,
Its deceit my retribution, its malignity my meed:
When Misfortune smote, unmurmuring I bowed my head to bear it,
Driven to minister to brutes in my extremity of need—
Who shall say now it delights not Heaven to break the bruised reed?

In the round of conscious being, from the rising to the setting
Of Thine imaged self, Thy merciless, unsympathizing Sun,
Was there one from hard Disaster's hand so piteously shrinking
Whom this boon had more advantaged? God, I ask Thee, was there one?
In Thy passionless immunity, Thou knowest there was none!

To the wrongs the world hath wrought me, to its coldness and disfavour,
To the wreck of every venture, to enduring unsuccess,
To the sweat of cheerless toil, the bread made bitter with the savour
Of the leaven of regret and tears of unforgetfulness,
Hadst Thou need to add Thy mockery, to perfect my distress?

For I hold it cruel mockery in man, or God, or devil,
To assign the poor his blindfold lot from weary day to day,
In the very lap of Affluence, on Fortune's highest level,
Then, upon the brink of revelation, trick his steps away,
And flash the truth upon him when the chance is gone for aye!

I had soothed repulse with hope, matched disappointment with defiance,
Or opposed a pliant meekness to the driving storms of Fate:
But—the merely “coming short!” Oh, what remedial appliance,
What demeanour of resistance shall have virtue to abate
The nameless woe that trembles in the echo of Too Late!

Oh, the might have been! the might have been! the sting of it! the madness!
What a wave of the Inexorable chokes my fitful breath!
What a rush of olden echoes voiced with manysounding sadness!
What a throng of new despairs that drive me down the path of death!
Who is there in heaven who careth? Who on earth who comforteth?

They on earth but seek their own. In eager crowds they hasten thither
Where I trod so late unconscious on futurities untold.
And I! I, whose all is gone! The curse of desolation wither—
Whom? - Myself, who, year-worn, turn again unto the sin of old?
Or the fiends who sold me poison for my little all of gold?

Both! All men! Yea, Heaven! But chiefly those who prosper where I languished!
Those who reap the ripe occasion, where in many a wandering line
The old traces of my footsteps, worn in fevered moods and anguished,
Now are paths of rich expectancy for other feet than mine!
Can I breathe without upbraiding? Shall I die without a sign?

It was mine! Is mine, by Heaven! Consecrated to me only,
By the sacred right of service, by the pledge of weary years!
By the bond of silent witness, by communion dumb and lonely,
By the seal of many sorrows, by the sacrament of tears!
Mine!—The echoes laugh, and fiends of hell are answering with jeers.

* * * * *
Where am I? and who are these?—Nay, nay. Unhand me! Let me go, sirs!
I am very very rich! I've miles on miles of priceless ore!
I will make your fortunes—all of you!—and I would have you know, sirs—
There is not a single sheep amissing—Loose me, I implore!
It is only sleep that ails me—let me sleep—for evermore!

The Story Of A Soul

Who can say “Thus far, no farther,” to the tide of his own nature?
Who can mould the spirit's fashion to the counsel of his will?
Square his being by enactment—shape his soul to legislature—
Be himself his law of living, his own art of good and ill?

Who can sway the rhythm of breathing? Who can time his own heart beating?
Fix the pitch of all soul music, and imprison it in bars?
Who can pledge the immaterial affinities from meeting?
Who can make him his own orbit unrelated to the stars?

I had marked my path before me, not in flowery lane or by-way,
Unbeguiled of all bird-singing, by no voice of waters won;
And across life's silent glacier I had cut a clear cold highway,
Little recking of the avalanche, or all-dissolving sun.

I had said unto my soul, Be thou the lord of thine own Reason;
Get thee face to face and heart to heart with everlasting Truth;—
Thou art heir of all her beauty if thou dare the lofty treason
To clasp her and to kiss her with the valiant lips of youth.

Not in outer courts of worship, not by darkly-curtained portal,
But within her inmost chamber, in the glory of her shrine,
Shalt thou seek her and commune with her, a mortal made immortal
By the breathing of her presence, by her fervid hand in thine.

With no garment-clinging vassalage, unawed of all tradition,
Alone, alone of mortals shalt thou gaze upon her face;
And the years shall pass unheeded in the wonder of the vision,
And her attributes unfolding make thee free of time and space.

So I left the dewy levels, and with upward-pointing finger
Marked my goal among the snowy peaks o'er pleasure and o'er pain;
And the shining arms of Aphrodité beckoning me to linger
By her side amid her rosy bowers were stretched for me in vain.

And I heard the world pass by me with a far-off dreamy cadence
Of an alien music uninformed with meaning to mine ears;
And all sweet melodious laughter in the voice of men and maidens
Came with distance-saddened undertone, a mockery of tears.
Till alike the throb of pleasure and alike the great o'erflowings
Of the springs of sorrow seemed to be forgotten things of yore;
Till the world passed from beneath me, and the rumour of its goings
Far diffused into the silent ethers reached my soul no more.

And the bodiless and shadowless mute ghosts of contemplation,
Charmed from spells of bookish lore, were my companions on my way;

And their flake-light footfalls cheered me to a dreamy exaltation
Where the soul sat with the godheads, unassailable as they.

I had lost the glow of Nature; and the pride of clearer seeing
Was to me for all elation, for the sunset and the flowers,
For the beauty and the music and the savour of all being,
For the starry thrills of midnight, for the joy of morning hours.

Down the slopes I left behind me fled the creeds of many races,
Fled the gnomes of superstition, fled rebuking fiends of fear,
And I smiled as I beheld them from the calm of my high places
Cast integument and substance, melt in mist and disappear.

So I held my way unwavering in dismal mountainpasses,
Though a voice within my soul was loud, “In vain, and all in vain!”
And I heard the unassuaging streams far down in deep crevasses,
And I stumbled snowblind 'mid the boulders of the long moraine.

Still I said, I will not falter, nor revisit earth for ever,
Who have breathed the breath of deity and lived Olympian hours!
——When the summer smote the glacier, and the ice became a river,
And I found me in the valley clinging wildly to the flowers!

Clinging wildly, clinging fondly, in a mad repentant fashion,
To the blossoms long forsaken, to the graces long foregone,
Paying lavishly in tears and sighs the long arrears of passion,
And re-wedded to the joy of earth by one fair thing thereon!

Fools and blind are we who think to soar beyond the reach of Nature!
Fools and blind who think to bid the tide of feeling from its flood!
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?
Or compel the summer fervours from the solstice of the blood?

Not “as gods.” Not yet. Our roots are in the earth that heaves beneath me:
With her rhythm we move and tremble, with her starry dance we whirl.
Lo, she laughs when I would fly to where her arms shall not enwreath me,
Draws me back with cords of golden hair, o'erthrows me with a girl!

What was I to deem it duty thus to sunder Truth and Beauty—
Thus to die among the living, and to live among the dead?
Ah, the hands of Truth are boonless, and the lips of Truth are tuneless,
When we sever her from Love, and throne her coldly overhead!

Now I know her drawing nearer in a fairer light and dearer
Than in wastes of icy solitude or page of weary tome—
In the gleam of golden tresses, in the eye that smiles and blesses,
In the glowing hand that presses Love's approved conviction home.

Truth is sphered in sweet communion. Truth is life and love in union.
Hand in hand from spiritual founts we catch the circling thrill.
We are not compact of reasons. There are changes in our seasons;

And the crescent orb of youth has many phases to fulfil.

The Angel Of The Doves

The angels stood in the court of the King,
And into the midst, through the open door,
Weeping came one whose broken wing
Piteously trailed on the golden floor.

Angel was she, and woman, and dove:
Dove and angel all womanly blent
With the virginal charm that is worshipped of love
On the hither side of the firmament.

Where a rainbow hideth the holiest place,
Thither she moved, and there she kneeled;
And fain with her wings would have veiled her face,
Ere the bow should be lifted, and God revealed.

'Tis the angels' wont; and afresh she wept,
As with maimèd pinion she strove in vain,
And tremor on tremor convulsively swept
O'er her plumes in a shuddering iris of pain.

And the angels who dwell from sorrow remote
Gazed on her woe as a marvellous thing;
For they wist but of pain from its echoes that float
In the strange new songs that the ransomed sing.

“Sister,” at length said a shining one,
“To whom earth's doves for a care were given,
What hast thou done, or left undone,
That grief through thee should be known in heaven?

“When together for joy the angels sang,
Calling the new-made world to rejoice,
Sweeter than all hosannas that rang
Was the trembling rapture that thrilled thy voice.

“For thine was the grace to minister there—
Oh, favoured child of the heavenly host!—
To the sacred and lovely lives that wear
The mystic shape of the Holy Ghost.
“And we marked thy flight as the flight of a dove,
Till the luminous vapours around thee curled,
And we said, ‘She is glad in her errand of love
To the happy glades of the new-born world.’

“And now thou returnest woe-stricken as one
That hath fallen from grace and is unforgiven.

What hast thou done, or left undone,
That grief through thee should be known in heaven?”

Faint was her voice as an echo heard
From the past by the soul in dreamful mood;
Sweet and sad as the plaint of a bird
Mourning forlorn in solitude.

“I tended my doves,” she said through her tears,
“By day and by night, in storm and calm.
Happily flew the uncounted years
In bowers of myrtle and groves of palm.

“Many, alas, were the beautiful dead,
But the life of the race was always new,
For, ever ere one generation fled,
Out of its love another grew.

“And many a dove for man's sake died,
Noted in heaven with none offence,
Save when the heart of the cruel took pride
In slaying the witness of innocence.

“When countless seasons had come and gone,
Come and gone as a happy dream,
One noon of summer I lingered upon
The eastward marge of a sacred stream.

“And lo, 'mid a crowd on the further side,
That stood in the stream or knelt on the sod,
I saw—though a veil of flesh did hide
The splendour of Godhead—the Son of God.

“And ev'n as I gazed, the azure above
Burst into glory that dimmed the sun;
And the Spirit of God in the form of a dove
I saw descend on the Holy One.

“I deemed that my task was over then;
‘'Tis the dawn,’ I said, ‘of the reign of love;
Henceforth my doves will be safe with men,
Since God hath hallowed the form of the dove.’

“Then I soared aloft, but again returned;
For I said in my heart, ‘I will not cease
From my care, till man from His lips hath learned
That the birds have a share in the Gospel of Peace.’

“And it chanced on a day in the soft springtide,
When birds were joyous and love was sweet,
I saw the Lord on a mountain side,

And with Him were twelve, who sat at His feet.

“And I heard Him say, ‘Not a sparrow doth fall
To the ground but your Father taketh note,’
Then all the air grew musical,
And song awoke in each warbling throat.

“For into bird-music the message passed,
And from choir to choir in melody ran;
And I said, ‘My mission is over at last.
Farewell, my doves. Ye are safe with man.’

“Weeping, yet gladsome, I soared aloft,
Being fain of the glories of other spheres,
Whose beckoning lustre had lured me oft
In starry midnights of bygone years.

“And on seas of ether and isles of light
Through ages of joy I floated or trod,
Till I chanced on an angel in upward flight,
Bearing an infant home to God.

“And a waft of earth from the flowers that lay
On the young dead breast came sweet and faint;
And again, dream-echoed from far away,
I heard in the woodlands the turtle's plaint.

“For memory woke at the flowers' sweet breath,
And my spirit yearned to the earth again,
And I cried, ‘Canst thou tell, oh angel of death,
How fare my doves at the hands of men?’

“ ‘Sad is their lot,’ the angel sighed;
‘For the pleasure of man they suffer pain;
And the heart of the cruel taketh pride
To slay thy doves and to number the slain.’

“I knew no more till the vapours of earth
Clung to my wings, and a pealing sound
Smote on mine ear, and voices of mirth;
And beneath me a dove fell dead to the ground.

“Leave me with God; for ye cannot know
How death takes shape in the human hand,
Nor the subtle devices that work for woe;
But the Lord will hear and will understand.

“And if, as I clove my unseen way
Between my doves and the deadly rain,
It was given unto me to become as they,
To share their wounds and to know their pain—

“Surely the rather will God give ear
To one who knoweth what He hath known;
Surely the rather will Jesus hear,
Who suffered, as I, for love of His own.

“Can it be that the great Lord doth not know
How Christ is needed on earth again?
Rise, lingering curtain! that I may show
The wounds of my doves, and may pray for men.”

* * * * *
Slowly the rainbow rose, parting in twain;
And, lo, in the midst of the throne of love
There stood a Lamb as it had been slain;
And over the throne there brooded a Dove.

The Chamber Of Faith

There's a room in my soul that has long been closed;
Many and many a year has passed
Since I stood at the door and looked my last
On the things within, all seemly disposed
In the curtained obscurity, nevermore
To be lit of the sun through window or door;—

Looked my last with a sense of crime,
On the smooth white bed where my dead had lain,
At the cross I had left on the counterpane,
Having kissed it twice and a long third time
Ere I laid it down where the head had been,
With a rose for the breast, and a lily between;

At her altar-table, where, side by side,
Lay her Bible, her Hymnal, her Book of Prayer;
At her silent harp, at her hallowed chair,
Where, ever at morning and eventide,
With her hand on my head, and my head on her knee,
I had knelt, that her blessing might rest on me;

At saint and angel on wall and screen,
Painted, and carven, and silken wrought,
At flower and bird, by her hand and thought
Moulded to meanings of things unseen;
At the sombre recess where, dimly descried,
Hung the shadowy form of the Crucified.

Looked my last with a sense of crime,
As one who, free of intent to slay,
Hath yet unwitting made wide the way
For death to enter before his time;
For, had I not strayed from her sheltering side,
Peradventure my mother had not died.

For this was the Chamber of Faith, my Mother,
Faith that was Mother, and Sister, and Wife,
Joy of my joy, and life of my life,
Fair as none else was fair, loved as no other,
Mother to nourish me, Sister to cheer,
Wife to be dearest of all held dear.

And all of her now was the void she had left,
And a stillness that even a sigh had profaned—
Gone, with her mysteries unexplained,
And all her tokens of purport reft,

Save the reproach I seemed to trace
In the dumb appeal of each angel face.

So I closed the door and departed—alone:
And all these years I have dwelt aloof,
In a turret chamber over the roof,
With undarkened outlook on all things known,
On horizons that ever enlarge and withdraw,
On the boundless realms of immutable law.

Bereft of Faith, but redeemed from fear,
With enfranchised vision, with reason free
From the bondage of ancient authority,
I say to myself it is good to be here,
High o'er all vain imaginings,
And face to face with the truth of things.

But at times, in the night, to the drowsing sense
The sound of a harp played long ago
Floats faintly up from a room below,
The old music of love and reverence,
And I wake, and, behold, all unaware,
I have left my bed, and am kneeling in prayer.

It is thus to-night, and with heart oppressed
By the heavy hand of the truth of things,
I am fain of the old imaginings,
And a hope arises within my breast,
That beyond the beyond and above the above
There yet may be things that I know not of.

I will go down to the Chamber of Faith;
Perchance in her symbols I yet may find
Some meaning missed, some drift undivined,
Some clue to a refuge this side of death,
Where Reason and Faith, where Man and Child,
Where Law and Love may be reconciled.

* * * * *

* * * * *
I stand in her precincts, alien, estranged,
A waking man in a place of dreams.
How ghostly the room in the lamplight seems!
Yet all is familiar, all is unchanged;
All that was fair, still fair to see,
Save the flowers, which have withered—for these were of me.

Frescoed seraph and carven saint
Gaze on me still with their wistful appeal,
Oh, Heavenly Ministries, would I could feel
Some thrill of response however faint,
Some touch, some grace of the olden days
That would quicken my heart to prayer and praise!

Lo, for a moment, I burn to accost
Your Lord of Love in the old sweet way;
I seize the harp and begin to play,
But the chords are loose and the key is lost,
And the sudden dissonance shatters the mood
Wherein the unseen is the understood—

Shatters the mood and arrests the thought,
The fluttering thought that essayed to soar
To the region where seraph and saint adore,
To the sphere where the wonders of Faith are wrought,
And her symbols decline to pigment and stone
As I lapse again to the seen and known.

Wherefore, then, should I linger here?
What is it I seek to understand?
I open her Scriptures with random hand,
And I chance on the words of the holy Seer
Which one of old in his chariot read,
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter is led.”

And I turn to the Christ. Though my lamp grows dim,
I can see the tortured arms outspread,
The broken body and drooping head,
And I would I could weep as I wept for Him,
And I cry as I bend the unwonted knee,
Quicken me Jesu! Quicken me!

Thou in whom God and man are met—
(If indeed the twain in one can meet)—
Quicken me, Lord, as I kneel at Thy feet!
By Thine Agony and Bloody Sweat,
By Thy Cross and Passion, Thy Death, Thy Grave,
Save!—(if indeed Thou hast power to save).—

By Thy rising again—(if indeed Thou didst rise)—
Oh, if and if! Oh, doubt upon doubt!
I cannot pray. My light flickers out,
And the Christ is hid from my straining eyes,
And my groping hands, in the darkness drear
Clasp but an image. The Lord is not here.

Oh, ye who have taken away my Lord,

In these palsied lips that are powerless to pray,
In this fount run dry, in this life grown grey,
Behold your exceeding great reward!
Oh, gather the strong to your side if you will,
But leave to the weak our Saviour still!

Why shame myself thus with a witless plea?
There is none, there is none that hath taken away.
I alone did kiss and betray;
But with tears I did it; and, oh, it may be
That this way Renunciation lies
That Faith herself is my Sacrifice!

And who knows but beyond the narrow scope
Of these chamber walls, she lives again,
A transmuted force unnamed of men,
One wave whereof is this trembling hope,
That beyond the beyond and above the above,
There yet may be things that we know not of?

Marsupial Bill: Part Second.

FAST flew the hours. We may not tell
Of William's weary quest,
How round the outskirts of the town
He roamed like one possessed —
Nor with what guileful arts he plied
The foreign interest.
Enough that at the appointed hour,
With backers at his back,
He faced the noble Bossaroo,
(Still hypochondriac) —
And introduced his witnesses,
A yellow and a black;
A placid-eyed Mongolian
From sandy Pechelee,
Who'd stimulate an inch of soil
To do the work of three,
Or make a metamorphic rock
Sprout into cabbagee;
A big buck nigger next; who once
Bowed down to stocks and stones
(For years digested captives formed
The tissue of his bones),
But now he is an Anglican,
Who a live 'Bissop' owns,
Besides a gorgeous suit of slops,
And the proud name of Jones.
Slow rose the lordly Bossaroo,
And bade unveil their eyes;
And, when those aliens gazed around
On all that dread assize,
They howled in unison and made
Night hideous with their cries.
For Bill had lured them lyingly —
But why should we explain;
The whole thing was exceptional,
And can't occur again.
Besides, to poke at mysteries
Is wanton and profane.
With single will they turned on Bill,
And blazed his evil name;
With double tongue their charge they flung,
And swore unto the same;
With treble spite did both unite
To spoil his little game.
'Me see him catchee kangaloo,'
Deponed on oath Ah Chee;
'Me see him — hi! hst! — soolem dog,
No mind my cabbagee —
Me lose hap clown, him knockee down
Ten twenty lettucee!'
'Massoopy Bill, him wicked boy,'
Deponed the South Sea swell;
'Two moon, come Bissop preach in church,
Him loaf outside an' yell;
Me run — him run — me catch — him say
‘Tree scalp if you no tell.’
So, when the learned clerk had both
Their depositions read,
The judge drew forth his judgment cap,
And put it on his head,
And sentenced poor Marsupial Bill
To hang till he was dead.
'But since' — so spake the Bossaroo —
'From evidence we know
That many a scalped and gory head
This night through him lies low,
We'll scalp him first!' — and all the house,
Nem. con., cried 'Be it so!'
And as a sign and seal of doom,
Turned down the right thumb-toe.
'With his own knife,' the Boss resumed,
'Ah Chee shall do the deed —
The gods poetic justice love —
And make the assassin bleed
By his own proper instrument.
Mongolian, proceed.'
What followed next, who gave the word
For mate to link with mate,
Nor Bill, nor Jones, nor yet Ah Chee
Can very clearly state;
But that 'twas a corroboree
All three corroborate.
In vain poor William prayed — in vain
His suppliant knees he bowed,
And by a pile of sacred names
For mercy cried aloud —
The point was at his occiput,
When, lo! from out the crowd
Stepped forth a rare and radiant dame,
The Boss's pride and stay,
(The dam of Bossáarovitch,
Still young, though somewhat gray,
An elegant marsupial,
Well-mannered, bien née) —
Stepped forth before them, and remarked
Seductively, 'Belay!'
Then, kneeling by the judgment seat,
Thus sweetly said her say: —
'Most Noble Grand, have you forgot
That this is Christmas Day?
'Beseech you, bid that heathen hand
Withhold the bloody knife!
Recall your fearful words of doom —
Nay, turn not from your wife,
But give me as a Christmas Box
The little captive's life.'
Then quickly from his granite throne
Down leaped the Noble Grand,
And, kneeling, kissed right courteously
His royal lady's hand;
Then, as he raised her up, pronounced
The joyful countermand;
Whereat the rest turned up their toes,
That Bill might understand
The Congress willed his days should yet
Be long upon the land.
Then raged the revelry anew,
With sound of drum and fife;
The Boss himself forgot his woes,
And danced as if for life;
While the old clerk forgot himself,
And kissed the Boss's wife,
And when there fell a weariness
On all the panting throng,
And Bossaroo and ancient clerk
Alike had nigh 'gone bong,' —
Amid a jaded pause was heard
A call for 'Joey's Song!'
And presently a little head,
As from a little nest,
Peeped o'er a snug maternal pouch,
And sang its little best,
(The song is very rare, and full
Of antique interest): —
'What does little Joey say
In his pouch at peep-of-day?
‘Let me hop,’ says little Joey;
‘Mother, let me hop away.’
‘Joey, rest a little longer,
Till the little legs are stronger.'
So he rests a little longer,
Then he gaily hops away.'
He ceased; the pre-diluvian clerk
Rose on his quivering shanks,
And with a well-turned compliment
Proposed a vote of thanks —
Just then a breathless picket broke
All gory through the ranks!
But ere his trembling tongue had time
To tell his tale of woe,
And why thus grimly he disturbed
The happy status quo, —
With giant bound, Bill's faithful hound
Leaped madly on the foe!
Ah, then and there was sudden scare,
The swiftest took the lead;
Ah, there and then — but oh, the pen
Is impotent indeed!
Oh, would I had an artist man
To show the Great Stampede!
What next befell may somewhat strain
The limits of belief;
But where so many marvels are,
Why boggle at the chief?
'Twere shame if lack of faith should cause
Our moral come to grief.
From all the flying ruck the dog
Had singled out the Queen;
Another instant, and the Boss
A widower had been,
When — (that's a pithy saw that bids
Expect the unforeseen) —
BILL CALLED HIM OFF! The dog drew back,
And on a boulder leant.
'Twas months ago, and still that dog
Is pondering the event,
And even to this very hour
Can't fathom what it meant;
It was a thing so utterly
Without a precedent.
But Bill, the Chinaman, and Jones,
The Queen, and you, and I,
We know the secret of the change,
We know the reason why;
And — may I be allowed to add? —
The moral hangs thereby.
But since nor boy nor man receives
Advice without a pang,
And this narrator's muse has failed
To catch the proper twang, —
The moral hanging plainly there,
Suppose we let it — hang.

Fast flew the hours. We may not tell
Of William's weary quest,
How round the outskirts of the town
He roamed like one possessed—
Nor with what guileful arts he plied
The foreign interest.

Enough that at the appointed hour,
With backers at his back,
He faced the noble Bossaroo,
(Still hypochondriac)—
And introduced his witnesses,
A yellow and a black;

A placid-eyed Mongolian
From sandy Pechelee,
Who'd stimulate an inch of soil
To do the work of three,
Or make a metamorphic rock
Sprout into cabbagee;

A big buck nigger next; who once
Bowed down to stocks and stones
(For years digested captives formed
The tissue of his bones),
But now he is an Anglican,
Who a live “Bissop” owns,
Besides a gorgeous suit of slops,
And the proud name of Jones.

Slow rose the lordly Bossaroo,
And bade unveil their eyes;
And, when those aliens gazed around

On all that dread assize,
They howled in unison and made
Night hideous with their cries.

For Bill had lured them lyingly—
But why should we explain;
The whole thing was exceptional,
And can't occur again.
Besides, to poke at mysteries
Is wanton and profane.

With single will they turned on Bill,
And blazed his evil name;
With double tongue their charge they flung,
And swore unto the same;
With treble spite did both unite
To spoil his little game.

“Me see him catchee kangaloo,”
Deponed on oath Ah Chee;
“Me see him—hi! hst!—soolem dog,
No mind my cabbagee—
Me lose hap clown, him knockee down
Ten twenty lettucee!”

“Massoopy Bill, him wicked boy,”
Deponed the South Sea swell;
“Two moon, come Bissop preach in church,
Him loaf outside an' yell;
Me run—him run—me catch—him say
‘Tree scalp if you no tell.’

So, when the learnèd clerk had both
Their depositions read,
The judge drew forth his judgment cap,
And put it on his head,

And sentenced poor Marsupial Bill
To hang till he was dead.

“But since”—so spake the Bossaroo—
“From evidence we know
That many a scalped and gory head
This night through him lies low,
We'll scalp him first!”—and all the house,
Nem. con., cried “Be it so?”
And as a sign and seal of doom,
Turned down the right thumb-toe.

“With his own knife,” the Boss resumed,
“Ah Chee shall do the deed—
The gods poetic justice love—
And make the assassin bleed
By his own proper instrument.
Mongolian, proceed.”

What followed next, who gave the word
For mate to link with mate,
Nor Bill, nor Jones, nor yet Ah Chee
Can very clearly state;
But that 'twas a corroboree
All three corroborate.

In vain poor William prayed—in vain
His suppliant knees he bowed,
And by a pile of sacred names
For mercy cried aloud—
The point was at his occiput,
When, lo! from out the crowd

Stepped forth a rare and radiant dame,
The Boss's pride and stay,
(The dam of Bossárovitch,

Still young, though somewhat gray,
An elegant marsupial,
Well-mannered, bien née)—
Stepped forth before them, and remarked
Seductively, “Belay!”
Then, kneeling by the judgment seat,
Thus sweetly said her say:—
“Most Noble Grand, have you forgot
That this is Christmas Day?

“Beseech you, bid that heathen hand
Withhold the bloody knife!
Recall your fearful words of doom—
Nay, turn not from your wife,
But give me as a Christmas Box
The little captive's life.”

Then quickly from his granite throne
Down leaped the Noble Grand,
And, kneeling, kissed right courteously
His royal lady's hand;
Then, as he raised her up, pronounced
The joyful countermand;
Whereat the rest turned up their toes,
That Bill might understand
The Congress willed his days should yet
Be long upon the land.

Then raged the revelry anew,
With sound of drum and fife;
The Boss himself forgot his woes,
And danced as if for life;
While the old clerk forgot himself,
And kissed the Boss's wife.

And when there fell a weariness
On all the panting throng,
And Bossaroo and ancient clerk

Alike had nigh “gone bong”—
Amid a jaded pause was heard
A call for “Joey's Song!”

And presently a little head,
As from a little nest,
Peeped o'er a snug maternal pouch,
And sang its little best,
(The song is very rare, and full
Of antique interest):—
“What does little Joey say
In his pouch at peep-of-day?
‘Let me hop,’ says little Joey;
‘Mother, let me hop away.’
‘Joey, rest a little longer,
Till the little legs are stronger.’
So he rests a little longer,
Then he gaily hops away.”

He ceased; the pre-diluvian clerk
Rose on his quivering shanks,
And with a well-turned compliment
Proposed a vote of thanks—
Just then a breathless picket broke
All gory through the ranks!

But ere his trembling tongue had time
To tell his tale of woe,
And why thus grimly he disturbed
The happy status quo,—
With giant bound Bill's faithful hound
Leaped madly on the foe!

Ah, then and there was sudden scare,
The swiftest took the lead;
Ah, there and then—but oh, the pen
Is impotent indeed!
Oh, would I had an artist man

To show the Great Stampede!

What next befell may somewhat strain
The limits of belief;
But where so many marvels are,
Why boggle at the chief?
'Twere shame if lack of faith should cause
Our moral come to grief.

From all the flying ruck the dog
Had singled out the Queen;
Another instant and the Boss
A widower had been,
When—(that's a pithy saw that bids
Expect the unforeseen)—

BILL CALLED HIM OFF! The dog drew back,
And on a boulder leant.
'Twas months ago, and still that dog
Is pondering the event,
And even to this very hour
Can't fathom what it meant;
It was a thing so utterly
Without a precedent.

But Bill, the Chinaman, and Jones,
The Queen, and you, and I,
We know the secret of the change,
We know the reason why;
And—may I be allowed to add?—
The moral hangs thereby.

But since nor boy nor man receives
Advice without a pang,
And this narrator's muse has failed
To catch the proper twang,—

The moral hanging plainly there,
Suppose we let it—hang.

“Dear Richard, come at once;”—so ran her letter;
The letter of a married female friend:
“She likes you both, and really knows no better
Than I myself do, how her choice will end.
Be sure of this, the first who pops will get her.
He's here for Chris——” Whatever else was penned
Dick never knew: nor knows he to this day
How he got drest, and mounted—and away!

Like arrow from the bow, like lightning-streak,
Including thunder following fierce and quick,
By ridge and flat, through scrub and foaming creek
Dick galloped like a very lunatic;
Whipped, jerked, and spurred, but never word did speak,
Although his thoughts rushed furious and thick,
Headed by one he strove in vain to wipe out,
The fear that this same “he” might put his pipe out.

And faster yet, and ever faster grew
The maddening music of the pace, until
The station-roofs gleamed suddenly in view,
Quivering in noon-heat on the vine-clad hill:
When all at once his bridle-rein he drew,
But not from craven fear or flagging will,—
Though, truth to tell, his heart a moment sank
To see the river nearly “bank and bank.”

For Bowstring was the choice of all his stud,
And he at least had no fair bride to win;
And wherefore should he risk him in the flood?—
A question Bowstring also asked within:
For though he was a squatter's horse by blood,
And held the grazing interest more than kin,
He eyed the huge logs wheeling, bobbing, bowling,
As if his soul objected to “log-rolling.”
And by that curious telegraphic force,
Outspeaking half-a-dozen formal speeches,
That works its quick inexplicable course
Through saddle-cloth, pigskin, and buckskin breeches,
Until the dumb opinion of a horse
Its sympathetic rider's spirit reaches—
Dick, feeling under him the strong flanks quiver,
Knew that his thoroughbred would funk the river

A moment more, Dick from his seat had leapt,
Ungirthed, uncurbed, unreined his trembling steed;
Who straightway vanished from his sight, nor kept
The high tradition of a loyal breed,
But quickened by no stimulus except
His own unbridled (and unsaddled) greed,
Before a man had time to reckon two,
Was gorging in fresh fields and pastures new.

Then Dick threw off his boots, undid his belt,
Doffed—here we shirk particulars. In brief,
When nought remained but his primeval pelt,
He tied his garments in his handkerchief;
Then feeling as “the grand old gardener” felt
(After the apple), crouching like a thief,
Down to the stream did this lorn lover slink,
And threw his bundle to the further brink.

Nor longer paused, but plunged him in the tide,
A hero and Leander both in one;
Struck the entangling boughs from either side,
And held his head up bravely to the sun;
Dodged the huge logs, the torrent's strength defied;—
To cut it short, did all that could be done;
Touched land, and uttering a fervent “Thank . . .
—Just then his bundle floated by, and sank.

Take Yarra-bend, take Bedlam, Colney Hatch,
And Woogaroo, and mix them weight for weight,
And stir them well about—you could not match
Dick's madness with the whole conglomerate.
If the Recording Angel did but catch
One half his ravings against Heaven and Fate,
And rising creeks and slippery banks, some day
Poor Dick will have a heavy bill to pay.

Was ever lover in so lorn a case?
Was ever lover in so wild a mood?
He nearly pulled the beard from off his face;
He would have rent his garments, if he could.
How could he woo a dame his suit to grace
Who had no suit, save that wherein he stood?
Oh! what were youth, wealth, station in society,
Without the textile adjuncts of propriety!

When oaths and half-an-hour were spent in vain,
It dawned on Dick that he might slyly crawl
From tree to tree across the wooded plain,
And gain “the hut,” that stood a mile from all

The other buildings—whence some labouring swain,
Unscared by nudity, might come at call,
And lend, for thanks or promissory payment,
Whatever he could spare of decent raiment.

From one variety of Eucalypt
Unto another, blue gum, spotted gum,
Black-butt, etcetera, Dick crawled or skipped,
Bitten and blistered like the newest chum;
Till, marking where the open level dipped,
Distracted with mosquito-martyrdom,
He rushed and plunged—and not a bit too soon—
Into the coolness of a quiet lagoon.

No, not a bit too soon; for something white,
Topped by a parasol of lustrous pink,
At this same perilous moment hove in sight,
And glided gently to the water-brink;
The while in thickest sedge the rueful wight
Hid his diminished head, and scarce did wink—
No more a gallant daringly erotic,
But consciously absurd and idiotic.

'Twas she—his love; and never had he thought
Her face so beautiful, her form so stately;
Ophelia-like she moved, absorbed, distraught;
'Twas plain to Dick she had been weeping lately;
And now and then a weary sigh he caught,
And once a whisper that disturbed him greatly,
Which said, unless his ears played him a trick,
“What in the world can have come over Dick?”

And presently, through his aquatic screen,
His hated rival he beheld advance,
With airy grace and captivating mien,
And all the victor in his countenance:
And too, too late he learned what might have been,
When at her watch he saw the lady glance,
And heard her say, “Here's Fred. The die is cast!
I gave poor Dick till two; 'tis now half-past.”

And then Dick closed his eyes, his ears he stopped;
Yet somehow saw and heard no whit the less,—
Saw that the lover on his knees had dropped,
And heard him all his tale of love confess;
And when the question had been duly popped,
He heard the kiss that sealed the answering “Yes!”—
'Twas rough on Dick: ah me! 'twas mighty rough:
But he remained true blue (though all in buff),—

And never winced, nor uttered word or groan,
But gazed upon the treasure he had lost,
In agony of soul, yet still as stone,
The saddest man since first true love was crossed:
And when at length the mated birds had flown,
He waited yet another hour, then tossed
His modesty unto the winds, and ran
Right for the hut, and found—thank Heaven!—a man.

* * * * *
On that same evening, in his rival's coat,
Waistcoat, and things, Dick sat among the rest
And though he could have cut their owner's throat,
He kept his feelings underneath his vest,
And proved by some mendacious anecdote
That he was there by chance—a passing guest.
One boon at least stern Fate could not refuse:
He stood that evening in his rival's shoes.

Universally Respected

Biggs was missing: Biggs had vanished; all the town was in a ferment;
For if ever man was looked to for an edifying end,
With due mortuary outfit, and a popular interment,
It was Biggs, the universal guide, philosopher, and friend.

But the man had simply vanished; speculation wove no tissue
That would hold a drop of water; each new theoryfell flat.
It was most unsatisfactory, and hanging on the issue
Were a thousand wagers, ranging from a “pony” to a hat.

Not a trace could search discover in the township or without it,
And the river had been dragged from morn till night with no avail.
His continuity had ceased, and that was all about it,
And there wasn't even a grease-spot left behind to tell the tale.
That so staid a man as Biggs was should be swallowed up in mystery
Lent an increment to wonder—he who trod no doubtful paths,
But stood square to his surroundings, with no cloud upon his history,
As the much-respected lessee of the Corporation Baths.

His affairs were all in order: since the year the alligator
With a startled river bather made attempt to coalesce,
The resulting wave of decency had greater grown and greater,
And the Corporation Baths had been a marvellous success.

Nor could trouble in the household solve the riddle of his clearance,
For his bride was now in heaven, and the issue of the match
Was a patient drudge whose virtues were as plain as her appearance—
Just the sort whereto no scandal could conceivably attach.

So the Whither and the Why alike mysterious were counted;
And as Faith steps in to aid where baffled Reason must retire,
There were those averred so good a man as Biggs might well have mounted
Up to glory like Elijah in a chariot of fire!

For indeed he was a good man; when he sat beside the portal
Of the Bath-house at his pigeon-hole, a saint within a frame,
We used to think his face was as the face of an immortal,
As he handed us our tickets, and took payment for the same.

And, oh, the sweet advice with which he made of such occasion
A duplicate detergent for our morals and our limbs—
For he taught us that decorum was the essence of salvation,
And that cleanliness and godliness were merely synonyms;

But that open-air ablution in the river was a treason
To the purer instincts, fit for dogs and aborigines,
And that wrath at such misconduct was the providential reason
For the jaws of alligators and the tails of stingarees.

But, alas, our friend was gone, our guide, philosopher, and tutor,
And we doubled our potations, just to clear the inner view;
But we only saw the darklier through the bottom of the pewter,
And the mystery seemed likewise to be multiplied by two.

And the worst was that our failure to unriddle the enigma
In the “rags” of rival towns was made a by-word and a scoff,
Till each soul in the community felt branded with the stigma
Of the unexplained damnation of poor Biggs's taking off.

So a dozen of us rose and swore this thing should be no longer:
Though the means that Nature furnished had been tried without result,
There were forces supersensual that higher were and stronger,
And with consentaneous clamour we pronounced for the occult.

Then Joe Thomson slung a tenner, and Jack Robinson a tanner,
And each according to his means respectively disbursed;
And a letter in your humble servant's most seductive manner
Was despatched to Sludge the Medium, recently of Darlinghurst.

“I am Biggs,” the spirit said ('t was through the medium's lips he said it;
But the voice that spoke, the accent, too, were Biggs's very own,
Be it, therefore, not set down to our unmerited discredit
That collectively we sickened as we recognized the tone).
“From a saurian interior, Christian friends, I now address you”—
(And “Oh heaven!” or its correlative, groaned shudderingly we)—
“While there yet remains a scrap of my identity, for, bless you,
This ungodly alligator's fast assimilating me.

“For although through nine abysmal days I've fought with his digestion,
Being hostile to his processes and loth to pulpify,
It is rapidly becoming a most complicated question
How much of me is crocodile, how much of him is I.

“And, oh, my friends, 'tis sorrow's crown of sorrow to remember
That this sacrilegious reptile owed me nought but gratitude,
For I bought him from a showman twenty years since come November,
And I dropped him in the river for his own and others' good.

“It had grieved me that the spouses of our townsmen, and their daughters,
Should be shocked by river bathers and their indecorous ways
So I cast my bread—that is, my alligator—on the waters,

And I found it, in a credit balance, after many days.

“Years I waited, but at last there came the rumour long expected,
And the out-of-door ablutionists forsook their wicked paths,
And the issues of my handiwork divinely were directed
In a constant flow of custom to the Corporation Baths.

‘'Twas a weakling when I bought it; 'twas so young that you could pet it;
But with all its disadvantages I reckoned it would do;
And it did: Oh, lay the moral well to heart and don't forget it—
Put decorum first, and all things shall be added unto you.

“Lies! all lies! I've done with virtue. Why should I be interested
In the cause of moral progress that I served so long in vain,
When the fifteen hundred odd I've so judiciously invested
Will but go to pay the debts of some young rip who marries Jane?

“But the reptile overcomes me; my identity is sinking;
Let me hasten to the finish; let my words be few and fit.
I was walking by the river in the starry silence, thinking
Of what Providence had done for me, and I had done for it;

“I had reached the saurian's rumoured haunt, where oft in fatal folly
I had dropped garotted dogs to keep his carnal craving up”
(Said Joe Thomson, in a whisper, “That explains my Highland collie!”
Said Bob Williams, sotto voce, “That explains my Dandy pup!”)

“I had passed to moral questions, and found comfort in the notion
That fools are none the worse for things not being what they seem,
When, behold, a seeming log became instinct with life and motion,
And with sudden curvature of tail upset me in the stream.

“Then my leg, as in a vice”—But here the revelation faltered,
And the medium rose and shook himself, remarking with a smile
That the requisite conditions were irrevocably altered,
For the personality of Biggs was lost in crocodile.

* * * * *
Now, whether Sludge's story would succeed in holding water
Is more, perhaps, than one has any business to expect;
But I know that on the strength of it I married Biggs's daughter,
And I found a certain portion of the narrative correct.

The Great Pig Story Of The Tweed

“Hands off, old man!” the young man cried—
They stood beside the Tweed,
Where still the name of Murder Creek
Records some bloody deed.

The old man seized the hapless youth,
With frantic grasp and rough,
By what is popularly called
(But vulgarly) the scruff;

And shouted as he twirled him round,
And shook him to and fro,
“Was them consignments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?”

Wild-eyed and gaunt, and grim he stood,
Beneath the scorching noon,—
Cantharides P. Roebuck, late
Of the steamboat Arakoon.

He was an ancient mariner,
A Yankee skipper he,
Whom winds of adverse destiny
Had blown across the sea;—

Whom hither still had Fate pursued,
And served with many a trick,
Till now he roamed the Tweed a one-
Idea'd lunatic;—

Whom all men shunned, for whosoe'er
Upon his beat might chance,
Was bound to hear his tale in each
Minutest circumstance.

A tale that haunted such as heard,
Nor left them night or day;
A torturing enigma, too,
That turned their wits astray;—
For ofttimes they, like him who told,
Would vaguely wandering go,
And cry, “Was them consignments pigs?
Was them things pigs or no?”

“Hands off!” again the young man cried.
“It's this way, boss, you see,

We've come a stretch of thirty mile,
Her uncle, her, an' me.

“You see it's this way. Parson comes
Our road but once a year—
We lives at Yougerbungaree,
Just thirty mile from here;—

“At sundown yesterday I spied
The parson ridin' past;
I runs to Sue's, an' ‘Sue,’ says I,
‘Our chance is come at last!’

“This morning to his camp we goes,
Us three, an' mother, four;
‘Splice us,’ says we, but parson, he
Puts in his blessed oar.

“ ‘Fill up this form,’ says he. We fills.
‘Hullo!’ he cries, ‘my dear!
Father alive? You under age?
Me marry ye! No fear.’

“(Don't throttle, boss!)—Says parson then;
‘Go, seek a magistrate;
Get his consent; an’ hurry back;
I leave to-night at eight.'

“So off we starts, ten mile an hour—
(For heav'n's sake let me speak!)
You see, it's this way, boss; they've gone
To square it with the beak.

“I'm only hangin' round. I fixed
To meet them there at one;
An' if I fail, my pretty Sue
Will think I've cut an' run.”—

“Was them things pigs?”—“Oh drat the pigs!
It's this way, boss,—we're late.
Think, thirty mile! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson off at eight!”

'Twas all in vain; and when at length,
Exhausted, limp, and pale,
He gave reluctant ear, 'twas thus
The skipper told his tale.

“I took the things on board as pigs,
As pigs I signed for them;
I passed an entry on them—pigs!

Pigs, sar, from starn to stem.

“Wal, wal; I little guessed that Fate
Would play it down so low.
Was them things pigs, d'ye hear! . . But how
The [Hades] should you know!

“It was the steamboat Arakoon,
A craft of coasting fame;
Cantharides P. Roebuck, sar,
Was skipper of the same.

“The iserlated cusses here
Was runnin' all to seed
When first the steamboat Arakoon
Come tradin' to the Tweed.

“Pigs, pigs, all sprung (mark that) from two,
They fetched them by the score,
An' nary strain had crossed the breed
For twenty year an' more.

“I cleaned the settlement of pigs,
Upp'd steam an' tore for town,
Nor guessed that them all-fired galoots
Had been and done me brown.

“An' sech a voyage! grunt and squeak!
(Pard, never load with swine.)
Whate'er the durned abortions wur,
The grunt was genu-ine.

“A hundred thousand times I swore
To drown them in the sea;
But, lord, they had an idgiot look
That fairly gravelled me.

“We made the port. Upon the wharf
A Brisbane butcher sot,
An' through the roarin' of the steam,
He hollered, ‘What ye got?’

“ ‘Got pigs,’ sez I, ‘like bullocks, sar!’
Cries butcher, ‘I'm your man,’
An' clewin' up his apron, slick
Along the plank he ran.”—

(But here the youth renewed his plaint;
“Have mercy on me mate!
It's thirty miles! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson leaves at eight!”)

“He eyed the brutes,” the tale flowed on,
“An' tossed his cussèd head;
An' turnin' on his heel, sez he,
‘I thought 'twas pigs you said.’

“ ‘An' ain't them pigs?’—but he was gone.
Wal, though I biled at this,
I tried my level best to see
The p'ints he took amiss.

“But 'cep' a kinder cur'ous smile
That squintin' didn't mend,
An' an appealin' way they had
Of settin' up on end,—

“An' cept' about the snout a tech
Of Native Porkypine,
I couldn't see no reason why
That parcel wasn't swine.

“Wal, stranger, just as I had cussed
My liver into tune,
Another bloomin' butcher stepped
On board the Arakoon.”

(But here, at sound of distant hoofs,
The captive writhed anew;
“That's them!” he cried, “They've given me up!
Oh curse your pigs and you!”)

“No, pard—it ain't no use to squirm.
Whar was I? le'mme see.
Another butcher jumps aboard;
‘Good marnin', sar,’ sez he.

“Got any p—?' But here he stuck.
The critturs caught his eye.
Sakes! how he stared as one by one
The things meandered by.

“At length sez he, astoopin' down,
The better to survey,
‘I wonder now what day o’ the week
The Lord created they!

“ ‘What name, mate?’ ‘Pigs, sar, PIGS!’ I yelled,
‘As prime as ever growed!
D'ye know pigs when you see them, sar?’
‘Oh, pigs,’ sez he, ‘be blowed.’

“Pard, should you come across him, say

That I apologize;
For, oh! I banged that butcher's head
Agin the smokestack guys!

“I sought an old an' trusted friend,
A butcher in the town;
I struck his diggin's, seized him, hailed
A shay, and yanked him down.

“I carried him aboard—he was
A heavy man and slow—
‘Now on your naked oath,’ sez I,
‘Air them things pigs or no?’

“He made no sign, he made no sound,
But something in his eye,
As plain as signal lights, declared
The contract was awry.

“At last sez he, consid'rin' like,
An' strokin' down his jaws,
‘Cantharides P., it seems to me
Them pettitoes is claws!’

“ ‘Great Neptune!’—that was all I said,
And fell down in a swoon,
A broken wreck, upon the deck
Of the steamboat Arakoon.

“But twurn't Finis yet, old hoss,
For at the smell of gin
Cantharides P. Roebuck's soul
Jumped back into his skin.

“ ‘Go, fetch me a zew-ologist!’
I thundered as I rose.
‘Let's see what larnèd science makes
Of them 'ere pettitoes!
“ ‘Who knows of one?’—The fireman's son
Sez, ‘Captain, if you please,
If what you mean stuffs beastises,
I'll fetch you wan o' these.’

“ ‘Go, bub!’ I cried. ‘Make tracks to onst,
An' ketch him out or in!—
This butcherin' conspiracy
Is just a trifle thin.’

“Wal, pard, the great man came. I slipped
A sov'rin in his hand,

Which, though he 'peared almighty skeered,
He seemed to understand.

“Sez I then, as he stooped an' spread
His hands upon his knees,
‘Illustrious zew-ologist,
What articles air these?’

“A wild surprise lit up his eyes
As through his specs he blinked,—
‘Dear me,’ sez he, ‘I always thought
That griffins wur extinct!’

* * * * *
“From that to this is blank—all blank;
But if 'tis true they say,
I ordered round the vessel's head,
An' ran her down the Bay.

“An' there, in spite of mate an' crew,
An' cook an' fireman's son,
I slung the critturs overboard,
An' drowned them every one.

“An' now beside this blessèd Tweed
I wander day an' night,
An' vainly ask of airth an' heaven
To read the riddle right.

“I ask the sea, I ask the skies,
I ask it high an' low,—
Was them 'ere shipments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?”

* * * * *
That night at Yougerbungaree,
The house clock striking ten,
Into a maiden's presence burst
The most distraught of men.

“Oh, Ned, he's gone!” the maiden wailed.
“How could you treat me so?”—
For all reply there came the cry,
“Was them things pigs or no?”

The Headless Trooper

“No; not another step, for all
The troopers out of hell!
I'll camp beside this swamp to-night,
Despite the yarns you tell.
I'm dead beat, that's a solid fact;
The other thing's a sell.”

And Ike gave in—good, easy Ike;
Though now and then he stole
A glance across that dismal swamp,
Lugubriously droll;
'Twas plain that Headless Trooper lay
Heavily on his soul.

And, ere he slept, again he told
That tale of bloody men;
And how the Headless Trooper still
Rode nightly in the fen;
And then he slept, but in his sleep
He told it all again.

I cannot rest beside a man
Who mutters in his sleep;
It makes the chilly goose-flesh rise,
The epidermis creep—
('Tis no objection in a wife—
You get her secrets cheap).

I put a hundred yards between
The muttering Ike and me:
I lay and thought of things that were,
And things that yet might be:
I could not sleep; I know not why;
My hair rose eerily.

I rose and sat me on a log,
And tried to keep me cool;
I thought of “Hume on Miracles,”
And called myself a fool;
But still the proverb racked my soul,
“Exceptions prove the rule.”

The moon was full; the stars were out;
I tried to fix my eye
Where Night laid shining love-gifts
On the bosom of the sky;—

But well I knew that all the while
The Thing was standing by.

How tall this pine tree on my left!
How graceful in its height!
Its topmost branches seem to touch
The very brow of Night;—
But all the while I knew the Thing
Was panting at my right.

The 'possum leaves his hollow tree;
The bandicoot is glad;
It is the human heart alone
The still night maketh sad;—
And all the while the Headless Thing
Was wheezing there like mad.

How ghostly is the mist that crawls
Along the swampy ground!
The Headless Thing here cleared its throat
With most unearthly sound!
And then I heard a gurgling voice,
But dared not glance around.

“They shot me; Was it not enough?
Look, darn you! Here's the hole!
Was this not passage amply wide
For any human soul?
But, no! the blasted convict gang
Must likewise take my poll!”

I turned; looked up; and at the sight
My heart within me sunk:
'Twas new to me to find myself
In such a mortal funk;—
But newer still to fraternise
With a bifurcated trunk!

Above the neck no trooper was;
But formless void alone;
There physiognomy was nil,
Phrenology unknown;
Where head had been there but remained
The frustum of a cone!

Nay; I retract the “formless void;”
The case was otherwise;
For on the clotted marge there spun
A living globe of flies!
When one is dealing with the truth

One can't be too precise.

The loathsome whirling substitute
Buzzed in the vacant space,
And a thousand thousand little heads
Of one head took the place:—
And oh, the fly expression
Of that rotatory face!

The breast was bare; the shirt thrown back
Exposed the wound to view:
The bullet, in its course of death,
Had cleared an avenue:—
Oh Gemini! I saw the Twins
Distinctly shining through!
And those same Twins are shining still
To prove my story true.

In breeches, boots, and spurs arrayed
The nether Trooper stood;
The soundless phantom of a horse
Grazed in his neighbourhood,—
At all events went through the form
Of hoisting in his food.

“What would'st thou, Headless Trooper,
On the night's Plutonian shore?”
I took it from Poe's Raven
I had read not long before;
And I more than half expected
He would answer “Nevermore!”

But the Trooper only answered
By a perfect storm of sighs,
Which, through his crater issuing,
Played Hades with the flies,—
As I have seen Vesuvius
Blow ashes to the skies.

“O wherefore, Headless Trooper,
With the living intermix?
Since thou art dead, and hast no head,
Why kick against the pricks?
Why dost thou not, as others do,
Get clear across the Styx?”

The Trooper cleared his cone of flies,
And through his crater said,
“'Tis true I have no business here,
'Tis true that I am dead;

And yet I cannot cross the Styx—
They've fixed a fare ‘per head!’

“Fain would I cross as others do—
Fain would I pay my shot!
They only mock me when I ask
For leave to go to Pot!
How can I pay so much ‘per head’
When I no head have got?

“Yet what could I, thus headless, do
In that last Land of Nod?
It is not that the thing is dear,
So much as that it's odd;—
They only charge an obolus,
A sort of Tommy Dodd.

“I've tried the ferryman with gold—
With every coin that goes:
He merely cries, ‘Oh, go a-head!’
And, laughing, off he rows.
He can't twit me, at all events,
With paying through the nose!

“A drachma once I offered him,
Six times the fare in Greek;
He merely cursed my ‘impudence,’
And pushed off in a pique:—
I didn't think a faceless man
Could be accused of cheek.

“From day to day, from night to night,
My prayer the wretch denies;
Yet even in this headless breast
Some grateful thoughts arise—
For though he's blasted all my hopes,
He cannot blast my eyes.

“I know not where the convict crew
My missing head consigned,
But I am doomed to walk the earth
Till that same head I find.
Oh, could I come across it,
I would know it though I'm blind,—
The bump of amativeness sticks
So strongly out behind!

“The mouth extends from ear to ear;
The hair is fiery red;
Perchance it might attract thine eye

Who art not blind or dead;
I pray thee help me to obtain
My disembodied head!”

“Oh Headless Trooper, fain would I
With thee the search begin,
But ere the day I must away,
And trudge through thick and thin;
For I am bound to Stanthorpe town,
And time with me is tin.

“But ere upon my pilgrimage
With dawn's first streak I go,
I fain would do what in me lies
To mitigate thy woe.
If I can serve thee anywise,
I pray thee let me know.”

The Trooper thought a little space,
His body forward bowed,
With plenteous sighs dispersed the flies,
And once more spoke aloud:—
“'Tis long since I have tried the weed,
I'd like to blow a cloud.”

“How canst thou, headless man, who hast
No lips wherewith to puff?”
Here deprecatingly he waved
His hand, and said, “Enough.
Myself will guarantee the how,
If thou supply the stuff.”

I took a meerschaum from my pouch,
A meerschaum clean and new,
As white as is undoctored milk,
As pure as morning dew:—
I pray you mark that it was white,
'Twill prove my story true.

I passed it to him, filled and lit,
Still wondering in my mind.
“Thanks, generous colonial,
Thou art very, very kind.
Now pick a thickish waddy up,
And plug my wound behind.”

I picked a thickish waddy up,
And did as I was bid;
And right into the bullet-hole
The amber mouth he slid;

And then !—You never saw the like;
At least I never did.

Like a forge bellows went his chest,
And upward from his cone
There shot a vaporous spire, like that
From Cotopaxi blown.
The flies unglobed themselves, and fled
With angry monotone.

So fierce the blast, the pipe was void
Ere one might reckon ten;
And then with gesture wild he signed
To fill the bowl again;
The which I did, till he had smoked
Enough for fifty men.

Hour after hour he drew and blew,
Till twist began to fail,
Till all the sky grew dim with smoke,
And all the stars grew pale;
Till even the seasoned stomach turned
Of him who tells the tale.

The smoke mixed darkly with the mists
On the adjacent bogs,
And roused the hoarse remonstrant wail
Of semi-stifled frogs,
The 'possums all within a mile
Went home as sick as dogs.

But suddenly the phantom steed
Neighed with sepulchral sound,
And where both man and horse had been
Nor man nor horse was found!
I stood alone; the meerschaum lay
Before me on the ground.

The meerschaum lay upon the ground—
This much I may avouch;
I took it, and with trembling hand
Replaced it in my pouch;
And, overcome with nausea,
I sought my grassy couch.

The sun was up when I awoke,
And in his gladsome beams
I mocked the things of yesternight,
And laughed away my dreams:
Disciples of the School of Doubt

Are always in extremes.

But when I roused me from my couch
To take my morning smoke,
Like lightning flash the verity
Upon my laughter broke;—
The scarcity of 'baccy proved
The thing beyond a joke.

And when my pouch I opened next—
(Now check the wanton jeer)—
My pipe, my new, fresh meerschaum pipe—
('Tis true as I am here)—
My pipe was “coloured!” as if I
Had smoked it for a year.

My pipe was coloured!—no, not brown,
But black, as black as jet.
You don't believe it?—Man alive,
The pipe is coloured yet!
Look here—why, here's the best of proofs—
The pipe, videlicet.

“Fulmina. . . . coelo nulla sereno.”


God speaks by silence. Voice-dividing man,
Who cannot triumph but he saith, Aha—
Who cannot suffer without Woe is me—
Who, ere obedience follow on the will,
Must say, Thou shalt—who, looking back, saith Then,
And forward, Then; and feebly nameth, Now,
His changing foothold 'twixt eternities;
Whose love is pain until it finds a voice—
Whose seething anger bubbles in a curse—
Who summarizes truth in party-cries,
And bounds the universe with category,—
This word-dividing, speech-preëminent man,
Deeming his Maker even as himself,
Must find Him in a voice ere he believe.
We fret at silence, and our turbulent hearts
Say, “If He be a God He will speak out.”
We rail at silence, and would fain disturb
The duly ordered course of signless years.
We moan at silence, till our quivering need
Becomes incarnate, and our sore desire
Passes into a voice. Then say we, “Lo,
He is, for He hath spoken; thus and thus
He said.”
So ever radiating self,
Conditioning a God to our degree,
We make a word the top of argument—
Fond weaklings we, whose utmost scope and goal
Is but a pillared formula, whereon
To hang the garlands of our faith and love.
Well was it in the childhood of the world
To cry for open vision and a voice:
But in the riper time, when we have reached
The kindly heart of universal law,
And safe assurance of essential good,
Say, rather, now that had there been no God,
There had been many voices, freaks of sound,
Capricious thunders in unclouded skies,
Portentous utterance on the trembling hills
And Pythian antics in oracular caves—
Yea, signs and wonders had been multiplied,

And god succeeded god, the latest ever
Lord-paramount, until the crazèd world
Had lost its judgment 'mid contending claims.
O men! It is the child's heart in the man's
That will not rest without a lullaby—
That will not trust the everlasting arm
Unless it hear the voice in tale or song.
It is the child's heart in the man's that seeks,
In elements of old Semitic thought,
And wondrous syllables of Grecian tongue,
Recorded witness of another way
Of things than that which God hath willed to be
Our daily life. And if in times of old
The child-heart caught at wonder, and the charm
Of sundered system—if untutored faith
Found confirmation in arrested suns,
And gnomon-shadows of reverted hours,
And in the agonized Thus saith the Lord
Of mantled seers with fateful burden bowed—
We, children of a clearer, purer light
(Despising not the day of smaller things,
Nor calling out to kick the ladder foot
Because our finger-tips have verged on rest)—
We, youths, whose spring brings on the lawful hope
To loose the girdle of the maiden Truth,—
We, men, whose joyous summer morn hath heard
The marriage bell of Reason and of Faith—
We, turning from the windy ways of the world,
And gazing nearly on the silent march
Of love in law, and law in love, proclaim
“In that He works in silence He is God!”
So, from the very permanence of things,
And voiceless continuity of love,
Unmixed with human passion, fretted not
By jealousy, impatience, or revenge,
We gather courage, and confirm our faith.
So, casting back the scoffer's words, we say,
Even because there is no fitful sign,
And since our fathers fell asleep all things
Continue as at first—this wonder of no change
Reputes the God, to whom a thousand years
Are as one day. Yea, to the willing ear,
The dumb supremacy of patience speaks
Louder than Sinai. And if yet we lack
The witness and the voucher of a voice,
What hindereth that we who stand between
The living Nature and the living God,

Between them, yet in both—their ministers—
By noble life and converse pure, should be
Ourselves the very voice of God on earth,
Living epistles, known and read of all?
O Brothers! Were we wholly soul-possessed
With this Divine regard—would we but soar
Beyond the cloud, and centralize our faith
Upon the stable sun—would we reject
Kaleidoscopic views of broken truth
Distorted to the turn of perverse will—
Make daylight through traditionary ranks
Of intervening hells, and fix the eye
Upon the shining heart of Supreme Love,—
Would we . . . But why prolong the bootless “would”?—
I, who know all the weakness and the fear,
The weary ways of labyrinthine doubt,
The faintness on the dizzy height—who lack
The Gabriel-pinion wherewithal to range
The unsupporting medium of pure sky—
Who know the struggle of the natural soul,
Breathing a finer ether than its own—
Who, venturing on specular power too vast,
Scathed by my own reflector, fall down blind;
Who, at the least wind of calamity,
Drag shiftlessly the anchor of my hope,
And, shrieking from the waves, catch gladly at
A Name and Sake wherewith to close a prayer!
Yet though I faint and fail, I may not take
My weakness for the Truth, nor dare misread
The manual sign of God upon the heart,
The pledge, beyond the power of any voice,
Of sure advance unto the perfect whole;
Nor treat the tablet-tracing of His hand
As it were some old tombstone left apart
In grave-yard places for the years to hide
Deep in irrelevant and noxious growth.
Oh, Brothers! push the weeds aside, lay bare
The monument, and clear the earthy mould
From the Divine intaglio. Read thereon
The uncancelled charter of your native hope,
Nor crave articulate thunders any more,
Read there the universal law of good;
Unqualified evangel; blessedness,
The birthright of all being; peace, that lends
No weak subscription unto sin, and yet
Disarms despair. Read, and believe no more
In final triumph of concreted sin

In any soul that cometh forth from God,
And lives, and moves, and hath its being in Him.
Read thus, and pray the while that he who writes
Reck his own rede.
Oh, Sister, would I bruise
The snowy petals of thy prayerful faith,
Or chill the tendril-twinings of thy hope
With evil influence of wintry scorn?
Would God that any faith of mine could give
Such quiet stability unto my feet
As thine to thine! Oh, if thy kneeling wakes
A smile at all, 'tis Heaven that smiles because
Thou ask'st so little! God will o'erfulfil
Thy dreams of silver with unmeted gold.
Oh, Sister, though thou dost believe in wrath,
Though shapes of woe flit through thine imagery,
Though thou has ta'en the cloud into thy faith,
The little rift of blue that breaks thy dark
Brings thee more comfort and more fixèd hope
Than unto me this cloudless open vast
Wherein my soul floats weary and alone!
Yet think not we are voyaging apart
To different havens. Truth is one. Yet One
Alone hath reached it in straight course. Each soul
Hath its own track, its currents, and its gales;
And each toward sequel of attainment must
Fetch many a compass. Some keep land in view—
The beacon-hills of old authority—
And draw assurance from a shore defined,
Though it be dire with cloud, and capes of wrath;
While some shoot boldly into perilous seas—
Pacific-seeming seas, yet not without
A weary loneliness of land forsook,
And fear of sudden cyclone, and still more
Deceitful calm. Or, if the metaphor
Be yet too cruel for a sister's heart,
Oh, think that in the common way of love
We are never out of hearing; but may each,
Whene'er we will, join hand with each, and say,
“God—Father—Love,” the triune sum of truth,
And Watchword of the universal Christ.
Sister, I think, and in the thought take heart,
That when the Day of Reconcilement comes,
As come it will, the all-transmuting Truth
May find affinities in things that seem
To us the very elements of war.
Dost thou remember how, in childhood's days,

One gave us with to recognize the south
By turning faceward to the mid-day sun;
And we believed, and took the facile plan
For unexceptioned law? But even now
I hear the chime of Austral noon, and, lo,
The sun is in the north? Yet 'tis the same
Bright sun that shone and shines upon us both,
On me the evil, and on thee the good;
Yea, more, it is the same, noon-glaring here,
That now with hints of orient twilight steals
Over the stillness of thy morning dreams.
Dost thou remember how in those old days,
The dear old days that ne'er may come again—
Though love, like history, repeats itself,
But with the larger feature, stronger hand,
And keener sense, evoked of common grief—
When we would scan the circling mountain-cope
That made our little valley all a world,
One taught our young unlearnèd lips to say,
“The Sensible Horizon;” then dissolved
Our bounded dream, and showed our widening minds
That this was not the limit of the truth,
But grew from our own petty finitude; and far
In unconceived remote another line,
Yet only in concession named a line,
“The Rational,” made space intelligible,
And gave relation to the stars. Yet not
The less our early mountain-narrowed sky
Was still the sky to us, cloud, storm, and all.
Oh take my parable, and fondly think
That though the years have brought me wider range,
And shifting zeniths been my law of life,
Did thou and I yet tread the native vale,
I not the less, beneath that homely sky,
Would point to it whene'er we spoke of heaven.

IT was the time when geese despond,
And turkeys make their wills;
The time when Christians, to a man,
Forgive each other's bills;
It was the time when Christmas glee
The heart of childhood fills.

Alas! that, when the changing year
Brings round the blessed day,
The hearts of little Queensland boys
Wax keen to hunt and slay—
As if the chime of Christmas time
Were but a call to prey.

Alas! that when our dwellings teem
With comfits and with toys—
When bat and ball and wicket call
To yet sublimer joys—
Whatever can't be caught and killed
Is stale to certain boys.

Strange that, with such instructive things
From which to pick and choose,
With moral books and puzzle maps
That “teach while they amuse,”
Some boys can find no pleasure save
In killing kangaroos.

Where Quart Pot Creek to Severn's stream

Its mighty tribute rolls,
There stands a town—the happiest town,
I think, betwixt the poles;
And all around is holy ground;
In fact, it's full of holes.

And there, or thereabouts, there dwelt
(Still dwells, for aught I know)
A little boy, whose moral tone
Was lamentably low;
A shocking scamp, with just a speck
Of good in embryo.

His name was Bill. To wallabies
He bore an evil will;
All things that hop on hinder legs
His function was to kill,
And from his show of scalps he won
The name, Marsupial Bill.

His face and form were pinched and lean,
And dim his youthful eye:
'Tis well that growing Queensland boys
Should know the reason why;—
My little lads, 'twas all along
Of smoking on the sly.

Through this was William small and lean,
Through this his eye was dim,
Nor biceps rose on nerveless arm,
Nor calf on nether limb;—
Ye growing boys and hobbledehoys,
Be warned by me—and him.

His elevated shoulders stood
But little way apart;

His elbow joints—Oh, poor avail
Of mere descriptive art!
I would I had an artist man
To show them William's “carte!”

And should you ask how such a one
A mighty hunter grew,
So many flying does outsped,
So many boomers slow—
Bill owned a canine mate, to which
His victories were due.

A brute so complex that he set
“The fancy” all agog;
Of breed that ne'er found name in ex-
hibition catalogue!
Oh, would I had an artist man
To show them William's dog!

On Christmas-eve, at set of sun,
A hollow tree he sought;
A match, a scratch, a puff, and Bill
Was lost in smoke and thought,
And “all his battles o'er again”
In fervid fancy fought.

No ha'penny thing, no penny thing,
No thing of common clay
Such brilliant memories evoked,
With hopes as bright as they—
It was his father's Sunday pipe
That Bill had stolen away.

For many a time and oft had he
Admired the wondrous bowl,
The stem, the mouthpiece, and the tout

Ensemble of the whole,
Until desire of it had grown
A portion of his soul—

Until desire o'ergrew the fear
Of kick, or cuff, or stripe.
That eve, when Bill stepped forth from home
The guilty scheme was ripe—
His right-hand trouser-leg concealed
His father's Sunday pipe.

And now within a heaven of smoke
Against the tree he leant,
The while the mellow influence
Through all his vitals went,
And for the first time in his life
He knew what meerschaum meant.

So subtly stole the influence
His inmost being through,
He did not mark the sudden bark
That signalled kangaroo,
Nor noted that his constant mate
Had vanished from his view.

His mind and eye were on the pipe
And he had just begun
To count how many scalps would go
To purchase such a one,—
When turning round his head, he saw,
Against the setting sun,

A Boomer! . . . and, as when the waves
Close o'er a drowning head,
Sudden the whole forgotten past
Before the soul lies spread,

And all the charge-sheet of a life
In one brief glance is read—

Ev'n so in instant tumult thronged,
About his wildered mind,
A thousand shapes of wounded things,
Of every size and kind;
And some were scalped, and some were maimed
And some were docked behind.

The kangaroo, the wallaroo,
The wallaby was there;
The 'possum jabbered in its fright,
Sore wept the native bear;
The stricken paddamelon moaned
Its ineffectual prayer;
The battered 'guana fixed on him
Its dull remonstrant stare;
While tail-less lizards swarmed and crawled
About him everywhere;
And limbless frogs denounced him with
The croaking of despair;
And tortured bats with ghostly wings
Clung to his stiffened hair;—
But suddenly the vision passed,
And Bill became aware
That he was in the Boomer's arms,
And bounding through the air.

Hop, hop, they went, o'er broken wilds,
Where, stacked in many a mound,
The hoards of clay-embedded ore
Rose grimly all around:—
Unheeding miners' rights, they jumped
A claim at every bound.

Then on o'er wastes so very bare
That even “stripping” ceased;

And as they neared the hill countrie
The frightful pace increased;
Nor granite slope nor timbered ridge
Told on the tireless beast.
The sun went down, the full-orbed moon
Came swimming up the East,
Nor yet the “old man” slackened speed,
Nor yet his prey released.

Still on and on, till from a cliff
A sentry challenged near,—
Though what the challenge or reply
No mortal man may hear;
We only know that for a sign
Each drooped his dexter ear.

Whate'er it meant, the “old man” checked
His onward course thereat,
Dropped Bill, and dragged him by the wrists
A cross a wooded flat,
In full assembly sat.

Ringed by the fathers of the tribe,
Surrounded yet alone,
The Bossaroo superbly posed
Upon a granite throne—
A very old “old man” who had
Four generations known.

Upon his mournful eye the woes
Of all his race were writ;
Yet age and sorrow had not dimmed
His majesty a whit;
And, oh, his metatarsal bones
Displayed the real grit!


Nor unattended sat the sires;
Behind them crouched their mates;
Nor kangaroos alone composed
The Congress of the States,
But all proscribed marsupial breeds
Had sent their delegates.

Lo, at a signal from the boss
The serried ring gave way,
And through an opening in the throng
The captor dragged his prey,
Bowed to the chair, then called to aid
A strapping M.L.A.

And thus, betwixt a double guard,
The prisoner found his place;
And all around were wrathful eyes
Without a gleam of grace;—
One wild concatenated scowl
Was focussed in his face.

Now hitherto poor Bill had been
As dumb as dumb could be,
But at that pandemoniac scowl
His struggling tongue got free;
He lifted up his voice and cried,
“Oh, please, it wasn't me!”

A tumult rose; but with a sign
The boss the riot checked,
Then cleared his throat and bade the guard
The prisoner's clothes inspect:—
“Ay, ay, Sir!” came the prompt reply,
Or words to that effect.

They spake the language that was heard

While yet the world was young;
And he who knows it knows all speech
That out of it hath sprung:—
(With compliments to Dr. Hearn,
It was the Aryan tongue).

And should you ask how Bill was up
To every word they said,
And how such antiquated lore
Had got into his head—
'Twas his pre-natal memory
That served him in such stead.

They searched the prisoner's clothes, and first
They brought the pipe to view,—
For though it is a mystery
To me as well as you,
It is a solemn fact that Bill
Had stuck to it all through.

Then one by one his poor effects
Were collared by his guards,—
Peach-stones, fig-chew, a catapult,
A greasy pack of cards,
A half-cut cake of cavendish
(Prime quality—Gaujard's);

But when from out a leathern sheath
A blood-stained knife they drew,
All round the court, from hand to hand,
They passed it in review:
Each sniffed the blade in turn, and each
In turn said—“Kangaroo!”

And last, a printed document
Their simple souls perplexed:

Each eyed the paper learnedly,
And passed it to the next;
But not an Aryan of them all
Could even guess the text.

At length they summoned to their aid
An old and learnèd clerk,
Who, as tradition told, had been
With Noah in the ark—
Though possibly tradition here
Had overshot the mark.

And while a murmur of applause
Through all the Congress ran,
Bowed with the weight of many years
Hopped forth that gray “old man,”
Mounted his ancient spectacles,
Sneezed thrice, and thus began:—

“Whereas it is expedient to
Encourage the destruc-
tion of marsupial animals—
(Sensation and a ruc-
tion in the court, with groans and cries
From joey, doe, and buck)—

“Be it enacted therefore by
The Queen's most Excellènt
—er—Majesty—er—by and with
The advice and the consent
Of Council and Assembly of
Queensland in Parliamènt—

“In the construction of this Act—”
But here arose a sort
Of interruption from the Right,

Betwixt a cough and snort;
While from the less fastidious Left
Came cries of “Cut it short!”

Then clause on clause, with careless haste,
The learnèd clerk despatched;
But when he read, “The scalps when shown
Must have the ears attached,”
The whole assembly rushed the guard
And at the prisoner snatched.

But when the reader raised his voice,
And thus gave forth the sense,
“For kangaroo scalps ninepence each,
For wallabies' three pence,”
Division rose amongst his foes,
And stayed their violence.

For those at ninepence each, elate
At such a mark of fame,
Drew back, and left the threepenny mob
To do the deed of shame;
But the low-quoted wallabies,
Disgusted, dropped the game.

Bill strove to speak; his voice was drowned
With catcall, groan, and hiss,
Until the Bossaroo, with slow
Judicial emphasis,
Said, “Capias-nisi-prius—Boy,
What say you to all this?”

Then silence feel upon the peers,
And on the threepenny mob,
The while this wicked little boy
Said, snivelling through a sob,

“Oh please, I never done it, sir—
No, never; sepmebob!

“I am a gentle orphan boy,
Nor never jines no row:
My father is a tributer,
My mother keeps a cow:
We always lives respectable:
We tries it, anyhow:
The bill as that old bloke has read
I never seen till now;
And that 'ere blood 's on that 'ere knife
Since father killed the sow.”

Then spake the Boss:—“The quality
Of mercy is not strained;
Yet there is still a point or two
We'd like to have explained,
Ere we absolve you from the charge
Whereon you stand arraigned.

“But since the law is merciful,
And hastes not to condemn,
If witnesses to character
Exist, go, fetch us them:
The court will sit to-morrow night
At nine fifteen, p.m.

“And since without your father's pipe
You dare not home return,—
(Our ancient brother with the specs
Has twigged the whole concern;
And, truly, what he doesn't know
Ain't worth your while to learn):—

“And further, since the oath of man

Is but of scant avail,
And few like Regulus return
Spontaneously to jail—
(My fit is coming on; I feel
The symptoms in my tail)—
We will dispense with oaths, and keep
The meerschaum as your bail.

“To-morrow—(oh my vertebrae!)
To-morrow night at eight,
At the Wheal Edith, by the flume,
A corp'ral's guard will wait;
These shall escort your witnesses,
Blindfolded. Don't be late.

“And this remember—(oh my joints!)—
Not one of all the race
Whose leaders boss this scalping job
May stand before my face;
The witness of a Britisher
Will prejudice your case.

“Now he who brought you will reverse
The process—(oh my toe!)—
Your downward path is up above,
Your upward down below:
Stand not upon the order of
Your going, sir; but go.

“And take this for thy dowry, boy,
‘Existence is a sell,’
I once was bitten by a dog,
Since which I am not well.
Methinks my speech already shows
Symptoms of doggerel.”

King Billy's Skull.

THE scene is the Southern Hemisphere;
The time — oh, any time of the year
Will do as well as another; say June,
Put it down likewise as the full of the moon,
And midnight to boot, when churchyards, they say,
Yawn in a most unmannerly way;
And restless ghosts in winding-sheets
Go forth and gibber about the streets,
And rehearse old crimes that were better hid
In the darkness beneath the coffin-lid.
Observe, that I merely say, on dit;
But though it never happened to me
To encounter, either in-doors or out,
A posthumous gentleman walking about,
In regulation sepulchral guise,
Or in shirt, Crimean or otherwise,
Or in hat and boots and usual wear,
Or, save for a cloud, unbecomingly bare,
Or in gaseous form, with the stars shining through him,
Beckoning me to interview him —
On mission of solemnest import bound,
Or merely a constitutional round,
Beginning at twelve as books declare,
And ending at first sniff of morning air; —
Though all such things, you will understand,
Have reached me only at second-hand,
Or third, or fourth, as the case may be,
Yet there really did occur to me
Something which I perforce must call
Ultra-super-natural; —
In fact trans-ultra-super-preter-
Natural suits both truth and metre.
There is an Island, I won't say where,
For some yet live who mightn't care
To have the address too widely known;
Suffice it to say: South Temperate Zone.
In that same Isle, thus precisely set down,
There's a certain township, and also a town —
(For, to ears colonial, I need not state
That the two do not always homologate). —
And in that same town there's a certain street;
And in that same street, the locals to complete,
There's a certain Surgery, trim and neat,
Kept by —— well, perhaps it were rash
To call him other than Doctor Dash.
At midnight, then, in the month of June
(And don't forget the full of the moon),
I sat in that Surgery, writhing with pain,
Having waited fully two hours in vain
For Doctor Dash, who, I understood,
Was engaged in the questionable good
Of adding one to the sum of woe
That includes all creatures here below, —
Especially those whose particular dolour,
As mine was then, is a rotten molar!
Have you noted that midnight's final stroke
Has a way of solemnizing folk?
Though, goodness knows, in my special case,
With a cheek that was quite a three-quarter face,
There needed no solemnizing power,
No eerie vibration of midnight hour,
Chilling through heart, and thrilling through limb,
To put me en rapport with all things grim,
With all things dreary and dismal and dim,
The whole Night side of Nature (see Crow — not Jim).
Hardly was tolled the day's decease
From the ormolu clock on the mantelpiece,
When a running fire of perplexing knocks
Seemed to proceed from a rosewood box,
That stood on a table whereon were laid
The horrible tools of the surgical trade.
Somewhat slowly the notes began
With minims, and then into crotchets ran, —
From crotchets to quavers, then faster they grew,
Galloping, galloping, thirty-two
Beats to the semibreve — doubling once more
To a semibreve split into sixty-four,
Till failing to follow so rapid a rate,
I gave in at a hundred and twenty-eight.
I was scared, I confess, but the wish to know
Was stronger than terror of ghostly foe;
And stealthily, stealthily nearing the knocks,
I pressed my ear on the rosewood box,
And fancied I could discern beneath
The peculiar rattle of chattering teeth;
Which, as need hardly be said or penned,
Set each particular hair on end,
Froze all my young blood in a moment of time,
And curdled my bile, and my chyle, and my chyme!
But though terror undoubtedly gained the day,
Yet curiosity too had its way,
And the first had no sooner sung out Avaunt!
When the second cried Stay! what the deuce do you want?
Often as I have told the tale,
This particular part is so 'like a whale,'
That I always feel an apology due
For insisting upon it as perfectly true,
This is what followed, — a grinding noise,
A friction of bones that grew to a voice;
And I heard these words (on my honour, I did),
'Hi! . . . Cooey! . . . You fella . . . Open 'm lid!'
Trembling all over from foot to head,
'How shall I open it, Spirit?' I said;
'Lies there, oh lies there no key about?
For how can I open the coffer without?'
A kind of an audible ossified grin,
A gnashing of laughter, came from within,
And little by little I understood,
'You fella. . . . new chum. . . . You no good;
White fella. . . . crawler. . . . you no go,
Key in 'm lock. . . . my word. . . . 'tis so.'
It was so indeed. I opened, and lo!
An afrit? A goblin? A bottle-imp?. . . . No;
Simply a Human Skull, enshrined
In rosewood, padded and velvet-lined, —
A low type of skull, as one could see
From the brutish depression where forehead should be;
Yet surely precious in some degree
To judge from the case, not to mention the key
And the lock by a well-known patentee.
All was still for three minutes at least;
Knocks and voices alike had ceased;
There lay the skull as silent and dumb
As Lot's wife's salted cranium.
Had it been all a gross mistake
In the frenzy begotten of molar-ache?
Was the whole affair but a fancy freak,
Forged in the heat of a throbbing cheek?
Was it all — but rather than wait the event,
I determined to make the experiment.
So summoning courage a query to frame,
I boldly inquired, 'You there, what name?'
Which, to supply explanation due,
Is the Lingua-Nigra for 'Who are you?'
This is what followed — a grinding noise,
A friction of bones that grew to a voice;
And a slight elevation I certainly saw
Of the skull as if raised on the under jaw;
And this time beyond the chance of mistake,
My senses about me, and wide-awake,
No victim of frenzy, no fancy's gull,
I heard the words — 'Me King Billy's Skull!'
Alas, poor Billy, I knew him well,
In his full corporeal personnel,
But a man might give his own father the go-by,
Were there only his brain-pan left to know by.
And this was Billy! the last of his race!
That sightless mask was his regal face!
How oft from the cavity within
Those fangs now set in ghastly grin,
Had I seen the curling smoke proceed
Of the eleemosynary weed —
A cavity even now displayed
Through a gap for his pipe expressly made!
Here, where the Kingly glance shot through,
Two eyeless sockets appal the view;
And where flourished the fibre of Cocoa-nut
Is an utterly towless occiput! —
But scant was the time to moralize,
For soon a light in the place of the eyes,
A wild-looking, diabolical spark,
Like the eye of an angry cat in the dark,
Came and went, and went and came —
The spirit of Billy, perhaps, aflame:
And deeming it such, 'What would you, pray?'
I asked in a stammering, tremulous way;
'What is your will, oh, William, say?
William, rex dei gratia!'
This is what followed, — a grinding noise,
A friction of bones that grew to a voice;
'You take me out. . . . go long o'street. . . .
You come place where three road meet. . . .
S'pos'n keep middle till come to bridge. . . .
Cross over creek, an' go up ridge. . . .
Up on 'im top lie down hollow tree. . . .
Lift up big sheet o' bark. . . . you see
Bones of brother belongin' to me. . . .
Take 'im up head. . . . put mine fella down. . . .
You fetch 'im brother head back to town. . . .
Put 'im in box. . . . lock 'im up like o' here. . . .
Dash no do me!. . . . my oath!. . . . No fear!'
What COULD it all mean? — Three days ago
I had seen this monarch in earth laid low:
How had his fleshless skull returned
From the grave where I saw him so 'quietly inurned?'
And what upon earth was the drift of the dark
Allusion to Dash in his closing remark?
And what could import a mission so strange —
This visit to death, this mysterious exchange?
And wherefore of all men should I be selected
To. . . . pending an answer I did as directed,
And in less than an hour the exchange was effected.
King Billy supplanted, the box closed once more,
And myself fleeing forth from the surgery door!
Time and the hour, as Shakespeare says,
Run through the very roughest of days: —
(Forgive misquotation — the letter kills;
The spirit, at all events, is Will's)
Time and the hour having run their race,
I found myself back in the self-same place,
Dash standing by with a smiling face,
Wiping his weapon with dainty grace,
Myself no longer a surgical case,
But relieved (to the tune of twenty bo,
With the molar transferred to my trouser fob.
I could now look around me; the box was there,
Done up in canvas, and labelled 'with care;'
And Dash, beholding my steadfast stare,
Said with Mephistophelian grin,
That looked like the very triumph of Sin,
'Bet you twenty to one in gold,
You never will guess what that box doth hold . . .
Not bet? . . . Well, listen while I unfold
A neat little tale of a neat little prank,
Played by myself upon Doctor Blank,
The Hospital Surgeon, who, as you know,
Is my open friend, but my secret foe,
Well, to begin ab initio,
King Billy, whom we saw laid low
In his mother earth some days ago,
The last of the Aborigines,
Had long been dying of lung disease.
The melancholy fact was known
To Doctor Blank and myself alone,
And each of us watched with wary eye,
Patiently waiting till Billy should die.'
(Here I ventured to ask him the reason why.)
'Why? Don't you see? this man, as the last
Of a great island race of the perished past —
(Save one old gin, from whom can be
No further scion, as all can see)
Is a wonderful curiosity:
And Blank and myself had sworn an oath,
Secret from each, yet known to both,
To achieve some scientific note
In catalogue or anecdote,
By the munificent presentation
Of King Billy's Skull to the British Nation!
Fancy the honour, the kudos, the fame!
A whole museum athrill with one's name.
Fancy the thousands all crowding to see
‘Skull of the last Aborigine,
Presented by Asterisk Dash, M.D.’!!
A couple of men not sufficing to fix
The numbers on all the umbrellas and sticks,
And every voice in the eager crowd
Pronouncing the name of Dash aloud!
Fancy the honour, the kudos, the fame!
But fancy the everlasting shame,
If in place of Dash the name should be Blank!
The Quack! the Charlatan! Mountebank!
'But to proceed. To daily view
Weaker and weaker His Majesty grew.
I tended him kindly, went out of my way
To see how he fared from day to day:
But all my kindness, in pill or potion,
Showed small by the side of Blank's devotion;
All my kindness in potion and pill
Only made Blank show kinder still.
Well, one dark day (which ill betide)
Returning home from a country ride,
I found, to my sore astonishment,
That Blank had had the patient sent
To the Hospital Nigger-ward — to die
Beneath my antagonist's very eye!
(Knew you ever such treachery?) —
I owe him one, to myself I said;
Let him have the body, I'll have the head,
By hook or by crook, let what will come —
By fair or by foul, I'll have my thumb
On that potentate's caput mortuum!
I bribed a wardsman to let me know
When the patient should be in articulo;
And, accordingly, one afternoon I got
A letter to say King Billy was not.
I suddenly found I had been remiss
In my social duties to Blank, and this
Induced me to write him to give us to tea
The pleasure of his company.
Blank took the bait, came, found — not me,
But himself alone with Mrs. D.,
Who very much regretted to say
How the Doctor was suddenly called away,
Much, to be sure, against his will,
But Mrs. . . a . . Harris was very ill: —
In an hour or so he would return: —
Edith, tell Mary to bring the urn.
'Ere Blank sat down with my woman-kind,
I had slit Billy's head above and behind.
When Blank was requested to say a grace,
There was no skull behind Billy's face.
When Blank was just about to begin,
One skull was out and another skull in.
Ere Blank had buttered a morsel of toast,
The job was three-quarters through almost.
Ere Blank had sipped of his second cup,
The flesh was spliced, and the head tied up:
And before he had drunk it to the dregs,
I had done him, as sure as eggs are eggs!
'And he knows it too; but, all the same,
He hasn't blown it as yet for shame.
Let him publish it now as soon as he may,
He will find himself rather late in the day,
For this very night the treasure will be
Severed from Blank by leagues of sea.
Think of it, Sir, and congratulate me —
‘Skull of the last Aborigine,
Presented by Asterisk Dash, M.D.’!!'
* * * * *
In a certain Museum, I won't say where,
But it's not very far from Russell Square,
Should the gentle Reader e'er happen to see
'Skull of the last Aborigine,' —
And find, perchance, some poetical gull
Crooning the theme of a Monarch's skull,
Tell him to lay his theme on a shelf,
On peril of being a numskull himself;
Or to modulate his Parnassian whim
To the tune of 'Brother belongin' to him'!!

The Midnight Axe

The red day sank as the Sergeant rode
Through the woods grown dim and brown,
One farewell flush on his carbine glowed,
And the veil of the dusk drew down.

No sound of life save the hoof-beats broke
The hush of the lonely place,
Or the short, sharp words that the Sergeant spoke
When his good horse slackened pace,

Or hungrily caught at the ti-tree shoots,
Or in tangled brushwood tripped
Faltered amid disrupted roots,
Or on porphyry outcrop slipped.
The woods closed in; through the vaulted dark
No ray of starlight shone,
But still o'er the crashing litter of bark
Trooper and steed tore on.

Night in the bush, and the bearings lost;
But the Sergeant took no heed,
For Fate that morn his will had crossed,
And his wrath was hot indeed.

The captured prey that his hands had gripped
Ere the dawn in his lone bush lair
The bonds from his pinioned wrists had slipped,
And was gone he knew not where.

Therefore the wrath of Sergeant Hume
Burned fiercely as on he fared,
And whither he rode through the perilous gloom
He neither knew nor cared,

But still, as the dense brush checked the pace,
Would drive the sharp spurs in,
Though the pendent parasites smote his face,
Or caught him beneath the chin.

The woodland dipped, or upward bent,
But he recked not of hollow or hill,
Till right on the brink of a sheer descent
His trembling horse stood still.

And when, in despite of word and oath,
He swerved from the darksome edge,
The unconscious man, dismounting loth,
Set foot on a yielding ledge.

A sudden strain on a treacherous rein,
And a clutch at the empty air,
A cry in the dark, with no ear to mark
Its accent of despair—

And the slender stream in the gloom below,
That in mossy channel ran,
Was checked a space in its feeble flow,
By the limbs of a senseless man.

A change had passed o'er the face of night,
When, waking as from a dream,
The Sergeant gazed aghast at the sight
Of moonlit cliff and stream.

From the shallow wherein his limbs had lain
He crawled to higher ground,
And, numb of heart and dizzy of brain,
Dreamily gazed around.

From aisle to aisle of the solemn wood
A misty radiance spread,
And like pillars seen through incense stood
The gaunt boles, gray or red.

Slow vapours, touched with a mystic sheen,
Round the sombre branches curled,
Or floated the haggard trunks between,
Like ghosts in a spectral world.

No voice was heard of beast or bird,
Nor whirr of insect wing;
Nor crepitant bark the silence stirred,
Nor dead nor living thing.

So still that, but for his labouring breath,
And the blood on his head and hand,
He might have deemed his swoon was death,
And this the Silent Land.

Anon, close by, at the water's edge,
His helmet he espied,
Half-buried among the reedy sedge,

And drew it to his side.

And ev'n as he dipped it in the brook,
And drank as from a cup,
Suddenly, with affrighted look,
The Sergeant started up.

For the sound of an axe—a single stroke—
Through the ghostly woods rang clear;
And a cold sweat on his forehead broke,
And he shook in deadly fear.

Why should the sound that on lonely tracks
Had gladdened him many a day—
Why should the ring of the friendly axe
Bring boding and dismay?

And why should his steed down the slope hard by,
With fierce and frantic stride—
Why should his steed with unearthly cry
Rush trembling to his side?

Strange, too—and the Sergeant marked it well,
Nor doubted he marked aright—
When the thunder of hoofs on the silence fell,
And the cry rang through the night,

A thousand answering echoes woke,
Reverberant far and wide;
But to the unseen woodman's stroke
No echo had replied.

And while he questioned with his fear
And summoned his pride to aid,
A second stroke fell sharp and clear,
Nor echo answer made.

A third stroke, and aloud he cried,
As one who hails his kind;
But nought save his own voice multiplied
His straining sense divined.

He bound the ends of his broken rein,
He recked not his carbine gone,
He mounted his steed with a groan of pain,
And tow'rd the sound spurred on.

For now the blows fell thick and fast,
And he noted with added dread
That ever as woods on woods flew past
The sound moved on ahead.

But his courage rose with the quickening pace,
And mocked his boding gloom;
For fear had no abiding-place
In the soul of Sergeant Hume.

Where the woods thinned out and the sparser trees
Their separate shadows cast,
Waxing fainter by slow degrees
The sounds died out at last.

The Sergeant paused, and peered about
O'er all the stirless scene,
Half in amaze, and half in doubt
If such a thing had been.

Nor vainly in search of clue or guide
From trunk to trunk he gazed,
For, lo! the giant stem at his side
By the hand of man was blazed.

And again and again he found the sign,
Till, after a weary way,
Before him, asleep in the calm moonshine,
A little clearing lay;

And in it a red slab hut that glowed
As 'twere of jasper made.
The Sergeant into the clearing rode,
And passed through the rude stockade.

He bound his horse to the fence, and soon
He stood by the open door.
With pallid face upturned to the moon
A man slept on the floor.

Little he thought to have found him here,
By such strange portent led—
His sister's son, whom for many a year
His own had mourned as dead;

Who had chosen the sundering seas to roam,
After a youth misspent,
And to those who wept in his far-off home
Token nor word had sent.

The face looked grim, and haggard, and old,
Yet not from the touch of time;—
Too well the Sergeant knew the mould

And lineaments of crime.

And “Better,” he said, “she should mourn him dead
Than know him changed to this!”
Yet he kneeled, and touched the slumbering head,
For her, with a gentle kiss.

Whereat the eyelids parted wide,
But no light in the dull eye gleamed:
The man turned slowly on his side
And muttered as one who dreamed;

He stared at the Sergeant as in a trance,
And the listener's blood ran cold
As he pieced the broken utterance,
That a tale of horror told;

For he heard him rave of murder done,
Of an axe and a hollow tree,
And “Oh, God!” he cried, “must my sister's son
Be led to his death by me!”

He seized him roughly by the arm,
He called him by his name;
The man leaped up in mazed alarm,
And terror shook his frame.

Then a sudden knife flashed out from his hip,
And they closed in struggle wild;
But soon in the Sergeant's iron grip
The man was as a child.

A wind had arisen that shook the hut;
The moonbeams dimmed apace;
The lamp was lit; the door was shut;
And the twain sat face to face.

In question put and answer flung
A weary space had passed,
But the secret of the soul was wrung
From the stubborn lips at last.
As one who resistless doom obeyed
The younger told his sin,
Nor any prayer for mercy made,
Nor appeal to the bond of kin.
“ ‘The quarrel? Oh, 'twas an idle thing—

Too idle almost to name;
He turned up an ace and killed my king,
And I lost the cursèd game.

“And he triumphed and jeered, and his stinging chaff,
By heaven, how it maddened me then!
And he left me there with a scornful laugh—
But he never laughed again.

“We had long been mates, through good and ill;
Together we owned this land;
But his was ever the stronger will,
And his was the stronger hand.

“But I would be done with his lordly airs;
I was weary of them and him;
So I stole upon him unawares
In the forest lone and dim.

“The ring of his axe had drowned my tread;
But a rod from me he stood
When he paused to fix the iron head
That had loosened as he hewed.

“Then I too made a sudden halt,
And watched him as he turned
To a charred stump, in whose gaping vault
A fire of branches burned.

“He had left the axe by the half-hewn bole,
As whistling he turned away;
From my covert with wary foot I stole,
And caught it where it lay.

“He stooped; he stirred the fire to flame;
I could feel its scorching breath,
As behind him with the axe I came,
And struck the stroke of death.
‘Dead at a blow, without a groan,
The sapling still in his hands,
The man fell forward like a stone
Amid the burning brands.

“The stark limbs lay without, but those
I thrust in the fiery tomb——”
With shuddering groan the Sergeant rose,
And paced the narrow room,

And cried aloud, “Oh, task of hell,
That I should his captor be!

My God! if it be possible,
Let this cup pass from me!”

The spent light flickered and died; and, lo,
The dawn about them lay;
And each face a ghastlier shade of woe
Took on in the dismal gray.

Around the hut the changeful gale
Seemed now to sob and moan,
And mingled with the doleful tale
A dreary undertone.

“I piled dry wood in the hollow trunk,”
The unsparing shrift went on,
“And watched till the tedious corse had shrunk
To ashes, and was gone.

“That night I knew my soul was dead;
For neither joy nor grief
The numbness stirred of heart and head,
Nor tears came for relief.

“And when morning dawned, with no surprise
I awoke to my solitude,
Nor blood-clouds flared before mine eyes,
As men had writ they should;

“Nor fancy feigned dumb things would prate
Of what no man could prove!—
Only, a heavy, heavy weight,
That would not, would not move—

“Only a burden ever the same
Asleep or awake I bore,
A dead soul in a living frame
That would quicken nevermore.

“Three nights had passed since the deed was done,
And all was calm and still—
(You'll say 'tis a lie; I say 'tis none;
I'll swear to it, if you will)—

“Three nights—and, mark me, that very day
I had stood by the ashy cave,
And the toppling shell had snapped, and lay
Like a lid on my comrade's grave—

“And yet, I tell you, the man lived on!
Though the ashes o'er and o'er
I had sifted till every trace was gone

Of what he was, or wore:—

“Three nights had passed; in a quiet unstirred
By wind or living thing,
As I lay upon my bed I heard
His axe in the timber ring!

“He hewed; he paused; he hewed again.
Each stroke was like a knell!
And I heard the fibres wrench, and then
The crash of a tree as it fell.

“And I fled; a hundred leagues I fled—
In the crowded haunts of a town
I would hide me from the irksome dead,
And would crush remembrance down.

“But in all that life and ceaseless stir
Nor part nor lot I found;
For men to me as shadows were,
And their speech had a far-off sound.

“For I had lost the touch of souls;
Men's lives and mine betwixt,
Wide as the space that parts the poles
There was a great gulf fixed.

“Sorrow and joy to me but seemed;
As one from an alien sphere
I lived and saw, or as one who dreamed.—
I was lonelier there than here.

“To the sense of all life's daily round
I had lost the living key,
And I grew to long for the only sound
That had meaning on earth for me.

“Again o'er the weary forest-tracks
My burden hither I bore;
And I heard the measured ring of the axe
In the midnight as before.

“And as ever he hewed the long nights through,
Nor harmed me in my bed,
A feeble sense within me grew
Of friendship with the dead.

“And believe me, I could have lived, lived long,
With this poor stay of mine,
But the faithless dead has done me wrong:
Three nights and never a sign,

“Though I've thrice out-watched the stars!—Last night,
Seeing he came no more,
Despair anew was whispering flight,
When I sank as dead on the floor.

“Take me away from this curs'd abode!
Not a jot for life I care;
He has left me alone, and my weary load
Is greater than I can bear.

“But I say if my mate had walked about
I had never told you the tale!”
As he spoke the sound of an axe rang out,
In a lull of the fitful gale.

He sprang to his feet: a cunning smile
O'er all his visage spread;
“Why, man, I lied to you all the while!
It was all a lie!” he said.

“Leave go!”—for the trooper dragged him out
Under the angry sky.
“The man's alive!—you can hear him about!—
Would you hang me for a lie? . . .

“Not that way! No, not that!” he hissed,
And shook in all his frame;
But the Sergeant drew him by the wrist
To whence the sounds yet came,

Moaning ever, “What have I done
That I should his captor be?
Oh, God! to think that my sister's son
Should be led to his death by me!”

The tempest swelled; and, caught by the blast
In wanton revel of wrath,
Tumultuous boughs flew whirling past,
Or thundered across their path:

Yet ever above the roar of the storm,
Louder and louder yet
The axe-strokes rang, but no human form
Their wildered vision met.

When they reached a spot where a charred stump prone
On an ashy hollow lay,
The doomed man writhed with piteous moan,
And well-nigh swooned away.

When they came to a tree on whose gaping trunk

Some woodman's axe had plied,
The struggling captive backward shrunk,
And broke from the trooper's side.

“To left!—for your life! To left, I say!”
Was the Sergeant's warning call:
For he saw the tree in the tempest sway,
He marked the threatening fall.

But the vengeful wreck its victim found;
It seized him as he fled;
Between one giant limb and the ground
The man lay crushed and dead.

The Sergeant gazed on the corpse aghast,
Yet he cried, as he bent the knee,
“Father! I thank Thee that Thou hast
Let this cup pass from me!”