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[End of Leaves from Australian Forests.]
SONGS FROM THE MOUNTAINS
To a Mountain
To thee, O father of the stately peaks, Above me in the loftier light--to thee, Imperial brother of those awful hills Whose feet are set in splendid spheres of flame, Whose heads are where the G.o.ds are, and whose sides Of strength are belted round with all the zones Of all the world, I dedicate these songs.
And if, within the compa.s.s of this book, There lives and glows _one_ verse in which there beats The pulse of wind and torrent--if _one_ line Is here that like a running water sounds, And seems an echo from the lands of leaf, Be sure that line is thine. Here, in this home, Away from men and books and all the schools, I take thee for my Teacher. In thy voice Of deathless majesty, I, kneeling, hear G.o.d's grand authentic Gospel! Year by year, The great sublime cantata of thy storm Strikes through my spirit--fills it with a life Of startling beauty! Thou my Bible art, With holy leaves of rock, and flower, and tree, And moss, and shining runnel. From each page That helps to make thy awful volume, I Have learned a n.o.ble lesson. In the psalm Of thy grave winds, and in the liturgy Of singing waters, lo! my soul has heard The higher worship; and from thee, indeed, The broad foundations of a finer hope Were gathered in; and thou hast lifted up The blind horizon for a larger faith!
Moreover, walking in exalted woods Of naked glory, in the green and gold Of forest sunshine, I have paused like one With all the life transfigured; and a flood Of light ineffable has made me feel As felt the grand old prophets caught away By flames of inspiration; but the words Sufficient for the story of my Dream Are far too splendid for poor human lips.
But thou, to whom I turn with reverent eyes-- O stately Father, whose majestic face Shines far above the zone of wind and cloud, Where high dominion of the morning is-- Thou hast the Song complete of which my songs Are pallid adumbrations! Certain sounds Of strong authentic sorrow in this book May have the sob of upland torrents--these, And only these, may touch the great World's heart; For, lo! they are the issues of that grief Which makes a man more human, and his life More like that frank, exalted life of thine.
But in these pages there are other tones In which thy large, superior voice is not-- Through which no beauty that resembles thine Has ever shone. _These_ are the broken words Of blind occasions, when the World has come Between me and my Dream. No song is here Of mighty compa.s.s; for my singing robes I've worn in stolen moments. All my days Have been the days of a laborious life, And ever on my struggling soul has burned The fierce heat of this hurried sphere. But thou, To whose fair majesty I dedicate My book of rhymes--thou hast the perfect rest Which makes the heaven of the highest G.o.ds!
To thee the noises of this violent time Are far, faint whispers; and, from age to age, Within the world and yet apart from it, Thou standest! Round thy lordly capes the sea Rolls on with a superb indifference For ever; in thy deep, green, gracious glens The silver fountains sing for ever. Far Above dim ghosts of waters in the caves, The royal robe of morning on thy head Abides for ever. Evermore the wind Is thy august companion; and thy peers Are cloud, and thunder, and the face sublime Of blue mid-heaven! On thy awful brow Is Deity; and in that voice of thine There is the great imperial utterance Of G.o.d for ever; and thy feet are set Where evermore, through all the days and years, There rolls the grand hymn of the deathless wave.
Path beside the silver waters, flashing in October's sun-- Walk, by green and golden margins where the sister streamlets run-- Twenty shining springs have vanished, full of flower, and leaf, and bird, Since the step of Mary Rivers in your lawny dell was heard!
Twenty white-haired Junes have left us-- grey with frost and bleak with gale-- Since the hand of her we loved so plucked the blossoms in your dale.
Twenty summers, twenty autumns, from the grand old hills have pa.s.sed, With their robes of royal colour, since we saw the darling last.
Morning comes--the blessed morning! and the slow song of the sea, Like a psalm from radiant altars, floats across a rose-red lea; Then the fair, strong noonday blossoms, and the reaper seeks the cool Valley of the moss and myrtle, and the glimmering water-pool.
Noonday flames and evening follows; and the lordly mountains rest Heads arrayed with tenfold splendour on the rich heart of the West.
Evening walks with moon and music where the higher life has been; But the face of Mary Rivers _there_ will nevermore be seen.
Ah! when autumn dells are dewy, and the wave is very still, And that grey ghost called the Twilight pa.s.ses from the distant hill-- Even in the hallowed nightfall, when the fathers sit and dream, And the splendid rose of heaven sees a sister in the stream-- Often do I watch the waters gleaming in a starry bay, Thinking of a bygone beauty, and a season far away; Musing on the grace that left us in a time of singing rain, On the lady who will never walk amongst these heaths again.
Four there were, but two were taken; and this darling we deplore, She was sweetest of the circle--she was dearest of the four!
In the daytime and the dewtime comes the phantom of her face: None will ever sit where she did--none will ever fill her place.
With the pa.s.sing of our Mary, like a sunset out of sight, Pa.s.sed away our pure first pa.s.sion--all its life and all its light!
All that made the world a dreamland--all the glory and the glow Of the fine, fresh, morning feeling vanished twenty years ago.
Girl, whose strange, unearthly beauty haunts us ever in our sleep, Many griefs have worn our hearts out--we are now too tired to weep!
Time has tried us, years have changed us; but the sweetness shed by you Falls upon our spirits daily, like divine, immortal dew.
Shining are our thoughts about you--of the blossoms past recall, You are still the rose of l.u.s.tre--still the fairest of them all; In the sleep that brings the garland gathered from the bygone hours, You are still our Mary Rivers--still the queen of all the flowers.
Let me ask, where none can hear me--When you pa.s.sed into the shine, And you heard a great love calling, did you know that it was mine?
In your life of light and music, tell me did you ever see, Shining in a holy silence, what was as a flame in me?
Ah, my darling! no one saw it. Purer than untrodden dew Was that first unhappy pa.s.sion buried in the grave with you.
Bird and leaf will keep the secret--wind and wood will never tell Men the thing that I have whispered. Mary Rivers, fare you well!
A waving of hats and of hands, The voices of thousands in one, A shout from the ring and the stands, And a glitter of heads in the sun!
"_They are off--they are off!_" is the roar, As the cracks settle down to the race, With the "yellow and black" to the fore, And the Panic blood forcing the pace.
At the back of the course, and away Where the running-ground home again wheels, Grubb travels in front on the bay, With a feather-weight hard at his heels.
But Yeomans, you see, is about, And the wily New Zealander waits, Though the high-blooded flyer is out, Whose rider and colours are Tait's.
Look! Ashworth comes on with a run To the head of the Levity colt; And the fleet--the magnificent son Of Panic is shooting his bolt.
Hurrah for the Weatherbit strain!
A Fireworks is first in the straight; And "_A Kelpie will win it again!_"
Is the roar from the ring to the gate.
The leader must have it--but no!
For see, full of running, behind A beautiful, wonderful foe With the speed of the thunder and wind!
A flashing of whips, and a cry, And Ashworth sits down on his horse, With Kingsborough's head at his thigh And the "field" scattered over the course!
In a clamour of calls and acclaim The pair race away from the ruck: The horse to the last of it game-- A marvel of muscle and pluck!
But the foot of the Sappho is there, And Kingston's invincible strength; And the numbers go up in the air-- The colt is the first by a length!
The first, and the favourite too!
The terror that came from his stall, With the spirit of fire and of dew, To show the road home to them all; From the back of the field to the straight He has come, as is ever his wont, And carried his welter-like weight, Like a tradesman, right through to the front.
Nor wonder at cheering a wit, For this is the popular horse, That never was beaten when "fit"
By any four hoofs on the course; To starter for Leger or Cup, Has he ever shown feather of fear When saddle and rider were up And the case to be argued was clear?
No! rather the questionless pluck Of the blood unaccustomed to yield, Preferred to spread-eagle the ruck, And make a long tail of the "field".
Bear witness, ye lovers of sport, To races of which he can boast, When flyer by flyer was caught, And beaten by lengths on the post!
Lo! this is the beautiful bay-- Of many, the marvellous one Who showed us last season the way That a Leger should always be won.
There was something to look at and learn, Ye shrewd irreproachable "touts", When the Panic colt tired at the turn, And the thing was all over--but shouts!
Aye, that was the spin, when the twain Came locked by the bend of the course, The Zealander pulling his rein, And the veteran hard on his horse!
When Ashworth was "riding" 'twas late For his friends to applaud on the stands, And the Sappho colt entered the straight With the race of the year in his hands.
Just look at his withers, his thighs!
And the way that he carries his head!
Has Richmond more wonderful eyes, Or Melbourne that spring in his tread?
The grand, the intelligent glance From a spirit that fathoms and feels, Makes the heart of a horse-lover dance Till the warm-blooded life in him reels.