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In dells where once we used to rove The slow, sad water grieves; And ever comes from glimmering grove The liturgy of leaves.
But time and toil have marked my face, My heart has older grown Since, in the woods, I stooped to trace Our names upon the stone.
Lordly harp, by lordly master wakened from majestic sleep, Yet shall speak and yet shall sing the words which make the fathers weep!
Voice surpa.s.sing human voices--high, unearthly harmony-- Yet shall tell the tale of hero, in exalted years to be!
In the ranges, by the rivers, on the uplands, down the dells, Where the sound of wind and wave is, where the mountain anthem swells, Yet shall float the song of l.u.s.tre, sweet with tears and fair with flame, Shining with a theme of beauty, holy with our Leichhardt's name!
Name of him who faced for science thirsty tracts of bitter glow, Lurid lands that no one knows of--two-and-thirty years ago.
Born by hills of hard grey weather, far beyond the northern seas, German mountains were his sponsors, and his mates were German trees; Grandeur of the old-world forests pa.s.sed into his radiant soul, With the song of stormy crescents where the mighty waters roll.
Thus he came to be a brother of the river and the wood-- Thus the leaf, the bird, the blossom, grew a gracious sisterhood; Nature led him to her children, in a s.p.a.ce of light divine: Kneeling down, he said--"My mother, let me be as one of thine!"
So she took him--thence she loved him--lodged him in her home of dreams, Taught him what the trees were saying, schooled him in the speech of streams.
For her sake he crossed the waters--loving her, he left the place Hallowed by his father's ashes, and his human mother's face-- Pa.s.sed the seas and entered temples domed by skies of deathless beam, Walled about by hills majestic, stately spires and peaks supreme!
Here he found a larger beauty--here the lovely lights were new On the slopes of many flowers, down the gold-green dells of dew.
In the great august cathedral of his holy lady, he Daily worshipped at her altars, nightly bent the reverent knee-- Heard the hymns of night and morning, learned the psalm of solitudes; Knew that G.o.d was very near him--felt His presence in the woods!
But the starry angel, Science, from the home of glittering wings, Came one day and talked to Nature by melodious mountain springs: "Let thy son be mine," she pleaded; "lend him for a s.p.a.ce," she said, "So that he may earn the laurels I have woven for his head!"
And the lady, Nature, listened; and she took her loyal son From the banks of moss and myrtle--led him to the Shining One!
Filled his lordly soul with gladness--told him of a s.p.a.cious zone Eye of man had never looked at, human foot had never known.
Then the angel, Science, beckoned, and he knelt and whispered low-- "I will follow where you lead me"--two-and-thirty years ago.
On the tracts of thirst and furnace--on the dumb, blind, burning plain, Where the red earth gapes for moisture, and the wan leaves hiss for rain, In a land of dry, fierce thunder, did he ever pause and dream Of the cool green German valley and the singing German stream?
When the sun was as a menace, glaring from a sky of bra.s.s, Did he ever rest, in visions, on a lap of German gra.s.s?
Past the waste of th.o.r.n.y terrors, did he reach a sphere of rills, In a region yet untravelled, ringed by fair untrodden hills?
Was the spot where last he rested pleasant as an old-world lea?
Did the sweet winds come and lull him with the music of the sea?
Let us dream so--let us hope so! Haply in a cool green glade, Far beyond the zone of furnace, Leichhardt's sacred sh.e.l.l was laid!
Haply in some leafy valley, underneath blue, gracious skies, In the sound of mountain water, the heroic traveller lies!
Down a dell of dewy myrtle, where the light is soft and green, And a month like English April sits, an immemorial queen, Let us think that he is resting--think that by a radiant grave Ever come the songs of forest, and the voices of the wave!
_Thus_ we want our sons to find him--find him under floral bowers, Sleeping by the trees he loved so, covered with his darling flowers!
After Many Years
The song that once I dreamed about, The tender, touching thing, As radiant as the rose without-- The love of wind and wing-- The perfect verses, to the tune Of woodland music set, As beautiful as afternoon, Remain unwritten yet.
It is too late to write them now-- The ancient fire is cold; No ardent lights illume the brow, As in the days of old.
I cannot dream the dream again; But when the happy birds Are singing in the sunny rain, I think I hear its words.
I think I hear the echo still Of long-forgotten tones, When evening winds are on the hill And sunset fires the cones; But only in the hours supreme, With songs of land and sea, The lyrics of the leaf and stream, This echo comes to me.
No longer doth the earth reveal Her gracious green and gold; I sit where youth was once, and feel That I am growing old.
The l.u.s.tre from the face of things Is wearing all away; Like one who halts with tired wings, I rest and muse to-day.
There is a river in the range I love to think about; Perhaps the searching feet of change Have never found it out.
Ah! oftentimes I used to look Upon its banks, and long To steal the beauty of that brook And put it in a song.
I wonder if the slopes of moss, In dreams so dear to me-- The falls of flower, and flower-like floss-- Are as they used to be!
I wonder if the waterfalls, The singers far and fair, That gleamed between the wet, green walls, Are still the marvels there!
Ah! let me hope that in that place The old familiar things To which I turn a wistful face Have never taken wings.
Let me retain the fancy still That, past the lordly range, There always shines, in folds of hill, One spot secure from change!
I trust that yet the tender screen That shades a certain nook, Remains, with all its gold and green, The glory of the brook.
It hides a secret to the birds And waters only known: The letters of two lovely words-- A poem on a stone.
Perhaps the lady of the past Upon these lines may light, The purest verses, and the last That I may ever write.
She need not fear a word of blame-- Her tale the flowers keep-- The wind that heard me breathe her name Has been for years asleep.
But in the night, and when the rain The troubled torrent fills, I often think I see again The river in the hills; And when the day is very near, And birds are on the wing, My spirit fancies it can hear The song I cannot sing.
[End of Songs from the Mountains.]
EARLY POEMS, 1859-70
(With a few exceptions, these are now printed for the first time in book form).
The Merchant Ship
The sun o'er the waters was throwing In the freshness of morning its beams; And the breast of the ocean seemed glowing With glittering silvery streams: A bark in the distance was bounding Away for the land on her lee; And the boatswain's shrill whistle resounding Came over and over the sea.
The breezes blew fair and were guiding Her swiftly along on her track, And the billows successively pa.s.sing, Were lost in the distance aback.
The sailors seemed busy preparing For anchor to drop ere the night; The red rusted cables in fathoms Were haul'd from their prisons to light.
Each rope and each brace was attended By stout-hearted sons of the main, Whose voices, in unison blended, Sang many a merry-toned strain.
Forgotten their care and their sorrow, If of such they had ever known aught, Each soul was wrapped up in the morrow-- The morrow which greeted them not; A sunshiny hope was inspiring And filling their hearts with a glow Like that on the billows around them, Like the silvery ocean below.
As they looked on the haven before them, Already high looming and near, What else but a joy could invade them, Or what could they feel but a cheer?