The Poems Of Henry Kendall Part 54

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-- * [Note.--These lines were suggested by a pa.s.sage in an unpublished drama by my friend, the author of "Ashtaroth" {A. L. Gordon}--

"And she who missed A little mouth that used to catch and cling-- A small sweet trouble--at her yearning breast."

The poem to which I am indebted is ent.i.tled "The Road to Avernus".

It is only fair that I should make this acknowledgment.--H.K.]

We want a new Elijah in these days, A mighty spirit clad in shining arms Of Truth--yea, one whose lifted voice would break, Like thunder, on our modern Apathy, And shake the fanes of Falsehood from their domes Down to the firm foundations; one whose words, Directly coming from a source divine, Would fall like flame where Vice holds festival, And search the inmost heart of nations; one Made G.o.dlike with that scholarship supreme Which comes of suffering; one, with eyes to see The very core of things; with hands to grasp High opportunities, and use them for His glorious mission; one, whose face inspired Would wear a terror for the lying soul, But seem a glory in the sight of those Who make the light and sweetness of the world, And are the high priests of the Beautiful.

Yea, one like this we want amongst us now To drive away the evil fogs that choke Our social atmosphere, and leave it clear And pure and hallowed with authentic light.


Mana.s.seh, lord of Judah, and the son Of him who, favoured of Jehovah, saw At midnight, when the skies were flushed with fire, The splendid mystery of the shining air, That flamed above the black a.s.syrian camps, And breathed upon the evil hosts at rest, And shed swift violent sleep into their eyes; Mana.s.seh, lord of Judah, when he came To fortify himself upon his throne, And saw great strength was gathered unto him, Let slip satanic pa.s.sions he had nursed For years and years; and lo! the land that He Who thundered on the Oriental Mount Girt round with awful light, had set apart For Jacob's seed--the land that Moses strained On Nebo's topmost cone to see, grew black Beneath the shadow of despotic Sin That stalked on foot-ways dashed with human blood, And mocked high Heaven by audacious fires; And as when Storm, that voice of G.o.d, is loud Within the mountained Syrian wilderness, There flits a wailing through the wilted pines, So in the city of the wicked king A voice, like Abel's crying from the ground, Made sorrow of the broken evening winds, And darkness of the fair young morning lights, And silence in the homes of hunted men.

But in a time when grey-winged Autumn fogs Shut off the sun from Carmel's seaward side, And fitful gusts did speak within the trees Of rain beyond the waters, while the priests In Hinnom's echoing valley offered up Unhallowed sacrifices unto G.o.ds Of bra.s.s and stone, there came a trumpet's voice Along the bald, bleak northern flats; and then A harnessed horseman, riding furiously, Dashed down the ridge with an exceeding cry Of "Esarhaddon, Esarhaddon! haste Away, ye elders, lo, the swarthy foe Six leagues from hence hath made the land a fire, And all the dwellers of the hollowed hills Are flying hitherwards before a flame Of fifty thousand swords!" At this the men Of Baal turned about, set face, and fled Towards the thickets, where the impious king, Ringed round by grey, gaunt wizards with the brand Of Belial on their features, cowered low, And hid himself amongst the tangled thorns And shivered in a bitter seaborn wind, And caught the whiteness of a deathly fear.

There where the ash-pale forest-leaves were touched By Morning's shining fingers, and the inland depths Sent out rain-plenished voices west and south, The steel-clad scouts of Esarhaddon came And searched, and found Mana.s.seh whom they bound And dragged before the swart a.s.syrian king; And Esarhaddon, scourge of Heaven, sent To strange Evil at its chiefest fanes, And so fulfil a dread divine decree, Took Judah's despot, fettered hand and foot, And cast him bleeding on a dungeon floor Hard by where swift Euphrates chafes his brink And gleams from cataract to cataract, And gives the gale a deep midwinter tone.

So fared Mana.s.seh for the sins which brought Pale-featured Desolation to the tents Of alienated Judah; but one night, When ninety moons of wild unrest had pa.s.sed, The humbled son of Hezekiah turned Himself towards the wall, and prayed and wept; And in an awful darkness face to face With G.o.d, he said--"I know, O Lord of Hosts, That Thou art wise and just and kind, and I Am shapen in iniquity; but by The years of black captivity, whose days And nights have marked my spirit pa.s.sing through Fierce furnaces of suffering, and seen It groping in blind shadows with a hope To reach Thy Hand--by these, O Father, these That brought the swift, sad silver to my head Which should have come with Age--which came with Pain, I pray Thee hear these supplications now, And stoop and lift me from my low estate, And lend me this once my dominionship, So I may strive to live the bad Past down, And lead henceforth a white and wholesome life, And be thy contrite servant, Lord, indeed!"

The prayer was not in vain: for while the storm Sang high above the dim Chaldean domes-- While, in the pines, the spirit of the rain Sobbed fitfully, Jehovah's angel came And made a splendour of the dungeon walls, And smote the bars, and led Mana.s.seh forth And caught him up, nor set him down again Until the turrets of Jerusalem Sprang white before the flying travellers Against the congregated morning hills.

And he, the broken man made whole again, Was faithful to his promise. Every day Thereafter pa.s.sing, bore upon its wings Some shining record of his faultless life, Some brightness of a high resolve fulfilled; And in good time, when all the land had rest, He found that he had lived the bad Past down, And gave G.o.d praise, and with his fathers slept.

Thus ends the story of Mana.s.seh. If This verse should catch the eyes of one whose sin Lies heavy on his soul; who finds himself A shame-faced alien when he walks abroad, A moping shadow when he sits at home; Who has no human friends; who, day by day, Is smitten down by icy level looks From that cold Virtue which is merciless Because it knoweth not what wrestling with A fierce temptation means; if such a one Should read my tale of Hezekiah's son, Let him take heart, and gather up his strength, And step above men's scorn, and find his way By paths of fire, as brave Mana.s.seh did, Up to the white heights of a blameless life; And it will come to pa.s.s that in the face Of grey old enmities, whose partial eyes Are blind to reformation, he will taste A sweetness in his thoughts, and live his time Arrayed with the efficient armour of That n.o.ble power which grows of self-respect, And makes a man a pillar in the world.

Caroline Chisholm

"A perfect woman, n.o.bly planned, To warn, to comfort, and command."

The Priests and the Levites went forth, to feast at the courts of the Kings; They were vain of their greatness and worth, and gladdened with glittering things; They were fair in the favour of gold, and they walked on, with delicate feet, Where, famished and faint with the cold, the women fell down in the street.

The Priests and the Levites looked round, all vexed and perplexed at the cries Of the maiden who crouched to the ground with the madness of want in her eyes; And they muttered--"Few praises are earned when good hath been wrought in the dark; While the backs of the people are turned, we choose not to loiter nor hark."

Moreover they said--"It is fair that our deeds in the daylight should shine: If we feasted you, who would declare that we gave you our honey and wine."

They gathered up garments of gold, and they stepped with their delicate feet, And the women who famished with cold, were left with the snow in the street.

The winds and the rains were abroad--the homeless looked vainly for alms; And they prayed in the dark to the Lord, with agony clenched in their palms, "There is none of us left that is whole,"

they cried, through their faltering breath, "We are clothed with a sickness of soul, and the shape of the shadow of death."

He heard them, and turned to the earth!-- "I am pained," said the Lord, "at the woe Of my children so smitten with dearth; but the night of their trouble shall go."

He called on His Chosen to come: she listened, and hastened to rise; And He charged her to build them a home, where the tears should be dried from their eyes.

G.o.d's servant came forth from the South: she told of a plentiful land; And wisdom was set in her mouth, and strength in the thews of her hand.

She lifted them out of their fear, and they thought her their Moses and said: "We shall follow you, sister, from here to the country of sunshine and bread."

She fed them, and led them away, through tempest and tropical heat, Till they reached the far regions of day, and sweet-scented s.p.a.ces of wheat.

She hath made them a home with her hand, and they bloom like the summery vines; For they eat of the fat of the land, and drink of its glittering wines.

Mount Erebus

(A Fragment)

A mighty theatre of snow and fire, Girt with perpetual Winter, and sublime By reason of that lordly solitude Which dwells for ever at the world's white ends; And in that weird-faced wilderness of ice, There is no human foot, nor any paw Or hoof of beast, but where the shrill winds drive The famished birds of storm across the tracts Whose centre is the dim mysterious Pole.

Beyond--yea far beyond the homes of man, By water never dark with coming ships, Near seas that know not feather, scale, or fin, The grand volcano, like a weird Isaiah, Set in that utmost region of the Earth, Doth thunder forth the awful utterance, Whose syllables are flame; and when the fierce Antarctic Night doth hold dominionship Within her fastnessess, then round the cone Of Erebus a crown of tenfold light Appears; and shafts of marvellous splendour shoot Far out to east and west and south and north, Whereat a gorgeous dome of glory roofs Wild leagues of mountain and transfigured waves, And lends all things a beauty terrible.

Far-reaching lands, whereon the hand of Change Hath never rested since the world began, Lie here in fearful fellowship with cold And rain and tempest. Here colossal horns Of hill start up and take the polar fogs Shot through with flying stars of fire; and here, Above the dead-grey crescents topped with spires Of thunder-smoke, one half the heaven flames With that supremest light whose glittering life Is yet a marvel unto all but One-- The Ent.i.ty Almighty, whom we feel Is nearest us when we are face to face With Nature's features aboriginal, And in the hearing of her primal speech And in the thraldom of her primal power.

While like the old Chaldean king who waxed Insane with pride, we human beings grow To think we are the mightiest of the world, And lords of all terrestrial things, behold The sea rolls in with a superb disdain Upon our peopled sh.o.r.es, omnipotent; And while we set up things of clay and call Our idols G.o.ds; and while we boast or fume About the petty honours, or the poor, Pale disappointments of our meagre lives, Lo, changeless as Eternity itself, The grand Antarctic mountain looms outside All breathing life; and, with its awful speech, Is as an emblem of the Power Supreme, Whose thunders shake the boundless Universe, Whose lightnings make a terror of all s.p.a.ce.

Our Jack

Twelve years ago our Jack was lost. All night, Twelve years ago, the Spirit of the Storm Sobbed round our camp. A wind of northern hills That hold a cold companionship with clouds Came down, and wrestled like a giant with The iron-featured woods; and fall and ford, The night our Jack was lost, sent forth a cry Of baffled waters, where the Murray sucked The rain-replenished torrents at his source, And gathered strength, and started for the sea.

We took our Jack from Melbourne just two weeks Before this day twelve years ago. He left A home where Love upon the threshold paused, And wept across the shoulder of the lad, And blest us when we said we'd take good care To keep the idol of the house from harm.

We were a band of three. We started thence To look for watered lands and pastures new, With faces set towards the down beyond Where cool Monaro's topmost mountain breaks The wings of many a seaward-going storm, And shapes them into wreaths of subtle fire.

We were, I say, a band of three in all, With brother Tom for leader. Bright-eyed Jack, Who thought himself as big a man as Tom, Was self-elected second in command, And I was cook and groom. A week slipt by, Brimful of life--of health, and happiness; For though our progress northward had been slow, Because the country on the track was rough, No one amongst us let his spirits flag; Moreover, being young, and at the stage When all things novel wear a fine romance, We found in ridge and glen, and wood and rock And waterfall, and everything that dwells Outside with nature, pleasure of that kind Which only lives for those whose hearts are tired Of noisy cities, and are fain to feel The peace and power of the mighty hills.

The second week we crossed the upper fork Where Murray meets a river from the east; And there one evening dark with coming storm, We camped a furlong from the bank. Our Jack, The little man that used to sing and shout And start the merry echoes of the cliffs, And gravely help me to put up the tent, And try a thousand tricks and offices, That made me scold and laugh by turns--the pet Of sisters, and the youngest hope of one Who grew years older in a single night-- Our Jack, I say, strayed off into the dusk, Lured by the noises of a waterfall; And though we hunted, shouting right and left, The whole night long, through wind and rain, and searched For five days afterwards, we never saw The lad again.

I turned to Tom and said, That wild fifth evening, "Which of us has heart Enough to put the saddle on our swiftest horse, And post away to Melbourne, there to meet And tell his mother we have lost her son?

Or which of us can bear to stand and see The white affliction of a faded face, Made old by you and me? O, Tom, my boy, Her heart will break!" Tom moaned, but did not speak A word. He saddled horse, and galloped off.

O, Jack! Jack! Jack! When bright-haired Benjamin Was sent to Egypt with his father's sons, Those rough half-brothers took more care of him Than we of you! But shall we never see Your happy face, my brave lad, any more?

Nor hear you whistling in the fields at eve?

Nor catch you up to mischief with your knife Amongst the apple trees? Nor find you out A truant playing on the road to school?

Nor meet you, boy, in any other guise You used to take? Is this worn cap I hold The only thing you've left us of yourself?

Are we to sit from night to night deceived Through rainy seasons by presentiments That make us start at shadows on the pane, And fancy that we hear you in the dark, And wonder that your step has grown so slow, And listen for your hand upon the door?

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The Poems Of Henry Kendall Part 54 summary

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