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by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

Whispering in Wattle -Boughs

 OH, gaily sings the bird! and the wattle-boughs are stirred 
And rustled by the scented breath of Spring; 
Oh, the dreary wistful longing! Oh, the faces that are thronging! 
Oh, the voices that are vaguely whispering! 

Oh, tell me, father mine, ere the good ship crossed the brine, 
On the gangway one mute handgrip we exchanged, 
Do you, past the grave, employ, for your stubborn reckless boy, 
Those petitions that in life were ne’er estranged? 

Oh, tell me, sister dear—parting word and parting tear 
Never passed between us: let me bear the blame— 
Are you living, girl, or dead? bitter tears since then I’ve shed 
For the lips that lisped with mine a mother’s name.
Oh, tell me, ancient friend, ever ready to defend In our boyhood, at the base of life’s long hill, Are you waking yet or sleeping? Have you left this vale of weeping, Or do you, like your comrade, linger still? Oh, whisper, buried love, is there rest and peace above?— There is little hope or comfort here below; On your sweet face lies the mould, and your bed is strait and cold— Near the harbour where the sea-tides ebb and flow.
All silent—they are dumb—and the breezes go and come With an apathy that mocks at man’s distress; Laugh, scoffer, while you may! I could bow me down and pray For an answer that might stay my bitterness.
Oh, harshly screams the bird, and the wattle-bloom is stirred; There’s a sullen weird-like whisper in the bough: ‘Aye, kneel and pray and weep, but HIS BELOVED SLEEP CAN NEVER BE DISTURBED BY SUCH AS THOU!’


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

Thoras Song (Ashtaroth)

 We severed in Autumn early,
Ere the earth was torn by the plough;
The wheat and the oats and the barley
Are ripe for the harvest now.
We sunder'd one misty morning Ere the hills were dimm'd by the rain; Through the flowers those hills adorning -- Thou comest not back again.
My heart is heavy and weary With the weight of a weary soul; The mid-day glare grows dreary, And dreary the midnight scroll.
The corn-stalks sigh for the sickle, 'Neath the load of their golden grain; I sigh for a mate more fickle -- Thou comest not back again.
The warm sun riseth and setteth, The night bringeth moistening dew, But the soul that longeth forgetteth The warmth and the moisture too.
In the hot sun rising and setting There is naught save feverish pain; There are tears in the night-dews wetting -- Thou comest not back again.
Thy voice in my ear still mingles With the voices of whisp'ring trees, Thy kiss on my cheek still tingles At each kiss of the summer breeze.
While dreams of the past are thronging For substance of shades in vain, I am waiting, watching and longing -- Thou comest not back again.
Waiting and watching ever, Longing and lingering yet; Leaves rustle and corn-stalks quiver, Winds murmur and waters fret.
No answer they bring, no greeting, No speech, save that sad refrain, Nor voice, save an echo repeating -- He cometh not back again.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

The Swimmer

 With short, sharp violent lights made vivid,
To the southward far as the sight can roam,
Only the swirl of the surges livid,
The seas that climb and the surfs that comb,
Only the crag and the cliff to nor'ward,
And rocks receding, and reefs flung forward,
And waifs wreck'd seaward and wasted shoreward
On shallows sheeted with flaming foam.
A grim grey coast and a seaboard ghastly, And shores trod seldom by feet of men -- Where the batter'd hull and the broken mast lie They have lain embedded these long years ten.
Love! when we wander'd here together, Hand in hand through the sparkling weather, From the heights and hollows of fern and heather, God surely loved us a little then.
Then skies were fairer and shores were firmer -- The blue sea over the bright sand roll'd; Babble and prattle, and ripple and murmur, Sheen of silver and glamour of gold -- And the sunset bath'd in the gulf to lend her A garland of pinks and of purples tender, A tinge of the sun-god's rosy splendour, A tithe of his glories manifold.
Man's works are craven, cunning, and skillful On earth where his tabernacles are; But the sea is wanton, the sea is wilful, And who shall mend her and who shall mar? Shall we carve success or record disaster On her bosom of heaving alabaster? Will her purple pulse beat fainter or faster For fallen sparrow or fallen star? I would that with sleepy soft embraces The sea would fold me -- would find me rest In luminous shades of her secret places, In depths where her marvels are manifest, So the earth beneath her should not discover My hidden couch -- nor the heaven above her -- As a strong love shielding a weary lover, I would have her shield me with shining breast.
When light in the realms of space lay hidden, When life was yet in the womb of time, Ere flesh was fettered to fruits forbidden, And souls were wedded to care and crime, Was the course foreshaped for the future spirit -- A burden of folly, a void of merit -- That would fain the wisdom of stars inherit, And cannot fathom the seas sublime? Under the sea or the soil (what matter? The sea and the soil are under the sun), As in the former days in the latter The sleeping or waking is known of none, Surely the sleeper shall not awaken To griefs forgotten or joys forsaken, For the price of all things given and taken, The sum of all things done and undone.
Shall we count offences or coin excuses, Or weigh with scales the soul of a man, Whom a strong hand binds and a sure hand looses, Whose light is a spark and his life a span? The seed he sowed or the soil he cumber'd, The time he served or the space he slumber'd, Will it profit a man when his days are number'd, Or his deeds since the days of his life began? One, glad because of the light, saith, "Shall not The righteous judges of all the earth do right, For behold the sparrows on the house-tops fall not Save as seemeth to Him good in His sight?" And this man's joy shall have no abiding Through lights departing and lives dividing, He is soon as one in the darkness hiding, One loving darkness rather than light.
A little season of love and laughter, Of light and life, and pleasure and pain, And a horror of outer darkness after, And dust returneth to dust again; Then the lesser life shall be as the greater, And the lover of light shall join the hater, And the one thing cometh sooner or later, And no one knoweth the loss or gain.
Love of my life! we had lights in season -- Hard to part with, harder to keep -- We had strength to labour and souls to reason, And seed to scatter and fruits to reap.
Though time estranges and fate disperses, We have had our loves and loving mercies.
Though the gifts of the light in the end are curses, Yet bides the gift of darkness -- sleep! See! girt with tempest and wing'd with thunder, And clad with lightning and shod with sleet, The strong winds treading the swift waves sunder The flying rollers with frothy feet.
One gleam like a bloodshot swordblade swims on The skyline, staining the green gulf crimson A death stroke fiercely dealt by a dim sun That strikes through his stormy winding sheet.
Oh, brave white horses! you gather and gallop, The storm sprite loosens the gusty reins; Now the stoutest ship were the frailest shallop In your hollow backs, or your high arch'd manes.
I would ride as never a man has ridden In your sleepy swirling surges hidden, To gulfs foreshadow'd, through straits forbidden, Where no light wearies and no love wanes.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

The Sick Stockrider

 Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I swayed, All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull and dense, The sun-rise was a sullen, sluggish lamp; I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence, I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze, And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth; To southward lay "Katawa", with the sand peaks all ablaze, And the flushed fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
Now westward winds the bridle-path that leads to Lindisfarm, And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff; From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm, You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch; 'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase Eight years ago -- or was it nine? -- last March.
'Twas merry in the glowing morn among the gleaming grass, To wander as we've wandered many a mile, And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass, Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs, To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard, With a running fire of stock whips and a fiery run of hoofs; Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard! Aye! we had a glorious gallop after "Starlight" and his gang, When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat; How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang, To the strokes of "Mountaineer" and "Acrobat".
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath, Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd; And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath; And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd! We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey, And the troopers were three hundred yards behind, While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay, In the creek with stunted box-trees for a blind! There you grappled with the leader, man to man, and horse to horse, And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd; He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course -- A narrow shave -- his powder singed your beard! In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young Come back to us; how clearly I recall Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung; And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall? Ay! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school, Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone; Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule, It seems that you and I are left alone.
There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards, It matters little what became of him; But a steer ripp'd up Macpherson in the Cooraminta yards, And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim; And Mostyn -- poor Frank Mostyn -- died at last, a fearful wreck, In the "horrors" at the Upper Wandinong, And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck; Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long! Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen -- The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then; And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.
I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil, And life is short -- the longest life a span; I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil, Or for wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For good undone, and gifts misspent, and resolutions vain, 'Tis somewhat late to trouble.
This I know -- I should live the same life over, if I had to live again; And the chances are I go where most men go.
The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim, The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall; And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim, And on the very sun's face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave, With never stone or rail to fence my bed; Should the sturdy station children pull the bush-flowers on my grave, I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
I don't suppose I shall though, for I feel like sleeping sound, That sleep, they say, is doubtful.
True; but yet At least it makes no difference to the dead man underground What the living men remember or forget.
Enigmas that perplex us in the world's unequal strife, The future may ignore or may reveal; Yet some, as weak as water, Ned, to make the best of life, Have been to face the worst as true as steel.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

The Last Leap

 ALL is over! fleet career, 
Dash of greyhound slipping thongs, 
Flight of falcon, bound of deer, 
Mad hoof-thunder in our rear, 
Cold air rushing up our lungs, 
Din of many tongues.
Once again, one struggle good, One vain effort;—he must dwell Near the shifted post, that stood Where the splinters of the wood, Lying in the torn tracks, tell How he struck and fell.
Crest where cold drops beaded cling, Small ear drooping, nostril full, Glazing to a scarlet ring, Flanks and haunches quivering, Sinews stiffening, void and null, Dumb eyes sorrowful.
Satin coat that seems to shine Duller now, black braided tress That a softer hand than mine Far away was wont to twine, That in meadows far from this Softer lips might kiss.
All is over! this is death, And I stand to watch thee die, Brave old horse! with bated breath Hardly drawn through tight-clenched teeth, Lip indented deep, but eye Only dull and dry.
Musing on the husk and chaff Gathered where life’s tares are sown, Thus I speak, and force a laugh, That is half a sneer and half An involuntary groan, In a stifled tone— ‘Rest, old friend! thy day, though rife With its toil, hath ended soon; We have had our share of strife, Tumblers in the masque of life, In the pantomime of noon Clown and pantaloon.
‘With a flash that ends thy pain, Respite and oblivion blest Come to greet thee.
I in vain Fall: I rise to fall again: Thou hast fallen to thy rest— And thy fall is best


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

Gone

 IN Collins Street standeth a statute tall, 
A statue tall, on a pillar of stone, 
Telling its story, to great and small, 
Of the dust reclaimed from the sand waste lone; 
Weary and wasted, and worn and wan, 
Feeble and faint, and languid and low, 
He lay on the desert a dying man; 
Who has gone, my friends, where we all must go.
There are perils by land, and perils by water, Short, I ween, are the obsequies Of the landsman lost, but they may be shorter With the mariner lost in the trackless seas; And well for him, when the timbers start, And the stout ship reels and settles below, Who goes to his doom with as bold a heart, As that dead man gone where we all must go.
Man is stubborn his rights to yield, And redder than dews at eventide Are the dews of battle, shed on the field, By a nation’s wrath or a despot’s pride; But few who have heard their death-knell roll, From the cannon’s lips where they faced the foe, Have fallen as stout and steady of soul, As that dead man gone where we all must go.
Traverse yon spacious burial ground, Many are sleeping soundly there, Who pass’d with mourners standing around, Kindred, and friends, and children fair; Did he envy such ending? ’twere hard to say; Had he cause to envy such ending? no; Can the spirit feel for the senseless clay, When it once has gone where we all must go? What matters the sand or the whitening chalk, The blighted herbage, the black’ning log, The crooked beak of the eagle-hawk, Or the hot red tongue of the native dog? That couch was rugged, those sextons rude, Yet, in spite of a leaden shroud, we know That the bravest and fairest are earth-worms’ food, When once they’ve gone where we all must go.
With the pistol clenched in his failing hand, With the death mist spread o’er his fading eyes, He saw the sun go down on the sand, And he slept, and never saw it rise; ’Twas well; he toil’d till his task was done, Constant and calm in his latest throe, The storm was weathered, the battle was won, When he went, my friends, where we all must go.
God grant that whenever, soon or late, Our course is run and our goal is reach’d, We may meet our fate as steady and straight As he whose bones in yon desert bleach’d; No tears are needed—our cheeks are dry, We have none to waste upon living woe; Shall we sigh for one who has ceased to sigh, Having gone, my friends, where we all must go? We tarry yet, we are toiling still, He is gone and he fares the best, He fought against odds, he struggled up hill, He has fairly earned his season of rest; No tears are needed—fill our the wine, Let the goblets clash, and the grape juice flow, Ho! pledge me a death-drink, comrade mine, To a brave man gone where we all must go.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

An Exiles Farewell

 The ocean heaves around us still
With long and measured swell,
The autumn gales our canvas fill,
Our ship rides smooth and well.
The broad Atlantic's bed of foam Still breaks against our prow; I shed no tears at quitting home, Nor will I shed them now! Against the bulwarks on the poop I lean, and watch the sun Behind the red horizon stoop — His race is nearly run.
Those waves will never quench his light, O'er which they seem to close, To-morrow he will rise as bright As he this morning rose.
How brightly gleams the orb of day Across the trackless sea! How lightly dance the waves that play Like dolphins in our lee! The restless waters seem to say, In smothered tones to me, How many thousand miles away My native land must be! Speak, Ocean! is my Home the same Now all is new to me? — The tropic sky's resplendent flame, The vast expanse of sea? Does all around her, yet unchanged, The well-known aspect wear? Oh! can the leagues that I have ranged Have made no difference there? How vivid Recollection's hand Recalls the scene once more! I see the same tall poplars stand Beside the garden door; I see the bird-cage hanging still; And where my sister set The flowers in the window-sill — Can they be living yet? Let woman's nature cherish grief, I rarely heave a sigh Before emotion takes relief In listless apathy; While from my pipe the vapours curl Towards the evening sky, And 'neath my feet the billows whirl In dull monotony! The sky still wears the crimson streak Of Sol's departing ray, Some briny drops are on my cheek, 'Tis but the salt sea spray! Then let our barque the ocean roam, Our keel the billows plough; I shed no tears at quitting home, Nor will I shed them now!


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

A Song of Autumn

 ‘WHERE shall we go for our garlands glad 
At the falling of the year, 
When the burnt-up banks are yellow and sad, 
When the boughs are yellow and sere? 
Where are the old ones that once we had, 
And when are the new ones near? 
What shall we do for our garlands glad 
At the falling of the year?’ 
‘Child! can I tell where the garlands go? 
Can I say where the lost leaves veer 
On the brown-burnt banks, when the wild winds blow, 
When they drift through the dead-wood drear? 
Girl! when the garlands of next year glow, 
You may gather again, my dear— 
But I go where the last year’s lost leaves go 
At the falling of the year.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

A Dedication

 They are rhymes rudely strung with intent less 
Of sound than of words,
In lands where bright blossoms are scentless,
And songless bright birds;
Where, with fire and fierce drought on her tresses,
Insatiable Summer oppresses
Sere woodlands and sad wildernesses,
And faint flocks and herds.
Where in drieariest days, when all dews end, And all winds are warm, Wild Winter's large floodgates are loosen'd, And floods, freed by storm; From broken-up fountain heads, dash on Dry deserts with long pent up passion-- Here rhyme was first framed without fashion, Song shaped without form.
Whence gather'd?--The locust's glad chirrup May furnish a stave; The ring os rowel and stirrup, The wash of a wave.
The chauntof a marsh frog in rushes That chimes through the pauses and hushes Of nightfall, the torrent that gushes, The tempests that rave.
In the deep'ning of dawn, when it dapples The dusk of the sky, With streaks like the redd'ning of apples, The ripening of rye.
To eastward, when cluster by cluster, Dim stars and dull planets, that muster, Wax wan in a world of white lustre That spreads far and high.
In the gathering of night gloom o'er head, in The still silent change, All fire-flush'd when forest trees redden On slopes of the range.
When the gnarl'd knotted trunks Eucalyptian Seemed carved like weird columns Egyptian With curious device--quaint inscription, And heiroglyph strange.
In the Spring, when the wattle gold trembles 'Twixt shadow and shine, When each dew-laden air draught resembles A long draught of wine; When the skyline's blue burnished resistance Makes deeper the dreamiest distance, Some song in all hearts hath existence,-- Such songs have been mine.


by Adam Lindsay Gordon |

GONE

 THE last, late guest 
To the gate we followed; 
Goodbye -- and the rest 
The night-wind swallowed.
House, garden, street, Lay tenfold gloomy, Where accents sweet Had made music to me.
It was but a feast With the dark coming on; She was but a guest -- And now, she is gone.