Author:

Magna Est Veritas

Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, gay ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world’s course will not fail:
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

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

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.

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.

Henry Howard Brownell

They never crowned him, never dreamed his worth,
And let him go unlaurelled to the grave:
Hereafter there are guerdons for the brave,
Roses for martyrs who wear thorns on earth,
Balms for bruised hearts that languish in the dearth
Of human love. So let the grasses wave
Above him nameless. Little did he crave
Men’s praises: modestly, with kindly mirth,
Not sad nor bitter, he accepted fate —
Drank deep of life, knew books, and hearts of men,
Cities and camps, and war’s immortal woe,
Yet bore through all (such virtue in him sate
His spirit is not whiter now than then)
A simple, loyal nature, pure as snow.

Outward Bound

I leave behind me the elm-shadowed square
And carven portals of the silent street,
And wander on with listless, vagrant feet
Through seaward-leading alleys, till the air
Smells of the sea, and straightway then the care
Slips from my heart, and life once more is sweet.
At the lane’s ending lie the white-winged fleet.
O restless Fancy, whither wouldst thou fare?
Here are brave pinions that shall take thee far —
Gaunt hulks of Norway; ships of red Ceylon;
Slim-masted lovers of the blue Azores!
‘Tis but an instant hence to Zanzibar,
Or to the regions of the Midnight Sun;
Ionian isles are thine, and all the fairy shores!

Thorwaldsen

Not in the fabled influence of some star,
Benign or evil, do our fortunes lie;
We are the arbiters of destiny,
Lords of the life we either make or mar.
We are our own impediment and bar
To noble endings. With distracted eye
We let the golden moment pass us by,
Time’s foolish spendthrifts, searching wide and far
For what lies close at hand. To serve our turn
We ask fair wind and favorable tide.
From the dead Danish sculptor let us learn
To make Occasion, not to be denied:
Against the sheer precipitous mountain-side
Thorwaldsen carved his Lion at Lucerne.

I Vex Me Not With Brooding On The Years

I vex me not with brooding on the years
That were ere I drew breath; why should I then
Distrust the darkness that may fall again
When life is done? Perchance in other spheres–
Dead planets–I once tasted mortal tears,
And walked as now among a throng of men,
Pondering things that lay beyond my ken,
Questioning death, and solacing my fears.
Offtimes indeed strange sense I have of this,
Vague memories that hold me with a spell,
Touches of unseen lips upon my brow,
Breathing some incommunicable bliss!
In years foregone, O soul, was all not well?
Still lovelier life awaits thee. Fear not thou!

Reminiscence

Though I am native to this frozen zone
That half the twelvemonth torpid lies, or dead;
Though the cold azure arching overhead
And the Atlantic’s never-ending moan
Are mine by heritage, I must have known
Life otherwhere in epochs long since fled;
For in my veins some Orient blood is red,
And through my thought are lotus blossoms blown.
I do remember . . . it was just at dusk,
Near a walled garden at the river’s turn
(A thousand summers seem but yesterday!),
A Nubian girl, more sweet than Khoorja musk,
Came to the water-tank to fill her urn,
And, with the urn, she bore my heart away!

The Foreign Land

A woman is a foreign land,
Of which, though there he settle young,
A man will ne’er quite understand
The customs, politics, and tongue.
The foolish hie them post-haste through,
See fashions odd, and prospects fair,
Learn of the language, "How d’ye do,"
And go and brag they have been there.
The most for leave to trade apply,
For once, at Empire’s seat, her heart,
Then get what knowledge ear and eye
Glean chancewise in the life-long mart.
And certain others, few and fit,
Attach them to the Court, and see
The Country’s best, its accent hit,
And partly sound its polity.

The Poets

When this young Land has reached its wrinkled prime,
And we are gone and all our songs are done,
And naught is left unchanged beneath the sun,
What other singers shall the womb of Time
Bring forth to reap the sunny slopes of rhyme?
For surely till the thread of life be spun
The world shall not lack poets, though but one
Make lonely music like a vesper chime
Above the heedless turmoil of the street.
What new strange voices shall be given to these,
What richer accents of melodious breath?
Yet shall they, baffled, lie at Nature’s feet
Searching the volume of her mysteries,
And vainly question the fixed eyes of Death.