A DedicationTo the Author of ‘Holmby House’
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 dreariest days, when all dews end,
And all winds are warm,
Wild Winter’s large flood-gates 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 of a rowel and stirrup,
The wash of a wave.
The chaunt of the 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’erhead, 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
Seem carved, like weird columns Egyptian,
With curious device—quaint inscription,
And hieroglyph 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 sky-line’s blue burnish’d resistance
Makes deeper the dreamiest distance,
Some song in all hearts hath existence,—
Such songs have been mine.
They came in all guises, some vivid
To clasp and to keep ;
Some sudden and swift as the livid
Blue thunder-flame’s leap.
This swept through the first breath of clover
With memories renew’d to the rover—
That flash’d while the black horse turn’d over
Before the long sleep.
To you (having cunning to colour
A page with your pen,
That through dull days, and nights even duller,
Long years ago ten,
Fair pictures in fever afforded)—
I send these rude staves, roughly worded
By one in whose brain stands recorded
As clear now as then.
‘The great rush of grey "Northern water",
The green ridge of bank,
The "sorrel" with curved sweep of quarter
Curl’d close to clean flank,
The Royalist saddlefast squarely,
And, where the bright uplands stretch fairly,
Behind, beyond pistol-shot barely,
The Roundheaded rank.
‘A long launch, with clinging of muscles,
And clenching of teeth !
The loose doublet ripples and rustles !
The swirl shoots beneath !’
Enough. In return for your garland—
In lieu of the flowers from your far land—
Take wild growth of dreamland or starland,
Take weeds for your wreath.
Yet rhyme had not fail’d me for reason,
Nor reason for rhyme,
Sweet Song ! had I sought you in season,
And found you in time.
You beckon in your bright beauty yonder,
And I, waxing fainter, yet fonder,
Now weary too soon when I wander—
Now fall when I climb.
It matters but little in the long run,
The weak have some right—
Some share in the race that the strong run,
The fight the strong fight.
If words that are worthless go westward,
Yet the worst word shall be as the best word,
In the day when all riot sweeps restward,
In darkness or light.
Published in ‘Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes’ (1870).