ALL NIGHT, I’ve heard the marsh-frog’s croak,
The jay’s rude matins now prevail,
The smouldering fire of bastard oak
Now blazes, freshened by the gale;
And now to the eastward, far away
Beyond the range, a tawny ray
Of orange reddens on the grey,
And stars are waning pale.
We mustered once when skies were red,
Nine leagues from here across the plain,
And when the sun broiled overhead
Rode with wet heel and wanton rein.
The wild scrub cattle held their own,
I lost my mates, my horse fell blown;
Night came, I slept here all alone:
At sunrise, riding on again,
I heard yon creek’s refrain.
Can this be where the hovel stood
Of old? I knew the spot right well:
One post is left of all the wood,
Three stones lie where the chimney fell.
Rank growth of ferns has wellnigh shut
From sight the ruins of the hut.
There stands the tree where once I cut
The M that interlaces the L—
What more is left to tell?
Aye, yonder in the blackwood shade,
The wife was busy with her churn;
The sturdy sunburnt children play’d
In yonder patch of tangled fern.
The man was loitering to feed
His flocks on yonder grassy mead;
And where the wavelet threads the weed
I saw the eldest daughter turn,
The stranger’s quest to learn.
Shone, gold-besprinkled by the sun,
Her wanton wealth of back blown hair.
Soft silver ripples danced and spun
All round her ankles bright and bare.
My speech she barely understood,
And her reply was brief and rude;
Yet God, they say, made all things good
That He at first made fair.
She bore a pitcher in her hand
Along the shallow, slender streak
Of shingle-coated shelving sand
That splits two channels of the creek;
She plunged it where the current whirls,
Then poised it on her sunny curls,
Waste water decked with sudden pearls
Her glancing arm and glowing cheek;
What more is left to speak?
It matters not how I became
The guest of those who lived here then;
I now can scarce recall the name
Of this old station; long years, ten—
Or twelve it may be—have flown past,
And many things have changed since last
I left the spot, for years fly fast,
And heedless boys grow haggard men
Ere they the change can ken.
The spells of those old summer days
With glory still the passes deck,
The sweet green hills still bloom and blaze
With crimson gold and purple fleck.
For these I neither crave nor care,
And yet the flowers perchance are fair
As when I twined them in her hair,
Or strung them chainwise round her neck,
What now is left to reck?
The purse clear streamlet undefiled
Durgles (?) thro’ flow’ry uplands yet;
It lisps and prattles like a child,
And laughs, and makes believe to fret,
O’erflowing rushes rank and high;
And on its dimpled breast may lie
The lily and the dragon-fly.