I SATE upon a lonely peak,
A backwood river’s course to view,
And watched the changing shadows freak
Its liquid length of gleaming blue,
Streaked by the crane slow gliding o’er,
Or chequering to the leafy roar
Of woods that ’neath me grew,
Or curdling dark, as high o’erhead
The gathering clouds before the sounding breezes fled.
Straight I bethought how once the scene
Spread in its primal horror there,
When, but some lone bird’s weary threne
Or howlings from the wild dog’s lair,
Or rush of startled kangaroo,
As near some stealthy savage drew
With hunger in his air,
Or, from the stream some murmur’d sound
Broke the dread slumbrous calm of solitude profound.
A change came o’er my thoughts—behind
A length of coming time I threw,
Till round me, on that rock reclined,
Its folds prophetic vision drew;
And purpling, like the morning, gave
Mine eyes of freedom’s births to have
A seeming ante-view;
As haply in brave promise stole
His country’s purer weal o’er youthful Hampden’s soul.
All round me villages upgrew
At once, with orchards clumped about,
And oft between, tall pine-rows through,
Some mansion’s pillard porch looked out,
And thickening up from alleys green,
Where rustic groups in dance were seen,
Came merry cry and shout;
While from tall groves beyond, the cheer
Of maiden’s laughter soft, broke in rich wavelets near.
And in the gusts that overpassed
The stir of neighbouring cities came,
Whose structures in the distance massed
Proclaimed their opulence and fame,
O’er fields of ripening plenty viewed,
Or hills with white flocks fleeced, and strewed
With herds that grazed the same;
While on the paven roads between
The crowding chariots came with rapid-rolling din.
Now gaining depth, the vision lay
Around my being like a law,
So that my spirit might not say
But all was real that I saw:
I mark a youth and maiden, pressed
By love’s sweet power, elude the rest,
And as they nearer draw
I list the vow that each imparts
Folded within the spells of harmonizing hearts.
But suddenly a grim-faced sire
Strides like a fatal wraith between
With that cold whiteness is his ire
Which in the bad alone is seen!
Alas! This world can never be
A poet’s Eden utterly—
’Twill be what it hath been!
So long as love’s rich heart is red,
And beauty’s eyes are bright—so long shall tears be shed.
They pass; and lo, a lonely boy
With wandering step goes musing by;
Glory is in his air, and joy,
And all the poet in his eye!
And now, whilst rich emotions flush
His happy face, as cloud-hues blush
In morning’s radiant sky,
He sings—and to the charmful sound
Troops of angelic shapes throng into being round.
But ’neath a sombre cypress tree,
And clad in garbs of kindred gloom,
A mother and her child I see
Both mourning o’er a lowly tomb!
Ah! Life hath ever been a brief
Mixed dream of glory and grief—
Its earliest, latest doom!
That heart in which love’s tides first ran
Descends with all its risks to every child of man.
Now turning see, with locks all grey,
A form majestic; wisdom true
Illumes his brow—the power to weigh
All worth, and look all semblence through;
And stately youths of studious mien,
Children of light, with him are seen,
Attend the speaking sage along
And hearken to the wisdom of his manna-dropping tongue.
And now doth his large utterance throw
A sacred solemnizing spell
O’er scenes that yet no record know,
Round names that now I may not tell;
But there was one—too long unknown!
Whereat, as with a household tone
Upon the ear it fell,
Each listener’s speaking eyes were given
To glisten with a tear and turn awhile to heaven.
Thus night came on; for hours had flown,
And yet its hold the vision kept,
Till lulled by many a dying tone,
I laid me on the rock and slept!
And now the moon hung big between
Two neighbouring summits sheath’d with sheen—
When all with dews dewept,
And roused by a loud coming gale,
I sought our camp-fire’s glow, deep in the darkening vale.