An Old Bush Road

Jennings Carmichael

DEAR old road, wheel-worn and broken,
    Winding through the forest green,
Barred with shadows and with sunshine,
    Misty vistas drawn between.
Grim, scarred bluegums ranged austerely,
    Lifting blackened columns each
To the large, fair fields of azure,
    Stretching ever out of reach.

See the hardy bracken growing
    Round the fallen limbs of trees;
And the sharp reeds from the marshes,
    Washed across the flooded leas;
And the olive rushes, leaning
    All their pointed spears to cast
Slender shadows on the roadway,
    While the faint, slow wind creeps past.

Ancient ruts grown round with grasses,
    Soft old hollows filled with rain;
Rough, gnarled roots all twisting queerly,
    Dark with many a weather-stain.
Lichens moist upon the fences,
    Twiners close against the logs;
Yellow fungus in the thickets,
    Vivid mosses in the bogs.

Dear old road, wheel-worn and broken,
    What delights in thee I find!
Subtle charm and tender fancy,
    Like a fragrance in the mind.
Thy old ways have set me dreaming,
    And out-lived illusions rise,
And the soft leaves of the landscape
    Open on my thoughtful eyes.

See the clump of wattles, standing
    Dead and sapless on the rise;
When their boughs were full of beauty
    Even to uncaring eyes
I was ever first to rifle
    The soft branches of their store.
O the golden wealth of blossom
    I shall gather there no more

Now we reach the dun morasses,
    Where the red moss used to grow
Ruby-bright upon the water,
    Floating on the weeds below.
Once the swan and wild-fowl glided
    By those sedges, green and tall;
Here the booming bitterns nested;
    Here we heard the curlews call

Climb this hill and we have rambled
    To the last turn of the way;
Here is where the bell-birds tinkled
    Fairy chimes for me all day.
These were bells that never wearied,
    Swung by ringers on the wing;
List! the elfin strains are waking,
    Memory sets the bells a-ring!

Dear old road, no wonder, surely,
    That I love thee like a friend!
And I grieve to think how surely
    All thy loveliness will end.
For thy simple charm is passing,
    And the turmoil of the street
Soon will mar thy sylvan silence
    With the tramp of careless feet.

And for this I look more fondly
    On the sunny landscape, seen
From the road, wheel-worn and broken,
    Winding through the forest green.
Something still remains of Nature,
    Thoughts of other days to bring
For the staunch old trees are standing,
    And I hear the wild birds sing!

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