The Secret Key and other Verses

An Australian Symphony

George Essex Evans

NOT as the songs of other lands
        Her song shall be
Where dim Her purple shore-line stands
        Above the sea!
As erst she stood, she stands alone;
Her inspiration is her own.
From sunlit plains to mangrove strands
Not as the songs of other lands
        Her song shall be.

O Southern Singers! Rich and sweet,
        Like chimes of bells,
The cadence swings with rhythmic beat
        The music swells;
But undertones, weird, mournful, strong,
Sweep like swift currents thro’ the song.
In deepest chords, with passion fraught,
In softest notes of sweetest thought,
        This sadness dwells.

Is this her song, so weirdly strange,
        So mixed with pain,
That whereso’er her poets range
        Is heard the strain?
Broods there no spell upon the air
But desolation and despair?
No voice, save Sorrow’s, to intrude
Upon her mountain solitude
        Or sun-kissed plain?

The silence and the sunshine creep
        With soft caress
O’er billowy plain and mountain steep
        And wilderness—
A velvet touch, a subtle breath,
As sweet as love, as calm as death,
On earth, on air, so soft, so fine,
Till all the soul a spell divine

The gray gums by the lonely creek,
        The star-crowned height,
The wind-swept plain, the dim blue peak,
        The cold white light,
The solitude spread near and far
Around the camp-fire’s tiny star,
The horse-bell’s melody remote,
The curlew’s melancholy note
        Across the night.

These have their message; yet from these
        Our songs have thrown
O’er all our Austral hills and leas
        One sombre tone.
Whence doth the mournful keynote start?
From the pure depths of Nature’s heart?
Or from the heart of him who sings
And deems his hand upon the strings
        Is Nature’s own?

Could tints be deeper, skies less dim,
        More soft and fair,
Dappled with milk-white clouds that swim
        In faintest air?
The soft moss sleeps upon the stone,
Green scrub-vine traceries enthrone
The dead gray trunks, and boulders red,
Roofed by the pine and carpeted
        With maidenhair.

But far and near, o’er each, o’er all,
        Above, below,
Hangs the great silence like a pall
        Softer than snow.
Not sorrow is the spell it brings,
But thoughts of calmer, purer things,
Like the sweet touch of hands we love,
A woman’s tenderness above
        A fevered brow.

These purple hills, these yellow leas,
        These forests lone,
These mangrove shores, these shimmering seas,
        This summer zone—
Shall they inspire no nobler strain
Than songs of bitterness and pain?
Strike her wild harp with firmer hand,
And send her music thro’ the land,
        With loftier tone!

.     .     .     .     .

Her song is silence; unto her
        Its mystery clings.
Silence is the interpreter
        Of deeper things.
O for sonorous voice and strong
To change that silence into song,
To give that melody release
Which sleeps in the deep heart of peace
        With folded wings!

The Secret Key and other Verses - Content

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