The Secret Key, and other Verses

On the Plains

George Essex Evans

HALF-LOST in film of faintest lawn,
    A single star in armour white
Upon the dreamy heights of dawn
    Guards the dim frontier of the night,
            Till plumèd ray
            And golden spray
Have washed its trembling light away.

The sun has peeped above the blue;
    His level lances as they pass
Have shot the dew-drops thro’ and thro’,
    And dashed with rubies all the grass,
            And silver sound
            Of horse-bells round
Floats softly o’er the jewelled ground.

The sunbeam and the wanton wind,
    Among the feathery tufts at play,
Sing to the Earth : “The night is blind,
    But we will kiss your tears away.”
            With broad’ning glow
            And rippling flow
Adown the laughing leagues they go.

A vagrant lark on wayward wings
    Is fluttering low, is floating high;
No Northern trill of rapture rings
    Thro’ the vast temple of the sky;
            But not in vain
            Thy Southern strain,
Thou brown-winged angel of the plain!

Here, where the days are dull and grey,
    And Youth has stilled his joyous song,
In fancy yet I love to stray
    By creek, and plain, and billabong,
            To the curlew’s call
            And the noiseless fall
Of the unshod hoof ’neath the gum trees tall.

I hear once more the plover’s “peet”;
    The grey hawk wheels in dizzy height,
And swift beneath my horse’s feet
    The brown quail rises in his fright,
            And the galahs fly
            With pink breasts high,
A rosy cloud in a cloudless sky.

Afar I mark the emu’s run;
    The bustard slow, in motley clad;
And, basking in his bath of sun,
    The brown snake on the cattle-pad,
            And the reddish black
            Of a dingo’s back
As he loit’ring slinks on my horse’s track.

And now I watch, with slackened rein,
    The scattered cattle, hundreds strong,
As slowly moving home again
    The lazy vanguard feeds along
            To the waters cool
            Of the tree-fringed pool
In the distant creek when the noon is full.

Slip girth and let the old horse graze;
    The noon grows heavy on the air,
Kindle the tiny camp fire’s blaze,
    And ’neath the shade, as monarch there,
            Take thou thine ease:
            For hours like these
A king had bartered satrapies!

Here lie and watch, thro’ smoke-wreaths cool.
    By yon sunk log and floating wrack,
The emperor of the silent pool,
    The stately heron, white and black,
            Afar from heat,
            Upon his beat,
Knee-deep in shallowy retreat.

O mellow air! O sunny light!
    O Hope and Youth that pass away!
Inscribe in letters of delight
    Upon each heart one golden day—
            To be there set
            When we forget
There is a joy in living yet!

Billabong—A native word meaning dead river. A channel branching off from the main stream; sometimes an overflow of a creek or river.    [back]

Galah—A cockatoo with grey and rose-pink plumage.    [back]

Cattle-pad—A track made by cattle. (“Pad” is an early provincial word for “path.”)    [back]

Satrapies—Persian provinces, ruled by a satrap or viceroy; hence any large tract of country.    [back]

The Secret Key and Other Verses - Contents

Back    |    Words Home    |    George Essex Evans Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback