Leaves from Australian Forests

The Hut by the Black Swamp

Henry Kendall

NOW comes the fierce north-easter, bound
    About with clouds and racks of rain,
And dry, dead leaves go whirling round
    In rings of dust, and sigh like pain
        Across the plain.

Now twilight, with a shadowy hand
    Of wild dominionship, doth keep
Strong hold of hollow straits of land,
    And watery sounds are loud and deep
        By gap and steep.

Keen, fitful gusts, that fly before
    The wings of storm when day hath shut
Its eyes on mountains, flaw by flaw,
    Fleet down by whistling box-tree butt,
        Against the hut.

And, ringed and girt with lurid pomp,
    Far eastern cliffs start up, and take
Thick steaming vapours from a swamp
    That lieth like a great blind lake,
        Of face opaque.

The moss that, like a tender grief,
    About an English ruin clings—
What time the wan autumnal leaf
    Faints, after many wanderings
        On windy wings—

That gracious growth, whose quiet green
    Is as a love in days austere,
Was never seen—hath never been—
    On slab or roof, deserted here
        For many a year.

Nor comes the bird whose speech is song—
    Whose songs are silvery syllables
That unto glimmering woods belong,
    And deep, meandering mountain dells
        By yellow wells.

But rather here the wild-dog halts,
    And lifts the paw, and looks, and howls;
And here, in ruined forest vaults,
    Abide dim, dark, death-featured owls,
        Like monks in cowls.

Across this hut the nettle runs,
    And livid adders make their lair
In corners dank from lack of suns,
    And out of foetid furrows stare
        The growths that scare.

Here Summer’s grasp of fire is laid
    On bark and slabs that rot, and breed
Squat ugly things of deadly shade,
    The scorpion, and the spiteful seed
        Of centipede.

Unhallowed thunders, harsh and dry,
    And flaming noontides, mute with heat,
Beneath the breathless, brazen sky,
    Upon these rifted rafters beat
        With torrid feet.

And night by night the fitful gale
    Doth carry past the bittern’s boom,
The dingo’s yell, the plover’s wail,
    While lumbering shadows start, and loom,
        And hiss through gloom.

No sign of grace—no hope of green,
    Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot;
But chained to iron doom, I ween,
    ’Tis left, like skeleton, to rot
        Where ruth is not.

For on this hut hath murder writ,
    With bloody fingers, hellish things;
And God will never visit it
    With flower or leaf of sweet-faced Springs,
        Or gentle wings.

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