After Cattle - Poem by Roderic Quinn
WE lit a fire, and straightway camped,
And all night long
We heard the river sing its song.
Our horses fed, and neighed, and stamped;
But else, o'er all
A haunted silence seemed to fall.
The gum-trees raised their lofty crests
So high, it seemed
They mingled with the stars and dreamed.
As when a tired bird sinks and rests
At end of day,
Head couched on arm, full length we lay.
But Nature would not let us sleep;
She loved so well
To talk, and had such things to tell.
Her fire-fly lamps within the deep
Green gullies shone
One moment, and the next were gone.
The smooth white trunks of ancient trees
In stately pride
Marched up the rugged mountain side.
No leaf fell fluttering on the breeze;
A stillness charmed the midnight air.
And as we lay without a word,
In silence camped,
Our horses in the darkness stamped.
At first, it seemed a timid bird
Sang soft below,
And then . . . we listened, breathing low.
We heard, elusive, strange, and shy,
A song arise —
The river voicing many cries.
At first, it was a human cry
Of sad unrest,
Of one cast down and sore distressed.
And then, an elfin chant it raised,
As when men cry
'We've silks to sell; who'll buy, who'll buy?'
And goods were cried and wares were praised;
It seemed like some
Far market-place in Fairydom.
Yet ever through the chorus stole
Faint human note of sad unrest.
We woke and saw the morning roll
In waves of gold
Upon the mountains green and bold;
Birds sang, flowers laughed, the grass was green;
The sky above
Bent over, arching earth with love;
And, riding through that woodland scene
Of rocks and rills,
We heard the cattle in the hills.
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