Henry Kendall

(18 April 1839 – 1 August 1882 / Ulladulla, New South Wales)

After Many Years

The song that once I dreamed about,
   The tender, touching thing,
As radiant as the rose without,
   The love of wind and wing:
The perfect verses, to the tune
   Of woodland music set,
As beautiful as afternoon,
   Remain unwritten yet.

It is too late to write them now --
   The ancient fire is cold;
No ardent lights illume the brow,
   As in the days of old.
I cannot dream the dream again;
   But, when the happy birds
Are singing in the sunny rain,
   I think I hear its words.

I think I hear the echo still
   Of long-forgotten tones,
When evening winds are on the hill
   And sunset fires the cones;
But only in the hours supreme,
   With songs of land and sea,
The lyrics of the leaf and stream,
   This echo comes to me.

No longer doth the earth reveal
   Her gracious green and gold;
I sit where youth was once, and feel
   That I am growing old.
The lustre from the face of things
   Is wearing all away;
Like one who halts with tired wings,
   I rest and muse to-day.

There is a river in the range
   I love to think about;
Perhaps the searching feet of change
   Have never found it out.
Ah! oftentimes I used to look
   Upon its banks, and long
To steal the beauty of that brook
   And put it in a song.

I wonder if the slopes of moss,
   In dreams so dear to me --
The falls of flower, and flower-like floss --
   Are as they used to be!
I wonder if the waterfalls,
   The singers far and fair,
That gleamed between the wet, green walls,
   Are still the marvels there!

Ah! let me hope that in that place
   Those old familiar things
To which I turn a wistful face
   Have never taken wings.
Let me retain the fancy still
   That, past the lordly range,
There always shines, in folds of hill,
   One spot secure from change!

I trust that yet the tender screen
   That shades a certain nook
Remains, with all its gold and green,
   The glory of the brook.
It hides a secret to the birds
   And waters only known:
The letters of two lovely words --
   A poem on a stone.

Perhaps the lady of the past
   Upon these lines may light,
The purest verses, and the last,
   That I may ever write:
She need not fear a word of blame:
   Her tale the flowers keep --
The wind that heard me breathe her name
   Has been for years asleep.

But in the night, and when the rain
   The troubled torrent fills,
I often think I see again
   The river in the hills;
And when the day is very near,
   And birds are on the wing,
My spirit fancies it can hear
   The song I cannot sing.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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