Ada Cambridge (21 November 1844 – 19 July 1926 / St Gemans, Norfolk)
On Australian Hills
Earth, outward tuning on her path in space
This pensive southern face,
Swathing its smile and shine
In that soft veil that day and darkness twine,
The silver-threaded twilight thin and fine,
With April dews impearled,
Looms like another and diviner world.
Here April brings her garnered harvest-sheaf,
Her withered autumn leaf,
Tintings of bronze and brass;
Her full-plumed reeds, her mushroom in the grass,
Her furrowed fields, where plough and sower pass,
Her laden apple bough.
All are transfigured and transmuted now.
The eastward ranges, so unearthly blue,
Bloom with their richest hue;
Slowly each rose-flushed crest
Deepens to violet where the shadows rest,
Darkens and darkens to the paling west;
The waning sun-fires die;
The first star swims in the pellucid sky.
Soundless to listening ear, on grass and flowers,
The footfall of the hours;
Formless and void to sight
The evolutions of invading night,
The creeping onslaught and the gradual flight,
Until the field is won,
And we look forth to see that day is done.
Then, from their grave of darkness, wood and lawn
Wake to a second dawn.
From unseen wells below
The pearly moon-tides rise and overflow,
Till vale and peak and wide air-spaces glow
In the transfiguring stream,
And earth and life are but a heavenly dream.
And now we hear the fairy-echoes fall
Where distant curlews call,
And how the silence thrills
With the night-voices of the glens and hills,
Rustling in reeds and tinkling in the rills,
Bubbling in creek and pool
Where frogs are wooing in the shallows cool.
And more than these, in this delicious time,
The melody sublime
That inward spirit hears--
The faint and far-off music of the spheres,
Immortal harmonies, too fine for ears
Dulled in the dusty ways,
Deaf with the din of the laborious days.
Whereto, responsive as the vibrant wire
Of some aeolian lyre
Fanned by celestial wings,
The summoned soul in mystic concord brings
The deep notes latent in its trembling strings,
Joining the choir divine
Of all the worlds that in the ether shine.
O sacred hour! O sweet night, calm and fair!
Thou dost rebuke despair;
Thou dost assuage the pain
Of passionate spirit and distempered brain,
And with thy balms, distilled like gentle rain,
Dost heal the fret and smart
And nerve the courage of this coward's heart.
And lift me up, a Moses on the Mount
To the pure source and fount
Of law transcending law,
Of life that hallows life. I know no more
Of life's great Giver than I knew before,
But these His creatures tell
That He is living, and that all is well.
Oh, to be there to-night!
To see that rose of sunset flame and fade
On ghostly mountain height,
The soft dusk gathering each leaf and blade
From the departing light,
Each tree-fern feather of the wildwood glade.
From arid streets to pass
Down those green aisles where golden wattles bloom,
Over the fragrant grass,
And smell the eucalyptus in a gloom
That is as clear as glass,
The dew-fresh scents of bracken and of broom . . .
These city clamours mute,
To hear the woodland necromancers play
Each his enchanted lute;
That dear bird-laugh, so exquisitely gay,
The magpie's silver flute
In vesper carol to the dying day.
To hear the live wind blow,
The delicate stir and whisper of the trees
As light breaths come and go,
The brooklet murmuring to the vagrant breeze,
The bull-frog twanging low
His deep-toned mandolin to chime with these.
And then the whispering rills,
The hushed lone wheel, or hoof, or axeman's tool;
The brooding dark that stills
The sweet Pan-piping of the grove and pool;
The dimly glimmering hills;
The sleeping night, so heavenly clean and cool.
Oh, for that mother-breast
That takes the broken spirit for repair,
The worn-out brain for rest--
That healing silence, that untainted air,
That Peace of God . . . . . . Blest, blest
The very memory that I once was there.
The thought that someday yet,
In flesh, not dreams, I may return again,
And at those altars, set
In the pure skies, above the smoky plain,
Remember and forget
The joy of living and its price of pain . . . . . .
That sullied earth reserves
Such spacious refuge virgin and apart,
That wasting life preserves
Such sweet retreat for the distracted heart,
Such fount of strength for nerves
Torn in the ruthless struggle of the mart . . . . . .
That Government divine
O'er all this reek of blunders and of woes
Keeps an unravaged shrine
Not here, not there, but in the souls of those
Who neither weep nor whine,
But trust the guidance of the One Who Knows.
Comments about this poem (On Australian Hills by Ada Cambridge )
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