Roderic Quinn

(1867 - 1949 / Australia)

The Swamp


FOR one whole day and a long night through
We made our camp
In a she-oak grove by a coastal swamp.
Our tent gleamed white in the she-oak trees,
Whose falling hair
Made a soft, brown mist in the sweet blue air.
A sound subdued from their tresses rose —
A moan, a sigh
As of unseen seas, when the breeze went by.
'Twas wattle-time, and the scented bloom,
New lit and young,
In a mass of gold from the still trees hung.
There music dwelt, and a splendour moved
Through all the day
From the green of dawn to the twilight gray.
For careless ever, like one who goes
Where Joyance leads,
Sang the little reed-bird in the tall, green reeds.
Blue, swift and slender the dragonflies
A-hawking flew,
And a hawk hung poised in the burning blue.
A crane, slow-flapping its great wings, passed
Across the scene,
And a parrot jewelled the leafy screen.
In twos and threes from the hills around
The peewits came,
And the brush-flower burnt like a crimson flame.
On ti-tree trunk and on frond and log
The lizards slept,
While the sun moved west, and the shadows crept.
The sun moved west, and the tall hills sent
Broad shadows east,
And the reed-bird's song in the reed-beds ceased.
Then fell a hush, and within that hush
Rose, clear and shrill,
A cicada note on a distant hill.
A note of farewell, it seemed to us,
Its singing bore;
And the night came down, and it sang no more.
Night came with shadows and fitful gleams
And mist and damp,
And our fire burned red by the coastal swamp.
Then life not known of the daytime woke —
That life that preys
On the feathered things of the leafy ways.
We heard feet moving, and velvet wings
On swamp and height,
And a dingo howling across the night.
As, faces lit by the red camp-fire,
We mused enthralled.
Like a lone, lost spirit a curlew called;
Brown crickets sang in the moisty mould,
And every breeze
Drew a moaning note from the she-oak trees.
And all night long, as they swayed and moaned,
Strange fancies woke,
And we could not rest for the things they spoke.
Thus much and more through the hours we saw;
Thus much we heard
In that place of blossom and tree and bird.
Since then gold wattles have bloomed and bloomed,
And moons aloft
In the sky have wizened and waned full oft.
And yet, at times, when the night is still,
In dreams I tramp
Through the white sand-dunes to that coastal camp.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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