Henry Kendall

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

Intaglio - Frank Denz - Poem by Henry Kendall

In the roar of the storm, in the wild bitter voice of the tempest-whipped sea,
The cry of my darling, my child, comes ever and ever to me;
And I stand where the haggard-faced wood stares down on a sinister shore,
But all that is left is the hood of the babe I can cherish no more.
A little blue hood, with the shawl of the girl that I took for my wife
In a happy old season, is all that remains of the light of my life;
The wail of a woman in pain, and the sob of a smothering bird,
They come through the darkness again —
in the wind and the rain they are heard.

Oh, women and men who have known the perils of weather and wave,
It is sad that my sweet ones are blown under sea without shelter of grave;
I sob like a child in the night, when the gale on the waters is loud —
My darlings went down in my sight, with neither a coffin nor shroud.

In the whistle of wind, and the whirl of ominous fragments of wreck,
The wife, with her poor little girl, saw death on the lee of the deck;
But, sirs, she depended on me — she trusted my comforting word;
She is down in the depths of the sea — my love, with her beautiful bird.

In the boat I was ordered to go — I was not more afraid than the rest,
But a husband will falter, you know, with the love of his life at his breast;
My captain was angry a space, but soon he grew tender in tone —
Perhaps there had flashed by his face a wife and a child of his own.

I was weak for some moments, and cried; but only one hope was in life;
The hood upon baby I tied — I fastened the shawl on my wife.
The skipper took charge of the child — he stuck to his word till the last;
But only this hood on the wild, bitter shore of the sea had been cast.

In the place of a coward, who shook like a leaf in the quivering boat,
A seat by the rowlocks I took; but the sea had me soon by the throat,
The surge gripped me fast by the neck — in a ring, and a roll, and a roar,
I was cast like a piece of the wreck, on a bleak, beaten, shelterless shore.

And there were my darlings on board for the rest of that terrible day,
And I watched and I prayed to the Lord, as never before I could pray.
The windy hills stared at the black, heavy clouds coming over the wave;
My girl was expecting me back, but where was my power to save?

Ah! where was my power, when Death was glaring at me from the reef?
I cried till I gasped for my breath, aloof with a maddening grief.
We couldn’t get back to the deck: I wanted to go, but the sea
Dashed over the sides of the wreck, and carried my darling from me.

Oh, girl that I took by the hand to the altar two summers ago,
I would you were buried on land — my dear, it would comfort me so!
I would you were sleeping where grows the grass and the musical reed!
For how can you find a repose in the toss of the tangle and weed?

The night sped along, and I strained to the shadow and saw to the end
My captain and bird — he remained to the death a superlative friend:
In the face of the hurricane wild, he clung with the babe to the mast;
To the last he was true to my child — he was true to my child to the last.

The wind, like a life without home, comes mocking at door and at pane
In the time of the cry of the foam — in the season of thunder and rain,
And, dreaming, I start in the bed, and feel for my little one’s brow —
But lost is the beautiful head; the cradle is tenantless now!

My home was all morning and glow when wife and her baby were there,
But, ah! it is saddened, you know, by dresses my girl used to wear.
I cannot re-enter the door; its threshold can never be crossed,
For fear I should see on the floor the shoes of the child I have lost.

There were three of us once in the world; but two are deep down in the sea,
Where waif and where tangle are hurled — the two that were portions of me;
They are far from me now, but I hear, when hushed are the night and the tide,
The voice of my little one near — the step of my wife by my side.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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