After Drought [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

After Drought.

The shrunken ponds at last were dry;
The earth was ashen grey for woe;
The flowers were dead, long, long ago;
The wild birds scarce had strength to fly.

The gaping cracks, in every field,
Yearned under mighty sense of thirst;
The dying crops, by heat accurst,
Could gain no strength their fruit to yield.

The cattle sank beneath the trees,
And, moaning, vainly strove to rise,
And last, dumb anguish in their eyes,
Gasped life out on the burning breeze.

Fell Famine shook her bony fist,
In grinning hope and savage spite;
And Fever’s lips, with burning light,
Our darling children’s cheeks had kist.

The earth was very sad for rain:
And Misery had laid her hand
With earnest violence on our land,
And many wept in fruitless pain.

Oft, oft the clouded skies had given
The promise that was unfulfilled,
Until our feeble faith was killed,
And we no longer looked to heaven.

Thus, when the skies grew grey and cold,
We only dropped our eyes in fear;
We had no hope that aid was near, —
It seemed such hope would be too bold.

Then God remembered as, and spoke:
Obedient south winds came,
And strengthened every fainting frame,
That bent beneath the sultry stroke.

Drop, drop by drop, but faster still,
The precious waters gently fell,
Tinkling like many a fairy bell:—
We knelt to thank the Master’s will.

And still it fell, a steady flood
That ceased not day nor night;
The earth bloomed green for pure delight,
And, grateful, gave the cattle food.

And those looked up with great, glad eyes,
Lowed out their sense of new content;
Then kindly towards each other bent,
Or gambolled in their sweet surprise.

Our children’s tones were heard once more,
Not calling us deliriously,
But sweet, in healthy, infant glee,
Amid the scenes they loved before.

Our hearts with joy are bounding high;
We cannot speak the bliss we feel,
Nor half our thankfulness reveal —
God know — omniscient — in the sky.

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 9-10

Editor’s notes:
fell = bad, cruel, destructive, fierce or sinister (as used in the phrase “one fell swoop”)

gambolled = (also spelt “gamboled”) to playfully skip or jump, to frolic

kist = kissed (as distinct from “kist” meaning chest, especially one containing money or riches; or a basket, or coffin)

low = to moo (as in “the cows lowed in the field”, “the cattle were lowing”)

Master = in a religious context, this refers to Jesus or God

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