Beyond Kerguelen [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Songs from the Mountains (1880).]

Beyond Kerguelen.

Down in the South, by the waste without sail on it —
Far from the zone of the blossom and tree —
Lieth, with winter and whirlwind and wail on it,
Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea.
Weird is the mist from the summit to base of it;
Sun of its heaven is wizened and gray;
Phantom of light is the light on the face of it —
Never is night on it, never is day!
Here is the shore without flower or bird on it —
Here is no litany sweet of the springs:
Only the haughty, harsh thunder is heard on it —
Only the storm with the roar in its wings!

Shadow of moon is the moon in the sky of it —
Wan as the face of a wizard, and far!
Never there shines from the firmament high of it
Grace of the planet or glory of star.
All the year round, in the place of white days on it —
All the year round, where there never is night —
Lies a great sinister, bitter, blind haze on it:
Growth that is neither of darkness nor light!
Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it —
Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow.
Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it —
Down in the South where the ships never go.

Storm from the Pole is the singer that sings to it
Hymns of the land at the planet’s gray verge.
Thunder discloses dark wonderful things to it —
Thunder, and rain, and the dolorous surge.
Hills, with no hope of a wing or a leaf on them,
Scarred with the chronicles written by flame,
Stare, through the gloom of inscrutable grief on them,
Down on the horns of the gulfs without name.
Cliffs, with the records of fierce flying fires on them —
Loom over perilous pits of eclipse;
Alps, with anathema stamped in the spires on them —
Out by the wave with a curse on its lips.

Never is sign of soft beautiful green on it —
Never the colour, the glory of rose!
Neither the fountain nor river is seen on it:
Naked its crags are, and barren its snows!
Blue as the face of the drowned is the shore of it —
Shore, with the capes of indefinite cave.
Strange is the voice of its wind, and the roar of it
Startles the mountain and hushes the wave.
Out to the south and away to the north of it,
Spectral and sad are the spaces untold!
All the year round a great cry goeth forth of it —
Sob of this leper of lands in the cold.

No man hath stood all its bleak bitter years on it —
Fall of a foot on its wastes is unknown:
Only the sound of the hurricane’s spears on it,
Breaks, with the shout from the uttermost zone.
Blind are its bays with the shadow of bale on them;
Storms of the nadir their rocks have uphurled;
Earthquake hath registered deeply its tale on them —
Tale of distress from the dawn of the world!
There are the gaps with the surges that seethe in them —
Gaps in whose jaws is a menace that glares!
There, the wan reefs with the merciless teeth in them
Gleam on a chaos that startles and scares!

Back in the dawn of this beautiful sphere, on it —
Land of the dolorous, desolate face —
Beamed the blue day; and the bountiful year on it
Fostered the leaf and the blossom of grace,
Grand were the lights of its midsummer noon on it —
Mornings of majesty shone on its seas:
Glitter of star and the glory of moon on it
Fell, in the march of the musical breeze.
Valleys and hills, with the whisper of wing in them,
Dells of the daffodil — spaces impearled,
Flowered and flashed with the splendour of Spring in them —
Back in the morn of this wonderful world.

Soft were the words that the thunder then said to it —
Said to this lustre of emerald plain;
Sun brought the yellow, the green, and the red to it —
Sweet were the songs of its silvery rain.
Voices of water and wind in the bays of it
Lingered, and lulled like the psalm of a dream.
Fair were the nights, and effulgent the days, of it —
Moon was in shadow and shade in the beam.
Summer’s chief throne was the marvellous coast of it,
Home of the Spring was its luminous lea!
Garden of glitter! but only the ghost of it
Moans in the South by the ghost of a sea.



Source:
Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 20-24

Editor’s notes:
lea = field, grassland, meadow, pasture

morn = morning

wan = having a sickly or pale appearance; a poorly appearance suggestive of unhappiness or grief; a lack of energy or feeling (e.g. a smile or laugh, displaying little effort, energy, or enthusiasm); lacking good health or vitality (may also refer to something which is dim or faint, e.g. light, stars, sun)

Old spelling in the original text:
goeth (goes)
hath (has)
lieth (lies)

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