By the Cliffs of the Sea [poem by Henry Kendall]

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

By the Cliffs of the Sea.

(In Memory of Samuel Bennett.)

In a far-away glen of the hills,
Where the bird of the night is at rest,
Shut in from the thunder that fills
The fog-hidden caves of the west —
In a sound of the leaf and the lute
Of the wind on the quiet lagoon,
I stand like a worshipper mute
In the flow of a marvellous tune!
And the song that is sweet to my sense
Is, “Nearer my God unto Thee;
But it carries me sorrowing hence
To a grave by the cliffs of the sea.

So many have gone that I loved —
So few of the fathers remain,
That where in old seasons I moved
I could never be happy again.
In the breaks of this beautiful psalm,
With its deep — its devotional tone
And hints of ineffable calm,
I feel like a stranger alone.
No wonder my eyes are so dim:
Your trouble is heavy on me,
O widow and daughter of him
Who sleeps in the grave by the sea.

The years have been hard that have pressed
On a head full of premature grey,
Since Stenhouse went down to his rest,
And Harpur was taken away.
In the soft yellow evening ends,
The wind of the water is faint
By the home of the last of my friends —
The shrine of the father and saint.
The tenderness touching — the grace
Of Ridley no more is for me;
And flowers have hidden the face
Of the brother who sleeps by the sea.

The vehement voice of the South
Is loud where the journalist lies;
But calm hath encompassed his mouth,
And sweet is the peace in his eyes.
Called hence by the Power who knows
When the work of a hero is done,
He turned at the message, and rose
With the harness of diligence on.
In the midst of magnificent toil,
He bowed at the holy decree;
And green is the grass on the soil
Of the grave by the cliffs of the sea.

I knew him, indeed; and I knew,
Having suffered so much in his day,
What a beautiful nature and true
In Bennett was hidden away.
In the folds of a shame without end,
When the lips of the scorner were curled,
I found in this brother a friend —
The last that was left in the world.
Ah! under the surface austere
Compassion was native to thee —
I send from my solitude here
This rose for the grave by the sea.

To the high — the heroic intent
Of a life that was never at rest,
He held, with a courage unspent,
Through the worst of his days and the best.
Far back in the years that are dead
He knew of the bitterness cold
That saddens with silver the head,
And makes a man suddenly old.
The dignity gracing his grief
Was ever a lesson to me —
He lies under blossom and leaf
In a grave by the cliffs of the sea.

Above him the wandering face
Of the moon is a loveliness now;
And anthems encompass the place
From lutes of the luminous bough.
The forelands are fiery with foam
Where often and often he roved:
He sleeps in the sight of the home
That he built by the waters he loved.
The wave is his fellow at night;
And the sun shining over the lea,
Sheds out an unspeakable light
On this grave by the cliffs of the sea.



Source:
Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 189-194

[Editor: Deleted the superfluous quotation mark which was placed before “Is,”.]

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