Caprice [poem by Louis Esson]

[Editor: This poem by Louis Esson was published in Red Gums and Other Verses (1912).]


(A Summer’s Day, Sydney Harbour).

Blue and gold, and mist and sunlight,
Veils of colour blent and blown
In melodic monotone.
Dark and bright, and white and dun light
Clash and flash, as into one light
Trembling thro’ an opal stone,
Over green robes of the mountain
And the blue skirts of the sea,
Spreading from a sacred fountain
Hymeneal harmony.

* * *

Drums and trumpets of the ocean,
Oboe spirits of the wind,
Violins of forest kind,
Flutes that breathe the trees’ devotion,
Blending, hymn the joyous motion
Of the universal mind,
When, with chariot cavorting,
And a storm of symphonies,
Horses snorting, banners sporting,
Ocean Seas wed Harbour Seas.

Salt of waves, and scent of roses,
Seaweed strown along the sand,
Blossoms blown from high head-land,
As the Ocean-Lord reposes
Where the Harbour dreams and dozes,
Sultan and Sultana bland,
Rocky shrubs, earth, fragrant grasses
Spiced with sand and sea and sun,
As the gay procession passes,
Know that all things are but one.

* * *

At the sun a wave laughs, leaping
Thro’ intoxicating air
Like a child with tossing hair.
But a sea-gull, vigil keeping,
Flutters, musically sweeping
Delicate and debonair,
Where the wave leaps, lightly wheeling,
Like a flash of amethyst
Clasps the wave, then leaves her, stealing
Kisses by the sunshine kissed.

* * *

Bird that brilliant pinion flies on
Thro’ the azure atmosphere
Pipes a duet, sweet and clear,
With the wind the sunlight lies on;
Sea weds Sky on dim horizon,
And the distant joins the near.
Wave and cloud, and fish and swallow,
Swaying tree and flying bird
Music maddened, flee and follow
Till pale mortals, too, are stirred.

* * *

Over all things Love stands warder.
Cloud seeks wave, while close behind
Cloud is followed by the wind.
Dionysean disorder
Laughs, and leaps o’er bar and border,
Breaks the shackles of the mind;
And in wine-enchanted weather
Culls, that life and joy be one,
Grapes to mix all things together
From the Garden of the Sun.

* * *

Nature takes delight in shedding
Love that joins with benison
All the elements in one;
And to-day the feast is spreading
Till her creatures all are wedding,
And of sorrow there is none . . .
So the Summer Day rehearses
Bridal lyrics, mad to sing
As a viol or a verse is,
Of the joy of everything.

Louis Esson, Red Gums and Other Verses, Melbourne: Fraser & Jenkinson, 1912, pages 14-17

Editor’s notes:
amethyst = a purple or violet transparent quartz used as a gemstone (may also refer to something which has a purplish tint or is moderately purple)

azure = the blue of a clear unclouded sky

benison = a blessing, a benediction (a bestowing of good wishes, especially in a religious context)

blent = blended

caprice = a sudden, unpredictable, or whimsical change, such as of the weather or of someone’s mind; an impulsive and unpredictable change of attitude, behaviour, decision, or mood; a disposition or tendency of a person to change their mind without any apparent or adequate reason, as if on a whim or fancy, or to do things impulsively

Dionysean = regarding Dionysos: (also spelt “Dionysus”) in Greek mythology, the god of fruitfulness and vegetation, particularly known as the god of ecstasy and wine (also known as “Bacchus” in Roman mythology)

dun = dark, dusky; dull; gloomy (may also refer to a greyish-brown or sandy-grey colour, especially regarding the coat of a horse; may also refer to a horse of such colour)

hymeneal = of or regarding wedding or marriage; a wedding hymn, song, or poem; “hymeneals” (archaic) refers to a wedding or nuptials

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

pinion = a bird’s wing; in more specific usage, the outer section of a bird’s wing; in broader usage, “pinions” refers to the wings of a bird (“pinion” may also refer specifically to a feather, especially a flight feather, or a quill)

strown = archaic variation of “strewn”

sultana = (also known as a “sultaness”) a woman who is part of a sultan’s family (mother, sister, wife, daughter), especially the wife or concubine of a sultan; a concubine or mistress (may also refer to a dried seedless grape, seedless raisin, golden raisin, or to the seedless grape itself)

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