Charles Harpur [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869).]

Charles Harpur.

Where Harpur lies, the rainy streams,
And wet hill-heads, and hollows weeping,
Are swift with wind, and white with gleams,
And hoarse with sounds of storms unsleeping.

Fit grave it is for one whose song
Was tuned by tones he caught from torrents,
And filled with mountain-breaths, and strong
Wild notes of falling forest currents.

So let him sleep! the rugged hymns
And broken lights of woods above him!
And let me sing how Sorrow dims
The eyes of those that used to love him.

As April in the wilted wold
Turns faded eyes on splendours waning,
What time the latter leaves are old,
And ruin strikes the strays remaining;

So we that knew this singer dead,
Whose hands attuned the Harp Australian,
May set the face and bow the head,
And mourn his fate and fortunes alien.

The burden of a perished faith
Went sighing through his speech of sweetness,
With human hints of Time and Death,
And subtle notes of incompleteness.

But when the fiery power of Youth
Had passed away and left him nameless,
Serene as Light, and strong as Truth,
He lived his life, untired and tameless.

And, far and free, this man of men,
With wintry hair and wasted feature,
Had fellowship with gorge and glen,
And learned the loves and runes of Nature.

Strange words of wind, and rhymes of rain,
And whispers from the inland fountains,
Are mingled, in his various strain
With leafy breaths of piny mountains.

But as the undercurrents sigh
Beneath the surface of a river,
The music of Humanity
Dwells in his forest-psalms for ever.

No soul was he to sit on heights
And live with rocks apart and scornful:
Delights of men were his delights,
And common troubles made him mournful.

The flying forms of unknown powers
With lofty wonder caught and filled him;
But there were days of gracious hours
When sights and sounds familiar thrilled him.

The pathos worn by wayside things,
The passion found in simple faces,
Struck deeper than the life of springs
Or strength of storms and sea-swept places.

But now he sleeps, the tired bard,
The deepest sleep; and, lo, I proffer
These tender leaves of my regard
With hands that falter as they offer.

Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 78-80

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