Cui Bono? [poem by Henry Kendall, 1865

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in The Glen of the White Man’s Grave (1865).]

Cui Bono?

A clamour by day and a whisper by night,
And the Summer comes, with the shining noons;
With the ripple of leaves, and the passionate light
Of the falling suns and the rising moons!

And the ripple of leaves and the purple and red
Die for the grapes and the gleam of the wheat;
And then you may pause with the splendours, or tread
On the yellow of Autumn with lingering feet.

You may halt with the face to a flying sea
Or stand like a gloom in the gloom of things,
When the moon drops down and the desolate lea
Is troubled with thunder and desolate wings!

But alas for the grey of the wintering eves,
And the pondering storms and the ruin of rains;
And alas for the Spring, like a flame in the leaves,
And the green of the woods and the gold of the lanes!

For, seeing all pathos is mixed with our past,
And knowing all sadness of storm and of surge
Is salt with our tears for the faith that was cast
Away like a weed o’er a bottomless verge,

I am lost for these tokens, and wearied of ways,
Wedded with ways that are waning amain,
Like those who are filled with the trouble that slays;
Having drank of their life to the lees that are pain.

And yet would I write to you! I who have turned
Away with a bitter disguise in the eyes,
And bitten the lips that have trembled and burned
Alone, for you, darling, and breaking with sighs!

Because I have touched with my fingers a dress
That was Beauty’s; because that the breath of thy mouth
Is sweetness that lingers; because of each tress
Showered down on thy shoulders; because of the drouth,

That came of thy absence; because of the lights
In the Passion that grew to a level with thee;
Is it well that our lives have been filled with the nights,
And the days which have made it a sorrow to be?

Yea, thus having tasted all love with thy lips,
And having the warmth of thy hand in mine own,
Is it well that we wander, like parallel ships,
With the silence between us: aloof and alone?

With my face to the wall shall I sleep and forget
The shadow, the sweet sense of slumber denies,
If even I marvel at kindness, and fret,
And start while the tears are all wet in mine eyes?

Oh, darling of mine, standing here with the Past,
Trampled under our feet in the bitterest ways,
Is this speech like a ghost that it keeps us aghast
On the track of the thorns and in alien days?

When I know of you, love, how you break with our pain,
And sob for the sorrow of sorrowful dreams,
Like a stranger who stands in the wind and the rain
And watches and wails by impassable streams?

Like a stranger who droops on a brink and deplores,
With famishing hands and frost in the feet,
For the laughter, alive on the opposite shores
With the fervour of fire and the wind of the wheat!


Henry Kendall, The Glen of the White Man’s Grave, Sydney: Hanson and Bennett, [1865?], pp. 7-8

Also published in:
The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 13 October 1866, p. 870 [with some differences in the text]
Quiz (Adelaide, SA), 31 July 1903, p. 12 [with some differences in the text]

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