Footfalls [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]


The embers were blinking and clinking away,
The casement half open was thrown ;
There was nothing but cloud on the skirts of the Day,
And I sat on the threshold alone !

And said to the river which flowed by my door
With its beautiful face to the hill,
“I have waited and waited, all wearied and sore,
But my love is a wanderer still!”

And said to the wind, as it paused in its flight
To look through the shivering pane,
“There are memories moaning and homeless to-night
That can never be tranquil again !”

And said to the woods, as their burdens were borne
With a flutter and sigh to the eaves,
“They are wrinkled and wasted, and tattered and torn,
And we too have our withering leaves.”

Did I hear a low echo of footfalls about,
Whilst watching those forest trees stark ?
Or was it a dream that I hurried without
To clutch at and grapple the dark ?

In the shadow I stood for a moment and spake —
“Bright thing that was loved in the past,
Oh ! am I asleep — or abroad and awake ?
And are you so near me at last ?

“Oh, roamer from lands where the vanished years go,
Oh, waif from those mystical zones,
Come here where I long for you broken and low
On the mosses and watery stones !

“Come out of your silence and tell me if Life
Is so fair in that world as they say ;
Was it worth all this yearning, and weeping, and strife
When you left it behind you to-day ?

“Will it end all this watching, and doubting, and dread ?
Do these sorrows die out with our breath ?
Will they pass from our souls like a nightmare,” I said,
“While we glide through the mazes of Death ?

“Come out of that darkness and teach me the lore
You have learned since I looked on your face ;
By the summers that blossomed and faded of yore —
By the lights which have fled to that place !

“You answer me not when I know that you could —
When I know that you could and you should ;
Though the storms be abroad on the wave ;
Though the rain droppeth down with a wail to the wood,
And my heart is as cold as your grave !”

Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 28-30

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