Ghost Glen [poem by Henry Kendall]

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

Ghost Glen.

“Shut your ears, stranger, or, turn from Ghost Glen now,
For the paths are grown over; untrodden by men now —
Shut your ears, stranger!” saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery Runic, when sets the half moon in!

To-night the North-Easter goes travelling slowly,
But it never stoops down to that Hollow unholy —
To-night it rolls loud on the ridges red-litten,
But it cannot abide in that Forest, sin-smitten!

For over the pitfall the moon-dew is thawing,
And, with never a body, two shadows stand sawing —
The wraiths of two sawyers (step under and under),
Who did a foul murder and were blackened with thunder!

Whenever the storm-wind comes driven and driving,
Through the blood-spattered timber you may see the saw striving —
You may see the saw heaving, and falling, and heaving,
Whenever the sea-creek is chafing and grieving!

And across a burnt body, as black as an adder,
Sits the sprite of a sheep-dog! — was ever sight sadder?
For as the dry thunder splits louder and faster,
This sprite of a sheep-dog howls for his master!

“Oh! count your beads deftly,” saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery Runic, when sets the half moon in!
And well may she mutter, for the dark hollow laughter
You will hear in the sawpits, and the bloody logs after!

Ay, count your beads deftly, and keep your ways wary,
For the sake of the Saviour and sweet Mother Mary!
Pray for your peace in these perilous places,
And pray for the laying of horrible faces!

One starts with a forehead wrinkled and livid,
Aghast at the lightnings sudden and vivid!
One telleth with curses the gold that they drew there
(Ah! cross your breast humbly) from him whom they slew there!

The stranger who came from the loved — the romantic
Island that sleeps on the moaning Atlantic;
Leaving behind him a patient home yearning
For the steps in the distance, never returning; —

Who was left in the Forest, shrunken, and starkly
Burnt by his slayers (so men have said, darkly):
With the half-crazy sheep-dog, who cowered beside there
And yelled at the silence, and marvelled, and died there!

Yea, cross your breast humbly, and hold your breath tightly,
Or fly for your life from those shadows unsightly;
From the set staring features (cold, and so young, too!)
And the death on the lips that a mother hath clung to.

I tell you, the Bushman is braver than most men,
Who even in daylight doth go through the Ghost Glen!
Although in that Hollow, unholy and lonely,
He sees the dank sawpits and bloody logs only!



Source:
Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 10-12

[Editor: Changed “sight sadder!” to “sight sadder?”.]

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