Hy-Brasil [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Songs from the Mountains (1880).]


“Daughter,” said the ancient father, pausing by the evening sea,
“Turn thy face towards the sunset — turn thy face and kneel with me!
Prayer and praise and holy fasting, lips of love and life of light,
These and these have made thee perfect — shining saint with seraph’s sight!
Look towards that flaming crescent — look beyond that glowing space —
Tell me, sister of the angels, what is beaming in thy face?”
And the daughter who had fasted — who had spent her days in prayer
Till the glory of the Saviour touched her head and rested there,
Turned her eyes towards the sea-line — saw beyond the fiery crest,
Floating over waves of jasper, far Hy-Brasil in the West.

All the calmness and the colour — all the splendour and repose
Flowing where the sunset flowered like a silver-hearted rose!
There indeed was singing Eden, where the great gold river runs
Past the porch and gates of crystal ringed by strong and shining ones!
There indeed was God’s own garden sailing down the sapphire sea —
Lawny dells and slopes of summer, dazzling stream and radiant tree!
Out against the hushed horizon — out beneath the reverent day,
Flamed the Wonder on the waters — flamed, and flashed, and passed away.
And the maiden who had seen it felt a hand within her own,
And an angel that we know not led her to the Lands unknown.

Never since hath eye beheld it — never since hath mortal, dazed
By its strange unearthly splendour, on the floating Eden gazed!
Only once since Eve went weeping through a throng of glittering wings
Hath the holy seen Hy-Brasil where the great gold river sings!
Only once by quiet waters, — under still, resplendent skies,
Did the sister of the seraphs kneel in sight of Paradise!
She the pure, the perfect woman, sanctified by patient prayer,
Had the eyes of saints of Heaven — all their glory in her hair;
Therefore God the Father whispered to a radiant spirit near —
“Show Our daughter fair Hy-Brasil — show her this and lead her here.”

But beyond the halls of sunset — but within the wondrous west,
On the rose-red seas of evening, sails the Garden of the Blest.
Still the gates of glassy beauty — still the walls of glowing light
Shine on waves that no man knows of: out of sound and out of sight.
Yet the slopes and lawns of luster — yet the dells of sparkling streams
Dip to tranquil shores of jasper where the watching angel beams.
But, behold, our eyes are human, and our way is paved with pain,
We can never find Hy-Brasil — never see its hills again!
Never look on bays of crystal — never bend the reverent knee
In the sight of Eden floating — floating on the sapphire sea!

Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 33-37

Editor’s notes:
Eden = a place or situation which is regarded as a paradise; the Garden of Eden, mentioned in the Bible

Eve = the first woman created by God in the Garden of Eden (according to the Bible, in the Book of Genesis)

Saviour = in a religious context, a reference to Jesus or God

seraph = an angel (one of the Seraphim), regarded as a highly-ranked order of angel (the Seraphim are mentioned in the Bible, in Isaiah 6: “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne . . . Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings”)

Old spelling in the original text:
hath (has)
thee (you)
thy (your)

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