Leichhardt [poem by Henry Kendall]

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

Leichhardt.

Lordly harp, by lordly Master wakened from majestic sleep,
Yet shall speak and yet shall sing the words which make the fathers weep —
Voice surpassing human voices — high unearthly harmony —
Yet shall tell the tale of hero, in exalted years to be!
In the ranges, by the rivers, on the uplands, down the dells,
Where the sound of wind and wave is — where the mountain anthem swells,
Yet shall float the song of lustre, sweet with tears and fair with flame,
Shining with a theme of beauty — holy with our Leichhardt’s name!
Name of him who faced for Science thirsty tracts of bitter glow —
Lurid lands that no one knows of — two and thirty years ago.

Born by hills of hard gray weather, far beyond the northern seas,
German mountains were his “sponsors,” and his mates were German trees.
Grandeur of the old-world forests passed into his radiant soul,
With the song of stormy crescents where the mighty waters roll.
Thus he came to be a brother of the river and the wood —
Thus the leaf, the bird, the blossom, grew a gracious sisterhood!
Nature led him to her children in a space of light divine —
Kneeling down, he said — “My Mother, let me be as one of thine!”
So she took him — thence she loved him — lodged him in her home of dreams:
Taught him what the trees were saying, schooled him in the speech of streams.

For her sake he crossed the waters — loving her, he left the place
Hallowed by his father’s ashes and his human mother’s face —
Passed the seas and entered temples domed by skies of deathless beam —
Walled about by hills majestic — stately spires and peaks supreme!
Here he found a larger beauty — here the lovely lights were new
On the slopes of many flowers, down the gold green dells of dew.
In the great august cathedral of his holy Lady, he
Daily worshipped at her altars, nightly bent the reverent knee —
Heard the hymns of night and morning, learned the psalm of solitudes:
Knew that God was very near him — felt His Presence in the woods!

But the starry angel, Science, from the home of glittering wings,
Came one day and talked to Nature by melodious mountain springs —
“Let thy son be mine,” she pleaded, “lend him for a space,” she said,
“So that he may earn the laurels I have woven for his head!”
And the Lady, Nature, listened; and she took her loyal son
From the banks of moss and myrtle — led him to the Shining One!
Filled his lordly soul with gladness — told him of a spacious zone
Eye of man had never looked at — human foot had never known;
Then the angel, Science, beckoned, and he knelt and whispered low —
“I will follow where you lead me” — two and thirty years ago.

On the tracts of thirst and furnace — on the dumb, blind burning plain
Where the red earth gapes for moisture and the wan leaves hiss for rain,
In a land of dry fierce thunder, did he ever pause and dream
Of the cool green German valley and the singing German stream?
When the sun was as a menace glaring from a sky of brass,
Did he ever rest, in visions, on a lap of German grass?
Past the waste of thorny terrors, did he reach a sphere of rills
In a region yet untravelled, ringed by fair untrodden hills?
Was the spot where last he rested pleasant as an old-world lea?
Did the sweet winds come and lull him with the music of the sea?

Let us dream so — let us hope so! Haply, in a cool green glade,
Far beyond the zone of furnace, Leichhardt’s sacred shell was laid!
Haply in some leafy valley, underneath blue gracious skies,
In the sound of mountain water, the heroic traveller lies!
Down a dell of dewy myrtle, where the light is soft and green,
And a month, like English April, sits — an immemorial queen,
Let us think that he is resting — think that by a radiant grave
Ever come the songs of forest and the voices of the wave!
Thus we want our sons to find him — find him under floral bowers,
Sleeping by the trees he loved so — covered with his darling flowers!



Source:
Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 218-224

[Editor: Changed the single quotation mark before “So that he may” to a double quotation mark (in line with the similar usage in this poem).]

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