Meanderings in an Austral Arcady [poem by Kenneth Mackay]

[Editor: This poem by Kenneth Mackay was published in Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes (1887).]

Meanderings in an Austral Arcady.

Dreamland! ere the rude awaking,
When our hopes were all of Spring,
And each rosy morning, breaking,
Bore new joys upon its wing;
When the waters through the willows
Shimmered bright as silver shields,
And the grass made scented pillows
In the flower-enamelled fields.

Spots made them dear by idle resting,
When the world was all at play,
Till the waves, our dream-banks cresting,
Burst, and swept them all away;
Pools of crystal deeply shaded
By the leaves of fern and vine,
Where in summer days we waded,
Ere the lees had soured the wine.

Meetings by the star-lamps lighted;
Whispering under gnarled oaks;
Strolls in gardens blossom-whited, —
Gardens dear to evening smokes,
When nicotian visions floated
On the dewy wings of night,
And we hardly knew or noted
Fleeting time’s too rapid flight.

Mimic plays whose memories waken
Thoughts of loved days left behind, —
Plays where every role was taken
By the fair, the bright, the kind;
Where the pain was only spoken
From the lips, and not the heart,
Where our vows were only broken
In the acting of a part.

Nights when winter winds were hurling
All their might on mountain trees,
And the leaves were madly whirling
O’er the face of rain-swept leas;
When we watched the firelight gleaming
On the bowl of glass and pipe;
Nights of brightly-gilded dreaming,
Born of vintage warm and ripe.

Hope’s own temple! dear old study! —
Where we built any airy shrine,
Lighted by the embers ruddy,
Sacred to the fabled nine,
Echoing to the feet of others
Who had placed their offerings there,
Hallowed by the thoughts of brothers
Who had passed the gates of care.

Rides and drives through town and village,
Over hill and swampland low.
Through wild vales unknown to tillage
Where the fern trees tallest grow;—
Out to where the crags and mountains
Stretch beyond the dimmest blue,
And the spray of forest fountains
Lies upon the leaves as dew.

Where the river onward rushing
Springs to misty depths below,
Coloured, as a maiden blushing
’Neath the ardent noontide glow,
Flashing rays of varied splendour, —
As of golden locks undone, —
Born of kisses warm and tender,
Kisses of the kingly sun.

Kisses that again will woo her
Down among the deeper groves,
When the birds are singing to her
All the story of their loves;—
Down amid those wondrous wild lands
Folding homes of shade and rest,
Far remote from upper high lands
Where the eagle builds her nest.

Where the rocks are almost hidden
By their robes of gold and green,
And the music comes unbidden
From the flashing, flying stream;
Where the trails are shaded wand’rings
By the virgin cedar boles, —
Pathways sweet to pensive pond’rings,
Pathways dear to weary souls.

Where a subtle scent is waking
From the spray-besprinkled vines,
And the lights are softly breaking
Through the canopy of pines,
Where the upper world, forgotten,
May not dart a jarring sound
Through the stately limbs begotten
Of the water-nurtured ground.

Oh! my comrades! we may never
Meet among such scenes again, —
Realms unknown to mad endeavour,
Lands unknown to want and pain.
Lo! the waters we remember, —
Kissed by sun, and wooed by shades,
Watched by us one dead December,
Long have left those peaceful glades.

For of parting they were singing
Notes we deemed were wildly sweet,
While the trailing boughs were clinging
Fondly to their passing feet, —
Feet, alas! that might not linger
Midst the haunts of fern and flower,
For old Time, with stony finger,
Coldly marked the passing hour.

So through shadows deep they wended,
Kissed the base of rock and tree,
Swift the lowest fall descended,
On their journey to the sea,
Bearing scent of fond embraces
Caught from flowers that flourish there,
Caught — to waft to barren places,
Caught — to lose in other air.

Like the river, we may only
Pass the spots where we would dwell,
Like the river, life is lonely,
And we meet — to say farewell.
Since we strayed amid this dreamland,
Sipping youth’s ambrosial wine,
We have passed through many a meanland
Bordering on the road of time.

Some have left our life forever,
Gone to join the silent dead;
Some from us wide oceans sever;
Some are lost, and some are wed.
Dreamland from our life is banished;—
Swept aside its well loved forms;
For the joyous past has vanished
In the rack of later storms.

Kenneth Mackay, Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes, Sydney: Edwards, Dunlop & Co., 1887, pages 61-65

Editor’s notes:
Arcady = paradise; utopia; a serene place of simple pleasure (derived from Arcadia, an ancient region of Greece)

Austral = of or relating to Australia or Australasia; Australian, Australasian; an abbreviation of Australia, Australian, Australasia, Australasian; in a wider context, of or relating to the southern hemisphere; southern, especially a southern wind

bole = the trunk of a tree (may also refer to clays of various colors which are used to create pigments, or a red-brown color made from those clays)

ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

lea = field, grassland, meadow, pasture

lees = the sediment of wine in a barrel; dregs found in a cask; also used to refer to dregs in a general context

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

wend = to proceed, to go on one’s way, to direct one’s course

[Editor: Corrected “youths ambrosial wine” to “youth’s ambrosial wine”.]

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