Memory’s Genesis [poem by Charles Harpur]

[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]

Memory’s Genesis.

How few through Memory’s dreamy scope,
However resolute of hope,
Can view the backward scene where first
Their youth rejoiced — for ever crost —
And not bewail as Adam erst
The Eden they have lost!
Nor feel, alas! with it compared,
The Present but a lengthening wild
Whereon young Passion never fared,
Young Beauty never smiled!

Yet ’tis a melancholy pleasure
To sit by moon-struck Memory’s side,
And hear her wild lyre oft remeasure
The story of our youthful pride!
Hours recalling, ah! how rife
With emotions lavished wide
Through the Garden of our Life
Ere all its spring-time roses died,
And (like day’s splendours when the sun
Remits in his decline from weaving
A robe of beauty for the Ev’ning)
Fancy’s Elysiums, one by one,
Had paled away as the long night came on!

Yes! ’tis a melancholy sweet,
And thus let Memory oft repeat
Life’s first tale, that to the core
Retempered by such generous lore,
Our hard’ning spirits, as ’tis meet,
May pity the cold world — the world we trust no more!

Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 91-92

Editor’s notes:
Elysium = (also known as the Elysian Fields) in Greek mythology, a conception of an indulgent afterlife for the righteous and the heroic

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

erst = (archaic form of “erstwhile”) long ago, in the past, formerly (may also mean: at first)

meet = meet = (archaic) suitable, fit, or proper

oft = often

Old spelling in the original text:
crost (crossed)
’tis (it is)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
ev’ning (evening)
hard’ning (hardening)

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