[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]
Rifted mountains, clad with forests, girded round by gleaming pines,
Where the morning, like an angel, robed in golden splendour shines ;
Shimmering mountains, throwing downward on the slopes a mazy glare
Where the noonday glory sails through gulfs of calm and glittering air ;
Stately mountains, high and hoary, piled with blocks of amber cloud,
Where the fading twilight lingers, when the winds are wailing loud ;
Grand old mountains, overbeetling brawling brooks and deep ravines,
Where the moonshine, pale and mournful, flows on rocks and evergreens.
Underneath these regal ridges — underneath the gnarly trees,
I am sitting, lonely-hearted, listening to a lonely breeze!
Sitting by an ancient casement, casting many a longing look
Out across the hazy gloaming — out beyond the brawling brook ;
Over pathways leading skyward — over crag and swelling cone,
Past long hillocks looking like to waves of ocean turned to stone ;
Yearning for a bliss unworldly, yearning for a brighter change,
Yearning for the mystic Aidenn, built beyond this mountain range.
Happy years, amongst these valleys, happy years have come and gone,
And my youthful hopes and friendships withered with them one by one ;
Days and moments bearing onward many a bright and beauteous dream,
All have passed me like to sunstreaks flying down a distant stream.
O the love returned by loved ones ! O the faces that I knew !
O the wrecks of fond affection ! O the hearts so warm and true !
But their voices I remember, and a something lingers still,
Like a dying echo roaming sadly round a far off hill.
I would sojourn here contented, tranquil as I was of yore,
And would never wish to clamber, seeking for an unknown shore ;
I have dwelt within this cottage twenty summers, and mine eyes
Never wandered erewhile round in search of undiscovered skies ;
But a Spirit sits beside me, veiled in robes of dazzling white,
And a dear one’s whisper wakens with the symphonies of night ;
And a low sad music cometh, borne along on windy wings,
Like a strain familiar rising from a maze of slumbering springs.
And the Spirit, by my window, speaketh to my restless soul,
Telling of the clime she came from, where the silent moments roll ;
Telling of the bourne mysterious, where the sunny summers flee,
Cliffs and coasts, by man untrodden, ridging round a shipless sea.
There the years of yore are blooming — there departed life-dreams dwell,
There the faces beam with gladness that I loved in youth so well ;
There the songs of childhood travel, over wave-worn steep and strand —
Over dale and upland stretching out behind this mountain land.
“Lovely Being, can a mortal, weary of this changeless scene,
Cross these cloudy summits to the land where man hath never been ?
Can he find a pathway leading through that wildering mass of pines,
So that he shall reach the country where ethereal glory shines ;
So that he may glance at waters never dark with coming ships ;
Hearing round him gentle language, floating from angelic lips ;
Casting off his earthly fetters, living there for evermore ;
All the blooms of Beauty near him ; gleaming on that quiet shore ?
“’Ere you quit this ancient casement, tell me, is it well to yearn
For the evanescent visions, vanished never to return ?
Is it well that I should wish to leave this dreary world behind,
Seeking for your fair Utopia, which perchance I may not find ?
Passing through a gloomy forest, scaling steeps like prison walls,
Where the scanty sunshine wavers and the moonlight seldom falls ?
O the feelings re-awakened ! O the hopes of loftier range !
Is it well, thou friendly Being, well to wish for such a change ?”
But the Spirit answers nothing ! and the dazzling mantle fades ;
And a wailing whisper wanders out from dismal seaside shades !
“Lo, the trees are moaning loudly, underneath their hood-like shrouds,
And the arch above us darkens, scarred with ragged thunder clouds !”
But the Spirit answers nothing ! and I linger all alone,
Gazing through the moony vapours where the lovely Dream has flown ;
And my heart is beating sadly, and the music waxeth faint,
Sailing up to holy Heaven, like the anthems of a Saint.
Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 2-7
Aidenn = Eden (the Garden of Eden, from the Bible); paradise
bourne = boundary; in the context of life and soul, it refers to the boundary between life and death (a bourn, also spelt bourne, is a small stream)
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
ethereal = insubstantial, light, tenuous, or lacking material substance; heavenly, otherworldly, spiritual; or something very delicate or refined
evanescent = vapour-like; something that is almost imperceptible, fading quickly, or fleeting
overbeetling = jutting or overhanging (from beetle-browed, i.e. having heavy overhanging eyebrows)
yore = in the past, long ago (especially used in the phrase “days of yore”)
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