Prefatory Sonnets [poetry by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869).]

[Prefatory Sonnets]


I purposed once to take my pen and write,
Not songs like some tormented and awry
With Passion, but a cunning harmony
Of words and music caught from glen and height,
And lucid colours born of woodland light,
And shining places where the sea-streams lie;
But this was when the heat of youth glowed white,
And since I’ve put the faded purpose by.
I have no faultless fruits to offer you
Who read this book; but certain syllables
Herein are borrowed from unfooted dells
And secret hollows dear to noontide dew;
And these at least, though far between and few,
May catch the sense like subtle forest spells.


So take these kindly, even though there be
Some notes that unto other lyres belong:
Stray echoes from the elder sons of Song;
And think how from its neighbouring, native sea
The pensive shell doth borrow melody.
I would not do the lordly masters wrong,
By filching fair words from the shining throng
Whose music haunts me, as the wind a tree!
Lo, when a stranger in soft Syrian glooms
Shot through with sunset, treads the cedar dells,
And hears the breezy ring of elfin bells
Far down be where the white-haired cataract booms,
He, faint with sweetness caught from forest smells,
Bears thence, unwitting, plunder of perfumes.

Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 1-2

Editor’s notes:
The “Prefatory Sonnets”, although listed in the table of contents as such, were not given a title on the pages on which they were printed; however, they were headed “I.” and “II.” respectively.

elfin = elf-like; physically small, charming, and delicate, with a merry or mischievous countenance (may also refer to an elf; or, of or relating to elves)

filch = to take something in a furtive manner, especially something of small value

Old spelling in the original text:
doth (does)

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