Sunset from Moreton Bay
Attend, O truant Muse! Thy magic lend
My barren verse; though better to behold
The grain on hungry soil that grows than weeds
Well sprung from loam of parts more nourishing.
Attend, I say, for visions wonderful
My being fill, and seek in vain to leave
The airy realms of thought, and live in words;
Though these for Fancy’s nurselings e’er prove cold.
Fair Moreton Bay the scene; and mine the sight
That, from the beauteous Isle of Erobin,
Beholds with raptured gaze the golden god
Urge down the western slope his fiery steeds.
Dark priests his flight attend, who fling their robes,
Of sombre hue, with fringes turned to flame,
About the breastwork of his gleaming car —
Or so it seems. Across the northern sky
A glorious headland stretches; round its base
A sea of lesser vapours beats its shores.
The lower cliffs, in purple haze enwrapped,
With sweeping mien approach the middle heights,
Where silver spurs project, and snowy deeps,
Filled to the brim with roses, meet the gaze.
Here towers of purest opal crown the ridge,
And ever change their hue, like gems that show
Their value by the number of their beams.
Among the massy crags fall rivulets
Of purest crystal, dashed with virgins’ blood,
Upon whose banks, in gowns of gleaming white,
Fair goddesses their nymphic revels hold.
Above, the lofty peaks of feathery cloud,
Gleaming like heaving hills of virgin gold,
Rise over all; nor has the firmament
Such splendour ever shown to me before
As here my wond’ring gaze beholds. O, could
I tell its majesty! how gleams the sun
With light supernal on the towering heights,
As, hasting to its bed, the orb of day
Looks back, a last but short farewell to bid
The cloudy mass suspended in the sky!
Methinks below yon battlements I see,
Refraining yet his fiery bolts to hurl,
With ruddy beard and hammer rude, old Thor,
Nursing his thunders down among the shades
Of deep ravines, that scar the mountain’s side.
But even now old Sol has gained the bounds
Of western space, his smoking steeds nigh spent
By speed so terrible; and, as below
The fringe of earth the steaming coursers fall,
A golden flood, like molten metal, wraps
The charioteer in folds of blinding flame,
And checks the sight of man; for truly gods
Ne’er brooked and ne’er will brook mere mortal’s gaze.
Now creep the shades with stealthy tread the heights
Of cloud along; and soon the purple haze
(That ever rises as the sun sinks low)
Has dyed the skyey headland, leaving naught
But one fair peak, that wears a crown of gold.
The gleaming billows, bearing on their brows
Chaplets of curling foam, are sprinkled o’er
With each reflected splendour from the sky;
And Erobin, with all her sister isles,
Soon sleeps upon the bosom of the Bay.
Next gentle gales disperse the cloudy hills
Across the heav’ns; for now the golden god,
Leaving the fiery dust to mark his flight,
Has reached the confines ’neath the western skies.
William Blocksidge, Songs o’ the South, London: Watts, 1908, pp. 66-67
bound = boundary or limit, especially of an area (usually used as a plural, “bounds”: boundaries, limits); the boundary of a country, province, state, territory, field, estate; a line or area which is a boundary or forms a boundary; something which confines, limits, or restrains (e.g. the bounds of morality)
car = an abbreviation of “carriage”
chaplet = a circlet, garland, or wreath for wearing on the top of the head (made of beads, flowers, etc.); in the Catholic faith, a string of 55 beads, used for keeping count when repeatedly reciting a prayer, and/or used as a necklace; any string of beads; in the Catholic faith, a set of repeated prayers (aside from the Rosary), which are commonly counted with the aid of a string of beads; in architecture, a carved molding which looks like a string of beads
courser = a swift horse; a charger
e’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “ever”
Erobin = the Aboriginal name for King Island (Queensland)
golden god = the Sun; the god of the Sun
heav’n = (vernacular) a contraction of “heaven”
Isle of Erobin = [see: Erobin]
loam = soil comprised of a mixture of clay, sand, silt, and organic matter
methinks = (archaic) I think (sometimes used in the sense of “it seems to me”)
mien = the air, bearing, demeanor, or manner of a person, especially as showing an attitude or personality
Moreton Bay = a bay situated on the coast of Queensland, east of Brisbane
Muse = a source of artistic inspiration; a person, especially a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for an artist (derived from the Muses of Greek and Roman mythology, who were said to provide inspiration for artists and writers)
naught = nothing; zero; failure, without result; lost, ruined (older meanings are: ruined, useless, worthless; morally bad, wicked)
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
ne’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “never”
nymphic = of or relating to nymphs: in Greek and Roman mythology, nymphs were young beautiful nubile women, with a propensity to dance, sing, and frolic; they were a class of deity who were not immortal but had very long lives; the dwelling places of most nymphs were generally depicted as being forests, groves, and mountains, and in or nearby lakes, springs, and streams, although there were also sea nymphs
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
rivulet = a very small brook, creek, or stream
ruddy = red, reddish (can also be an exclamatory expletive, used as a euphemism for “bloody”)
rude = primitive, raw, or rough, or in an unfinished state or natural condition (distinct from the modern usage of “rude” as someone being discourteous or ill-mannered)
Sol = the Sun; in Roman mythology, Sol was god of the Sun; in Norse mythology, Sól was goddess of the Sun
Thor = a Norse god; in Northern European mythology, Thor is the god of thunder (commonly depicted as wielding a hammer, he is associated with thunder, lightning, rain, storms, fair weather, crops, sacred groves and trees, protection, and problem-solving)
thy = (archaic) your
wond’ring = (vernacular) wondering
yon = an abbreviation of “yonder”: at a distance; far away