The Blue Lake — Mount Gambier [poem by Agnes Neale, 1888]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Australian Ballads and Rhymes (1888).]

The Blue Lake — Mount Gambier.

Lying asleep in the golden light
Fringed with a setting of emerald green,
Crowned with a majesty peerless and grand,
Nature has surely made thee her queen.
The clouds that gathered above in the air
Mirror themselves in thy sparkling eye,
Sending their beauty to swell thy store,
Till we scarce can tell the lake from the sky.

Lying asleep in the shining light;
Silent and calm as befits a queen;
Like a giant sapphire, limpid and pure,
Set in a border of golden green;
How wondrous calm and fair it must be
Here when the glorious moonbeams lie
In silver floods on thy shining face
And the soft winds wander in whispers by —

When the long fantastic shadows creep out
And wander about in their silent way,
Giving a beauty weird and strange
That will fade in the sober light of day.
And then in the solemn stillness of night,
When the white stars burn from their thrones on high,
Does ever a moan steal up from thy heart
To the far-off arch of the listening sky?

Down in that wonderful heart of thine,
Does some awful secret of suffering lie —
Some tale of a dreadful tragedy,
Wrought in the years that have long gone by?
O, beautiful picture of calmness and peace,
I can see in fancy a terrible day,
When the very fiend of the bottomless pit
In thy quiet nest held riotous sway.

When a bubbling cauldron of molten fire
Seethed where thou sleepest in beauty now,
And a storm-cloud blacker than midnight dark
Hung low on the shuddering mountain’s brow;
When the lurid glare of destruction’s light
Flared red and wild in the face of heaven,
And the trembling earth in her agony
By mighty earthquakes was rocked and riven;

When here, where the grass is velvet now,
And the radiant golden sunlight lies,
A torrent of living fire swept down,
And darkened the face of the noontide skies,
And the mountain reeled in the demon’s clutch,
As he belched forth scorching fire for breath;
And wherever his scathing footsteps trod
There fell the shadow of darkness and death.
And when the rage of the fiend was spent,
And the awful work of the day was done,
I can see the blackened and blasted land
Lie stricken and dead in the light of the sun.

The land is smiling and emerald now,
And the glorious sunlight’s golden gleam
Lies warm on the stern old mountain’s side,
And the past seems only a hideous dream.
But that vision of horror is real and true —
As real as this lovely summer scene —
Real as this mount with its sapphire heart,
And its delicate border of golden green.

But why art thou lying there, oh, gem —
Lying so solemn, and calm, and still?
Dost thou hold in thy beautiful azure bonds
The strength of the raging fire-fiend’s will?
No hand but the hand of the Lord of Heaven
Could have laid thee here in thy quiet nest,
Could have cradled thee deep in a mountain’s heart,
With the sunlight kissing thy radiant breast.

Was it for this that He set thee here,
To work out in silence His mighty will?
So that the earth from her trouble should rest,
And the seething tempest of fire lie still?
Was it for this thou art cradled here?
Or art thou the wonderful well of truth,
Or the fabled fountain whose waters hold
The priceless treasure of fadeless youth?

Art thou only the work of enchantment? Say,
Has thy beauty been wrought by some magic spell?
Will this wonderful vision vanish and fade,
Leaving nothing behind but this empty well?
Or a grand old mountain, proud and high,
Crowned to the summit in living green,
Bathed by the sunlight, and drenched by the rain,
Just in the way that it often has been?

No answer comes up from thy silent lips,
Thou holdest thy secret closely and well,
And whatever the future, no whisper will breathe
From the azure depths of that rock-bound cell.
Farewell to thee, glorious mountain gem,
Though thy beauty I never again may see,
Yet often in fancy I’ll wander back
To sit in the sunlight and dream of thee.



Source:
Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 161-164

Also published in:
Douglas B. W. Sladen (editor), A Century of Australian Song, London: Walter Scott, 1888, pages 353-356 [included in the contents list of this volume as “Caroline Agnes Leane (Mrs. Aherne)”]

Editor’s notes:
azure = the blue of a clear unclouded sky

riven = cleaved, split, or torn apart

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