The Brumby’s Death [poem by Ethel Mills]

[Editor: This poem by Ethel Mills was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

The Brumby’s Death.

’Twas only last night I was leading them westward
O’er hills bathed in moonlight, thro’ forests of gloom,
Past reed-beds that sang by the deep water-courses,
Thro’ thickets of starry- white jasmine in bloom ;
My beautiful troop ! with their wind-toss’d manes flying,
Their hoofs flashing fire as they wheeled on the plain —
Ah ! never thro’ desert or bird-haunted forest
Shall I lead them in moonlight or shadow again.

It was only last night that we came to the clearing :
The blaze of the camp-fire — our halt in surprise,
And the whirr and the sting of the death-dealing bullet,
The last maddened gallop, the fast-dimming eyes.
Then I sank on the reed-beds, they fled in the darkness
Still westward — their hoof-beats seemed ringing my knell ;
Was there one, do you think, gave a thought to the leader
Who, stricken and helpless, lay still where he fell ?

I had led them of yore to the hills of grey granite,
I knew where the creepers hung thick o’er the pass
That led to the vale in the heart of the mountains —
The clear, crystal river — the green slopes of grass.
Ah, me ! those were days when we met in the morning
And galloped in glee while the sweet breezes sang,
And the echoes came up from the hollow, red ridges
As over the gravel our hoofs lightly rang.

I can follow in fancy their flight thro’ the darkness —
Bereft of their leader, still hurried by fear :
Will they wander till lights of some lonely out-station
Shine out, or a horse-bell sounds far off, yet clear ?
Will they turn then and, seeking the swampland behind them,
Forget their wild panic in longing for me,
And hasten to guard me ? — for bright eyes are gleaming
And swift shadows hasten past thicket and tree.

How weirdly the dingoes are howling around me !
The wings of a night-hawk brushed lightly my mane ;
The eagles will shriek for their feast on the morrow,
But my troop will be with me, nor leave me again
Till these dim eyes grow bright, and far to the westward
I lead them, forgetting this night and its fear . . .
They are slow — they are late — ah ! I would that they hasten —
The stealthy night prowlers draw silently near.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Far away in the hills that have guarded so firmly
The granite-ringed pastures the wild horses know,
They are feeding knee-deep in the grass and the clover
While red grows the east from the dawn’s tender glow.
And another as leader looks proudly around him,
Sleek-skinned and fleet-footed, well fit to be head ;
But far in the reed-beds the eagles have gathered . . .
One might have remembered as westward they fled !

Ethel Mills.

A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 12-13

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