[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]
The Dream by the Fountain.
Thought-weary and sad I reclined by a Fountain
At the head of a white-cedar shaded ravine,
And the breeze that fell over the high-glooming mountain
Sang like Love to me there as I gazed o’er the scene.
Long I’d reclined not till slumber came o’er me,
Grateful as balm to a suffering child;
When a lofty-browed Maiden seemed standing before me
With a lyre in her hand O so sounding and wild!
Bright was her brow, never heaven was brighter!
Her eyes were two midnights of passionate thought!
Light was her motion, a breeze’s not lighter,
And her locks were like sunshine and shadow inwrought!
Never before did my bosom inherit
Emotion so thrilling, such exquisite awe!
Never such wonder exalted my spirit
Before as did now through the Vision I saw.
Robed for the chase like a Nymph of Diana,
Her ivory limbs were half given below, —
Bare, that the pure breath of heaven might fan her,
Bare was her bosom of roseate snow.
Then lifting the lyre and with every feeling
Sublim’d as with love, she awakened the strings:
Bliss followed — and half into being came stealing
The motion and light of angelical wings.
Divine were the measures! Each voice of the wildwood
Seemed gathering head in their musical thrills, —
The gladness of rivers that sing of their childhood,
The shoutings of echoes that look from the hills,
The moaning of trees all at midnight in motion
When the breezes seem wandering lost, with a rare
And sweet meaning spirit of human devotion,
All blending and woven together were there!
Ceased then the strain; and as soon as were flowing
Around but the accents that people the wild,
The Lyrist, subdued by her rapture and glowing,
Adjusted her mantle, approached me, and smiled:
Smiled with a look like the radiance of morning
When flushing the crystal of heaven’s serene
Blent with that darkness of beauty adorning
The world when the moon first arising is seen.
And repressing it seemed then the fondest suggestions,
Calmly she spake; — I arose to my knees,
Expectant and tremblingly glad of her questions:
And the wild-warbled words that she uttered were these —
“I am the Muse of the evergreen Forest,
I am the Spouse of thy spirit, lone Bard!
Ev’n in the days when thy boyhood thou worest
Thy pastimes drew on thee my fondest regard.
For I felt thee ev’n then wildly, wondrously musing
Of glory and grace by old HAWKESBURY’S side,
Scenes that spread recordless round thee suffusing
With the purple of love — I beheld thee and sighed.
Sighed — for the fire-robe of Thought had enwound thee —
It seemed but the breeze or a sigh of thine own!
I would sweep then this lyre, gliding viewlessly round thee
To give thy emotions full measure and tone.
Since, I have track’d thee through dissolute places,
Seen thee with sorrow long herd with the vain,
Lured into error by false-smiling faces,
Chained by dull Fashion though scorning her chain.
Then would I prompt in the still hour of dreaming
Thoughts of thy beautiful country again,
Of her streams through the shadowy forest far gleaming,
Her hills that re-echo the hunt in the glen.
Till at length I beheld thee arise in devotion
To shake from thy heart the vile bondage it bore,
And I joyed as in sunrise rejoiceth the ocean
Thy footfall to hear on the mountains once more!
Listen, rejoined one, I promise thee glory
Such as shall rise like the day-star apart,
To brighten the current of many a story,
But for this thou must give to the Future thy heart.
Be then the bard of thy country! O rather
Should such be thy choice than a monarchy wide!
Lo, ’tis the land of the grave of thy father!
’Tis the cradle of Liberty! — Think and decide.
Well hast thou chosen.” She ceased. Unreplying
And love-faint I gazed on her wildering charms:
Deeper they glowed, her lips trembled, and sighing
She rushed to my heart and dissolved in my arms!
Thus seemed she to pass — and yet something remaining
Like a separate Soul in my soul seemed to be —
An aching delight — an extension that, paining
My being, yet made it more strengthy and free.
She passed — but to leave in my brain a reflexion,
A forevisioned blaze of perpetual sway,
While tones that seem gushings of mystic affection
Flow through me by night and around me by day.
And since, or in cities or solitudes dreary,
Upon the lone hill or more lonely sea-sand,
Though many that blame, few that praise be anear me,
I feel like a monarch of song in the land!
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 106-109
blent = blended
Diana = in Roman mythology, the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature
glooming = depressingly dark, gloomful, gloomy (may also mean: gloaming, dusk, twilight; or being depressed or despondent)
o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
Nymph = 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
roseate = pink; rosy; something like or similar to a rose flower
wilder = bewilder, perplex (can also mean to cause to lose one’s way, or to lead astray)
Old spelling in the original text:
’tis (it is)