The Hut by the Black Swamp [poem by Henry Kendall]

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

The Hut by the Black Swamp.

Now comes the fierce North-Easter, bound
About with clouds and racks of rain;
And dry dead leaves go whirling round
In rings of dust, and sigh like Pain
Across the plain.

Now Twilight, with a shadowy hand
Of wild dominionship, doth keep
Strong hold of hollow straits of land;
And watery sounds are loud and deep
By gap and steep.

Keen fitful gusts that fly before
The wings of Storm when Day hath shut
Its eyes on mountains, flaw by flaw,
Fleet down by whistling boxtree-but
Against the Hut.

And ringed and girt with lurid pomp
Far eastern cliffs start up and take
Thick steaming vapours from a swamp
That lieth like a great blind lake
Of face opaque.

The moss that like a tender grief
About an English ruin clings —
What time the wan autumnal leaf
Faints, after many wanderings
On windy wings —

That gracious growth whose quiet green
Is as a love in days austere,
Was never seen — hath never been —
On slab or roof, deserted here
For many a year.

Nor comes the bird whose speech is song —
Whose songs are silvery syllables
That unto glimmering woods belong,
And deep meandering mountain-dells
By yellow wells.

But rather here the wild dog halts,
And lifts the paw, and looks, and howls;
And here, in ruined forest-vaults,
Abide dim, dark, death-featured owls,
Like monks in cowls.

Across this Hut the nettle runs;
And livid adders make their lair
In corners dank from lack of suns;
And out of fetid furrows stare
The growths that scare.

Here Summer’s grasp of fire is laid
On bark and slabs that rot and breed
Squat ugly things of deadly shade —
The scorpion, and the spiteful seed
Of centipede.

Unhallowed thunders harsh and dry,
And flaming noontides mute with heat,
Beneath the breathless, brazen sky,
Upon these rifted rafters beat
With torrid feet.

And night by night the fitful gale
Doth carry past the bittern’s boom,
The dingo’s yell, the plover’s wail,
While lumbering shadows start, and loom,
And hiss through gloom.

No sign of grace — no hope of green,
Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot;
But chained to iron doom, I ween,
’Tis left, like skeleton, to rot
Where ruth is not.

For on this Hut hath Murder writ
With bloody fingers hellish things;
And God will never visit it
With flower or leaf of sweet-faced Springs,
Or gentle wings.

Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 3-6

Editor’s notes:
fetid = having a heavily offensive or stale nauseating smell, like a smell of decay (also spelt “foetid”)

wan = having a sickly or pale appearance; a poorly appearance suggestive of unhappiness or grief; a lack of energy or feeling (e.g. a smile or laugh, displaying little effort, energy, or enthusiasm); lacking good health or vitality (may also refer to something which is dim or faint, e.g. light, stars, sun)

ween = believe, suppose, think

Old spelling in the original text:
doth (does)
hath (has)
lieth (lie)

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