[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]
The Maid of Gerringong.
Rolling through the gloomy gorges, comes the roaring southern blast,
With a sound of torrents flying, like a routed army, past,
And, beneath the shaggy forelands, strange fantastic forms of surf
Fly, like wild hounds, at the darkness, crouching over sea and earth ;
Swooping round the sunken caverns, with an aggravated roar ;
Falling where the waters tumble foaming on a screaming shore !
In a night like this we parted. Eyes were wet though speech was low,
And our thoughts were all in mourning for the dear, dead Long Ago !
In a night like this we parted. Hearts were sad though they were young,
And you left me very lonely, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong.
Said my darling, looking at me, through the radiance of her tears :
“Many changes, O my loved One, we will meet in after years ;
Changes like to sudden sunbursts flashing down a rainy steep —
Changes like to swift-winged shadows falling on a moony deep !
And they are so cheerless sometimes, leaving, when they pass us by,
Deepening dolours on the sweet, sad face of our Humanity.
But you’ll hope, and fail and faint not, with that heart so warm and true,
Watching for the coming Morning, that will flood the World for you ;
Listening through a thirsty silence, till the low winds bear along
Eager footfalls — pleasant voices,” said the Maid of Gerringong.
Said my darling, when the wind came sobbing wildly round the eaves :
“Oh, the Purpose scattered from me, like the withered autumn leaves !
Oh, the wreck of Love’s ambition ! Oh, the fond and full belief
That I yet should hear them hail you in your land a God-made chief !
In the loud day they may slumber, but my thoughts will not be still
When the weary world is sleeping, and the moon is on the hill ;
Then your form will bend above me, then your voice will rise and fall,
Though I turn and hide in darkness, with my face against the wall,
And my Soul must rise and listen while those homeless memories throng
Moaning in the night for shelter,” said the Maid of Gerringong.
Ay, she passed away and left me ! Rising through the dusk of tears,
Came a vision of that parting every day for many years !
Every day, though she had told me not to court the strange sweet pain,
Something whispered — something led me to our olden haunts again :
And I used to wander nightly, by the surges and the ships,
Harping on those last fond accents that had trembled from her lips :
Till a vessel crossed the waters, and I heard a stranger say,
“One you loved has died in silence with her dear face turned away.”
Oh ! the eyes that flash upon me, and the voice that comes along —
Oh ! my light, my life, my darling dark-haired Maid of Gerringong.
* * * * *
Some one saith, “Oh, you that mock at Passion with a worldly whine,
Would you change the face of Nature — would you limit God’s design ?
Hide for shame from well-raised clamour, moderate fools who would be wise ;
Hide for shame — the World will hoot you ! Love is Love, and never dies.”
And another asketh, doubting that my brother speaks the truth,
“Can we love in age as fondly as we did in days of youth ?
Will dead faces always haunt us, in the time of faltering breath ?
Shall we yearn, and we so feeble ?” Ay, for Love is Love in Death.
Oh ! the Faith with sure foundation ! — let the Ages roll along,
You are mine, and mine for ever, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong.
Last night, dear, I dreamt about you, and I thought that far from men
We were walking, both together, in a fragrant seaside glen ;
Down where we could hear the surges wailing round the castled cliffs,
Down where we could see the sunset reddening on the distant skiffs ;
There a fall of mountain waters tumbled through the knotted bowers
Bright with rainbow colours reeling on the purple forest flowers.
And we rested on the benches of a cavern old and hoar ;
And I whispered, “this is surely her I loved in days of yore !
False he was who brought sad tidings ! Why were you away so long,
When you knew who waited for you, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong ?
“Did the strangers come around you, in the far-off foreign land ?
Did they lead you out of sorrow, with kind face and loving hand ?
Had they pleasant ways to court you — had they silver words to bind ?
Had they souls more fond and loyal than the soul you left behind ?
Do not think I blame you, dear one ! Ah ! my heart is gushing o’er
With the sudden joy and wonder, thus to see your face once more.
Happy is the chance which joins us after long long years of pain :
And oh, blessed was whatever sent you back to me again !
Now our pleasure will be real — now our hopes again are young :
Now we’ll climb Life’s brightest summits, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong.
“In the sound of many footfalls, did you falter with regret
For a step which used to gladden in the time so vivid yet ?
When they left you in the night-hours, did you lie awake like me,
With the thoughts of what we had been — what we never more could be ?
Ah ! you look but do not answer while I halt and question here,
Wondering why I am so happy, doubting that you are so near.
Sure these eyes with love are blinded, for your form is waxing faint ;
And a dreamy splendour crowns it, like the halo round a saint !
When I talk of what we will be, and new aspirations throng,
Why are you so sadly silent, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong ?”
But she faded into sunset, and the sunset passed from sight ;
And I followed madly after, through the misty, moony night !
Crying, “do not leave me lonely ! Life has been so cold and drear,
You are all that God has left me, and I want you to be near !
Do not leave me in the darkness ! I have walked a weary way,
Listening for your truant footsteps — turn and stay, my darling, stay !”
But she came not though I waited, watching through a splendid haze,
Where the lovely Phantom halted ere she vanished from my gaze.
Then I thought that rain was falling, for there rose a stormy song,
And I woke in gloom and tempest, dark-haired Maid of Gerringong !
Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 86-94
dolour = (also spelt “dolor”) anguish, grief, sorrow
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
hoar = (a variant of “hoary”) someone with grey or white hair; very old
o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
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