The Spirits of the Dead [poem by Kenneth Mackay]

[Editor: This poem by Kenneth Mackay was published in Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes (1887).]

The Spirits of the Dead.

Sitting lonely in the silence, come the phantoms of the past,
And across my heated fancy are their shadows swiftly cast,
Till the ghosts of buried mem’ries in the chamber silent tread,
And I seem to hold communion with the spirits of the dead.

While around me in the ether that through ages floats in space
The soft flutter of their pinions seems to cool my tired face,
And the odour of their presence as a subtle incense strong
Steals before my jaded senses like a strain of mellow song;

And I feel sweet spirit fingers lightly press upon my hair,
Till the weary brain, responsive, gladly casts away all care,
E’en as though their unseen watching bore with it a healing balm,
As of old a voice on Galilee gave deep and sudden calm.

Stay awhile, ah, best-loved spirit! Let me feel thou standest by!
Let me feast my eyes a moment where my thoughts forever lie!
And though thou art but a vision, born of dreaming long and deep,
But a mirage of the senses, but a picture dawn by Sleep,

Yet, oh slumber, lock thy chambers, that no other enter in!
Let me welcome back my loved one — pure from earth and earthly sin!
Let me meet my long lost idol freed for aye from death and pain!
Let me see she but remembers! — then I have not dreamed in vain.

Nearing now till I can almost feel her breath upon my cheek,
Though the face seems brighter, fairer, comes the vision that I seek,
And I gladly spring to clasp it — this my love of days now old,
But, alas, as cold as marble is the form my arms enfold;

While a voice, which seems to echo somewhat of a distant day,
Gently whispers, “I may never give you back a love of clay
That amid the dust lies buried with the one you loved so well, —
Never more to hold dominion where a purer theme may dwell.

Oh, cast thou aside the idols which beset an earthly life!
So that when the fight is over — and thou leav’st the weary strife,
I may meet thee at the portals of the realms of endless day:
Then thy hopes will all be garnered — and our love will be for aye.”

Kenneth Mackay, Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes, Sydney: Edwards, Dunlop & Co., 1887, pages 69-70

Editor’s notes:
aye = always, forever

e’en = even

Galilee = a region in northern Israel, famous for being the land where Jesus Christ preached

pinion = a bird’s wing; in more specific usage, the outer section of a bird’s wing; in broader usage, “pinions” refers to the wings of a bird (“pinion” may also refer specifically to a feather, especially a flight feather, or a quill)

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