The Voice of the Native Oak [poem by Charles Harpur]

[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]

The Voice of the Native Oak.

Who hath lain him underneath
A lone oak by a lonely stream,
He hath heard an utterance breathe
Sadder than aught else may seem!

Up in its dusk boughs, out-tressing
Like the hair of a giant’s head,
Mournful things beyond our guessing
Day and night are utterëd.

Even when the waveless air
May only stir the lightest leaf,
A lowly voice keeps moaning there
Wordless oracles of grief.

But when nightly blasts are roaming,
Thus lowly is that voice no more:
Then from the streaming branches coming,
Elfin shrieks are heard to pour.

Till the listener surely deems
That some wierd spirit of the air
Hath made those boughs the lute of themes
Wilder, darker than despair, —

Some lonely spirit that hath dwelt
For ages in one lonely tree —
Some weary spirit that hath felt
The burthen of eternity!

Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 100-101

Editor’s notes:
aught = anything; anything at all, anything whatsoever

elfin = elf-like; physically small, charming, and delicate, with a merry or mischievous countenance (may also refer to an elf; or, of or relating to elves)

wierd = (archaic spelling of “weird”) destiny, fate; pertaining to destiny or fate; abnormal, odd, strange

Old spelling in the original text:
burthen (burden)
hath (has)

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