To an Echo on the Banks of the Hunter [poem by Charles Harpur]

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

To an Echo on the Banks of the Hunter.

I hear thee Echo! and I start to hear thee
With a strange tremour, as among the hills
Thy voice reverbs and in swift murmurs near me
Dies down the stream, or with its gurgle low
Blends whisp’ringly, until my bosom thrills
With gentle tribulations that endear thee,
But smack not of the Present. ’Twas as though
A spirit of the Past did then insphere thee
Even with the taste of Life’s regretted spring,
Waking wild recollections to evince
My Being’s transfus’d connexion with each thing
Lov’d, though long since!

It seems but yesterday since last I stood
Beside the Hawkesbury even as now I stand
By the swift Hunter, challenging o’er the flood
An Echo thus, but with a glorious brood
Of hopes then glowing round me and a band
Of schoolmates and young creatures of my blood
All quick with joyousness beyond command!
And now, with that delightful day O where
Are those quick joys, glad mates, and hopes of good?
Echo, declare!

Thy voice comes o’er the waters in reply,
To fade as soon! And all their young delights
Decay’d (as thy peculiar accents die)
In the dusk valleys of past days and nights,
To be renewed not, like thy mystic chide!
And one to the other of those joyous creatures,
(Now burthened with their manhoods) in the wide
World’s separations even the names as features
Have faded so away! And so, at last,
Have all those glorious hopes become but lonely
And dying echoes of the hollow Past —
All but one only!

And this around my Being only strays
Like a recurring sound. ’Tis that when o’er
My Country shall have swept the ripening days
Of centuries, her better sons shall prize
My lonely voice upon the Past; but more,
That to her daughters as with lustrous eyes
Bathed in the azure of these self-same skies,
They’ll gaze upon my page, even then my name
(Now nought) responsive to the loving swell
Of their full souls and winnowed of its blame,
From Time’s dim void (an Echo) thus shall come!
And wheresoever Love and Song may dwell,
So live and die in sweet perpetual doom
Over the flood of ages, — still and still the same!
And in this hope the recompense is great
For much I lack, for more that may annoy,
Crowning me oft ’mid these dark days of Fate
With joy — even joy!




Source:
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 76-77

Editor’s notes:
azure = the blue of a clear unclouded sky

connexion = an alternative spelling of “connection”

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

oft = often

Old spelling in the original text:
burthen (burden)
thee (you)
thy (your)
whisp’ringly (whisperingly)

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