To the Comet of 1843 [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 the Comet of 1843.

Thy purpose, heavenly Stranger, who may know
But Him who linked thee to the starry whole?
We see thou journeyest amid the worlds,
And that is all we know; for of the birth
Of Motion save as the primordial step
Of God’s creative power, mankind even yet
May but conjecture, as they did of old,
The shepherd sages of the mystic East.
Yet may we dream of thee, in thy career,
As of a wandering symphony amidst
The planetary voices of the world,
Singing together in their sun-led choirs,
That divine song of an eternal order.

Thus may we dream of thee — and I methinks,
With an especial privilege, for I,
(Unweetingly indeed) of all who watched
Thy coming, in my own land, saw thee first:
Then having wandered forth alone as wont,
To steep my heart in the rich sunset — lo,
I saw, half doubtingly, its fading hues
Leave thee sole wonder of the twilight sky!

But now, since thou hast travelled high in heaven,
Thousands of wondering spirits, all are out
Duly each night with upturned looks, to drink
The mystery of thy beauty.

In thy last
Bright visitation, even thus thou saw’st
The young, the lovely, and the wise of Earth,
A buried generation, thronging forth
In wonder to behold thee pass, — and then
Know thee no more: and when the flaming steps
Of thy unspeakable speed shall carry thee
Beyond our vision, all the beautiful eyes
Now open up in welcome — eyes by love
Made tender as the turtle’s, or that speak
The fervent soul and the majestic mind,
Fast closed in darkness shall have given for aye
Their lustre to the grave ere thou again
Drivest thy fiery chariot round the sun!

But orbs as beautiful and loving — yea,
More radiant in their wisdom from a more
Enlarged communion with the soul of Truth,
Shall welcome thee instead, heavenly stranger,
When thou return’st again!



Source:
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 70-71

Editor’s notes:
aye = always, forever

ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

Him = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God

wont = custom, habit, practice; accustomed; apt, inclined

yea = yes; indeed; truly; an affirmation (especially an affirmative vote), an indication of assent

Old spelling in the original text:
drivest (drive)
hast (has)
journeyest (journey)
methinks (I think)
return’st (return)
saw’st (saw)
thee (you)
thou (you)
thy (your)

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