[Editor: This poem by Philip Durham Lorimer was published in Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, 1901.]
I Live in the Wilds
I live in the wilds, where the rush of the stream
Is the song that awakes me at morn,
In that moment when slumber resembles a dream
And the soul into visions is borne.
When the branches are bright ’neath the kiss of the sun
That pencils them over in red,
And the dew has dried off from the leaves of each one,
And is caught in the night-spider’s thread.
Around are the rocks and the broken hill steeps,
Where the trees seem to languish for room,
And the big boulders lie in the moss-covered heaps
O’er the roots they can barely entomb ;
While the traveller’s joy, with its small purple flower,
In a bunch, like an amethyst spray,
Is blooming o’er logs, to remind us of power
That has withered and crumbled away !
Oh ! then, at a glance, I discern that the years
Will not leave the lone wrecks of the wild
In desolate woe, without loveliness near,
To be guard o’er the forest’s dead child.
Sweet tenderness leans with an opulent soul
That is full of its joy to its own ;
For ever it clings unto love for a goal,
To a love that will prize it alone.
For is it not clear that each separate gem,
Though unknown and unsought and unseen,
In the forest’s wide reach, is a throne on the stem,
Where it blooms o’er the power that has been ?
’Twill clothe the bald rock or the shrivelled tree-limb
With its colours delightfully bright ;
’Twill wreathe the dead bough with a beautiful hymn,
And will make a glad day of the night.
I sit in the shade, where the butcher-bird sings
Near its nest to the joy of its brood,
While the fledgelings will screech, spreading out their young wings
To the sweets of the butterfly food ;
And the bronze-wing coos, shyly hid in her nest,
With her plume dully mottled with gold,
While her young ones peep through the grey down of her breast,
And turn back when the morning is cold.
My favourite tree is a stately old oak,
With its roots ever washed by the stream ;
I sit in its boughs, and I ponder and smoke,
While my mind is unrav’lling a dream.
How sweetly I hear, as the waters roll by
O’er the rocks that are hidden below,
That ripple of song that fells dreamily nigh
To the ear in the evening’s glow !
Or, far in the heights, where the gorges are steep.
Where the kingfisher swoops in the air,
Soft syllables rise from the watery leap,
From the joy that is jubilant there !
I hold not to custom or habits of men
In the choice of these beautiful bowers,
I know there’s a Fate that again and again
Has removed me from them in my hours :
But rather I’d live in the wildest spot here,
Though the verdure and bloom are unknown,
Than be where a sad heart must be masking a tear,
In the crowd where its grief is alone !
Unanderra, October 29, 1893.
E. A. Petherick (editor). Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, William Clowes and Sons, London, 1901, pages 213-215
butcher-bird = a large carnivorous Australian bird (their name comes from their shrike-like habit of impaling captured prey on a thorn, tree fork, or crevice)
verdure = the lush greenness of flourishing and healthy vegetation