Night in the Bush.
Now, like a curtain through the trees,
By Nubian fingers drawn,
Dusk closes in. And by degrees,
On hillward slope and lawn,
The shadows lengthen, spread, and fade
In silent, phantom play,
Until a darkened cloth is laid
Upon the face of Day.
Their vesper songs, with folded wings,
The magpies cease to pour;
Above the cow’ring feathered things
The brown hawks poise no more;
And, as the last reflections die,
Night-conquered in the West —
All daylight Nature finds its high
Leaf-hidden place of Rest.
But prim-gowned Eve hath brought a bright,
A far, resplendent boon, —
The Bush is Elfland fair and white
A-glimmer in the moon!
In marble columns straight upstand
Its smooth trunks one by one,
To roof, o’er silver archways grand,
A forest Parthenon.
And first a furred phalanger screams;
Then shrill the ’possums squeal.
Deluded, in their avian dreams,
As cheating moonbeams steal,
In night groups, lifting tail and bill,
The kookaburras wake,
To laugh at intervals, until
The morn begins to break.
Nocturnal birds, with eerie sounds,
Pursue their hidden prey;
And far and wide the air abounds
With courtship, chase and play.
Marsupials bounding, thud the dark
Close undergrowth in flight;
On sloughing trunks the hanging bark
Is rustled by the Night.
Loud snorts a stock-horse scenting harm;
Pursued by formless fear
He gallops forward to alarm
A grazing equine peer;
Then wild hoofs clatter in his wake,
The swishing saplings fly,
And trodden sticks and branches break
As on the scared brutes hie.
Where o’er the clearing far away
A ground fog slowly floats,
Chained watchdogs, dreaming, wake to bay
All things with strident throats.
Disturbed by varied mongrel howls
And yelps and struggles vain,
The wakened settler rudely growls
Disgust, and sleeps again.
Daft morepokes swop across the ridge
Some everlasting joke;
Beneath the cranky homestead bridge
Fat frogs, persistent, croak,
Until the wild ducks, where the reeds
Their slim, dark shadows throw,
Forsake their night haunts by the weeds,
Protesting as they go.
As dusk to midnight softly trails
With slowly-certain pace,
Afar the prowling dingo wails
Of failure in the chase;
And sudden sounds, that alternate
With silence, still prevail, —
The coarse koala scolds his mate;
On green flats pipe the quail.
A lone, belated, horseman trolls
A catch for company;
And down the track an echo rolls,
In clear-toned mockery;
Then fur and feather, hushed, await
Until the clamour dies,
To slow resume an inchoate
Refrain of calls and cries.
My camp-fire, damped by falling dews,
Still lower burns, and low;
A puzzled paddymelon views
Its red, unwonted glow;
A bandicoot in quest of yams
Goes grunting sourly thence —
From habitat repelled, he damns
Such human impudence.
Now, greyly through the shadowed trees
A new light, wan and strange,
Falls faintly, with a herald breeze
That whispers from the range;
And o’er the cool and quiet Bush —
Grown wondrous still and free
From sounds of Life — there falls a hush
Of calm expectancy.
So pale the lower stars in turn
Have grown along the East;
The morning star alone doth burn
With radiance increased.
As tea-rose petals swiftly blown
Along a spacious lawn,
The fields of sky are freely sown
With blossoms of the Dawn.
And now the queenly Bush aside
Has thrown her garb of gloom;
The East is burning like a bride
With roses all in bloom.
Gay morning clouds, hibiscus red,
Adoring hearts unfold
Before a caliph sun whose head
Is diademed with gold.
The Land awakes in scent and song;
And far and near is heard
In concert from the creeks along,
The call of bird to bird.
With color, gladness, and delight
In all her bright array,
Refreshed by dews of cloudless Night,
The Bush salutes her Day!
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 84-88
caliph = a Muslim political and religious ruler, considered to be the successor of Muhammad; the head of the caliphate, the ruler of the Muslim world; a spiritual leader of Islam, considered to be the successor of Muhammad
See: 1) Caliph, Encyclopædia Britannica
2) Caliphate, Encyclopædia Britannica
3) Caliphate, Wikipedia
cow’ring = (vernacular) cowering
diademed = crowned; wearing a diadem (a diadem is a type of crown or royal ornamental headband)
doth = (archaic) does
equine = of or relating to horses, or to animals of the horse family
eve = evening (can also mean: the day preceding or a period of time immediately before an event or an occasion)
garb = clothing, apparel, attire (especially clothing of a distinctive or professional nature, e.g. medical, military, religious, historical, national folk costume, native culture, sub-culture)
gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)
hath = (archaic) has
hie = hurry; to go quickly
inchoate = just begun, or recently started, or only partly in existence or operation, and so therefore not yet fully formed or developed (elementary, embryonic, immature, rudimentary); chaotic, confused, disordered; incoherent, rambling; (in law) regarding criminal liability for an act not yet completed or a crime in preparation
morepoke = a small brown owl, the Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae), also known as the Tasmanian spotted owl (also spelt mopoke, morepork)
morn = morning
Nubian = (archaic) a black African, or someone of black African descent or ethnicity (especially regarding people from sub-Saharan Africa); an inhabitant of ancient Nubia, or a person of Nubian descent or ethnicity
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
paddymelon = a variant spelling of “pademelon”; pademelons are small marsupials, of the Thylogale genus, similar to kangaroos and wallabies, although smaller; the name comes from the Aboriginal word badimaliyan (not to be confused with the “paddy melon” plant, Cucumis myriocarpus, also known as prickly paddy melon, bitter apple, gooseberry gourd, and gooseberry cucumber) (also spelt with a hyphen: paddy-melon)
Parthenon = an ancient Greek temple, widely-known for the columns around all four sides of the building, dedicated to the goddess Athena, located in the Acropolis of Athens [this poem refers to a naturally occurring “Parthenon” of trees]
phalanger = a genus of possums, being marsupials of the family Phalangeridae
’possum = an opossum or “possum”, a tree-dwelling marsupial species native to Australia; opossums are actually those animals of the Didelphimorphia order of marsupials (which are colloquially known as “possums”), whilst the term “possums” technically refers to those animals of the suborder Phalangeriformes, of the Diprotodontia order of marsupials; however, the two are often confused as being the same animal; the confusion arises from when Joseph Banks (the botanist with Captain Cook’s expedition) thought the Australian marsupial was an opossum, as it looked similar to the American opossum
rude = primitive, raw, or rough, or in an unfinished state or natural condition (distinct from the modern usage of “rude” as someone being discourteous or ill-mannered)
slough = the skin shed by a snake or another type of reptile; to shed skin; the falling off of skin; to cast off, to discard, to get rid of something; dead skin on a sore or on an ulcer (can also refer to: a swamp, a river inlet, a creek in a marsh; a slump, a lack of activity or progress; despair, depression)
swop = (an alternative spelling of “swap”) to exchange
vesper = (archaic) evening, eventide (can also refer to vespers: prayers which are said or sung in the evening; evening worship; also, Vesper can be a reference to the planet Venus appearing in the sky as “the evening star”)