Ode to Sydney Harbour [poem by Evelyn Threlfall, 1895]

[Editor: A poem by Evelyn Ages Threlfall (nee Baird), who moved to Australia in 1886, accompanying her husband, Sir Richard Threlfall, who had taken up a position at the University of Sydney as professor of physics; she moved back to England in 1898.]

Ode to Sydney Harbour

Here I look thee over,
Sister of the sea,
And thy languid sleep discover
In the arms of Earth thy lover,
With the skies for canopy.

Now my spirit trembles
Face to face with thee,
For what beauty thine resembles,
In whose mask dark Fate dissembles,
What hath been and what shall be ?

In Earth’s green embraces,
Sister of the sea,
Sleep, and dream of future races,
Treading down thy far high places,
Where no footstep yet might be.

There’s a time for slumber,
Thine awhile may be,
Till the years their full tide number,
Till Time’s path thou dost encumber,
And his wide wings shadow thee.

Sapphire at sun-shining,
Opal at sunset,
In day-dawn or day-declining
Green grey robes with rose-red lining,
And a red-gold coronet.

And at night resplendent
Rise the great white moons,
Through the steel-blue deeps ascendant,
High above thy darkness pendant,
Brighter than the blaze of noons.

There’s a pure bright highway
Leading into space,
Who shall tread it ? nay, but I may,
Sea-ward, star-ward, is it my way
To the soul’s abiding-place ?

Night, ablaze with glory,
And alive with wings !
Hearts grown weary, heads grown hoary.
Live in thy romantic story
Feasted from thy living springs.

Sweet pale blossoms drifting
In our path like snow,
And a crescent moon uplifting
Her curved lamp above the shifting
Clouds that fail like conquered woe.

Perfume never passes
From our memory,
We may see through Time’s blurred glasses
Bygone scenes as clouds in masses,
But a rose can set tears free.

So shall I remember
All, remembering thee,
When life darkens to December,
This shall fan its fading ember,
Joy that was and shall not be.

If I leave thee ever,
Sister of the sea,
Though again I see thee never,
Could I from the one thought sever,
Love was mine, beholding thee !

And one thing worth living,
Worth all pains that be,
Fate held out in grudging giving,
Yea, but gave, without deceiving,
When the moon lay white on thee.

Thou hast many morrows,
I have but to-day,
But thy star-robed sadness borrows,
From their endless joys and sorrows,
Who are born and pass away.

Thou wilt whisper lowly
Unto them as me,
Words that make life glad and holy.
Till they fain would cry, “Creep slowly,
Stream of Time, towards the sea !”

Swift their time of blooming,
Swift their joyless end,
Food for thankless Death’s consuming,
Shells of yonder seas’ entombing,
Shells the great waves seize and rend.

On thy vast blue ceiling
Stars their history write,
But for ever unrevealing,
Wide-eyed sphinx to all appealing,
Thou dost watch the face of Night.

Still thy breast untired
Nurses Heaven asleep.
Heaven — where never soul aspired
Seeking out the crown desired —
Falls upon thine heart to weep.

Whirling realms of nations
Are as nought to thee,
Latest of all Earth’s creations !
Southern stars from their high stations
Saw thee born of air and sea.

Mirror of eternal
Days that are as years :—
In thy grasp are powers infernal,
But a forest garland vernal
Is the robe thy queendom wears.

From thy wisdom’s treasure
Canst thou tell us this,
Shall a few years’ pain or pleasure
Be of Love and Life the measure,
See the end of all that is ?

With calm eyes beholding
All the things that be,
Tell us some sweet truth worth holding
Of the wings of God enfolding,
Souls that Death shall but set free.

But thy silence teaches
In a tongue unknown,
Man that wonders and beseeches,
Man that unto Godhead reaches,
Hath the grave for Godhead’s throne.

Peace ! the dusk is dreary,
Yet the noon is bright,
Flash thy purple wings, glad Peri,
Till the eyes of Love wax weary,
Till the soul finds rest in night.

Evelyn Threlfall. Starlight Songs, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co., London, 1895, pages 18-23

Threlfall, Evelyn”, AusLit (accessed 13 August 2012)
11 Evelyn Agnes Baird 1866”, Richard Angus (accessed 13 August 2012)

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