Before me gleams a Volume, rare,
And radiant to behold;
With picture-poems painted, fair,
In lines of green and gold.
That Great Raphael, who moulds the flower,
And stains the sunset skies
Its Author is. No critic dour
His workmanship decries.
Homeric is his theme, and this
No halting rhythm mars —
What bard-song ever soared like His
Whose harp-strings reach the stars?
With Art sublime the Great Book glows;
And magic minstrelsies;
And Music from its pages flows,
In chords that never cease.
On each fresh page this endless tome
Some new delight doth hold;
Its readers may for ever roam
By wonder-ways untold.
Aye, he who cares, may turn at will
Rare treasure-leaves, to learn
Of cool cloud shadows o’er the hill
Or sunlight on the fern.
Slow may he follow — all his soul
A-thrill with long delight —
The changing Seasons, as they roll;
The path of Day and Night.
His eye may wander in the Spring
O’er dewy lands, a-sheen;
Where fairy martins sweeping wing
Across the paddocks green;
Or scarlet lories, in their flight
Among the wattles, fold
Their turquoise wings; to drop like bright,
Red rubies flung on gold.
Oh! he may gloat the hillsides clear,
That em’rald with the vine;
The waving wheatfields just in ear,
The silken-coated kine;
When from her green the briar breaks,
A sweet rose-sister shy,
Or proud, the lordly gymea shakes
His crimson banners high.
A serial of the seasons, he
Who loves the Book may read —
The tale of summer, joyous see
Imprinted on the mead
In yellow heads of ripened wheat,
Or purple clusters, hung;
In orchards, breathing forth the sweet
Of ripened fruit downflung.
Beneath the ti-tree down the creeks
Is writ a chapter cool,
Wherein the tongue of Nature speaks
From shaded reach and pool.
Brown Autumn, like a dairy lass
With rain-wet cheeks of health,
A rosy gleaner, too, will pass —
Her apron full of wealth.
When sloughed, curled bark, the silver trees,
From shining trunks unswathe,
Like nymphs by singing, summer seas
Disrobing ere they bathe.
When lines the dasyure lean his lair;
When moults the wild black swan;
And shifting snipe are otherwhere;
And covey quail are gone.
When wine and must, and yellow gourd;
Fat sacks of spilling grain,
In rick and loft and cellar stored,
Bespeak the garnered gain.
So Winter steals, with soft warm rains,
To soak the canefields all;
So Southern snow, knee-deep remains
Along the ranges tall.
So Winter in her fur-lined gown
And hood and muff of grey,
Goes tripping o’er the farmlands brown,
Frost-jewelled on her way.
Aye, from this Book the Bards-to-be,
The Painters yet unborn,
Their songs will glean in ecstasy:
Their pictures clothe with Morn.
The shades of those, in Austral rhyme
Who wrote, as pioneers,
Will surely hail that full, sublime,
Rich culture of the years.
When I have turned the Puzzle Key,
That opes the Low Black Door;
And from this human entity
Go forth, to sing no more.
On some Australian hill, that greens
With bourgeonage of grass;
Where down the Morning’s cool demesnes
The glowing day-winds pass;
Low lay me down. Nor wet in grief
The Old Earth-Book with tears;
Remembering that line and leaf
Were mine through many years.
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 92-96
Austral = of or relating to Australia or Australasia; Australian, Australasian; an abbreviation of Australia, Australian, Australasia, Australasian; in a wider context, of or relating to the southern hemisphere; southern, especially a southern wind
aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)
doth = (archaic) does
em’rald = (vernacular) emerald
ere = (archaic) before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
kine = cattle
Low Black Door = apparently a reference to death; the doorway to death
mead = an abbreviation of “meadow” (especially used in a literary context) (may also refer to an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey with water)
nymph = in Greek and Roman mythology, nymphs were young beautiful nubile women, with a propensity to dance, sing, and frolic; they were a class of deity who were not immortal but had very long lives; the dwelling places of most nymphs were generally depicted as being forests, groves, and mountains, and in or nearby lakes, springs, and streams, although there were also sea nymphs
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
opes = (archaic) opens
Raphael = Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), born in the Duchy of Urbino (Italy), a painter and architect of the High Renaissance [in the context of this poem, the reference to “Great Raphael” (“That Great Raphael, who moulds the flower, and stains the sunset skies”) is apparently a reference to God]
rick = a large pile or stack of hay, corn, straw, or similar material, built in a regular shape (sometimes with a cover to protect it from rain); a haystack (can also refer to the act of stacking up such material into ricks); (American) a pile of firewood
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)
wing = fly; the act of flying; to travel in an aeroplane