[Editor: This poem, addressed to an unknown woman, by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]
Long ere I knew thee — years of loveless days —
A Shape would gather from my dreams and pour
The soul-sweet influence of its gentle gaze
Into my being, thrilling it to the core,
Then would I wake, with lonely heart to pine
For that nocturnal image:— it was thine!
Thine — for though long with a fond moody heed
I sought to match it with the beauteous creatures
I met in the world’s ways, ’twas but to bleed
With disappointment; for all forms, all features,
Yet left it void of living counterpart —
The shadowy Mistress of my yearning heart.
Thine — for when first seen thou didst seem to me
A being known yet beautifully new!
Thus, warranting some sage’s theory,
Amid Heaven’s sisterhoods, into shining view
Is drawn a long-conjectured star, his name
To fold forever in its virgin flame!
But I forget! Far, far away from thee
Behold, I wander ’mid primeval woods
Where but all savage things are wont to be,
Mixing fond questionings with Solitude’s
Wild cadences, as through dim glades by fits
Yet dreaming her ancient dream, illusively she flits.
And now the HUNTER, with a swollen speed
Rushes in thunder at my feet, but wears
A softened charm in that it seems to lead
My willing vision whether Memory rears
Thy rural bower by the stream that erst
With murmurous heed my infant passion nurst.
And with the river’s torture, oft a tone
Of that far brook seems blending, accents too
Of the dear voice there heard — that voice alone
Unparagoned of mortal sound, like dew
Honeyed with manna, dropping near me seems,
As oft I listen — lost in Memory’s dreams!
But vain these musings! Though my spirit’s bride
Thou knew’st not of my love! Though all my days
To come must be inevitably dyed
Or bright or dark through thee — this missive says
Thy lot in life is cast, that thou wilt be
Another’s ere I look again on thee!
The bardic doom is on me! Poets make
Beauty immortal and yet luckless miss
The charms they sing, — martyrs at Fortune’s stake!
As though their soul’s capacity for bliss
Might else give Earth too much of Heaven and kill
The want that strengthens them for prowess still.
Wreathe then the Poet’s brows with blossoms bright!
Let waters ever, and the sway of trees
Sound through his thoughts, as the renewed delight
Of Even flows around him in a breeze
Laden with dying voices — till the night
Enroof him with her starry mysteries!
For Nature only (fated at his birth!)
May minister unto his love on Earth.
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 87-88
bower = a shaded, leafy resting place or shelter, usually located within a garden or park and often made of latticework upon which plants (especially vines) are grown, or made out of intertwined tree boughs or vines (also known as an “arbor”) (“bower” may also refer to a country cottage or retreat, or to a woman’s bedroom or apartments in a medieval castle or mansion)
doom = fate, destiny, especially adverse destiny or an unavoidable terrible fate (may also refer to death, destruction, downfall, ruin)
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
erst = (archaic form of “erstwhile”) long ago, in the past, formerly (may also mean: at first)
manna = something gained freely and unexpectedly; in the Bible it refers to the food bestowed upon the Israelites in their journey from Egypt, hence the expression “manna from heaven” (also refers to spiritual nourishment; also refers to the substance exuded or excreted by certain insects and plants)
’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.
oft = often
wont = custom, habit, practice; accustomed; apt, inclined
Old spelling in the original text: