Ruth Marjory Bedford.

Sydney at sunset : and other verses online

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Sydney at Sunset


Otfter Uerses

/ Ruth m. Bedford

Australasian Hutbors' Jfgency












Thanks are due to the Editors of the Sydney
"Bulletin" and "Lone Hand" for their courtesy
in giving permission to reprint various verses that
have appeared in those magazines.





Sydney at Sunset 7

Keep Me Away from Love ... ... ... ... 9

The Morning of the World 12

Song 15

Death and the Soldier 16

Joy Rides High 21

My Ship at Sunset 23

The Conqueror ... ... ... ... ... ... 26

Wisdom and Beauty 27

Ode to Joy 28

Castles in the Clouds 31

When Half-Gods Go, the Gods Arrive 33

Restore Our Youth, Dear God 34

Haunted 35

Sandalled Feet 38

Hope's a Star 40

The Mother 41

Prisoned Souls 43

The Little Life .. , 44



City of Desire 46

Night in the Graveyard 49

The Backward Way ... ... ... ... ... 52

Dear Land of Mine ... ... ... ... ... 53

A Dead Gum-Tree 55

The Elusive ... ... ... ... ... ... 57

Magic Memory ... ... ... ... ... ... 60

The Loneliness of God ... ... ... ... 61

Intuition 64

The Mist Maid 65

No More 67

Wanderer's Song ... ... ... ... ... 68

Dead Grasses ... ... ... ... ... ... 70

The Cloud-Eagle 71

From Out the Past 73

In a Green Meadow ... ... ... ... ... 74

The Fleet of the Sky 76

Sydney at Sunset

Nightly the gradual pageant is unroll'd

Before my wondering eyes,
The pure vermilion, the rose and gold

And pearl of sunset skies.

Here, from my window, through these magic hours

I gaze across the bay
Where Sydney lifts to heaven all her towers,

Dark at the death of day.

Sydney, my Sydney! All thy domes and spires

Stand clear against the west,
And lights spring out, to kindle little fires

Of love within my breast.

Now through the gardens, blurred as if with rain,

The Dusk goes by unseen,
And, passing, draws her mantle once again

Across the gold and green.


It hides the slopes where sunlight lingered last,

It overspreads the trees,
Finding and folding all the beauty fast

By slow and soft degrees.

No more the western heaven gleams and glows;

The gold turns grey. A star

Breaks through the darkness. Dim the shore-line

And dim the waters are.

But there beyond the water lies the town,

Her windows jewel-bright,
Sydney, on whom both sun and stars look down

With so much love and light.

Keep Me Away from Love

Keep me away from love, Mary my Mother,

Keep me away, apart,
That no one man has power more than another

Subtly to stir the depths of my sleeping heart,
Subtly to stir my pulse to a beat uneven.
Keep me aivay from love,

Mother of Heaven !
Keep me aivay from love \

There is a man whose name, even in praying,

I have no right to bless.

(Pity me, pity me, Mother! What am I saying?
How shall I steel my heart in its feebleness?)
Lo, I can fight no more ; I have prayed and striven.
Keep me away from love\

Mother of Heaven !
Keep me away from love \

Never a word of mine or a smile has moved him,

(See, I have slain my pride!)
Am I to blame in knowing I could have loved him

Had he desired this love which I strive to hide?


Which I would hide, forsake, nay, would even

Keep me azvay from love,

Mary my M other \
Keep me away from love I

Love is so cruel a thing when it comes so vainly,

And I can bear no more ;

Love is too fierce to be governed and guided sanely,
Knowing no rules or bounds but its o\vn wild

How shall I face the nights and the long

to-morrows ?
Keep me away from love I

Mother of Sorrows,
Keep me away from love I

Never shall helpless hands cling trustfully to me,

I must remain alone,
Never to feel the wonderful thought thrill through

Breaking in rapture, "This is my child my

own !"
(Why is so weak a heart to a woman given?)



Keep me aivay from love,

Mother of Heaven !
Keep me away from love !

I have grown starved and weary with endless giving,

God will perhaps repay.
I would live calmly now if one calls it living 1

Nothing shall break the calm of my lonely way ;
Cold and remote as the moon which o'ershines the

Keep me away from love \

Mother of Pity,
Keep me away from love \


The Morning of the World

It was the morning of the world
Which gods and men have sung;

Joy's waving flags were all unfurl'd
And you and I were young.

We stood on mist-encircled hills
And faced the growing light,

That moment when the dawn fulfils
The promise of the night.

Up came the sun ! The hills' sharp rim

Was like a purple cup ;
The East grew bright beyond its brim,

And so the sun came up.

The birds awoke ; the flowers uncurl'd ;

We gloried in the day.
It was the morning of the world,

With all the earth at play.



The glad, up-welling songs of birds

Were not more light and free
Than our light hearts and our gay words,

So young and blithe were we.

The opening buds were all a-glow,
We walked among the flowers,

Poor blossoms that could never know
Such joy of life as ours.

We stood and laughed in sheer delight,

We ran, with flying feet,
And sun and rain, and day and night,

And all life held was sweet.

We journeyed hand in hand with Truth
And thought we knew her well ;

Ours was the peerless hope of youth,
No fear could ever quell.

And we were wise as none before
Were wise since Time began ;

And we were strong with something more
Than all the strength of man.


We saw earth's far-off cities raise

Their minarets and towers
Clear through the golden morning haze,

And knew them all for ours.

So, fearless, with our hearts aflame,

Untouched by doubt or age,
Hot-foot, with singing lips we came

To take our heritage.

Joy's waving banners, all unfurl'd,

Above our pathway hung;
It was the morning of the world

And you and I were young.


Who came and filled my heart with Spring,

And brought the roses too,
And smiled upon their blossoming?

'Twas you, my dear, 'twas you !

Who plucked the roses at her ease

And left me only rue
And these unfading memories?

'Twas you, my dear, 'twas you !

Death and the Soldier

Far away, on a battlefield,

A wounded soldier lay;

Helmet and sword were cast aside,

For he lay low in his youth and pride,

The fiat was issued, his fate was sealed,

And he was to die to die.

Forth from his lips went a bitter cry,

"Grim Death, come not to me !

Hundreds, alas! thou'lt claim to-day,

But leave me living, leave me free,

Pass me by on thy way !

'Tis not that I fear thee, not that I fear

The gathering darkness, the strife,

But I love to ride free through valley and plains,

I love the red rush of blood through my veins,

I love, I love my life!"

But nearer drew, more near, more near,
The veiled form of Death
Who cometh all unasked to men.



With clammy fingers and icy breath ;
And the soldier cried again :

"I never courted thee, Death, as some

Have recklessly, foolishly done.

I leave no children, no anxious wife,

Not even a maid whose cheeks grew pale

As I rode away in my suit of mail,

Away from my southern home.

But think! My manhood is just begun,

And I love, I love my life !

I do not need the endless rest

Which to the old is given.

I have done nothing to be blest

By the reward of Heaven.

"Say, Death, art friend or foe?"

But never answer came.

He pleaded again, in pain, in woe,

His grey eyes glowed like flame,

While the groans of the dying rose and fell

All over the blood-stained ground.

He would not hear his own death-knell

Nor heed his fatal wound.

"I am young, and I felt so strong,
Waking with the dawn,


On my lips a careless song,

In my heart exulting thrills

As we rode across the hills

In the early morn.

None there were to foretell, to warn,

As we rode along.

I am young, and the world is wide,

And I, assured that I should ride

Onward to glory, ever on

To fame, until my crown be won,

My fadeless laurel-wreath !

Something has told me from my youth

That I should be leader of men ;

Ay, and I knew it ! Not how, or when,

But I knew that the voice spoke truth

When it whispered of splendour to be,

And now thou art waiting, Death,

Waiting for me !

Hence! I defy thee! O, bitter, cruel,

To send such misery.

To snatch success like a precious jewel

That should have adorned my brow,

And to give me instead the narrow grave,

No one to help, no one to save,

And the death that is waiting now!"



But he sudden ceased; his words so wild,

So vain, were hushed and still.

Very peacefully he lay,

As a little child.

For the clouds above him grey

Parted, and there shone a face,

Stern, and yet it smiled.

And a voice, as sweet and clear

As choruses of cherubim

Said, "O hush ! Peace, peace to thee,

Drawing near Eternity.

"O be silent ! What is worth

Thy lamenting and thy cry?

Think! What is thy little earth?

A mere speck in space ;

And thy life is but an hour,

Fading like a frail flower

That only blooms to die.

While the glories thou would'st win

Are as tinsel and as dross,

Gaining them is only loss

Hearken then to me.

For the God of Battles wills

Thou should'st enter in;

In His Kingdom there is work,


There is glory for thee, too,
Only in whate'er we do
Nothing mean can lurk.
Come, then, He is calling thee,
Not to everlasting rest,
That for others may be best
But that is not for thee.
So enter with a humble heart
To Eternity."

Then the clouds which moved apart

Closed again ; the voice was still.

Silently the soldier lay,

Life was ebbing fast away,

But his lips were smiling sweet,

Though he felt his pulses beat

Now very fitfully and fast,

Now laggingly and slow ;

Till he saw, close by his side,

The form of Death appear at last,

Silent, mystical, and chill.

"Come !" it said. He answered low,

"I am ready now to go."

So he died.


Joy Rides High

Joy rides high, O Joy rides high

On a winged horse to the ardent sky,

Over the hill-tops, np and away

To the sun's gold heart at the dawn of day,

To find, held close to his burning breast,

A rapturous fire that is more than rest.

Joy rides high ! When the sun slips past,
And the low-swung moon, and the stars at last,
Glowing, quivering, break from the blue
Wonderful curtain that none sees through,
Then the winds are loosed, and the clouds race by,
And free through the firmament Joy rides high !

When Spring is whispering, all astir,
(O the dear young voice and the joy of her!)
When the poorest tree has its gift of green,
And the blood runs swift and the pulse is keen,
Then clear from the heights rings a glad new cry
And swift through the heart of us Joy rides high.



Out ! for the morning is bright once more,
There is life on the hills, in the woods, on the shore;
The warm waves dance, and we're strong of limb,
And the wine of life's at the cup's gold brim,
And we're one with Youth that can never die,
And Joy rides ever, and Joy rides high !


My Ship at Sunset

/ saiv a ship a-sailing,

A-sailing on the sea,
And O, it was all laden

With pretty things for me.

Far in the West the sunset flung
Its gaudy banner on the sky,

A sort of brooding silence hung
Across the water, and a shy,
Reluctant breeze went by.

The ship came sailing from the West,
The sunset's glory over her,

Gradual and calm she onward prest,
And scarcely made the water stir,
So slow her movements were.

I saw the snow of sails that shone.

I caught the gleam of burnished gold,
And knew that piled in heaps upon

The deck, or hidden in the hold,

Were treasures manifold.


I stood and gazed, my heart a-glow,
For something whispered to my soul,

"The ship is thine : she finds, I know,
In thee a haven and a goal,
Thine while the ages roll."

More near she sailed, with bird-like grace,
And one was standing at the prow,

Commanding and serene his face,
Grave eyes beneath the level brow.
My heart can see him now.

So soon the soul perceives its own,
So swift the spirit understands,

We two were in the world alone,
And I was hastening down the sands
With outstretched, straining hands.

With outstretched hands he waited still
And smiled a greeting, when I heard

A sudden cry of warning thrill,

My leaping heart, aroused and stirred,
Sank like a wounded bird.

And even as she touched the strand
The ship began to move away,



As if some great, relentless hand

Which nothing had the power to stay
Drew her across the bay.

And what had been a narrow strip

Of sea between us, grew again,
Still wider, bore away my ship,

Till all the vast dividing main

Rolled deep between us twain.

But as I saw her drawn away,

Not guessing why, not knowing how,

Loud and distinct I heard him say,
That splendid figure at the prow,
"I shall return : wait thou."

And so I wait while sunset flames

And shoots its colours through the sea,

Till stealing night her season claims,

And light grows dim, and winds blow free,
And stars look down on me.

And so I wait through all the days,
With faith as steadfast as a star,

And so I wait to-night, and gaze
Far out beyond the harbour-bar,
Far out God knows how far.

The Conqueror

Keep me sane ! Lord, keep me sane,

Now my overheated brain,

Flushed with fortunate success,

Cannot grasp its happiness.

Do we lose most when we gain?

Is the struggle and the strain

All we know of certain joy?

Are the laurels always vain?

Is the crown a paltry toy?

Now that I at last attain,

Keep me sane, Lord ! Keep me sane !

How my heart, which beat so fast,

Pulses slowly, danger past.

How my eyes, which gazed so deep,

Calmly wake and calmly sleep.

All the passion, all the fear,

Hopes and longings disappear.

Surely this is not the end,

This, the mountain-top I gain?

Surely I may still ascend,

For I perish on the plain !

Keep me sane, Lord ! Keep me sane !


Wisdom and Beauty

Beauty wanders debonair

Up the hill and down the hollow,
Looking backward, to ensnare,

Crying, "Follow, follow, follow !"

Wisdom with the brow austere,
Walking slowly and sedately,

Calls not one to come an ear,
Only beckons, mute and stately.

And they crowd to Beauty's bower,
Thronging all the open highway,

While the few, to Wisdom's tower,
Steal by narrow lane and byway.

Sadly looketh Wisdom down
On the little group before her;

Gaily Beauty wears her crown,
Seeing hundreds that adore her.

And at length must Wisdom ask,
From her scroll reluctant turning,

"Beauty, lend to me thy mask,
For I cannot rule by learning."


Ode to Joy

Ah ! fleeting Joy,

Thy stay is all too brief, too swift thy flight !

Thou comest, and thy coming brings the light,

And even thy least wand's waving can destroy

The manifold illusions of the night,

Till we forget the terror and the gloom.

Thou comest from that far-off Fairyland

Whose bright enchantments we may never see.

Something immortal hast thou, and the bloom

Of youth and poetry ;

Strewing thy gifts with such a lavish hand

That we are dazzled by the golden shower

Which falleth far and free.

The weak youth grows a man in that short hour,

Unguessing how

The greybeard turns a boy,

Such magic wieldest thou,

O fleeting Joy !

Soft stepping, and thy wand within thy hand,
And on thy lips a smile,



Thou comest from that far-off Fairyland

Whereof we dreamed awhile.

Parting its curtains with thy wand

Until they let me through,

One instant we may gaze beyond

And find our dreams are true.

O fabled Fairyland of thine,

All wonder, all a-glow,

How close and clear its jewels shine,

How fair its blossoms grow !

And under it and over it the winds of heaven go !

Bright-winged thou art, all tipped with gold,

Bright-winged, and brighter-eyed,

And those deep eyes a secret hold

For him who gazes deep within

And reads the charm they hide.

Then he forbears to wish for more,

Then he forgets his life before

And all the world beside.

For Life, new Life, must now begin,

He rises deified.

The glorious sunlight fills his soul,

And all about him floats a breeze

As pure and fresh as that which stole

Through Eden's clustered trees.



But those bright wings are poised for flight

Too suddenly and soon,

And we are left with straining sight,

With empty hearts, alone at night

Beneath the distant moon

Which seemed within our grasp an hour ago.

How lonely are we left,

Forlorn and joy-bereft,

With faltering feet and slow.

From their frail setting fall the gems

That made our glittering diadems

In that proud day gone by.

Our hands are filled with faded flowers,

Our song becomes a sigh.

Alas for those poor hopes of ours !

Alas that we must cry,

"Come back no more to cheat us thus,

To flatter and decoy,

But weave thy spells apart from us,

O fleeting Joy !"

Castles in the Clouds

I have seen them night by night, in the cloudy sun-
set skies,

Battlemented palaces, set in clustered trees ;
Dark against the primrose light, one by one I see

them rise.
Never mortal hand could build cities fair as these.

There are castles grey and old, spirit-haunted, ivy-
Solemn and mysterious with their frowning

There are forests dark and cold, towers whose

ghostly bells are rung,
Curfew bells, by spirit-hands as the twilight falls.

What embodied dreams may throng all the misty


Distant purple hills no bird ever flew so far;
Knights and maids of some old song from the clear-
cut turrets gaze,

Very fair and pale the maids, brave the gallants


And the soul of old Romance, and the soul of Beauty


In the forests, on the hills, and their quiet feet,
Lightly passing, now advance through the stately


And their tender laughter rings musical and

Rocky pools of lucid green, pools no mortal ever


Lie along a curving shore with its hills of sand.
Out beyond them I have seen where no ripple breaks

the blue
Of the shallow lake that sleeps very far inland.

Are they fancies in a dream? Only sunset fallacies,
Just a cloudy tapestry hung before my eyes?

Very far away they seem, battlemented palaces,
Frowning walls and clustered trees in the western

When Half-Gods Go, the Gods

When half-gods go, the gods arrive!
O it is good to be alive !

To feel one's own immortal youth,

To catch a ray of living truth
To see whose distant lamp we strive.

We long to feel and do and know ;
We face the world, our hearts aglow,

With leaping pulse and willing hands;

The deathless, dauntless soul expands,
The gods arrive when half-gods go.

No old, unworthy hopes may thrive ;
We shatter all our idols, drive

Smooth falsehood flying far and fast ;

We know our time has come at last
When half-gods go, the gods arrive !


Restore Our Youth, Dear God

Restore our youth, dear God,

For Age is mean and bare.

Young hearts are strong to dare,
And love the paths untrod.
The feet of Age must plod

Through ways no longer fair.
Restore our youth, dear God ;

For Age is mean and bare.
It seeks beneath the sod

The rest it longs to share ;

Youth's footsteps tread on air,
Its feet are lightning-shod.
Restore our youth, dear God.



She comes when evening shadows fall,
When Winter winds are swift and chill,

When snow is heaped against my wall
And snow lies on my window-sill.

Among the shadows lies her path,

She glides from out them to the shine

Of firelight in my lonely hearth,

And takes the chair that faces mine.

No word she speaks ; no sign she makes ;

She does not stir from out her place ;
But there she sits, and never takes

Her earnest eyes from off my face.

The firelight flickers through the room,
I feel no warmth from all its glow,

Nor heed the slowly gathering gloom
While those grave eyes are gazing so.



The moments pass, she never stirs,

The hours drag by, she does not speak ;

But only from those eyes of hers

The tears fall slowly down her cheek.

And sometimes rising, stern and grand,

Withal so very silently,
She lifts a wan, transparent hand,

And points a finger straight at me.

That finger glows like living coal,
It burns its way to heart and brain,

It pierces to my very soul

Till I am faint and sick with pain.

I will not let her in to-night,
I lock my door, and bolt it fast,

While ever dimmer grows the light,
And ever louder howls the blast.

And yet I know it is in vain,
That I shall hear, as evermore,

A rustling at the window-pane,
A tapping at my bolted door.



She never speaks ; she sighs at most,

Yet what she is I fully know,
The form made visible, the ghost

Of all my hopes of long ago.

The night is coming on apace,

And clouds hang dark above the town,

But clear I see her pallid face,
With slow tears dropping down and down.

And so she sits and watches me,

And I may rave, and writhe, and pray.

No human hand can set me free,
And God has turned His face away.


Sandalled Feet

Dawn has sandals made of gold.
Merrily, so merrily
She passeth from the solitude
In beauty all untold.
Cometh, calling all the birds,

Cometh, waking all the flowers,
Speaking to them sweetest words,

Sweeter words than ours.
Bringeth with her tender light,

Light that fails not, light that burns not,
And a mist of foamy white

That arises and returns not.
Bringeth such a gentle breeze

That it falters as it tries
To repeat its harmonies,

And as gently dies.
Then she laughs, and, indiscreet,
Plucks the sandals from her feet,

Tosses them away,
And a glory fills the air
When 'her feet flash white and bare,
And that is Day.


Night has sandals made of fur.
Silently, so silently,
She passeth in her solitude
That no one heareth her.
She is mystic in her power,

She may awe, but not alarm,
Hushing bird and closing flower

By a subtle charm.
She will lure, and yet elude

Any mortal who pursues her,
Mighty in her solitude,

Far beyond the one who woos her.
Be he lover, be he friend,

By her starlight, by her moon,
He must watch her, lest she bend

Towards her sandal shoon.
Be he gallantest of men
He must hide in terror then,

Quail, and hold his breath,
And his eyes must never meet
The wondrous whiteness of her feet,
For that is Death.


Hope's a Star

Hope's a star ashine

Far above my head ;
And I know not whence it came
With a sparkle and a flame

And a radiance shed
Down on me and mine.

Hope's a star divine.

Though the storm-clouds hide
All the gracious gleam and glow,
Yet I grieve not, for I knoAv

On their other side
Hope's a star ashine.


The Mother

She kept her tender watch beside

The cradle where her baby lay,
And smiled to see, with loving pride,

The wayward little curls astray

In sweet and wilful disarray.
"How fair, and soft, and fine !" she said,
And bent and kissed the little head.

What sudden memory makes her start?

From cheek and lips the colour flies,
Her hand goes wandering to her heart,

Above whose quickened beating lies
A locket, closed to curious eyes,
But guarding, safe and secret there,
Another ring of silky hair.

And later, when the firelight smiled
A welcome to the one who came

And kissed his wife, and kissed his child,
Who woke and clamoured for a game,
And laughed, and lisped his father's name,

She turned away, no word she said,

But forth into the night she fled.


And down the churchyard path she went,
Where branches bend and grasses wave,

And weary bodies lie content,
And neither tears nor pity crave.
She knelt beside a little grave

Where, in a dreamless slumber deep,

Her other baby lay asleep.

She felt afresh the parting pain,
She heard anew the bell that tolled,

She longed to warm to life again
The baby that had grown so cold;
She pressed her face against the mould.

"The other takes his place," she said,

"And I am jealous for my dead!"


Prisoned Souls

As the silent violin


Online LibraryRuth Marjory BedfordSydney at sunset : and other verses → online text (page 1 of 2)