Adam Lindsay Gordon.

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But I go where the last year's lost leaves go
At the falling of the year."

The Romance of Britomarte

As related by Sergeant Leigh on the night he got his captaincy
at the Restoration.

I'll tell you a story; but pass the "jack",
And let us make merry to-night, my men.
Aye, those were the days when my beard was black -
I like to remember them now and then -
Then Miles was living, and Cuthbert there,
On his lip was never a sign of down;
But I carry about some braided hair,
That has not yet changed from the glossy brown
That it showed the day when I broke the heart
Of that bravest of destriers, "Britomarte".

Sir Hugh was slain (may his soul find grace!)
In the fray that was neither lost nor won
At Edgehill - then to St. Hubert's Chase
Lord Goring despatched a garrison -
But men and horses were ill to spare,
And ere long the soldiers were shifted fast.
As for me, I never was quartered there
Till Marston Moor had been lost; at last,
As luck would have it, alone, and late
In the night, I rode to the northern gate.

I thought, as I passed through the moonlit park,
On the boyish days I used to spend
In the halls of the knight lying stiff and stark -
Thought on his lady, my father's friend
(Mine, too, in spite of my sinister bar,
But with that my story has naught to do) -
She died the winter before the war -
Died giving birth to the baby Hugh.
He pass'd ere the green leaves clothed the bough,
And the orphan girl was the heiress now.

When I was a rude and a reckless boy,
And she a brave and a beautiful child,
I was her page, her playmate, her toy -
I have crown'd her hair with the field-flowers wild,
Cowslip and crow-foot and colt's-foot bright -
I have carried her miles when the woods were wet,
I have read her romances of dame and knight;
She was my princess, my pride, my pet,
There was then this proverb us twain between,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline.

She had grown to a maiden wonderful fair,
But for years I had scarcely seen her face.
Now, with troopers Holdsworth, Huntly, and Clare,
Old Miles kept guard at St. Hubert's Chase,
And the chatelaine was a Mistress Ruth,
Sir Hugh's half-sister, an ancient dame,
But a mettlesome soul had she forsooth,
As she show'd when the time of her trial came.
I bore despatches to Miles and to her,
To warn them against the bands of Kerr.

And mine would have been a perilous ride
With the rebel horsemen - we knew not where
They were scattered over that country side, -
If it had not been for my brave brown mare.
She was iron-sinew'd and satin-skinn'd,
Ribb'd like a drum and limb'd like a deer,
Fierce as the fire and fleet as the wind -
There was nothing she couldn't climb or clear -
Rich lords had vex'd me, in vain, to part,
For their gold and silver, with Britomarte.

Next morn we muster'd scarce half a score,
With the serving men, who were poorly arm'd -
Five soldiers, counting myself, no more,
And a culverin, which might well have harm'd
Us, had we used it, but not our foes,
When, with horses and foot, to our doors they came,
And a psalm-singer summon'd us (through his nose),
And deliver'd - "This, in the people's name,
Unto whoso holdeth this fortress here,
Surrender! or bide the siege - John Kerr."

'Twas a mansion built in a style too new,
A castle by courtesy, he lied
Who called it a fortress - yet, 'tis true,
It had been indifferently fortified -
We were well provided with bolt and bar -
And while I hurried to place our men,
Old Miles was call'd to a council of war
With Mistress Ruth and with HER, and when
They had argued loudly and long, those three,
They sent, as a last resource, for me.

In the chair of state sat erect Dame Ruth;
She had cast aside her embroidery;
She had been a beauty, they say, in her youth,
There was much fierce fire in her bold black eye.
"Am I deceived in you both?" quoth she.
"If one spark of her father's spirit lives
In this girl here - so, this Leigh, Ralph Leigh,
Let us hear what counsel the springald gives."
Then I stammer'd, somewhat taken aback -
(Simon, you ale-swiller, pass the "jack").

The dame wax'd hotter - "Speak out, lad, say,
Must we fall in that canting caitiff's power?
Shall we yield to a knave and a turncoat? Nay,
I had liever leap from our topmost tower.
For a while we can surely await relief;
Our walls are high and our doors are strong."
This Kerr was indeed a canting thief -
I know not rightly, some private wrong
He had done Sir Hugh, but I know this much,
Traitor or turncoat, he suffer'd as such.

Quoth Miles - "Enough! your will shall be done;
Relief may arrive by the merest chance,
But your house ere dusk will be lost and won;
They have got three pieces of ordnance."
Then I cried, "Lord Guy, with four troops of horse,
Even now is biding at Westbrooke town;
If a rider could break through the rebel force,
He would bring relief ere the sun goes down;
Through the postern door could I make one dart,
I could baffle them all upon Britomarte."

Miles mutter'd "Madness!" Dame Ruth look'd grave,
Said, "True, though we cannot keep one hour
The courtyard, no, nor the stables save,
They will have to batter piecemeal the tower,
And thus - - " But suddenly she halted there.
With a shining hand on my shoulder laid
Stood Gwendoline. She had left her chair,
And, "Nay, if it needs must be done," she said,
"Ralph Leigh will gladly do it, I ween,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline."

I had undertaken a heavier task
For a lighter word. I saddled with care,
Nor cumber'd myself with corselet nor casque
(Being loth to burden the brave brown mare).
Young Clare kept watch on the wall - he cried,
"Now, haste, Ralph! this is the time to seize;
The rebels are round us on every side,
But here they straggle by twos and threes."
Then out I led her, and up I sprung,
And the postern door on its hinges swung.

I had drawn this sword - you may draw it and feel,
For this is the blade that I bore that day -
There's a notch even now on the long grey steel,
A nick that has never been rasp'd away.
I bow'd my head and I buried my spurs,
One bound brought the gliding green beneath;
I could tell by her back-flung, flatten'd ears,
She had fairly taken the bit in her teeth -
(What, Jack, have you drain'd your namesake dry,
Left nothing to quench the thirst of a fly?)

These things are done, and are done with, lad,
In far less time than your talker tells;
The sward with their hoof-strokes shook like mad,
And rang with their carbines and petronels;
And they shouted, "Cross him and cut him off,"
"Surround him," "Seize him," "Capture the clown,
Or kill him," "Shall he escape to scoff
In your faces?" "Shoot him or cut him down."
And their bullets whistled on every side;
Many were near us and more were wide.

Not a bullet told upon Britomarte;
Suddenly snorting, she launched along;
So the osprey dives where the seagulls dart,
So the falcon swoops where the kestrels throng.
And full in my front one pistol flash'd,
And right in my path their sergeant got.
How are jack-boots jarr'd, how are stirrups clash'd,
While the mare like a meteor past him shot;
But I clove his skull with a backstroke clean,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline.

And as one whom the fierce wind storms in the face,
With spikes of hail and with splinters of rain,
I, while we fled through St. Hubert's Chase,
Bent till my cheek was amongst her mane.
To the north, full a league of the deer-park lay,
Smooth, springy turf, and she fairly flew,
And the sound of their hoof-strokes died away,
And their far shots faint in the distance grew.
Loudly I laughed, having won the start,
At the folly of following Britomarte.

They had posted a guard at the northern gate -
Some dozen of pikemen and musketeers.
To the tall park palings I turn'd her straight;
She veer'd in her flight as the swallow veers.
And some blew matches and some drew swords,
And one of them wildly hurl'd his pike,
But she clear'd by inches the oaken boards,
And she carried me yards beyond the dyke;
Then gaily over the long green down
We gallop'd, heading for Westbrooke town.

The green down slopes to the great grey moor,
The grey moor sinks to the gleaming Skelt -
Sudden and sullen, and swift and sure,
The whirling water was round my belt.
She breasted the bank with a savage snort,
And a backward glance of her bloodshot eye,
And "Our Lady of Andover's" flash'd like thought,
And flitted St. Agatha's nunnery,
And the firs at "The Ferngrove" fled on the right,
And "Falconer's Tower" on the left took flight.

And over "The Ravenswold" we raced -
We rounded the hill by "The Hermit's Well" -
We burst on the Westbrooke Bridge - "What haste?
What errand?" shouted the sentinel.
"To Beelzebub with the Brewer's knave!"
"Carolus Rex and he of the Rhine!"
Galloping past him, I got and gave
In the gallop password and countersign,
All soak'd with water and soil'd with mud,
With the sleeve of my jerkin half drench'd in blood.

Now, Heaven be praised that I found him there -
Lord Guy. He said, having heard my tale,
"Leigh, let my own man look to your mare,
Rest and recruit with our wine and ale;
But first must our surgeon attend to you;
You are somewhat shrewdly stricken, no doubt."
Then he snatched a horn from the wall and blew,
Making "Boot and Saddle" ring sharply out.
"Have I done good service this day?" quoth I.
"Then I will ride back in your troop, Lord Guy."

In the street I heard how the trumpets peal'd,
And I caught the gleam of a morion
From the window - then to the door I reel'd;
I had lost more blood than I reckon'd upon;
He eyed me calmly with keen grey eyes -
Stern grey eyes of a steel-blue grey -
Said, "The wilful man can never be wise,
Nathless, the wilful must have his way,"
And he pour'd from a flagon some fiery wine;
I drain'd it, and straightway strength was mine.

* * * * *

I was with them all the way on the brown -
"Guy to the rescue!" "God and the king!"
We were just in time, for the doors were down;
And didn't our sword-blades rasp and ring,
And didn't we hew and didn't we hack?
The sport scarce lasted minutes ten -
(Aye, those were the days when my beard was black;
I like to remember them now and then).
Though they fought like fiends, we were four to one,
And we captured those that refused to run.

We have not forgotten it, Cuthbert, boy!
That supper scene when the lamps were lit;
How the women (some of them) sobb'd for joy,
How the soldiers drank the deeper for it;
How the dame did honours, and Gwendoline,
How grandly she glided into the hall,
How she stoop'd with the grace of a girlish queen,
And kiss'd me gravely before them all;
And the stern Lord Guy, how gaily he laugh'd,
Till more of his cup was spilt than quaff'd.

Brown Britomarte lay dead in her straw
Next morn - we buried her - brave old girl!
John Kerr, we tried him by martial law,
And we twisted some hemp for the trait'rous churl;
And she - I met her alone - said she,
"You have risk'd your life, you have lost your mare,
And what can I give in return, Ralph Leigh?"
I replied, "One braid of that bright brown hair."
And with that she bow'd her beautiful head,
"You can take as much as you choose," she said.

And I took it - it may be, more than enough -
And I shore it rudely, close to the roots.
The wine or wounds may have made me rough,
And men at the bottom are merely brutes.
Three weeks I slept at St. Hubert's Chase;
When I woke from the fever of wounds and wine,
I could scarce believe that the ghastly face
That the glass reflected was really mine.
I sought the hall - where a wedding HAD BEEN -
The wedding of Guy and of Gwendoline.

The romance of a grizzled old trooper's life
May make you laugh in your sleeves: laugh out,
Lads; we have most of us seen some strife;
We have all of us had some sport, no doubt.
I have won some honour and gain'd some gold,
Now that our king returns to his own;
If the pulses beat slow, if the blood runs cold,
And if friends have faded and loves have flown,
Then the greater reason is ours to drink,
And the more we swallow the less we shall think.

At the battle of Naseby, Miles was slain,
And Huntly sank from his wounds that week;
We left young Clare upon Worcester plain -
How the "Ironside" gash'd his girlish cheek.
Aye, strut, and swagger, and ruffle anew,
Gay gallants, now that the war is done!
They fought like fiends (give the fiend his due) -
We fought like fops, it was thus they won.
Holdsworth is living for aught I know,
At least he was living two years ago,

And Guy - Lord Guy - so stately and stern,
He is changed, I met him at Winchester;
He has grown quite gloomy and taciturn.
Gwendoline! - why do you ask for her?
Died as her mother had died before -
Died giving birth to the baby Guy!
Did my voice shake? Then am I fool the more.
Sooner or later we all must die;
But, at least, let us live while we live to-night.
The DAYS may be dark, but the LAMPS are bright.

For to me the sunlight seems worn and wan:
The sun, he is losing his splendour now -
He can never shine as of old he shone
On her glorious hair and glittering brow.
Ah! those DAYS THAT WERE, when my beard was black,
NOW I have only the NIGHTS THAT ARE.
What, landlord, ho! bring in haste burnt sack,
And a flask of your fiercest usquebaugh.
You, Cuthbert! surely you know by heart
The story of HER and of Britomarte.


The Lord shall slay or the Lord shall save!
He is righteous whether He save or slay -
Brother, give thanks for the gifts He gave,
Though the gifts He gave He hath taken away.
Shall we strive for that which is nothing? Nay.
Shall we hate each other for that which fled?
She is but a marvel of modelled clay,
And the smooth, clear white, and the soft, pure red,
That we coveted, shall endure no day.

Was it wise or well that I hated you
For the fruit that hung too high on the tree?
For the blossom out of our reach that grew,
Was it well or wise that you hated me? -
My hate has flown, and your hate shall flee.
Let us veil our faces like children chid -
Can that violet orb we swore by see
Through that violet-vein'd, transparent lid? -
Now the Lord forbid that this strife should be.

Would you knit the forehead or clench the fist,
For the curls that never were well caress'd -
For the red that never was fairly kiss'd -
For the white that never was fondly press'd?
Shall we nourish wrath while she lies at rest
Between us? Surely our wrath shall cease.
We would fain know better - the Lord knows best -
Is there peace between us? Yea, there is peace,
In the soul's release she at least is blest.

Let us thank the Lord for His bounties all,
For the brave old days of pleasure and pain,
When the world for both of us seem'd too small -
Though the love was void and the hate was vain -
Though the word was bitter between us twain,
And the bitter word was kin to the blow,
For her gloss and ripple of rich gold rain,
For her velvet crimson and satin snow -
Though we never shall know the old days again.

The Lord! - His mercy is great, men say;
His wrath, men say, is a burning brand -
Let us praise Him whether He save or slay,
And above her body let hand join hand.
We shall meet, my friend, in the spirit land -
Will our strife renew? Nay, I dare not trust,
For the grim, great gulf that cannot be spann'd
Will divide us from her. The Lord is just,
She shall not be thrust where our spirits stand.

A Basket of Flowers

from Dawn to Dusk


On skies still and starlit
White lustres take hold,
And grey flushes scarlet,
And red flashes gold.
And sun-glories cover
The rose shed above her,
Like lover and lover
They flame and unfold.

* * * * *

Still bloom in the garden
Green grass-plot, fresh lawn,
Though pasture lands harden
And drought fissures yawn.
While leaves not a few fall,
Let rose leaves for you fall,
Leaves pearl-strung with dew-fall,
And gold shot with dawn.

Does the grass-plot remember
The fall of your feet
In autumn's red ember,
When drought leagues with heat,
When the last of the roses
Despairingly closes
In the lull that reposes
Ere storm winds wax fleet?

Love's melodies languish
In "Chastelard's" strain,
And "Abelard's" anguish
Is love's pleasant pain!
And "Sappho" rehearses
Love's blessings and curses
In passionate verses
Again and again.

And I! - I have heard of
All these long ago,
Yet never one word of
Their song-lore I know;
Not under my finger
In songs of the singer
Love's litanies linger,
Love's rhapsodies flow.

Fresh flowers in a basket -
An offering to you -
Though you did not ask it,
Unbidden I strew;
With heat and drought striving,
Some blossoms still living
May render thanksgiving
For dawn and for dew.

The garlands I gather,
The rhymes I string fast,
Are hurriedly rather
Than heedlessly cast.
Yon tree's shady awning
Is short'ning, and warning
Far spent is the morning,
And I must ride fast.

Songs empty, yet airy,
I've striven to write,
For failure, dear Mary!
Forgive me - Good-night!
Songs and flowers may beset you,
I can only regret you,
While the soil where I met you
Recedes from my sight.

For the sake of past hours,
For the love of old times,
Take "A Basket of Flowers",
And a bundle of rhymes;
Though all the bloom perish
E'en YOUR hand can cherish,
While churlish and bearish
The verse-jingle chimes.

And Eastward by Nor'ward
Looms sadly MY track,
And I must ride forward,
And still I look back, -
Look back - ah, how vainly!
For while I see plainly,
My hands on the reins lie
Uncertain and slack.

The warm wind breathes strong breath,
The dust dims mine eye,
And I draw one long breath,
And stifle one sigh.
Green slopes, softly shaded,
Have flitted and faded -
My dreams flit as they did -
Good-night! - and - Good-bye!

* * * * *


Lost rose! end my story!
Dead core and dry husk -
Departed thy glory
And tainted thy musk.
Night spreads her dark limbs on
The face of the dim sun,
So flame fades to crimson
And crimson to dusk.

A Fragment

They say that poison-sprinkled flowers
Are sweeter in perfume
Than when, untouched by deadly dew,
They glowed in early bloom.

They say that men condemned to die
Have quaffed the sweetened wine
With higher relish than the juice
Of the untampered vine.

They say that in the witch's song,
Though rude and harsh it be,
There blends a wild, mysterious strain
Of weirdest melody.

And I believe the devil's voice
Sinks deeper in our ear
Than any whisper sent from Heaven,
However sweet and clear.

[End of Bush Ballads.]


To My Sister

Lines written by the late A. L. Gordon
On 4th August, 1853,
Being three days before he sailed for Australia.

Across the trackless seas I go,
No matter when or where,
And few my future lot will know,
And fewer still will care.
My hopes are gone, my time is spent,
I little heed their loss,
And if I cannot feel content,
I cannot feel remorse.

My parents bid me cross the flood,
My kindred frowned at me;
They say I have belied my blood,
And stained my pedigree.
But I must turn from those who chide,
And laugh at those who frown;
I cannot quench my stubborn pride,
Nor keep my spirits down.

I once had talents fit to win
Success in life's career,
And if I chose a part of sin,
My choice has cost me dear.
But those who brand me with disgrace
Will scarcely dare to say
They spoke the taunt before my face,
And went unscathed away.

My friends will miss a comrade's face,
And pledge me on the seas,
Who shared the wine-cup or the chase,
Or follies worse than these.
A careless smile, a parting glass,
A hand that waves adieu,
And from my sight they soon will pass,
And from my memory too.

I loved a girl not long ago,
And, till my suit was told,
I thought her breast as fair as snow,
'Twas very near as cold;
And yet I spoke, with feelings more
Of recklessness than pain,
Those words I never spoke before,
Nor never shall again.

Her cheek grew pale, in her dark eye
I saw the tear-drop shine;
Her red lips faltered in reply,
And then were pressed to mine.
A quick pulsation of the heart!
A flutter of the breath!
A smothered sob - and thus we part,
To meet no more till death.

And yet I may at times recall
Her memory with a sigh;
At times for me the tears may fall
And dim her sparkling eye.
But absent friends are soon forgot,
And in a year or less
'Twill doubtless be another's lot
Those very lips to press!

With adverse fate we best can cope
When all we prize has fled;
And where there's little left to hope,
There's little left to dread!
Oh, time glides ever quickly by!
Destroying all that's dear;
On earth there's little worth a sigh,
And nothing worth a tear!

What fears have I? What hopes in life?
What joys can I command?
A few short years of toil and strife
In a strange and distant land!
When green grass sprouts above this clay
(And that might be ere long),
Some friends may read these lines and say,
The world has judged him wrong.

There is a spot not far away
Where my young sister sleeps,
Who seems alive but yesterday,
So fresh her memory keeps;
For we have played in childhood there
Beneath the hawthorn's bough,
And bent our knee in childish prayer
I cannot utter now!

Of late so reckless and so wild,
That spot recalls to me
That I was once a laughing child,
As innocent as she;
And there, while August's wild flow'rs wave,
I wandered all alone,
Strewed blossoms on her little grave,
And knelt beside the stone.

I seem to have a load to bear,
A heavy, choking grief;
Could I have forced a single tear
I might have felt relief.
I think my hot and restless heart
Has scorched the channels dry,
From which those sighs of sorrow start
To moisten cheek and eye.

Sister, farewell! farewell once more
To every youthful tie!
Friends! parents! kinsmen! native shore!
To each and all good-bye!
And thoughts which for the moment seem
To bind me with a spell,
Ambitious hope! love's boyish dream!
To you a last farewell!

"The Old Leaven"

A Dialogue

So, Maurice, you sail to-morrow, you say?
And you may or may not return?
Be sociable, man! for once in a way,
Unless you're too old to learn.
The shadows are cool by the water side
Where the willows grow by the pond,
And the yellow laburnum's drooping pride
Sheds a golden gleam beyond.

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