Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.

The Oxford book of Victorian verse online

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The dawn at 'Moorabinda' was a mist-rack dull and dense,

The sunrise was a sullen, sluggish lamp ;
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's boundary
I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.

503 We


We cross' d the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through
the haze,
And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth ;
To southward lay 'Katawa', with the sandpeaks all ablaze,

And the flush'd fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
Now westward winds the bridle path that leads to Lindis-
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff ;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear
and calm.
You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch ;
'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such
a chase
Eight years ago — or was it nine ? — last March.

'Twas merry in the glowing morn, among the gleaming
To wander as we've wander' d many a mile.
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white
wreaths pass.
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the
station roofs,
To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard.
With a running fire of stockwhips and a fiery run of hoofs ;
O ! the hardest day was never then too hard !

Aye ! we had a glorious gallop after ' Starlight ' and his
When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat ;
How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-
strewn ranges rang
To the strokes of ' Mountaineer ' and ' Acrobat '.


Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled
underneath !
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash 'd !

We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and
the grey,
And the troopers were three hundred yards behind.
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers
at bay,
In the creek with stunted box-tree for a blind !
There you grappled with the leader, man to man and
horse to horse.
And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd ;
He blazed away and miss'd you in that shallow water-
course —
A narrow shave — his powder singed your beard !

In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when
life was young
Come back to us ; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem
Roper sung ;
And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall ?

Aye ! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone ;

Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.

There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that
business with the cards.
It matters little what became of him ;

coq But

Adam lindsay cordon

But a steer ripp'd up MacPherson in the Cooraminta
And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim ;
And Mostyn — poor Frank Mostyn — died at last a fearful
In * the horrors ', at the Upper Wandinong,
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck,

Faith ! the wonder was he saved his neck so long !
Ah ! those days and nights we squander' d at the Logans'
in the glen —
The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then ;
And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.

I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share
of toil.

And life is short — the longest life a span ;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil.

Or the wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For good undone and gifts misspent and resolutions vain,

'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know —
I should live the same life over, if I had to live again ;

And the chances are I go where most men go.

The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees
grow dim.
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall ;
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight
And on the very sun's face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms
With never stone or rail to fence my bed ;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers
on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

i^i- After the Quarrel

HE never gave me a chance to speak,
And he call'd her — worse than a dog-
The girl stood up vi^ith a crimson cheek,
And I fell'd him there like a log.

I can feel the blow on my knuckles yet —

He feels it more on his brow.
In a thousand years we shall all forget
. The things that trouble us now.



574. Bed'time

'T^IS bedtime ; say your hymn, and bid ' Good-night,

i God bless Mamma, Papa, and dear ones all,'.
Your half-shut eyes beneath your eyelids fall,
Another minute you will shut them quite.
Yes, I will carry you, put out the light.
And tuck you up, although you are so tall 1
What will you give me. Sleepy One, and call
My wages, if I settle you all right ?
I laid her golden curls upon my arm,
I drew her little feet within my hand.
Her rosy palms were joined in trustful bliss,
Her heart next mine beat gently, soft and warm ;
She nestled to me, and, by Love's command.
Paid me my precious wages — ' Baby's kiss.'



17 S' Good Night

GOOD night, my love, good night !
Farewell ! the breeze is sighing

Along the harbour height ;
The fleecy clouds are flying

Beneath Astarte's light.
' My mariners are crying

* In favouring winds away !
And I, my love denying,

Must cleave th' Aegean spray.
The song that the sea is singing

On the bay is tender and bright :
The bark like a bird is springing

And speeding from thy sight :
And a tune in my head is ringing

That thrills my heart for flight
Across the waves — soon winging
Return to thee, and bringing

Treasures for thy delight.
Good night, my love ! good night !



176, Song

THE feathers of the willow
Are half of them grown yellow
Above the swelling stream ;
And ragged are the bushes,
And rusty now the rushes,
And wild the clouded gleam.

The thistle now is older.
His stalks begin to moulder,

His head is white as snow ;
The branches all are barer,
The linnet's song is rarer,

The robin pipeth low.

^77. Humanity

THERE is a soul above the soul of each,
A mightier soul, which yet to each belongs :
There is a sound made of all human speech.

And numerous as the concourse of all songs :
And in that soul lives each, in each that soul,

Tho' all the ages are its life-time vast ;
Each soul that dies in its most sacred whole
Receiveth life that shall for ever last.

And thus for ever with a wider span

Humanity o'erarches time and death ;
Man can elect the universal man

And live in life that ends not with his breath ;
And gather glory that increases still
Till Time his glass with Death's last dust shall fill,

S7o, Tolerance

CALL no faith false which e'er has brought
Relief to any laden life,
Cessation from the pain of thought,
Refreshment 'mid the dust of strife.

What though the thing to which they kneel
Be dumb and dead as wood or stone,
Though all the rapture which they feel
Be for the worshipper alone ?

They worship, they adore, they bow
Before the Ineffable Source, before
The hidden soul of good ; and thou.
With all thy wit, what dost thou more ?

Kneel with them, only if there come
Some zealot or sleek knave who strives
To mar the sanctities of home,
To tear asunder wedded lives ;

Or who by subtle wile has sought,
By shameful promise, shameful threat.
To turn the thinker from his thought,
To efface the eternal landmarks set

'Twixt faith and knowledge ; hold not peace
For such, but like a sudden flame
Let loose thy scorn on him, nor cease
Till thou hast cover'd him with shame.


j/p. A Separation Deed

WHEREAS we twain, who still are bound for life,
Who took each other for better and for worse.
Are now plunged deep in hate and bitter strife.
And all our former love is grown a curse ;
So that 'twere better, doubtless, we should be
In loneliness, so that we were apart,
Nor in each other's changed eyes looking, see
The cold reflection of an alien heart :
To this insensate parchment we reveal
Our joint despair, and seal it with our seal.

Forgetting the dear days not long ago.
When we walk'd slow by starlight through the corn :
Forgetting, since our hard fate wills it so.
All but our parted lives and souls forlorn ;
Forgetting the sweet fetters strong to bind
Which childish fingers forge, and baby smiles.
Our common pride to watch the growing mind.
Our common joy in childhood's simple wiles.
The common tears we shed, the kiss we gave.
Standing beside the open little grave ;

Forgetting these and more, if to forget

Be possible, as we would fain indeed.

And if the past be not too deeply set

In our two hearts, with roots that, touch'd, will bleed

Yet, could we cheat by any pretext fair

The world, if not ourselves — 'twere so far well —

We would not put our bonds from us, and bare

To careless eyes the secrets of our hell ;

So this indenture witnesseth that we,

As follows here, do solemnly agree.

511 We


We will take each our own, and will abide
Separate from bed and board for all our life ;
Whatever chance of weal or woe betide,
Naught shall re-knit the husband and the wife.
Though one grow gradually poor and weak.
The other, lapt in luxury, will not heed ;
Though one, in mortal pain, the other seek.
The other may not answer to the need ;
We, who thro' long years did together rest
In wedlock, heart to heart, and breast to breast.

One shall the daughter take, and one the boy, —
Poor boy, who shall not hear his mother's name.
Nor feel her kiss ; poor girl, for whom the joy
Of her sire's smile is changed for sullen shame :
Brother and sister, who, if they should meet.
With faces strange, amid the careless crowd.
Will feel their hearts beat with no quicker beat.
Nor inward voice of kinship calling loud :
Two widow' d lives, whose fullness may not come ;
Two orphan lives, knowing but half of home.

We have not told the tale, nor will, indeed.
Of dissonance, whether cruel wrong or crime,
Or sum of petty injuries which breed
The hate of hell when multiplied by time.
Dishonour, falsehood, jealous fancies, blows.
Which in one moment wedded souls can sunder ;
But, since our yoke intolerable grows.
Therefore we set our seals and souls as under :
Witness the powers of Wrong and Hate and Death.
And this Indenture also witnesseth.


^80. On a Thrush Singing in Autumn

SWEET singer of the Spring, when the new world
Was iill'd with song and bloom, and the fresh year
Tripp'd, like a lamb playful and void of fear,
Through daisied grass and young leaves scarce unfurl'd,
Where is thy liquid voice
That all day would rejoice ?
Where now thy sweet and homely call,
Which from grey dawn to evening's chilling fall
Would echo from thin copse and tassell'd brake,
For homely duty tuned and love's sweet sake ?

The spring-tide pass'd, high summer soon should come.

The woods grew thick, the meads a deeper hue ;

The pipy summer growths swell'd, lush and tall ;

The sharp scythes swept at daybreak through the dew.

Thou didst not heed at all,

Thy prodigal voice grew dumb ;

No more with song mightst thou beguile,

— She sitting on her speckled eggs the while —

Thy mate's long vigil as the slow days went,

Solacing her with lays of measureless content.

Nay, nay, thy voice was Duty's, nor would dare

Sing were Love fled, though still the world were fair ;

The summer wax'd and waned, the nights grew cold,

The sheep were thick within the wattled fold,

The woods began to moan.

Dumb wert thou and alone ;

Yet now, when leaves are sere, thy ancient note

Comes low and halting from thy doubtful throat.

Oh, lonely loveless voice ! what dost thou here

In the deep silence of the fading year ?

1346 s 513 Thus


Thus do I read the answer of thy song :
* I sang when winds blew chilly all day long ;
I sang because hope came and joy was near,
I sang a little while, I made good cheer ;
In summer's cloudless day
My music died away ;
But now the hope and glory of the year
Are dead and gone, a little while I sing
Songs of regret for days no longer here,
'And touched with presage of the far-off Spring.'

Is this the meaning of thy note, fair bird ?

Or do we read into thy simple brain

Echoes of thoughts which human hearts have stirred,

High-soaring joy and melancholy pain ?

Nay, nay, that lingering note

Belated from thy throat —

* Regret,' is what it sings, ' regret, regret !

The dear days pass, but are not wholly gone.

In praise of those I let my song go on ;

'Tis sweeter to remember than forget.'

SSi. Song

EVE took my life and thrill' d it
Through all its strings,
Play'd round my mind and fill'd it

With sound of wings :
But to my heart he never came
To touch it with his golden flame.



Therefore it is that singing

I do rejoice,
Nor heed the slow years bringing

A harsher voice :
Because the songs which he has sung
Still leave the untouch'd singer young.

But whom in fuller fashion

The Master sways,
For him, swift wing'd with passion,

Fleet the brief days :
Betimes the enforced accents come,
And leave him ever after dumb.

382. Gifts


GIVE a man a horse he can ride,
Give a man a boat he can sail ;
And his rank and wealth, his strength and health,
On sea nor shore shall fail.

Give a man a pipe he can smoke,
Give a man a book he can read :

And his home is bright with a calm delight,
Though the room be poor indeed.

515 Give


Give a man a girl he can love,

As I, O my love, love thee ;
And his heart is great with the pulse of Fate,

At home, on land, on sea.

383. The Bridge

OWHAT are you w^aiting for here, young man ?
, What are you looking for over the bridge ? '
A little straw hat with the streaming blue ribbons
Is soon to come dancing over the bridge.

Her heart beats the measure that keeps her feet dancing.

Dancing along like a wave o' the sea ;
Her heart pours the sunshine with which her eyes glancing

Light up strange faces in looking for me.

The strange faces brighten in meeting her glances ;

The strangers all bless her, pure, lovely, and free :
She fancies she walks, but her walk skips and dances.

Her heart makes such music in coming to me.

O, thousands and thousands of happy yoitng maidens
Are tripping this morning their sweethearts to see ;

But none whose heart beats to a sweeter love-cadence
Than hers who will brighten the sunshine for me.

* O, what are you waiting for here, young man ?

What are you looking for over the bridge ? '
A little straw hat with the streaming blue ribbons ;
— And here it comes dancing over the bridge !





ElE violets pale i' the Spring o' the year
Came my Love's sad eyes to my youth ;
Wan and dim with many a tear,
But the sweeter for that in sooth :
Wet and dim,
Tender and true,
Violet eyes
Of the sweetest blue.

Like pansies dark i' the June o' the year

Grow my Love's glad eyes to my prime ;
Rich with the purple splendour clear
Of their thoughtful bliss sublime :
Deep and dark.
Solemn and true.
Pansy eyes
Of the noblest blue.

MY love is the flaming Sword
To fight through the world •
Thy love is the Shield to ward,
And the Armour of the Lord

And the Banner of Heaven unfurl'd.



S8^. Hi

Er my voice ring out and over the earth,
Through all the grief and strife,
With a golden joy in a silver mirth :
Thank God for Life 1

Let my voice swell out through the great abys

To the azure dome above,
With a chord of faith in the harp of bliss :
Thank God for Love !

Let my voice thrill out beneath and above,

The whole world through :
O my Love and Life, O my Life and Love,
Thank God for you !

^87, The f^ine

'HE wine of Love is music,
And the feast of Love is song :
And when Love sits down to the banquet.
Love sits long :


Sits long and arises drunken.

But not with the feast and the wine ;
He reeleth with his own heart,
That great, rich Vine.

18 S. Midsummer Courtship

HOW the nights are short,
', These heavenly nights of June !
The long hot day amort
With toil, the time to court
So stinted in its boon !



But three or four brief hours

Between the afterglow
And dawnhght ; while the flowers
Are dreaming in their bowers,

And birds their song forgo ;

And in the noon of night,

As in the noon of day,
Flowers close on their delight,
Birds nestle from their flight.

Deep stillness holdeth sway :

Only the nightingales

Yet sing to moon and stars,
Although their full song fails ;
The corncrake never quails.

But through the silence jars.

So few brief hours of peace ;

And only one for us.
Alone, in toil's surcease.
To feed on love's increase :

It is too cruel thus !

Did little Mother chide

Because our sewing dropp'd
And we sat dreamy-eyed ?
Dear Mother, good betide.

The scolding must be stopp'd.

Dear Mother, good and true.

All-loving while you blame.
When spring brings skies of blue
And buds and flowers anew,

I come in with my claim !

519 I ch


I claim my Love, my Own,
Yet ever yours the while.
Under whose care hath grown
The sweetest blossom blown
In all our flower-loved isle.

The Spring renews its youth
And youth renews its Spring :

Love's wildest dreams are truth.

Magic is sober sooth ;

Charm of the Magic Ring !

S8p. Art

WHAT precious thing are you making fast
In all these silken lines ?
And where and to whom will it go at last ?
Such subtle knots and twines !

I am tying up all my love in this.

With all its hopes and fears,
With all its anguish and all its bliss.

And its hours as heavy as years.

I am going to send it afar, afar,

To I know not where above ;
To that sphere beyond the highest star

Where dwells the soul of my Love.

But in vain, in vain, would I make it fast

With countless subtle twines ;
For ever its fire breaks out at last,

And shrivels all the lines.


Spo. In the Room

THE sun was down, and twilight grey
Fill'd half the air ; but in the room,
Whose curtain had been drawn all day,

The twilight was a dusky gloom :
Which seem'd at first as still as death,

And void ; but was indeed all rife
With subtle thrills, the pulse and breath
Of multitudinous lower life.

In their abrupt and headlong way

Bewilder'd flies for light had dash'd
Against the curtain all the day,

And now slept wintrily abash'd •,
And nimble mice slept, wearied out

With such a double night's uproar ;
But solid beetles crawl'd about

The chilly hearth and naked floor.

And so throughout the twilight hour

That vaguely murmurous hush and rest
There brooded ; and beneath its power

Life throbbing held its throbs supprest :
Until the thin-voiced mirror sigh'd,

I am all blurr'd with dust and damp.
So long ago the clear day died.

So long has gleamed nor fire nor lamp.

Whereon the curtain murmur'd back.

Some change is on us, good or ill ;
Behind me and before is black

As when those human things lie still :

3 521 But


But I have seen the darkness grow
As grows the daylight every morn ;

Have felt out there long shine and glow,
In here long chilly dusk forlorn.

The cupboard grumbled with a groan, '

Each new day worse starvation brings :
Since he came here I have not known

Or sweets or cates or wholesome things :
But now ! a pinch of meal, a crust,

Throughout the week is all I get.
I am so empty ; it is just

As when they said we were to let.

What is become, then, of our Man ?

The petulant old glass exclaim'd ;
If all this time he slumber can,

He really ought to be ashamed.
I wish we had our Girl again.

So gay and busy, bright and fair :
The girls are better than these men,

Who only for their dull selves care.

It is so many hours ago —

The lamp and fire were both alight —
I saw him pacing to and fro.

Perturbing restlessly the night.
His face was pale to give one fear.

His eyes when lifted looked too bright ;
He mutter'd ; what, I could not hear :

Bad words though ; something was not right.

The table said. He wrote so long
That I grew weary of his weight ;

The pen kept up a cricket song.
It ran and ran at such a rate :


And in the longer pauses he

With both his folded arms downpress'd
And stared as one who does not see,

Or sank his head upon his breast.

The fire-grate said, I am as cold

As if I never had a blaze ;
The few dead cinders here I hold,

I held unburn'd for days and days.
Last night he made them flare ; but still

What good did all his writing do ?
Among my ashes curl and thrill

Thin ghosts of all those papers too.

The table answer'd, Not quite all ;

He saved and folded up one sheet,
And seal'd it fast, and let it fall ;

And here it lies now white and neat.
Whereon the letter's whisper came.

My writing is closed up too well ;
Outside there 's not a single name.

And who should read me I can't tell.

The mirror sneer'd with scornful spite,

(That ancient crack which spoil'd her looks
Had marr'd her temper), Write and write !

And read those stupid, worn-out books !
That 's all he does, — read, write, and read,

And smoke that nasty pipe which stinks :
He never takes the slightest heed

How any of us feels or thinks.

But Lucy fifty times a day

Would come and smile here in my face.
Adjust a tress that curl'd astray.

Or tie a ribbon with more grace :

523 She


She look'd so young and fresh and fair,
She blush'd with such a charming bloom,

It did one good to see her there,
And brighten'd all things in the room.

She did not sit hours stark and dumb

As pale as moonshine by the lamp ;
To lie in bed when day was come,

And leave us curtain'd chill and damp.
She slept away the dreary dark,

And rose to greet the pleasant morn ;
And sang as gaily as a lark

While busy as the flies sun-born.

And how she loved us every one ;

And dusted this and mended that.
With trills and laughs and freaks of fun,

And tender scoldings in her chat !
And then her bird, that sang as shrill

As she sang sweet ; her darling flowers
That grew there in the window-sill.

Where she would sit at work for hours.

It was not much she ever wrote ;

Her fingers had good work to do ;
Say, once a week a pretty note ;

And very long it took her too.
And little more she read, I wis ;

Just now and then a pictured sheet,
Besides those letters she would kiss

And croon for hours, they were so sweet.

She had her friends too, blithe young girls,
Who whisper'd, babbled, laugh'd, caress'd.

And romp'd and danced with dancing curls,
And gave our life a joyous zest.


But with this dullard, glum and sour,

Not one of all his fellow-men
Has ever pass'd a social hour ;

We might be in some wild beast's den.

This long tirade aroused the bed,

Who spoke in deep and ponderous bass,
Befitting that calm life he led,

As if firm-rooted in his place :
In broad majestic bulk alone.

As in thrice venerable age.
He stood at once the royal throne,

The monarch, the experienced sage :

I know what is and what has been ;

Not anything to me comes strange.
Who in so many years have seen

And lived through every kind of change.
I know when men are good or bad.

When well or ill, he slowly said ;
When sad or glad, when sane or mad.

And when they sleep alive or dead.

At this last word of solemn lore

A tremor circled through the gloom.
As if a crash upon the floor

Had jarr'd and shaken all the room :
For nearly all the listening things

Were old and worn, and knew what curse
Of violent change death often brings.

From good to bad, from bad to worse ;

They get to know each other well.
To feel at home and settled down ;

Death bursts among them like a shell,
And strews them over all the town.

525 The


The bed went on, This man who Hes
Upon me now is stark and cold ;

He will not any more arise,

And do the things he did of old.

But we shall have short peace or rest ;

For soon up here will come a rout,
And nail him in a queer long chest,

And carry him like luggage out.
They will be muffled all in black,

Online LibraryArthur Thomas Quiller-CouchThe Oxford book of Victorian verse → online text (page 23 of 45)