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Australian colonial verse and song

Bellbirds
Henry Kendall

 

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountains, where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;
Through brakes of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers.
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bellbirds are running and ringing.

The silver-voiced bellbirds, the darlings of daytime,
They sing in September their songs of the Maytime
When shadows wax strong, and the thunderbolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle:
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together
They start up like fairies that follow fair fair weather,
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.

October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters knee-deep in the grasses to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the and the leafy pools glisten
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bellbird and wings of the morning.

Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of Bellbirds to thirsty far-comers
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever,
The bellbirds direct him to spring to the river,
With rings and with ripple, like runnels whose torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and leaves in the current.

Often I sit, looking back to a childhood
Mixd with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion
Lyrics with beats like the heartbeats of passion -
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bellbirds in far forest rafters;
So I might keep in the cities and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys,
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.


Henry Kendall

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