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The Witch-Maid and other verses

The Witch-Maid and other verses
Title: The Witch-Maid and other verses
Release Date: 2019-02-01
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 38
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About a third of these poems have appearedbefore in a volume published in Australia;several in The Spectator and The Sydney Bulletin,and a few elsewhere. I have to thank the editors{7}{6}for permission to reprint.


The Witch-Maid9
The Colours of Light14
From a Town Window17
The Santa Maria19
“Sumer is icumen in”21
Night on the Plains24
My Country29
High Places35
The Closed Door37
Culgai Paddock41
March Winds46
Non Penso a Lei50
The Road to Ronda52
The Moon and the Morning{8}54
Flower and Thorn56
The Grey Lake58
Burning Off61
An Old Song63
Spring on the Plains66
Pilgrim Song68
The Coorong Sandhills69
    I. The Heart of a Bird71
   II. A Smoke Song72
An Afterglow on the Nile73
The Explorer75
Riding Rhyme80
Four Translations from the German82
Château d’Espagne86
Bathing Rhyme88
Montoro’s Song93




I wandered in the woodland a morning in the spring,
I found a glade I had not known, and saw an evil thing.
I heard a wood-dove calling, as one that loves and grieves,
The sun was shining silver on the small bright leaves,
O it was very beautiful, the glade that I had found!
I peeped between the slender stems, and there upon the ground
A man was lying dead, and from the spear-wound in his side
The sluggish blood had ceased to flow, and yet had hardly dried.{10}
O the shining of the leaves,
The morning of the year!
O how could any die to-day, with life so young and dear?
My feet were tied with horror, I could not turn to run;
A light breeze tossed the branches, the shadow and the sun
Across the dead face shifted—it seemed to change and twitch—
When from the trees beyond me stepped a white young witch.
I prayed that I was hidden, she never turned her head,
But picked her footsteps daintily and stooped beside the dead;
She touched him with her hanging hair and stroked him with her hand,
Still gazing like a little child that does not understand,
For she had strayed from Elfland where death has never come,
She knew not why his side was torn nor why his mouth was dumb.{11}
She sat her down beside him and joined her finger-tips
And smiled a strange and secret smile that curved her thin red lips;
She wore a veil of purple about her body sweet
And little silver sandals on her smooth pale feet;
Her black hair hung as straight as rain and touched the dead man’s eyes,
He smiled at her in answer, a scornful smile and wise.
She played with him awhile as might a panther-kitten play,
Most horrible it was, and yet I could not look away—
I needs must watch her motions, her cruel, supple grace,
The delicate swift changes of her sharp-cut face;
Till suddenly she wearied, and rising from her knees
All in one lovely movement like a sapling in the breeze,
She gazed on him who would not play, with gathering surprise—
The man she did not understand, though she was very wise{12}
She drew her veil around her, her whiteness showing through,
And gazed; and still unceasingly there came the wood-dove’s coo.
O the stirring of the spring,
The calling of the dove!
Why does he lie so cold, so cold, when I am here to love?
Her long strange eyes were narrowed to threads of shining green,
She touched the broken spear-point the wound’s red lips between,
She touched it with her careless foot, and yet he did not stir,
Dull fool that lay with open eyes and would not look at her!
She turned away in anger and raised her arms on high,
Her straight white arms that questioned the pure pale sky,{13}
The thousand slender tree-stems soon hid the way she went
As they who hold a secret and therewith are content.
The dead man smiled in silence; a strange thought in me said,
If I had heard her speak at all then I too should be dead:
Her voice—what would her voice be?—and then I fled, afraid,
The spell was loosed that bound me to the evil glade.
O the flowers in the grass,
The wood-dove in the tree;
From magic and from sudden death, Good Lord deliver me!


This is not easy to understand
For you that come from a distant land
Where all the colours are low in pitch—
Deep purples, emeralds deep and rich,
Where autumn’s flaming and summer’s green—
Here is a beauty you have not seen.
All is pitched in a higher key,
Lilac, topaz, and ivory,
Palest jade-green and pale clear blue
Like aquamarines that the sun shines through,
Golds and silvers, we have at will—
Silver and gold on each plain and hill,
Silver-green of the myall leaves,
Tawny gold of the garnered sheaves,
Silver rivers that silent slide,
Golden sands by the water-side,{15}
Golden wattle, and golden broom,
Silver stars of the rosewood bloom;
Amber sunshine, and smoke-blue shade:
Opal colours that glow and fade;
On the gold of the upland grass
Blue cloud-shadows that swiftly pass;
Wood-smoke blown in an azure mist;
Hills of tenuous amethyst....
Oft the colours are pitched so high
The deepest note is the cobalt sky;
We have to wait till the sunset comes
For shades that feel like the beat of drums
Or like organ notes in their rise and fall—
Purple and orange and cardinal,
Or the peacock-green that turns soft and slow
To peacock-blue as the great stars show....
Sugar-gum boles flushed to peach-blow pink;
Blue-gums, tall at the clearing’s brink;{16}
Ivory pillars, their smooth fine slope
Dappled with delicate heliotrope;
Grey of the twisted mulga-roots;
Golden-bronze of the budding shoots;
Tints of the lichens that cling and spread,
Nile-green, primrose, and palest red....
Sheen of the bronze-wing; blue of the crane;
Fawn and pearl of the lyrebird’s train;
Cream of the plover; grey of the dove—
These are the hues of the land I love.


From my high-jutting window in town
Looking down,
The lights constellated burn steady and far;
The purple skies meet with the dark at my feet,
I hardly can tell which is lamp and which star.
And the tall sombre buildings that rise
Near my eyes
Where one lighted window shines gold in the dark,
Unsubstantial show, that I see them as though
I could walk through the walls without leaving a mark.
And the purring and murmurous choir
Of the wire{18}
That leads the chained lightning a slave through the street,
In the night-stillness comes like the throbbing of drums,
Like the distant, dread sound of innumerable feet.
Sydney, Australia.


Three green miles beneath the sea
Lies the spoil we could not hold,
Lies the galleon with her gold.
Fish brush by her weed-hung side;
Never wave can shake her, she
Has gone through them far too deep,
And her crew may rest asleep
In the places where they died.
There each man unheeding lies
As he was the night she sank;
Even the cups from which they drank,
Even the dice which they had cast
—For we took them by surprise—
Lie beside their long white bones;
Flagons set with precious stones
Count for little at the last.{20}
When she sank there in our sight
With a little lapping sound,
Slight as if a skiff had drowned,
Staggering we turned to go,
For our ship had felt the fight;
Out to sunset showed our wake,
Writhing like a wounded snake,
Till we came to Samballo....
Shapeless sea-beasts coil and creep
On her rotting cedar deck,
Past her crew who little reck
Of the trespass, if they know.
Mary, give them happy sleep!
Surely there beneath the wave
They have found as green a grave
As the sun-warmed earth can show.


The beautiful old simple songs
That make us laugh and cry,
That sing of dying loveliness
In words that cannot die:
Of how the singer’s love was sweet
Or how she was unkind,
And how her lips were red that now
Are dust upon the wind:
Of how the fields were gold in May
With daffodils a-row,
And all the birds made holiday
Six hundred years ago:{22}
These, when the beauty of the spring
Clad in this alien dress
Turns like a sharp sword in our hearts
For utter loveliness,
And joy and sorrow intermixed
Run tingling through our veins—
These bring more peace and comfort still
Than newer, subtler strains.
Oh, quarrion for missel-thrush
And rosewood bloom for may!
The things the nameless singer saw
Are what we see to-day.
The grass is just as green to-day,
The distant hill as blue,
The birds are just as glad as then,
The lovers just as true;{23}
And Alisoun is dead
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