Beyond Kerguelen

A poem by Henry Kendall

Down in the South, by the waste without sail on it,
Far from the zone of the blossom and tree,
Lieth, with winter and whirlwind and wail on it,
Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea.
Weird is the mist from the summit to base of it;
Sun of its heaven is wizened and grey;
Phantom of life is the light on the face of it
Never is night on it, never is day!
Here is the shore without flower or bird on it;
Here is no litany sweet of the springs
Only the haughty, harsh thunder is heard on it,
Only the storm, with the roar in its wings!

Shadow of moon is the moon in the sky of it
Wan as the face of a wizard, and far!
Never there shines from the firmament high of it
Grace of the planet or glory of star.
All the year round, in the place of white days on it
All the year round where there never is night
Lies a great sinister, bitter, blind haze on it:
Growth that is neither of darkness nor light!
Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it
Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow;
Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it
Down in the south, where the ships never go.

Storm from the Pole is the singer that sings to it
Hymns of the land at the planet’s grey verge.
Thunder discloses dark, wonderful things to it
Thunder and rain, and the dolorous surge.
Hills with no hope of a wing or a leaf on them,
Scarred with the chronicles written by flame,
Stare, through the gloom of inscrutable grief on them,
Down on the horns of the gulfs without name.
Cliffs, with the records of fierce flying fires on them
Loom over perilous pits of eclipse;
Alps, with anathema stamped in the spires on them
Out by the wave with a curse on its lips.

Never is sign of soft, beautiful green on it
Never the colour, the glory of rose!
Neither the fountain nor river is seen on it,
Naked its crags are, and barren its snows!
Blue as the face of the drowned is the shore of it
Shore, with the capes of indefinite cave.
Strange is the voice of its wind, and the roar of it
Startles the mountain and hushes the wave.
Out to the south and away to the north of it,
Spectral and sad are the spaces untold!
All the year round a great cry goeth forth of it
Sob of this leper of lands in the cold.

No man hath stood, all its bleak, bitter years on it
Fall of a foot on its wastes is unknown:
Only the sound of the hurricane’s spears on it
Breaks with the shout from the uttermost zone.
Blind are its bays with the shadow of bale on them;
Storms of the nadir their rocks have uphurled;
Earthquake hath registered deeply its tale on them
Tale of distress from the dawn of the world!
There are the gaps, with the surges that seethe in them
Gaps in whose jaws is a menace that glares!
There the wan reefs, with the merciless teeth in them,
Gleam on a chaos that startles and scares!

Back in the dawn of this beautiful sphere, on it
Land of the dolorous, desolate face
Beamed the blue day; and the bountiful year on it
Fostered the leaf and the blossom of grace.
Grand were the lights of its midsummer noon on it
Mornings of majesty shone on its seas;
Glitter of star and the glory of moon on it
Fell, in the march of the musical breeze.
Valleys and hills, with the whisper of wing in them,
Dells of the daffodil spaces impearled,
Flowered and flashed with the splendour of Spring in them
Back in the morn of this wonderful world.

Soft were the words that the thunder then said to it
Said to this lustre of emerald plain;
Sun brought the yellow, the green, and the red to it
Sweet were the songs of its silvery rain.
Voices of water and wind in the bays of it
Lingered, and lulled like the psalm of a dream.
Fair were the nights and effulgent the days of it
Moon was in shadow and shade in the beam.
Summer’s chief throne was the marvellous coast of it,
Home of the Spring was its luminous lea:
Garden of glitter! But only the ghost of it
Moans in the south by the ghost of a sea.

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