At Cape Schanck

A poem by James Lister Cuthbertson

Down to the lighthouse pillar
The rolling woodland comes,
Gay with the gold of she-oaks
And the green of the stunted gums,
With the silver-grey of honeysuckle,
With the wasted bracken red,
With a tuft of softest emerald
And a cloud-flecked sky o’erhead.

We climbed by ridge and boulder,
Umber and yellow scarred,
Out to the utmost precipice,
To the point that was ocean-barred,
Till we looked below on the fastness
Of the breeding eagle’s nest,
And Cape Wollomai opened eastward
And the Otway on the west.

Over the mirror of azure
The purple shadows crept,
League upon league of rollers
Landward evermore swept,
And burst upon gleaming basalt,
And foamed in cranny and crack,
And mounted in sheets of silver,
And hurried reluctant back.

And the sea, so calm out yonder,
Wherever we turned our eyes,
Like the blast of an angel’s trumpet
Rang out to the earth and skies,
Till the reefs and the rocky ramparts
Throbbed to the giant fray,
And the gullies and jutting headlands
Were bathed in a misty spray.

Oh, sweet in the distant ranges,
To the ear of inland men,
Is the ripple of falling water
In sassafras-haunted glen,
The stir in the ripening cornfield
That gently rustles and swells,
The wind in the wattle sighing,
The tinkle of cattle bells.

But best is the voice of ocean,
That strikes to the heart and brain,
That lulls with its passionate music
Trouble and grief and pain,
That murmurs the requiem sweetest
For those who have loved and lost,
And thunders a jubilant anthem
To brave hearts tempest-tossed.

That takes to its boundless bosom
The burden of all our care,
That whispers of sorrow vanquished,
Of hours that may yet be fair,
That tells of a Harbour of Refuge
Beyond life’s stormy straits,
Of an infinite peace that gladdens,
Of an infinite love that waits.

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