Kiama Revisited

A poem by Henry Kendall

We stood by the window and hearkened
To the voice of the runnels sea-driven,
While, northward, the mountain-heads darkened,
Girt round with the clamours of heaven.
One peak with the storm at his portal
Loomed out to the left of his brothers:
Sustained, and sublime, and immortal,
A king, and the lord of the others!
Beneath him a cry from the surges
Rang shrill, like a clarion calling;
And about him, the wind of the gorges
Went falling, and rising, and falling.
But I, as the roofs of the thunder
Were cloven with manifold fires,
Turned back from the wail and the wonder,
And dreamed of old days and desires.
A song that was made, I remembered
A song that was made in the gloaming
Of suns which are sunken and numbered
With times that my heart hath no home in.
But I said to my Dream, “I am calmer
Than waters asleep on the river.
I can look at the hills of Kiama
And bury that dead Past for ever.”
“Past sight, out of mind, alienated,”
Said the Dream to me, wearily sighing,
“Ah, where is the Winter you mated
To Love, its decline and its dying?
Here, five years ago, there were places
That knew of her cunning to grieve you,
But alas! for her eyes and her graces;
And wherefore and how did she leave you!
Have you hidden the ways of this Woman,
Her whispers, her glances, her power
To hold you, as demon holds human,
Chained back to the day and the hour?
Say, where have you buried her sweetness,
Her coldness for youth and its yearning?
Is the sleep of your Sorrow a witness
She is passed all the roads of returning?
Was she left with her beauty, O lover,
And the shreds of your passion about her,
Beyond reach and where none can discover?
Ah! what is the wide world without her?”

I answered, “Behold, I was broken,
Because of this bright, bitter maiden,
Who helped me with never a token
To beat down the dark I had strayed in.
She knew that my soul was entangled
By what was too fiery to bear then;
Nor cared how she withered and strangled
My life with her eyes and her hair then.
But I have not leapt to the level
Where light and the shadows dissever?
She is fair, but a beautiful devil
That I have forgotten for ever!”
“She is sweeter than music or singing,”
Said the Dream to me, heavily moaning,
“Her voice in your slumber is ringing;
And where is the end the atoning?
Can you look at the red of the roses;
Are you friend of the fields and the flowers?
Can you bear the faint day as it closes
And dies into twilighted hours?
Do you love the low notes of the ballad
She sang in her darling old fashion?”
And I whispered, “O Dream, I am pallid
And perished because of my passion.”
But the Wraith withered out, and the rifted
Gray hills gleaming over the granges,
Stood robed with moon-rainbows that shifted
And shimmered resplendent with changes!
While, for the dim ocean ledges,
The storm and the surges were blended,
Sheer down the bluff sides of the ridges
Spent winds and the waters descended.
The forests, the crags, and the forelands,
Grew sweet with the stars after raining;
But out in the north-lying moorlands,
I heard the lone plover complaining.
From these to Kiama, half-hidden
In a yellow sea-mist on the slopings
Of hills, by the torrents be-ridden,
I turned with my aches and my hopings,
Saying this “There are those that are taken
By Fate to wear Love as a raiment
Whose texture is trouble with breaking
Of youth and no hope of repayment.”

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