The Hut by the Black Swamp

A poem by Henry Kendall

Now comes the fierce north-easter, bound
About with clouds and racks of rain,
And dry, dead leaves go whirling round
In rings of dust, and sigh like pain
Across the plain.

Now twilight, with a shadowy hand
Of wild dominionship, doth keep
Strong hold of hollow straits of land,
And watery sounds are loud and deep
By gap and steep.

Keen, fitful gusts, that fly before
The wings of storm when day hath shut
Its eyes on mountains, flaw by flaw,
Fleet down by whistling box-tree butt,
Against the hut.

And, ringed and girt with lurid pomp,
Far eastern cliffs start up, and take
Thick steaming vapours from a swamp
That lieth like a great blind lake,
Of face opaque.

The moss that, like a tender grief,
About an English ruin clings
What time the wan autumnal leaf
Faints, after many wanderings
On windy wings

That gracious growth, whose quiet green
Is as a love in days austere,
Was never seen hath never been
On slab or roof, deserted here
For many a year.

Nor comes the bird whose speech is song
Whose songs are silvery syllables
That unto glimmering woods belong,
And deep, meandering mountain dells
By yellow wells.

But rather here the wild-dog halts,
And lifts the paw, and looks, and howls;
And here, in ruined forest vaults,
Abide dim, dark, death-featured owls,
Like monks in cowls.

Across this hut the nettle runs,
And livid adders make their lair
In corners dank from lack of suns,
And out of foetid furrows stare
The growths that scare.

Here Summer’s grasp of fire is laid
On bark and slabs that rot, and breed
Squat ugly things of deadly shade,
The scorpion, and the spiteful seed
Of centipede.

Unhallowed thunders, harsh and dry,
And flaming noontides, mute with heat,
Beneath the breathless, brazen sky,
Upon these rifted rafters beat
With torrid feet.

And night by night the fitful gale
Doth carry past the bittern’s boom,
The dingo’s yell, the plover’s wail,
While lumbering shadows start, and loom,
And hiss through gloom.

No sign of grace no hope of green,
Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot;
But chained to iron doom, I ween,
’Tis left, like skeleton, to rot
Where ruth is not.

For on this hut hath murder writ,
With bloody fingers, hellish things;
And God will never visit it
With flower or leaf of sweet-faced Springs,
Or gentle wings.

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