A Song of Nights by David McKee Wright

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The summer evening rudely fell,
A red sun crying "All is well"
To fifty breezes worn and spent
That limped across a continent,
And lurching past the leaf and weed
Bore far the soaring thistle seed
On easy and adventurous flight
Up the brown avenues of night.
A moon bewitched had sailed on high
To thinly light the smoky sky.
Her crescent boat upon the flood
Of darkness was as red as blood,
Where, haloed in a fiery glow,
She gossiped to the trees of woe.

In at my open window flew
The ghosts of nights that once I knew,
Cold goblin wraiths of ancient looks
Escaped from brown forgotten books
With pallid cheek and rigid stare
And cold blood matted in their hair.

I saw the night Macbeth had slain
Stalk in with eyes of haggard pain,
The night of Richard's last distress
Wild with a nightmare loneliness,
The night that heard the awful cry
Of Illion's woman-agony,
And that black night so slow to pass
When, wearied, round Leonidas,
Staggering and proud and drunk with death,
Tall Spartans drew a dreadful breath
And watched the fatal eastern sky
For light to lift their shields and die.

I saw the nights that came and went
O'er ragged hosts with battle spent,
The slaughtered chief, the broken city
That left the ages choked with pity,
While war across the maddened years
Washed out with blood the trace of tears.

I saw the night, moon-white and still,
The hoary olives on the hill,
The city wall, the guarded tower,
Where, helmeted with brazen power,
Great Rome stood watch and watch to keep
The city, restless in its sleep.
Sleep ill, sleep well, it came to me
On the long sigh, "Gethsemane" --
A garden by a kiss betrayed
In the sweet disk its leaves had made.

I saw the night when stark and still
A king lay dead on Senlac hill,
The beaconed night when fear walked free
To tell of Spain upon the sea,
The night when shrieking winds and loud
Tore London's grey, hag-ridden cloud
And broken tile and tortured vane
Looked on a morning wild with pain,
While, in a street below, one cried
That in the tempest Cromwell died.
I saw the night when quiet came
After long noise and battle-flame,
And, awed with victory, strong men knew
The dread and hope called Waterloo.
I saw the night when suden hate
Burst headlong through the Belgian gate,
And, with a catching of the breath,
The startled lands looked stark on death.

All these in long procession came,
And bat-winged nights that bore no name,
Nights cowled with plague or naked-cold
With the sea's sorrows manifold.
But as my blood grew thick with doom
A music trembled in my room;
The air was like the breath of spring
In happy ways of leaf and wing;
And through it, ere my heart could beat,
Stept a blue night on silver feet.

"What happy bride is this," I said,
"That walks behind the nights long dead,
The nights that all my brown books show,
The nights of weariness and woe,
The nights of blood, the nights of tears,
The nights of all the withered years?"
A little wind with whispers shrill
Came stealing softly up the hill.
It stirred the fern, it brushed the tree
And then it wisely answered me:
"It is the night of wait-and-see."

And I am waiting quietly,
While the low wind sings in the tree.
Whatever days or change may bring,
Whatever dirge the darkness sing,
whatever chance, whatever fall,
The night that comes is worth it all!

First published in The Bulletin, 2 February 1922

Author: David McKee Wright (1869-1928) was born in Ballynaskeagh, County Down, Ireland, and migrated to New Zealand in 1887.  He studied for the ministry but this career foundered due to his pro-Boer sentiments and his later bankruptcy.  He worked on various New Zealand newspapers before migration to Sydney in 1910.  He edited the Bulletin's Red Page from 1916 to 1926 and was a prolific contributor to that magazine, publishing some 1600 poems there between 1906 and 1927 under a variety of pen-names.  He lived with the poet Zora Cross from 1918 until his sudden death in 1928.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 2, 2011 7:46 AM.

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