An Exile's Vigil by Henry Parkes

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How hush'd this lovely night, no sound
   Of mortal agency,
Save only the slip's gentle bound
   Disquieting the sea.
Falls on the heart -- a solitude
In which all nature seems subdued.

And yet a joy, to nature true,
   Touching the heart with pain,
Wakes 'mid the lonely waters blue,
   And feelings come again
Which made the light of childhood's brow,
And come at sorrow's bidding now.

Who ever looked in love to heaven,
   So starry and so still,
And felt not then that hollowing leaven
   Above all sense of ill;
Which joy both mingled in life's cup,
The surface sparkling gladdening up?

Man's better nature must have scope,
   In solitude like this;
And dreamings will have birth from hope
   Of untouched stories of bliss --
Despite the ruin of the past --
But all too beautiful to last.

Ah me! on my poor wounded heart
   The softening influence falls,
To admit still deeper sorrow's smart;
   Each beauty but recalls
The pictures fair, which passed away
Beneath my grasp, in life's young day.

The breeze springs up, the white sails dip
   Into the shadowy night;
And gallant rides the convict ship,
   Exulting in her bright
And billowy track -- with her go forth
Sin's exiles to the ends of earth.

A year ago, fond hearts there were,
   Whose breaking this had been!
I bless thee, Death, for taking her
   Who bore me ere she'd seen
The evil of my heart, or deemed
My spirit darker than it seemed.

I go unto that southern land,
   Where mounts remorseless crime
In penal misery, 'mid the bland
   Luxuriance of the clime;
'Mid scenes of nature's fairest bloom,
Making a deep unnatural gloom.

I go unwept for mercy's sake!
   So much of ill I've dared;
And aught of good, which might rewake
   Man's love, so little shared.
I go, without a wish to avert
My doom, yet would myself desert.

This solitariness of grief,
   In retribution's hour,
To writhing guilt is some relief;
   It leaves not man the power
To mark the change, nor link remaining
In the broken chain that's worth regaining.

Farewell; a word I might unsay,
   Since human heart heeds not
Its utterance as I pass away;
  Mine is the felon's lot!
Yet childhood's home, farewell, farewell!
Though 'midst thy smiles the stranger dwell.
First published in The Australasian Chronicle, 27 February 1841

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 27, 2011 8:03 AM.

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