Australian Scenery: Bondi Bay by Henry Halloran

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What troubled murmurs meet my anxious ear?
What sounds so awful -- melancholy -- drear?  
Is it the thunder's unexhausted roar,
Dying in echoes on the cavern'd shore?
Is it the voice of Ocean, whispering low
The secrets of his depths -- the tales of woe
Unheard by human ears? The gloomy fate
Of some lorn spirit, sad and desolate,
Whelm'd 'neath the waves? The curse -- the hideous cry --
The phrenzied shriek of gasping agony?

Imagination, with discursive wing,
Paints every scene; and, with impetuous spring,
Bursts through the clouds, mysterioutsly spread,
In silent gloom, above the shipwreck'd dead:--
She shews the dastard wretch, unnerv'd by fear,
Sink in the surge;-- the manlier appear
Riding the ridges, and, with look elate,
Struggling, with hope, against the pow'r of fate.
But vain their efforts -- the impetuous surge
Bears them, resisting, to the vortex' verge.
The eddies yawn, and the resistless shock
Dashes their panting bosoms on the rock;--
The waves retire, commingled with their gore,
Leaving their bodies bleaching on the shore!

Hoarser and louder now the surge resounds --
Wilder the woody prospect that surrounds; --
Here heavenly Solitude extends her reign
On the white margin of the bubbling main; --
Here Inspiration bids the heart rejoice --
In ocean's roar we hear th' Eternal's voice:
In every shrub, that decks the sparkling sand,
We trace the work of His creative hand.
The heart expands, unfetter'd by the chain
The world imposes; here the phrenzied brain
May seek repose -- the anguish'd bosom find
A solace for its woes: free as the wind
The thoughts may wander, mid the heart o'erflow
With the wild joy impassion'd spirits know!   

Thro' a long vista of embow'ring trees,
Which give their sear leaves to the rustling breeze,
The wide expanse of Ocean meets the eye --
The awful emblem of Eternity!  

From North to South a sweeping bay extends --
The South-East point in rocky masses ends --
While here and there, upon th' untrodden shore,
Are strewed the 'thwart, the helm, the broken oar --
The fragments of a sail, the splinter'd mast --
The fisher's joy! the victim of the blast!
But where's the fisher? Did the langhing gale
Close round his head? did ev'ry effort fail?  
No tongue can tell: perchance he found a grave
Beneath the azure mantle of the wave; --
Perchance he lives, and in some dark-ribb'd skiff
Now bounds triumphant past the threat'ning cliff.

To the North-East a frowning headland rears
His giant form; on his rough brow appears
The scar of time; magnificently rude,  
He towers above the deep; the waves subdued,
Boil round his base; the many-cavern'd shore
In flying echoes iterates the roar!

The white-haired waves, from Ocean's bosom thrown,
Roll to the shore with melancholy moan;
But gathering strength and fury in their course,
They meet the breakers with resistless force.
Swift to the strand the quiv'ring surges fly,
And hissing spread their rainbow volumes high.
On the wide beach the lucid sparkles blaze
With glow reflected from the solar rays;
As if two planets, from their orbits hurl'd,
Should meet, and pour their star-showers on the world.
The shell-clad shore is gemm'd with glitt'ring surge,
Which fades like light on evening's sombre verge,
Back to the main the weeping tide recoils,
Or midst the barrier rocks in torture boils.
Again returning with impetuous force,
The frantic billows urge their boisterous course:
Across the bay the snow-capt ridges sweep,
And howl in concert with the lab'ring deep!

A little barque, in undulating play,
Dances in distance on her wat'ry way;
And where the blue waves with the clouds unite,
She seems some lonely spirit in her flight:
Still less and less her form; at length she dies,
As fades the rainbow in the azure skies.
No trace remains of where the vessel danc'd --
No trace remains of where the meteor glanc'd --
No trace remains of where the Siroc flew --
No trace remains of morn's aerial dew --
No trace remains to mark the course of man --
His space, a point -- his being, but a span!

Note: "Bondi Bay," distant about 5 1/4- miles due East of Sydney. The word Bondi, in the language of the Aborigines, signifies falling, and is peculiarly apposite to the continual falling of the waters at this spot.

First published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 16 June 1831.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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