Color by Mabel Forrest

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"Where the rainbow meets the ground, shall a crock of gold be found."

On these grey days I dream of color.
   Oh, to hold the rainbow in one's arms and in one's soul,
Staining dour fancy with its streak of gold,
   Winding its ribbons for some gay maypole
Of whimsy; to entreat the damask rose
For its fresh crimsons ere the freshness goes!

To steal from mountain tops the distant blue,
   The amethyst of valleys when the sun
Tries to pry there, the misty morning through,
   Or, ere the blaze of sunset's fire is done,
To lock it in a secret chest, and see
Through the black night it burning endlessly!

Oh, to take for your own the apple-green
  Of fragile leaves before the summer dust
Has blotted there, to dull the fairy sheen,
   To keep your spoil secure from moth and rust,
With all the changing opals of the sea
Mosaic'd in the tiles of memory!

Distilling scarlets from the desert--pea,
   And ebon of its glossy heart, to find
A yellow wattle fixed eternally
   In the dark, unswept corners of the mind,
Carrying with you earth's sad trails along,
Color on color, shouting to a song!

The dazzling liveries that wild things deck,
   The glint of bronze-wing's feathers, or the ring
Of pure cerise about the bower-bird's neck,
   Blue of those wrens whom cold Julys hear sing,
The pert vermillian cap the brolga wears,
The soldier-reds the parrot's shoulder bears!

Suffusing hues in glass or china, rayed
   With prisms filched from gems for buyers' eyes,
Lacquer and pearl grave Orientals made,
   Fine Persian carpets and bold Tyrian dyes,
Tribute to gods, flung down a tawny stream:
Graves of dead kings where broken emeralds gleam.

Stone slabs enamelled in a sapphire hue,
   Half-buried in a drift of yellow sands,
Beneath a sky so wonderfully blue
   We know that Allah holds it in his hands!
And pray he spill a morsel, lest we die,
There must be blue to spare in such a sky!

Ribbons on city counters, rolled like tyres
   For pixy cars. A vivid heliotrope:
A radiant pink. The ciel a bride desires
   To make her garter of (that she may hope
For luck in loving -- as the old saw goes!)
Fastened demurely with a silver rose.

Peach blossoms blowing over sodden grass,
   Time-reddened walls, and orange creepers flung
Over brown balconies where jade moths pass,
   Oh, color has a universal tongue,
And, like a wild reveille, how it calls
From tower to tree, from water unto walls!

I think some lives are starved for color, so
   They hunger for it. As a flower might lie
Over a vault's cold floor, sick for the glow
   Of that fierce sun that burns an unseen sky --
For there be those who, seeking treasure, hold
They need the rainbow more than all the gold!

First published in The Bulletin, 15 June 1922

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 15, 2011 7:18 AM.

Australian Poets #21 - Bernard O'Dowd was the previous entry in this blog.

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