A Flight of Wild Ducks by Charles Harpur

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Far up the river, hark! 'tis the sharp boom,
Deadened by distance, of some Fowler's gun;
And as into the silence of the scene
The noise spreads flattening to like stillness, lo,
Far westward, laterally lengthening up
Against the open firmament, a long
Dark line comes stretching -- a vast Flight of Ducks!
Following the windings of the valley, on,
Enarging rapidly, it comes -- until
The river, reaching through a group of hills,
Leads it, a short while, out of view -- and then,
Suddenly wheeling with its course, 'tis here!
Sweeping and swarming round the nearest point.
And first now, a swift airy rush is heard
Momently nearing -- and then, all at once,
There passes one keen cutting, gustly tumult
Of strenuous pinions, with a streaming mass
Of instantaneous skiey streaks, -- each streak
Evolving in particular, and yet
Each tangling into each! Thus seen o'er head
Even while we speak -- ere we have spoken, lo,
The living cloud is onward many a rood,
Tracking, as 'twere, in the smooth lymph below
The multifarous shadow of itself!
Far coming -- present -- and far gone at once!
The senses vainly struggle to retain
As one impression, so manifold an image:
For now again a dark line on the verge
Of the horizon, steeping still, it sinks
At once into the landscape, where, yet seen
Though dimly, with a long and scattering sweep
It fetches eastward, and in column so
Dapples along the steep face of the ridge
There banking the turned river. Then it drops
Below the trees on this side -- but to rise
Once more with a quick circling gleam, as touched
By the slant sunshine there, and disappear
As instantaneously, so setting down
Upon the reedy bosom of the stream.

First published in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature, 4 October 1845;
and later in
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
The Penguin Book of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 2009; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

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

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 4, 2011 6:45 AM.

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