Footfalls by Henry Kendall

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The embers were blinking and clinking away --
   The casement half open was thrown;
There was nothing but cloud on the skirts of the day;
   And I sat in the threshold alone!

And said to the river, which flowed by my door
   With its beautiful face to the hill,
"I have waited and waited, all wearied and sore,
   But my love is a wanderer still!"

And said to the wind, as it paused in its flight
   To look through the shivering pane,
"There are memories moaning and homeless to night,
   That can never be tranquil again!"

And said to the woods, as their burdens were borne
   With a flutter and sigh to the caves,
"They are wrinkled and wasted, and tattered and torn,
   And we too have our withering leaves!"

Did I hear a low echo of footfalls about;
   Whilst watching those forest-trees stark!
Or was it a dream that I hurried without,
   To clutch at, and grapple the dark?  

In the Shadow I stood for a moment and spake --
   "Bright thing, that was loved in the past,
"Oh ! am I asleep - or abroad and awake?
   And are you so near me at last?  

"Oh! roamer from lands where the vanished years go,
   Oh! waif from those mystical zones,
Come here where I long for you broken and low
   On the mosses and watery stones!

"Come out of your silence, and tell me if life
   Is so fair in that world as they say;
Was it worth all this yearning, and weeping, and strife,
   When you left it behind you to-day?  

"Will it end all this watching, and doubting, and dread?
   Do these sorrows die out with our breath?
Will they pass from our souls, like a nightmare," I said,
   "While we glide through the mazes of death?"

"Come out of that darkness, and teach me the lore
   You have learnt since I looked on your face;
By the summers that blossomed and faded of yore --
   By the lights which have fled to that place!

"You answer me not, when I know that you could --
When I know that you could, and you should;
   Though the storms are abroad on the wave;
Though the rain droppeth down with a wail to the wood,
   And my heart is as cold as your grave!"

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 1861;
and later in
Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 11 January 1862;
The Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, 27 May 1862;
Poems and Songs by Henry Kendall, 1862; and
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966.

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 22, 2011 10:30 AM.

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