Lines Suggested by the Appearance of a Comet by Charles Harpur

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Thy purpose, heavenly Stranger, who may know
But He who linked thee to the starry Whole?
We see thou journeyest, -- and no more; for of
The birth of Motion, save as the first step
Of God's creative power, Mankind even yet
May but conjecture, as they did of old,
The Shepherd Sages of the mystic East.   
Yet may we dream of thee in thy career,
As of a wandering symphony from amidst,
The planetary Voices of the World;   
Singing together, in their sun-led choirs,
The divine song of an eternal order.

Thus may we dream of thee -- and I, methinks,
With an especial privilege; for I,
(Unweetingly indeed) of all who watched
Thy coming, saw thee first in my own Land:
Then having wandered forth alone, as wont,
To steep my heart in the rich sunset -- lo,
I saw, half doubtingly, its fading hues
Leave thee sole wonder of the twylight sky.

But now, since thou hast travelled high in Heaven,
Thousands of wondering Spirits, all are out
Duly each night, with upturned looks, to drink
The mystery of thy beauty.

               In thy dust
Bright visitation, even thus, thou sawst
The young, the lovely, and the wise of Earth,   
A buried Generation, thronging forth
In wonder, to behold thee pass, and then
Know thee no more ; and when the flaming steps
Of thy unspeakable speed shall carry thee
Beyond our vision, all the beautiful eyes
Now opening up at thee, -- eyes made by Love
As tender as the turtle's, or that speak
The fervent soul and the majestic mind,
Shall be fast closed in death, and give for aye
Their lustre to the grave, ere thou again
Shall drive thy fiery chariot round the Sun!
But orbs as beautiful and loving -- yea,
More radiant in their wisdom, from a more
Enlarged communion with the soul of Truth,
Shall gaze at thee instead, heavenly Stranger,
When thou return'st again! -- Ah, what a dream!
Ah, what a shadow is the life of Man!

First published in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 2 December 1846;
and later in
The Bushrangers, a Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems by Charles Harpur, 1853; and
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984.

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 December 2, 2011 7:31 AM.

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