Cooranbeen by Henry Kendall

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Years fifty, and seven to boot, have smitten the children of men
Since sound of a voice or a foot came out of the head of that Glen;
The brand of black devil is there-an evil wind moaneth around;
There is doom-there is death in the air; a curse groweth up from the ground.
No noise of the axe or the saw in that Hollow unholy is heard --
No fall of the hoof or the paw -- no whirr of the wing of the bird;
But a grey mother down by the sea, as wan as the foam on the strait,
Has counted the beads on her knee these forty-nine winters and eight.

Whenever an elder is asked -- a whiteheaded man of the woods --
Of the terrible Mystery marked where the dark everlastingly broods,
Be sure, he will turn to the bay with his back to the Glen in the range,
And glide like a phantom away with a countenance pallid with change.
From the line of dead timber that lies supine at the foot of the glade
The fierce-featured eaglehawk flies -- afraid as a dove is afraid;
But back in that wilderness dread are a fall and the forks of a ford --
Ah, pray and uncover your head, and lean like a child on the Lord.

A sinister fog at the wane-at the change of the moon cometh forth,
Like an ominous ghost in the train of a bitter black storm of the North:
At the head of the Gully -- unknown, it hangs like aspirit of bale;
And the noise of a shriek and a groan strikes up in the gusts of the gale.
In the throat of a feculent pit in the beard of a bloody-red sedge;
And a foam like the foam of a fit sweats out of the lips of the ledge;
But down in the water of death-in the livid dead pool at the base --
Bow low with inaudible breath: beseech with the hands to the face.

A furlong of fetid black fen, with gelid green patches of pond,
Lies dumb by the horns of the Glen -- at the gates of the Horror beyond;
And these who have looked on it tell of the terrible growths that are there --
The flowerage fostered by Hell -- the blossoms that startle and scare.
If ever a wandering bird should light on Gehennas like this
Be sure that a cry will be heard, and the sound of the flat adder's hiss.
But hard by the jaws of the bend is a ghastly Thing matted with moss --
Ah, Lord be a Father -- a Friend, for the sake of the Christ of the Cross.

Black Tom with the sinews of five -- that never a hangman could hang --
In the days of the shackle and gyve, broke loose from the guards of the gang.
Thereafter for seasons a score this devil prowled under the ban,
A mate of red talon and paw -- a wolf in the shape of a man.
But, ringed by ineffable fire, in a thunder and wind of the North
The sword of Omnipotent ire -- the bolt of high Heaven went forth;
But, wan as the sorrowful foam, a grey mother waits by the sea
For the boys that have never come home these forty four winters and three.

From the folds of the forested hills there are ravelled and roundabout tracks,
Because of the terror that fills the stronghanded men of the axe.
Of the workers away in the range, there is none that will wait for the night
When the storm-stricken moon is in change, and the sinister fog is in sight.
And later and deep in the dark, when the bitter wind whistles about,
There is never a howl or a bark from the dog in the kennel without;
But the white fathers fasten the door, and often and often they start
At a sound like a foot on the floor, and a touch like a hand on the heart.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 January 1879;
and later in
Songs from the Mountains by Henry Kendall, 1880;
A Century of Australian Song edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957; and
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966.

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 January 11, 2012 7:14 AM.

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