An Episode of Bush Life by Ernest Favenc

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The hot fierce sun above; below, the river
   In glittering sparkles flashing back each ray:
Scarcely a breath to make the tree tops quiver,
   Or rustle 'midst their leaves in idle play.

Scarcely a sound to tell that life is teeming
   In the dense scrub that lines the winding creek
In drowsy stillness sleeps the forest--dreaming ---
   Save where a parrot wakes it with a shriek.

A long harsh shriek! like one in anguish dying,
   Or eldritch cursing with unholy ban;
As though the frightened bird had seen there lying
   The dead horse, on the living breathing man;

And, in that startled glance, instinct had told it
   The meaning of the tragedy below,
And ere it flew, in pity to behold it,
   It cried aloud, in one long wail of woe.

"Is this a dream? Can I be really here?
   The dead horse lying on my shattered bone;
No chance of life! No friend, no comrade near!
   Nought left but death --- a lingering death --- alone,

"How many dreadful hours must I await
   Death's coming? --- for he is my only friend,
Who in his mercy kindly will abate
   My sufferings, and console me at the end.

"Will he come quickly? Shall I see him stand
   And gaze at me with eyes of solemn greeting?
Then will he stoop, and with an icy hand
   Touch my warm heart, and still its weary beating?   

"Or, in the evening's shadow-haunted gloom,
   When through the trees I hear the night-wind roam,
But as a darker shadow will he loom,
   And gently comfort me, and take me home?   

"Ah night! dear night! so cool, and calm, and still;  
   Could I but drink once more, in peace I'd lie
In your dark arms; let me but have my fill
   Of that sweet water! God, then let me die.

"In the deep silence I can hear it splash
   Amongst the rocky boulders far below.
Oh! could I only reach the side, and dash
   My fevered body in its cooling flow!   

"Keep back, you fiend! I see you hiding there  
   Behind that tree-trunk, mocking me in scorn:
Grinning and mowing, with a wicked stare
   That could not come save from a thing hell-born.

"You'll go away when the hot day is done,   
   And the kind night cools me with dewy rain;
But when the east glows red before the sun
   You will return, and torture me again;

"Showing me where the sparkling river falls
   Over the rocks --- so close! O Heaven, and then   
Delude me with false answers to my calls
   For aid and succour from my fellow-men.

"Give me quick death, if you have mercy, Christ,
   And are the God of love, and not of fear!
Why torture me? Surely it had sufficed   
   To take my life --- not leave me lingering here.

"If fiend you are, then work your fiendish will;
   Burning me with fierce sun and fiercer thirst:
Crushed, lone, and helpless, I defy you still;
   I'll pray no more, but hold you for accursed.

"Ah! do not bind me! Give me water, pray!  
   And I'll not struggle more, but let the flame
Consume me calmly; only take away
   Those haunting eyes --- that head, bowed in shame.

"Call no more ghosts; there are enough here now;
   If this is hell I cannot now atone
For past misdeeds. O cool my aching brow!
   Keep off, you devils ! Let me die alone.

"How balmy feels the air! and the soft sound  
   Of chiming bells comes on the evening breeze,
So rich with fragrance, from the flower-decked ground
   From hawthorn hedges, and from chestnut trees.

"This well-known lane! The old familiar place  
   Left years ago, but never quite forgot ---
This hand in mine! Is it my sister's face?  
   How little changed! To think I know you not!   

"True, I am weak and faint; but we will go
   To the old churchyard, and when there we'll stray
Amongst the quiet tombs, and you can show
   Me those of friends, lost since I went away.

"Strange! it is falling dark; and where I stand
   There seems an open grave. Surely I live!
And yet --- I'm blind; and now --- how cold your hand!
   This must be death ! Have mercy --- God --- forgive."

First published in The Queenslander, 1 May 1880;
and later in
Voices of the Desert by Ernest Favenc, 1905.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 1, 2012 8:56 AM.

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