The Beach by E.J. Brady

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Like Cleopatra's neck incurved,
   Or Phryne's arms of snow,
From Bastion Rock to Gabo swerved
   And bended as a bow;
It offers to the Austral sun
   It's miles of silvern sand,
In virgin beauty, yet unwon
   By any spoiler's hand.

At night I hear the ancient seas --
   White-headed seers, along
These darkened shores their memories
   Pour forth in epics long
Of years primeval. And in strange,
   Soft, minor chords reply
Old pilgrim winds that reef and range,
   Unrested, wander by.

Deep secrets theirs----of aeons gone,
   When suns and systems, worn
By endless forces, fiercely shone
   In nascent strength newborn;
When gave the seventh Pleiad out,
   Unshamed, her starry boon;
And glowed, o'er jungles north and south,
   A tropic polar moon.

Time's burdens and the yoke of years
   Have tamed their early might;
No more the cow'ring caveman hears
   The storm gods in the night;
No more do chartless shallops hie
   A furtive course from shore;
And in their quiet havens lie
   The dead ships evermore.

But they who nursed the germ of life,
   The new ameboid cell,
From which, or science errs, the strife
   Of all that follows fell.
What marvels have they looked within
   Their ocean hearts? What dreams
Of empire and of effort in
   Their world-encircling streams?

For they, who cradled first of Eld
   The Ion, shaped in cell,
With Man and Man's far future held
   All Heaven, Earth and Hell!
And when ensuing epochs rang
   With rage of death and birth,
On vanished shores they proudly sang
   The oldest songs of earth.

Betimes, a-dreaming, when my camp-
   Fire reds the foreland, I
Can dimly hear the Titan tramp
   Of Ages marching by;
And, scroll by scroll, the Eras, rolled
   On mighty parchments, pearled
With priceless truths to me unfold
   The Story of the World.

Then deep-sea voices faint recall,
   And deep-sea echoes bring
The roar of monsters and the fall
   Of preying foot and wing;
These pass and perish at a breath,
   Their weaker types remain --
Slow evolution armed with death
   From bulk, reduces brain!

I hear wild winds primeval fan
   Volcanic mountains steep,
Where, in the quiet future, Man
   His fertile tilth will reap.
I see an Everlasting Force
   Re-mould, destroy, re-shape;
Give firmer foothold to the horse
   And forehead to the ape.

Anon these songs of effort cease
   And kinder themes outpour,
In turn the diva-throated seas
   Unto a listening shore.
Aye, then methinks, I hear retold
   Old stories ever new,
Of Jason and the heroes bold
   Red-hearted, proud and true.

Old galleys dip their carven beaks
   Into the azure brine,
That in their Delphic feasts fair Greeks
   May pour the Samian wine.
In rose gondolas, silken-sailed
   The royal Doges go,
And young Crusaders silver-mailed,
   With bannerets of snow.

Rome's daring eagles, flaunting high
   Their wings of blood, go on,
Fair burn across a sunset sky
   Brave banners of St. John.
Columbus, peering through the dusk,
   I see fare forth amain --
A glory harvest from the husk
   Of Littleness to gain.

I glimpse John Cabot with his white
   Hair rimed by northern spray;
And grandly through the awful night
   I hear his courage say:
"As near to Heaven, friends, by sea --
   Though Death wait either hand --
As near to Heaven now we be
   As e'er we'll be on land."

I hear Magellan dauntless cry,
   "Not if we eat the hides
From off this vessel's yards shall I
   Turn back, whate'er betides,
Till these new seas are conquered!" Drake,
   A-roaring down the main,
With gallant ruffians in his wake
   I see go out again.

Aye, out again and home again,
   Along historic years,
For either glory, love or gain,
   Go forth these buccaneers;
The pirate brood, with laden chests,
   Outspilling plundered toll;
The black sea eagles in their nests,
   Blood-stained, but brave of soul.

The saucy sloop, the frigate gay,
   The fighting forty-four;
The oaken hulls of Nelson's day,
   The ships of trade and war.
Night long the roving waters bring
   Their ghostly memories;
Night long the ancient surges sing
   High human historics.

But when the east, attendant, waits
   Her mansions to adorn,
And with skilled magic decorates
   The bridal couch of Morn;
With royal purple drapes each plinth
   Of frowning rock, and fills
With topaz and with hyacinth
  The hollows of the hills.

When low the inlet and its isles,
   In Asiatic guise,
Salaam with soft and pliant smiles
   The Sultan of the Skies;
As from the lakes a silver veil
   Of mist is deftly drawn,
An Amazon in golden mail
   The Beach salutes the Dawn.

White lace of foam around her knees,
   She flutters like a girl;
And threads her blue embroideries
   With seaweed and with pearl.
The spotted cowrie and the fair,
   Frail nautilus are hers,
Rose spirals and the shining, rare
   Sea shells and mariners.

The jewel caskets of the deeps
   Lie ready to her hand,
In ev'ry tropic wave that leafs
   Foam-freighted to her sand.
And now, in cadence, measured, slow,
   From minstrels submarine
Sweet rhymes and rondels gaily flow
   Across this sunlit scene.

O! Life and Now these minstrels chant --
   A pagan song of old,
The song dark lovers of Levant
   Outsang in hours of gold.
A radiance now, a rare delight,
   A dream of love and wine,
She lieth in the morning light
   This Austral beach of mine.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 August 1910;
and later in
Bells and Hobbles by E. J. Brady, 1911.

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 August 25, 2012 10:11 AM.

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