Campaspe by Henry Kendall

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Turn from the ways of this woman! Campaspe, we call her by name --
She is fairer than flowers of the fire -- she is brighter than brightness of flame.
As a song that strikes swift to the heart with the beat of the blood of the South,
And a light and a leap and a smart, is the play of her perilous mouth.
Her eyes are as splendours that break in the rain at the set of the sun,
But turn from the steps of Campaspe -- a woman to look at and shun!

Dost thou know of the cunning of Beauty! Take heed to thyself and beware
Of the trap in the droop of the raiment-the snare in the folds of the hair?
She is fulgent in flashes of pearl, the breeze with her breathing in sweet,
But fly from the face of the girl -- there is death in the fall of her feet!
Is she maiden or marvel like marble? -- O rather a tigress at wait   
To pounce on thy soul for her pastime -- a leopard for love and for hate!

Women of shadow and furnace! She biteth her lips to restrain
Speech that springs out when she sleepeth by the stirs and the starts of her pain.
As music half-shapen of sorrow with its wants and its infinite wail  
Is the voice of Campaspe -- the beauty at bay with her passion dead-pale.
Go out from the courts of her loving, nor tempt the fierce dance of desire
Where thy life would be shrivelled like stubble in the stress and the fervour of fire.

I know of one, gentle as moonlight -- she is sad as the shine of the moon
But touching the ways of her eyes are: she comes to my soul like a tune --
Like a tune that is filled with faint voices of the loved and the lost and the lone
Doth this stranger abide with my silence: like a tune with a tremulous tone.
The leopard, we call her Campaspe! I pluck at a rose and I stir
To think of this sweethearted maiden -- what name is too tender for her?  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1866;
and later in
The Poets and Prose Writers of New South Wales edited by G.B. Barton, 1866;
Leaves from Australian Forests by Henry Kendall, 1869;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957;
The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall edited by Thomas Thornton Reed, 1966;
The Oxford Book of Australian Love Poems edited by Jennifer Strauss, 1993; and
Henry Kendall: Poetry, Prose and Selected Correspondence edited by Michael Ackland, 1993.

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 October 6, 2012 7:43 AM.

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