Did I dream while the flames leaped up and the cinders fell,
And a frozen wind fingered the window pane?
Did the silence flee at the sound of a distant hell?
Was there no wind under the eaves, no wandering rain --
Only the hazy hush of a long summer's day
Simmered in gold, and the wattle honey-smelled,
And I heard a bullock-bell in the ranges say,
"Dun-keld! Dun-keld! Dunkeld!"
Peak beyond peak the Grampians marched away
To the world's end, it seemed, and the river sang.
Mile beyond mile the fernclad uplands lay
Warm to the noon, and the noonday music rang
Hesitating and high in the hills again,
In a rhymeless monotone, for the morning held
No sound so insistent as the slow refrain
Of the bullock-bells in the distance at Dunkeld.
I saw the cloud and the eagle's circling flight,
And the blue deeps back of the rocky, wandering stair,
Where the heat waves shimmer to silver out of sight,
And the red-gums' banners droop in the drowsy air.
Was it fairy land or only a day in spring,
With the bees abroad and the late heath crimson-belled,
And the river in flood, and my heart remembering,
And the white dust thick by the roadway at Dunkeld?
The blue smoke curled from a far-away camp fire,
The unforgettable incense of grass-tree burning;
The dews that threaded their beads on the fencing wire
Winked in the sun and were gone till the dew's returning.
The old glory is over the morning still,
And the old magic, potent as that which held
Enchantment ever by valley and ridge and hill
When it's spring again in the ranges at Dunkeld.
The blossoming tea-tree sprinkled its fairy frost
Over the mosses tinder the mantled trees;
The lizards basked on the reef, and a wavering lost
Call of a cuckoo floated along the breeze.
All was as ever it Was, and a carillon
Of magpies shattered the silence, silver-belled,
Letting their warbling strains drift one by one
Till the silvery echoes grew silent at Dunkeld.
There is wind at the door and sleet on the window pane;
Low burns the flame -- have I been dreaming at whiles?
I thought that spring shook down its blossomy rain,
And minty warm was the wind down the long bush miles.
I dreamed -- did I dream? It was surely a summer's day
When the heavy censers of blossom sway, honey-smelled,
And all the bullock-bells in the ranges say
"Dun-keld! Dun-keld! Dun-keld!"
First published in The Bulletin, 8 October 1930