You thought it was the lapping of the tide
Where out by Garden Reach the long ships ride?
But I knew.
When the dawning drew the curtains of the East,
And the chattering birds were rousing to their feast,
And the waters by the dew-grey banks hung slack,
What you heard was just the Night Dreams slipping back.
From the big red house with blind eyes to the Quay,
From the damp green garden, where the canna burns.
Where the morn wind wrinkles on the spreading ferns,
And woos the boughs with wizard minstlelsy,
They are gliding to the hidden water ways;
Little White Dream, with a taper in her hand,
Pale, blurred vision you must wake to understand.
Tiny, tuneful one that round the heart-strings plays --
They are marshalling at every bedroom door;
They are stealing from the shadows of the hall,
They are answering the river's warning call,
They are pattering on the silent chamber floor,
"Come away!" the river cries, "for dawn is here;
And the working world would gibe at you by day;
Set your fragile feet upon the tidalway;
Bathe your bodies where the wave curl washes clear."
Past the fig trees clustered on the river's edge,
Past the homeless ones who shiver at the dawn,
Past the carex grouping on the graded lawn,
Past the honeysuckle, trailing from the hedge;
Past the sachet-scented frangipanni blooms,
Out across the furrowed road and dusty street;
Past the weeping figs whose bent bows softly meet,
And down among the wild weeds' musky glooms ---
Go the dreams that filled the pillows of the night;
Here a grey-eyed girl with citron-shaded hair,
Or a laughing love with one white shoulder bare;
Or a threat of hate with cruel lips shut tight;
From that shuttered house of loneliness and tears,
Where a woman lay at eve with empty arms,
Comes a little swaddled shape of dimpled charms,
A tender, coolng call the last star hears.
From the cottage where lean hunger stalks by day
Comes a dream of rich men's tables and of wine;
And round a barren door, a laden vine,
That Morn's first gilded gauntlet tears away;
From my window where the dull geranium grows
I heard my dream drop lightly to the blue;
It was silver Hope, with just one thought of you
To set upon its brow that velvet rose.
You thought it was the gurgling of the sea
By the black rat-riddled wharfing breaking free?
You thought it was the pressing of the tide
That strains the painter where the wherries ride?
But I knew!
For where day-caught dreams their rainbow colours keep.
Above, where yellowing awns have lost their dew,
With here a fleck of crimson, glimpse of blue,
I have seen the clinging robes of semite sweep;
And from that portal, dark beneath the moon,
By arch severe or doorstep white as milk,
'Twas strange to hear the rustling of silk,
And catch a sudden flash of scarlet sheen,
As stolidly he sleeps beside his spouse,
His mind presumably on stocks and shares;
Did Folly come and court him unawares,
Burgling her dream-way to his formal house?
And that grave prelate, from the pulpit's climb
Just a stone's throw along the tree-roofed track,
I heard the bells --- the capped fool making back,
And caught the jesting of the cheery mime;
While in the widowed chamber over there,
As, worn with weeping, closed his swollen eyes,
She lingered, cheating him with darling lies,
And binding his sick heart with her dead hair.
The schoolboy dreamed of armour on a field,
A doughty knight, a war horse sable skinned,
How with one stroke the foeman's ranks were thinned:
What clank. what rocking plumes his our walls yield!
The school girl, lily folded in her place,
Secure as dove within the sacred grove,
Majestic, saw some jet-locked lover move,
And read her future in a phantom face.
To all the flower-ringed walks were full of them;
And all the dusty way stirred to their feet:
One stooped to taste the breaths or jasmine's sweet,
Or brushed an aster with her garment's hem.
Down to the river, myriad-masked, they sweep,
Snow-breasted angel, form of lurking fear,
Frail fancy spectress, faces lost and dear,
From their long vigil in the world of sleep;
At noon they slumber in the heavy heat,
Beneath the black fumes of the factory's mouth,
Beneath the brown keels drifting to the south,
Or wide-winged shadows of the sailing fleet.
All day when red-forged sunrays scorch the banks,
And violet lights are sifted from the glare,
To where the rising shark makes globes or air,
Parting the levels of the water ranks --
There they lie waiting till the sunset's hand
Paints all the West and folds into the dark.
You heard a whispering by the green marge -- hark!
That was the dreams --- gone back from Pillow Land!First published
in The Sydney Mail
, 17 January 1912Author reference sites: Austlit
, Australian Dictionary of Biography