Bells Beyond the Forest

Wild-eyed woodlands, here I rest me, underneath the gaunt and ghastly trees;
Underneath fantastic-fronted caverns crammed with many a muffled breeze.
Far away from dusky towns and cities twinkling with the feet of men;
Listening to a sound of mellow music fleeting down the gusty glen;
Sitting by a rapid torrent, with the broken sunset in my face;
By a rapid, roaring torrent, tumbling through a dark and lonely place!
And I hear the bells beyond the forest, and the voice of distant streams;
And a flood of swelling singing, wafting round a world of ruined dreams.
Like to one who watches daylight dying from a lofty mountain spire,
When the autumn splendour scatters like a gust of faintly-gleaming fire;
So the silent spirit looketh through a mist of faded smiles and tears,
While across it stealeth all the sad and sweet divinity of years—
All the scenes of shine and shadow; light and darkness sleeping side by side
When my heart was wedded to existence, as a bridegroom to his bride:
While I travelled gaily onward with the vapours crowding in my wake,
Deeming that the Present hid the glory where the promised Morn would break.

Like to one who, by the waters standing, marks the reeling ocean wave
Moaning, hide his head all torn and shivered underneath his lonely cave,
So the soul within me glances at the tides of Purpose where they creep,
Dashed to fragments by the yawning ridges circling Life’s tempestuous Deep!
Oh! the tattered leaves are dropping, dropping round me like a fall of rain;
While the dust of many a broken aspiration sweeps my troubled brain;
With the yearnings after Beauty, and the longings to be good and great;
And the thoughts of catching Fortune, flying on the tardy wings of Fate.

Bells, beyond the forest chiming, where is all the inspiration now
That was wont to flush my forehead, and to chase the pallor from my brow?
Did I not, amongst these thickets, weave my thoughts and passions into rhyme,
Trusting that the words were golden, hoping for the praise of after-time?
Where have all those fancies fled to? Can the fond delusion linger still,
When the Evening withers o’er me, and the night is creeping up the hill?
If the years of strength have left me, and my life begins to fail and fade,
Who will learn my simple ballads; who will stay to sing the songs I’ve made?

Bells, beyond the forest ringing, lo, I hasten to the world again;
For the sun has smote the empty windows, and the day is on the wane!
Hear I not a dreamy echo, soughing through the rafters of the tree;
Like a sound of stormy rivers, or the ravings of a restless sea?
Should I loiter here to listen, while this fitful wind is on the wing?
No, the heart of Time is sobbing, and my spirit is a withered thing!
Let the rapid torrents tumble, let the woodlands whistle in the blast;
Mighty minstrels sing behind me, but the promise of my youth is past.

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Henry Kendall

Thomas Henry Kendall was a nineteenth-century Australian author and bush poet, who was particularly known for his poems and tales set in a natural environment setting. more…

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"Bells Beyond the Forest" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 20 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/17450/bells-beyond-the-forest>.

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