The Creek of the Four Graves

Charles Harpur 1813 (Windsor) – 1868 (Australia)

I
I verse a Settler's tale of olden times
One told me by our sage friend, Egremont;
Who then went forth, meetly equipt, with four
Of his most trusty and adventrous men
Into the wilderness - went forth to seek
New streams and wider pastures for his fast
Augmenting flocks and herds. On foot were all
For horses then were beast of too great price
To be much ventured on mountain routes,
And over wild wolds clouded up with brush,
And cut with marshes, perilously deep.

So went they forth at dawn: and now the sun
That rose behind them as they journeyed out,
Was firing with his nether rim a range
Of unknown mountains that, like ramparts, towered
Full in their front, and his last glances fell
Into the gloomy forest's eastern glades
In golden massses, transiently, or flashed
Down to the windings of a nameless Creek,
That noiseless ran betwixt the pioneers
And those new Apennines - ran, shaded up
With boughs of the wild willow, hanging mixed
From either bank, or duskily befringed
With upward tapering feathery swamp-oaks -
The sylvan eyelash always of remote
Australian waters, whether gleaming still
In lake or pool, or bickering along
Between the marges of some eager stream.

Before then, thus extended, wilder grew
The scene each moment - and more beautiful!
For when the sun was all but sunk below
Those barrier mountains, - in the breeze that o'er
Their rough enormous backs deep-fleeced with wood
Came whispering down, the wide up-slanting sea
Of fanning leaves in the descending rays
Danced interdazzingly, as if the trees
That bore them, were all thrilling, - tingling all
Even to the roots for very happiness:
So prompted from within, so sentient seemed
The bright quick motion - wildly beautiful.

But when the sun had wholly disappeared
Behind those mountains - O what words, what hues
Might paint the wild magnificence of view
That opened westward! Out extending, lo,
The heights rose crowding, with their summits all
Dissolving, as it seemed, and partly lost
In the exceeding radiancy aloft;
And thus transfigured, for awhile they stood
Like a great company of Archaeons, crowned
With burning diadems, and tented o'er
With canopies of purple and of gold!

Here halting wearied, now the sun was set,
Our travellers kindled for their first night's camp
The brisk and crackling fire, which also looked
A wilder creature than 'twas elsewhere wont,
Because of the surrounding savageness.
And soon in cannikins the tea was made,
Fragrant and stong; long fresh-sliced rashers then
Impaled on whittled skewers, were deftly broiled
On the live embers, and when done, transferred
To quadrants from an ample damper cut,
Their only trenchers - soon to be dispatched
With all the savoury morsels they sustained,
By the keen tooth of healthful appitite.

And as they supped, birds of new shape and plume
And wild strange voice came by,nestward repairing by,
Oft too their wonder; or betwixt the gaps
In the ascending forest growths they saw
Perched on the bare abutments of the hills,
Where haply yet some lingering gleam fell through,
The wallaroo look forth: till aastward all
The view had wasted into formless gloom,
Night's front; and westward, the high massing woods
Steeped in a swart but mellowed Indian hue -
A deep dusk loveliness, lay ridged and heaped
Only the more distinctly for their shade
Against the twilight heaven - a cloudless depth
Yet luminous with the sunset's fading glow;
And thus awhile, in the lit dusk, they seemed
To hang like mighty pictures of themselves
In the still chambers of some vaster world.

The silent business of their supper done,
The Echoes of the solitary place,
Came as in sylvan wonder wide about
To hear, and imitate tentatively,
Stange voice moulding a strange speech, as then
Within the pleasant purlieus of the fire
Lifted in glee - but to be hushed erelong,
As with the night in kindred darkness came
O'er the adventurers, each and all, some sense -
Some vague-felt intimation from without,
Of danger lurking in its forest lairs.

But nerved by habit, and all settled soon
About the well-built fire, whose nimble tongues
Sent up continually a strenuous roar
Of fierce delight, and from their fuming pipes
Fu11 charged and fragrant with the Indian weed,
Drawing rude comfort,- typed without, as 'twere,
By tiny clouds over their several heads
Quietly curling upward; - thus disposed
Within the pleasant f
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Charles Harpur

Charles Harpur was an Australian poet. more…

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