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Ada Cambridge 1844 (St Germans, Norfolk) – 1926 (Melbourne)
One hour ago the crimson sun, that seemed so long a-drowning, sank.
The summer day is all but done. Our boat is moored beneath the bank.
I bask in peace, content, replete — my faithful comrade at my feet.
The water-violet shuts its eye; the water-lily petals close;
So in the evening light we lie and dream in undisturbed repose.
How far all petty cares have flown! How calm the fretful world has grown!
We only hear the gentle breeze, in tender sighs and whispers, pass
Through osier beds and alder trees, and rustling flags and bending grass;
The song of blackbird in the hedge, the quack of wild-duck in the sedge.
The distant bark of farmhouse dogs, the piping of a clear-voiced thrush,
The murmurous babble of the frogs, of rippling stream in reed and rush;
The splash of pike and bream that rise to flitting moths and dragon-files.
Far from the haunts of striving men, the toil and moil, the dust and din,
At home, at peace, in this lone fen, with these our dumb and gentler kin;
In Mother Nature's arms at rest, we drink the nectar of her breast.
The fragrance of these dewy hours, the perfume that the rich earth yields,
Sweetbriar and bean and clover-flowers, the incense of the quiet fields;
The new-cut hay, so sweet and fresh . . . . what balm to spirit and to flesh!
And those white gulls, inland for food; and that still heron, carved in jet;
That paddling water-hen and brood, those swifts and swallows, hunting yet;
All these soft creatures, wild and free, how lovely and how kind they be!
Kind to that monster of the gun, that ravager of earth and sky,
From whom the fledgelings hide and run — the immemorial enemy!
Ah, but this hand of their dread lord hath sheathed the devastating sword.
Tell them, my comrade, in thy tongue, that I come not to rob and strike.
Tell these shy hearts, so wronged and wrung, that all men's hearts are not alike.
In the Dark Ages of thy race, thou hast foretaste of light and grace.
Thou, love-enfranchised, that canst sleep unharmed, unharried, at my door,
Wolf-brother, taught to guard the sheep, teach them that man is something more
Than instrument of woe and death to half the creatures that have breath.
* * * * *
The western glories fade and pass. The twilight deepens more and more.
A thin mist, like a breath on glass, veils shining mere and distant shore.
The moor-hen's family is fed. The heron hies him home to bed.
No hum of gnat or bee is heard; no pipe of thrush on hawthorn bough;
No cry of any beast or bird to stir the solemn stillness now,
Though earth and air and stream are rife with latent energies of life.
Silent the otter where he prowls, the gliding polecat and her prey;
Silent the soft-winged mousing owls, the flickering bats, like imps at play.
War, death, the fighters and the fight — all ghostly shadows of the night.
What means that questioning paw of thine? those wistful eyes upon my face?
Ah, hunter! Dost thou sniff and whine? Art still a-quiver for the chase?
Peace — peace! Lie down again, old hound. This place to-night is holy ground.
* * * * *
The clocks strike ten. The last, last gleam of lingering day has disappeared.
On field and marsh and quiet stream a few stars shine. The mist has cleared.
The willows of the further shore stand outlined on the sky once more.
How clear the blackness, leaf and bark, the plumes upon those bulbous stumps!
A pallid fragment of the dark shows fine-etched flag and osier clumps.
Sharper and sharper in the glow the iris and the bulrush grow.
A faint dawn glimmers on the sedge, the grassy banks, the flowery meads;
A bright disc shows its radiant edge, the round moon rises from the reeds;
The sleeping lilies take the light; their steel-dark bed turns silver-white.
That path of glory, widening, streams across the mere to where we sit.
My sight swims in its dazzling beams; spirit and brain are steeped in it . . . .
Dost thou not answer to the touch? Listen, my dog, that knows so much: —
There may be lovelier worlds than this, a heavenly country, vast and fair,
Where saints and seraphs dwell in bliss — I do not know — I do not care.
While in my human flesh I live I ask no more than earth can give.
Ethereal essences may roam Elysian Fields beyond the grave,
But we, my dog, will saunter home, to all we love and all we crave.
God sees us thankful for our lot. The Unborn Day concerns us not.
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