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Ned Connor

Charles Harpur 1813 (Windsor) – 1868 (Australia)

’TWAS night—and where a watery sound
Came moaning up the Flat,
Six rude and bearded stockmen round
Their blazing hut-fire sat,
And laughed as on some starting hound
The cracking fuel spat.

And merrier still the log-fire cracks
As night the darker falls,
While not a noisy tongue there lacks
To tell of drunken brawls,
But most of battle with the Blacks
Some bloody tale appals.

Amongst them then Ned Connor spoke,
And up his form he drew:—
What is there in an open stroke
To boast of? You but slew
Those who’d have done, each hell-black one,
The same or worse to you.

But lost among the hills, one day,
Which then was well nigh shut,
I met a Black upon my way,
And thus the matter put
Unto him:—“See! this knife’s for thee,
Come, guide me to my hut.”

His savage eyes grew huge with joy
As on the prize they bent,
And leading, even like a boy
He capered as he went:
But think you, men, to give the toy
Ned Connor ever meant?

An hour had brought us many a mile
And then, as closed the day,
The savage pointed with a smile,
To where my Station lay:
“There! give to me the knife,” said he,
“And let me go my way.”

I never meant that he should touch
The thing, as I have said,
And when he stretched his hand to clutch,
A thought came in my head:
I raised my gun, as though in fun—
I fired —— and he was dead!

The ruffian laughed in his pitiless mood
When ended thus his tale,
But all the rest though men of blood,
With horror seemed to quail,
And saw though he stood boastfully
That Connor too was pale:

For through the moaning of the trees
He seemed to hear the sound
Of his own laughter in the breeze
Keep roaming out till drowned
In wild and bitter mockeries
Up-answering from the ground.

Now what to hear had made them fear,
Had also made them dry:
But strange! the water-pail that late
Brimm’d in the corner nigh
Was empty! In amazement great
There’s not a drop, they cry!

Their thirst grew bitter and they said
Come, this will never do!
It is your turn for water, Ned,
Then why not go? He drew
Full hard his breath and from his head
There dripped a sudden dew.

But shaming to be taxed with fear,
He seized the pail and said
What care I? Though the night be drear,
Who ever saw the dead?
And if I fail to fill this pail,
The devil shall, instead.

He sallied forth. A sudden blast
Went sobbing by the door,
Through which they heard his footsteps fast
Recede—and when no more
They heard them, round the fire aghast
They gathered as before.

“I would not go alone to-night
The way that he is gone,”
Said one, “for all the gold my sight
Hath ever fallen upon:
To slay that creature was not right,
I’d say’t were he my son!”

And now impatient all and wild
They wondered at his stay,
Till one outspake: “A weanling child
Could not make more delay:
If longer slack in coming back,
He’ll bring with him the day.”

But while they thus were wondering—hark!
They hear a frantic shriek,
Then nearing footsteps through the dark,
Come waywardly and weak:
And as the dogs did howl and bark,
They stared but feared to speak.

Against the door, that to had swung,
One rushed then and ’twas split;
’Twas Connor! who amid them sprung
And fell into a fit:
And long that night in ghastly plight,
He struggled there in it.

And when his sense returned—again
The sun was rising bright,
But shuddering as in mental pain
He turned him from the light,
And pointing, said—“To bed! to bed!
For Death is in my sight!”

They bore him to his bed straightway,
Those horror-stricken men,
And questioned him as there he lay,
Of what had met his ken:
Within himself he seemed to pray,
And thus bespake them then:—

“I went (you heard), with impious boast
For water to the brook,
But when the threshold I had crost,
All strength my heart forsook;
Each forward step seemed fate—but most
I feared behind to look.

Long murky clouds were hurrying fast
Across the starless sky,
Strange sounds came drowning up the blast
That piped by fits so high:
A winding gleam, and lo! the stream
Went wildly moaning by.

I knew not why, but it struck mine eye
With a dull damp sense of awe,
And bankward densely crawling by,
Crude Shapes methought I saw!
But I must not back, I said, alack!
But down at once and draw.

Now standing at the water’s edge,
Mine eyes t
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:03 min read

Charles Harpur

Charles Harpur was an Australian poet. more…

All Charles Harpur poems | Charles Harpur Books

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