Charles Harpur

(23 January 1813 – 10 June 1868 / Windsor, New South Wales)

A Flight of Wild Ducks


Far up the River-hark! 'tls the loud shock
Deadened by distance, of some Fowler's gun:
And as into the stillness of the scene
It wastes now with a dull vibratory boom,
Look where, fast widening up at either end
Out of the sinuous valley of the waters,
And o'er the intervenient forest, - up
Against the open heaven, a long dark line
Comes hitherward stretching-a vast Flight of Ducks!
Following the windings of the vale, and still
Enlarging lengthwise, and in places too
Oft breaking into solitary dots,
How swiftly onwards comes it - till at length,
The River, reaching through a group of hills,
Off leads it, - out of sight. But not for long:
For, wheeling ever with the water's course,
Here into sudden view it comes again
Sweeping and swarming round the nearest point!
And first now, a swift airy rush is heard
Approaching momently; - then all at once
There passes a keen-cutting, gusty tumult
Of strenuous pinions, with a streaming mass
Of instantaneous skiey streaks; each streak
Evolving with a lateral flirt, and thence
Entangling as it were, - so rapidly
A thousand wings outpointingly dispread
In passing tiers, seem, looked at from beneath,
With rushing intermixtures to involve
Each other as they beat. Thus seen o'erhead
Even while we speak-ere we have spoken, - lo!
The living cloud is onward many a rood.
Tracking as 'twere in the smooth stream below
The multifarious shadow of itself
Far coming-present-and far gone at once!
The senses vainly struggle to retain
The impression of an Image (as the same)
So swift and manifold: For now again
A long dark line upon the utmost verge
Of the horizon, steeping still, it sinks
At length into the landscape; where yet seen
Though dimly, with a wide and scattering sweep
It fetches eastward, and in column so
Dapples along the steep face of the ridge
There banking the turned River. Now it drops
Below the fringing oaks - but to arise
Once more, with a quick circling gleam, as touched
By the slant sunshine, and then disappear
As instantaneously, - there settling down
Upon the reedy bosom of the water.

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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