Charles Harpur

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

A Lament


Flowers in their freshness are flushing the earth,
And the voice-peopled forest is loud in its mirth,
And streams in their fulness are laughing at dearth—
Yet my bosom is aching.
There’s shadow on all things—the shadow of woe—
It falls from my spirit wherever I go,
As from a dark cloud drifting heavy and slow,
For my spirit is weary.

Ah! what can be flowers in their gladness to me,
Or the voices that people the green forest tree,
Or the full joy of streams—since my soul sighs, ah me!
O’er the grave of my Mary.

Under the glad face of nature, her face
Hath carried down with it all beauty and grace;
Pale is it there in that dark silent place—
Mary! oh Mary!

Children are by me—her children; oh God!
To see where their feet have unwittingly trod,
Tiny tracks in the loam of the new broken sod
Betwixt them and their mother!

Betwixt them and the true one who loved us in truth,
Who bore them, and died ’mid the hopes of her youth!
Who would live in a world where nor anguish nor ruth
May avail the bereaved ones.

Yet must I live, lest her spirit should say,
Meeting mine in its flight from this vesture of clay,
“Where are our little ones? Where do they stay?
And why did you leave them?”

If for them only, then, so must it be,
See, I remain with them, Mary! but see
How lonely we stand in a world without thee!
Mary! oh Mary!

I live, but death’s shadow is over me cast;
And even when wearied woe sleepeth at last,
Some dream of the dead, sighing out of the past,
Is alive in the darkness!

Could I but weep, it were comfort, though brief;
But the fountain of tears by the fire of my grief
Hath been dried to its dregs, and can shed no relief
On the thirst of my eyelids.

As music that wasteth away on the blast,
As the last ray by the sunken sun cast,
All my heart’s gladness hath died in the past,—
Mary! oh Mary!



Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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