James Lister Cuthbertson

(8 May 1851 – 18 January 1910 / Glasgow, Scotland)

At Cape Schanck


Down to the lighthouse pillar
   The rolling woodland comes,
Gay with the gold of she-oaks
   And the green of the stunted gums,
With the silver-grey of honeysuckle,
   With the wasted bracken red,
With a tuft of softest emerald
   And a cloud-flecked sky o'erhead.

We climbed by ridge and boulder,
   Umber and yellow scarred,
Out to the utmost precipice,
   To the point that was ocean-barred,
Till we looked below on the fastness
   Of the breeding eagle's nest,
And Cape Wollomai opened eastward
   And the Otway on the west.

Over the mirror of azure
   The purple shadows crept,
League upon league of rollers
   Landward evermore swept,
And burst upon gleaming basalt,
   And foamed in cranny and crack,
And mounted in sheets of silver,
   And hurried reluctant back.

And the sea, so calm out yonder,
   Wherever we turned our eyes,
Like the blast of an angel's trumpet
   Rang out to the earth and skies,
Till the reefs and the rocky ramparts
   Throbbed to the giant fray,
And the gullies and jutting headlands
   Were bathed in a misty spray.

Oh, sweet in the distant ranges,
   To the ear of inland men,
Is the ripple of falling water
   In sassafras-haunted glen,
The stir in the ripening cornfield
   That gently rustles and swells,
The wind in the wattle sighing,
   The tinkle of cattle bells.

But best is the voice of ocean,
   That strikes to the heart and brain,
That lulls with its passionate music
   Trouble and grief and pain,
That murmurs the requiem sweetest
   For those who have loved and lost,
And thunders a jubilant anthem
   To brave hearts tempest-tossed.

That takes to its boundless bosom
   The burden of all our care,
That whispers of sorrow vanquished,
   Of hours that may yet be fair,
That tells of a Harbour of Refuge
   Beyond life's stormy straits,
Of an infinite peace that gladdens,
   Of an infinite love that waits.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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