ENGLISH SKYLARK IN AUSTRALIA a Poem
ENGLISH SKYLARK IN AUSTRALIA
" The light-feathered minstrel began, as it were, to tune its pipes. The savage-looking miners gathered round the cage that moment to listen. Then the same sun that had warmed its little heart at home came glowing down on him here, and he gave music back for it more and more, till at last, amid breathless silence and glistening eyes of the rough diggers hanging on his voice, outburst in that distant land his English song."
IN the Australian land, hard by the farmer's door,
Spread idly on the grass were miners half a score:
In the acacia's shadow, perch'd in its gilded cage,
A small brown English lark their earnest thoughts engage.
They were a rough and rugged crew, of almost savage mien,
Of swarthy cheek and bearded lip, as e'er on earth were seen;
Their bare and brawny arms were scorch'd by foreign sun,
As if in blazing smith-forge their daily toils were done.
They were exiled convicts, and doom'd to felon toil,
Banish'd from merry England, their fathers' native soil;
In gulch and stony gully they'd found the wondrous gold,
Had fought with nature till they tore the treasures from her hold.
The little featber'd minstrel began to tune his throat;
The surly diggers gather'd round—they would not lose a note:
At first a faint chirp; but ere long, as ancient memories came,
The cadences of other years burst from its little frame.
The same sun that had warm'd at home the bird's melodious strain
Came glowing on his heart to thaw the frozen fount again:
With breathless lip, with glistening eye, press'd round that eager throng,
To hear in this remotest land the old familiar song.
It swell'd his little throat, it gush'd from him amain;
And every time the minstrel check'd the song's enchanting strain,
Of its fair theme to think—the meadow and the stream,
The clover blooms, the daisies, the springtime's golden beam,—
Oh! oft from many a bosom rough, and many a wicked heart,
A soft sigh told how fervently they listen'd to his art.
He sang again; again he sang with all his tuneful soul,
Of the gentle summer showers, of the clouds in heaven that roll:
From adamantine bosoms then sprang the kindly tear,
That fell on rough embrowned cheeks in drops like crystal clear.
These men so full of oaths and ire, cupidity and crime,
Had been white-headed boys in vanish'd childhood's time;
Long they had stroll'd the dewy fields, had stemm'd the river's tide,
With brothers and with sisters rejoicing at their side;
There they had seen the skylark rise and soar aloft in air,
Singing the self-same mellow song that was vibrating there.
Their little playmates in the sod had slept this many a day,
While they had grown to stalwart men, remorseless, prompt to slay;
And yet no liquid note is chang'd of this immortal strain;
While hearing it, long years of vice from minds withdraw their stain—
The past with all its early scenes, smiles in the song-shine clear—
The faded lights, the fleeting joys, come back from each lost year.
As the little feather'd minstrel still bubbled in its flow,
Each one recall'd the cottage, the aged mother's woe,
The clover and the curfew, the playmates that ne'er grew
To be like them so wicked, but died when life was new;
And their souls were touch'd and soften'd, as if with Heaven's own dew!
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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