1908

Original Text: 
The Verse of Christopher Brennan, ed. A. R. Chisholm and J. J. Quinn (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1960): 171-74. PR 6003 R352A17 Robarts Library
2the wire sings overhead, and chill
3midwinter draughts rattle the glass
4that shows the dusking way I pass
5to yon four-turreted square tower
6that still exalts the golden hour
7where youth, initiate once, endears
8a treasure richer with the years.
9Dim-seen, the upper stories fleet
10along the twisting shabby street;
11beneath, the shop-fronts' cover'd ways
13or stare phantasmal, weirdly new,
14in the electrics' ghastly blue:
15and, up and down, I see them go,
16along the windows pleas'd and slow
17but hurrying where the darkness falls,
18the city's drift of pavement thralls
19whom the poor pleasures of the street
20lure from their niggard homes, to meet
21and mix, unknown, and feel the bright
22banality 'twixt them and night:
23so, in my youth, I saw them flit
24where their delusive dream was lit;
25so now I see them, and can read
26the urge of their unwitting need
27one with my own, however dark,
28and questing towards one mother-ark.
30sudden, a gap of quiet air
31and gather'd dark, where, set a pace
32beyond the pavement's coiling race
33and mask'd by bulk of sober leaves,
36suffusion of a ruddy glow,
37the lamp of adoration, dim
38and rich with unction kept for Him
39whom Bethlehem's manger first made warm,
40the sweetest god in human form,
42man's pleading, patient amorist:
44where I was brought in pious hands,
46accepted of that company
47who, thro' their journeying, behold
48beyond the apparent heavens, controll'd
49to likeness of a candid rose,
50ascending where the gold heart glows,
52their kin, their comfort, and their boast.
53With them I walk'd in love and awe
54till I was ware of that grim maw
56what outcast howlings these? what teeth
57gnashing in vain? and was that bliss
58whose counter-hemisphere was this?
59and could it be, when times fulfill'd
60had made the tally of either guild,
61that this mid-world, dredg'd clean in both,
62should no more bar their gruesome troth?
63So from beneath that choiring tent
64I stepp'd, and tho' my spirit's bent
65was dark to me as yet, I sought
66a sphere appeas'd and undistraught;
68in that hard atom of the soul,
69that final grain of deathless mind,
70which Satan's watch-fiends shall not find
71nor the seven mills of darkness bruise,
72for all permission to abuse;
73stubborn, yet, if one seek aright,
74translucent all within and bright
75with sheen that hath no paradigm,
77tho' sky and sea and leaf and flower,
78in each rare mood of virtual power,
79sleep in their gems' excepted day:
80and so, nor long, the guarded ray
81broke on my eagerness, who brought
82the lucid diamond-probe of thought
83and, driving it behind, the extreme
84blind vehemence of travailing dream
85against the inhibitory shell:
86and found, no grim eternal cell
88but Eden, clad in nuptial morn,
89young, fair, and radiant with delight
90remorse nor sickness shall requite.
91Yes, Eden was my own, my bride;
92whatever malices denied,
93faithful and found again, nor long
94absent from aura of wooing song:
95but promis'd only, while the sun
96must travel yet thro' times undone;
97and life must guard the prize of youth,
98and thought must steward into truth
101and I, that made my high attempt
102no bliss whence any were exempt,
103their fellow-pilgrim, I must greet
104these listless captives of the street,
105these fragments of an orphan'd drift
106whose dower was our mother's thrift,
107and, tho' they know it not, have care
108of what would be their loving prayer
109if skill bestow'd might help them heed
110their craving for the simple meed
111to be together in the light
112when loneliness and dark incite:
113long is the way till we are met
114when Eden pays her hoarded debt
115and we are orb'd in her, and she
116hath still'd her hungering to be,
117with plenitude beyond impeach,
118single, distinct, and whole in each:
119and many an evening hour shall bring
120the dark crowd's dreary loitering
121to me who pass and see the tale
122of all my striving, bliss or bale,
123dated from either spire that strives
124clear of the shoal of shiftless lives,
125and promise, in all years' despite,
126fidelity to old delight.

Notes

1] G. A. Wilkes describes this poem as about a "tram ride one evening up from Broadway to the 'four-turreted square tower' of Sydney University, with the steeple of St Benedict's passed on the way" ("Introduction," Poems 1913 [1972]). Back to Line
12] lampions: pots or cups, "often of coloured glass, containing oil or grease with a wick, used in illuminations" (OED). Back to Line
29] gin-shop: the Australian Hotel (Chisholm and Quinn, 4). Back to Line
34] obtruncate: cut short. chancel: St. Benedict's, the place of Brennan's baptism (Chisholm and Quinn, 4). Back to Line
35] lancet-windows: high, lean window that ends in a pointed arch. Back to Line
41] Eucharist: the mass that celebrates the eating and drinking of God (Jesus) by man. Back to Line
43] sacring laver: consecrating baptismal font. Back to Line
45] chrisom: white robe or head-cloth for baptism. Back to Line
51] cirque: circular place. Back to Line
55] lazar: leper. Back to Line
67] viaticum: the Eucharist administered at the time of impending death. Back to Line
76] Golcondas: an old name for Hyderabad, here associated with diamonds mined there. Back to Line
87] Norn: the three Nordic fates or goddesses of destiny. Back to Line
99] magian: magical, Magi-like. Back to Line
100] Cipangos: Cipan Guó, one name for Japan. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1914
Publication Notes: 
Poems 1913 (1914). See Australian Poets eTexts Project, The Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire; Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2011
Form: