Beyond Kerguelen

Original Text: 
The Poems of Henry Kendall, ed. Bertram Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1920): 157-58. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit:
2    Far from the zone of the blossom and tree,
4    Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea.
5Weird is the mist from the summit to base of it;
6    Sun of its heaven is wizened and grey;
7Phantom of life is the light on the face of it--
8    Never is night on it, never is day!
10    Here is no litany sweet of the springs--
11Only the haughty, harsh thunder is heard on it,
12    Only the storm, with the roar in its wings!
13Shadow of moon is the moon in the sky of it--
14    Wan as the face of a wizard, and far!
15Never there shines from the firmament high of it
16    Grace of the planet or glory of star.
17All the year round, in the place of white days on it--
18    All the year round where there never is night--
19Lies a great sinister, bitter, blind haze on it:
20    Growth that is neither of darkness nor light!
21Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it--
22    Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow;
23Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it--
24    Down in the south, where the ships never go.
25Storm from the Pole is the singer that sings to it
27Thunder discloses dark, wonderful things to it--
29Hills with no hope of a wing or a leaf on them,
30    Scarred with the chronicles written by flame,
31Stare, through the gloom of inscrutable grief on them,
32    Down on the horns of the gulfs without name.
33Cliffs, with the records of fierce flying fires on them--
34    Loom over perilous pits of eclipse;
36    Out by the wave with a curse on its lips.
37Never is sign of soft, beautiful green on it--
38    Never the colour, the glory of rose!
39Neither the fountain nor river is seen on it,
40    Naked its crags are, and barren its snows!
41Blue as the face of the drowned is the shore of it--
42    Shore, with the capes of indefinite cave.
43Strange is the voice of its wind, and the roar of it
44    Startles the mountain and hushes the wave.
45Out to the south and away to the north of it,
46    Spectral and sad are the spaces untold!
47All the year round a great cry goeth forth of it--
48    Sob of this leper of lands in the cold.
50    Fall of a foot on its wastes is unknown:
51Only the sound of the hurricane's spears on it
52    Breaks with the shout from the uttermost zone.
55Earthquake hath registered deeply its tale on them--
56    Tale of distress from the dawn of the world!
57There are the gaps, with the surges that seethe in them--
58    Gaps in whose jaws is a menace that glares!
59There the wan reefs, with the merciless teeth in them,
60    Gleam on a chaos that startles and scares!
61Back in the dawn of this beautiful sphere, on it--
62    Land of the dolorous, desolate face--
63Beamed the blue day; and the bountiful year on it
64    Fostered the leaf and the blossom of grace.
65Grand were the lights of its midsummer noon on it--
66    Mornings of majesty shone on its seas;
67Glitter of star and the glory of moon on it
68    Fell, in the march of the musical breeze.
69Valleys and hills, with the whisper of wing in them,
71Flowered and flashed with the splendour of Spring in them--
72    Back in the morn of this wonderful world.
73Soft were the words that the thunder then said to it--
74    Said to this lustre of emerald plain;
75Sun brought the yellow, the green, and the red to it--
76    Sweet were the songs of its silvery rain.
77Voices of water and wind in the bays of it
78    Lingered, and lulled like the psalm of a dream.
80    Moon was in shadow and shade in the beam.
81Summer's chief throne was the marvellous coast of it,
83Garden of glitter! But only the ghost of it
84    Moans in the south by the ghost of a sea.


1] Kerguelen: subantarctic archipelago, more than 300 islands (also known as Desolation Islands) in the South Indian Ocean, a desolate, graciated territory of France discovered in 1772 but uninhabited until the late 19th century, when scientific expeditions established observatories. The main island, Grande Terre, is of an (inactive) volcanic formation. Back to Line
3] The "Furious Fifties," strong westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between the latitudes of 50 and 59 degrees, sweep across the islands: constant winds, up to 150-200 kilometres per hour. Back to Line
9] Not true: sea birds, penguins, and seals are indigenous, recently joined by feral cats and rabbits. Back to Line
26] verge: extreme edge. Back to Line
28] dolorous: feeling or expressing great sorrow or distress. Back to Line
35] anathema: something consigned to perdition, damned. Back to Line
49] Not quite true, but uncolonized at this time and occupied only by scientists. Back to Line
53] bale: mental suffering, anguish. Back to Line
54] nadir: the lowest point.
uphurled: tossed upward. Back to Line
70] dell: a small valley, usually among trees.
impearled: adorned as with pearls, or formed into pearl-like drops. Back to Line
79] effulgent: shining brightly; radiant. Back to Line
82] lea: an open area of grassy land Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Songs from the Mountains (1880)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: