The Hut by the Black Swamp

Original Text: 
The Poems of Henry Kendall, ed. Bertram Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1920): 68-69. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit:
3And dry, dead leaves go whirling round
4     In rings of dust, and sigh like pain
5         Across the plain.
6Now Twilight, with a shadowy hand
7     Of wild dominionship, doth keep
8Strong hold of hollow straits of land,
9     And watery sounds are loud and deep
10         By gap and steep.
11Keen, fitful gusts that fly before
12     The wings of storm when day hath shut
13Its eyes on mountains, flaw by flaw,
15         Against the hut.
17     Far eastern cliffs start up, and take
18Thick steaming vapours from a swamp
19     That lieth like a great blind lake,
20        Of face opaque.
21The moss that, like a tender grief,
22     About an English ruin clings--
23What time the wan autumnal leaf
24     Faints, after many wanderings
25         On windy wings--
26That gracious growth, whose quiet green
27     Is as a love in days austere,
28Was never seen--hath never been--
29     On slab or roof, deserted here
30         For many a year.
31Nor comes the bird whose speech is song--
32     Whose songs are silvery syllables
33That unto glimmering woods belong,
35         By yellow wells.
37     And lifts the paw, and looks, and howls;
38And here, in ruined forest-vaults,
39     Abide dim, dark, death-featured owls,
40         Like monks in cowls.
41Across this hut the nettle runs;
43In corners dank from lack of suns;
45         The growths that scare.
46Here Summer's grasp of fire is laid
47     On bark and slabs that rot, and breed
48Squat ugly things of deadly shade--
49     The scorpion, and the spiteful seed
50         Of centipede.
51Unhallowed thunders, harsh and dry,
52     And flaming noontides mute with heat,
53Beneath the breathless, brazen sky,
54     Upon these rifted rafters beat
56And night by night, the fitful gale
59     While lumbering shadows start, and loom,
60         And hiss through gloom.
61No sign of grace--no hope of green,
62     Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot;
64     'Tis left, like skeleton, to rot
66For on this Hut hath Murder writ,
67     With bloody fingers hellish things;
68And God will never visit it
69     With flower or leaf of sweet-faced Springs,
70         Or gentle wings.


1] north-easter: a strong wind or storm from the northeast. Back to Line
2] racks: cloud-masses. Back to Line
14] boxtree-but: the butt or trunk of a kind of eucalyptus tree native to Australia. Back to Line
16] girt: past participle of the verb "to gird," meaning to encircle with a belt or band. Back to Line
34] dells: small valleys, usually among trees. Back to Line
36] wild dog: free roaming dog descended from the gray wolf, often known as the dingo, unique to Australia, and usually found in the Australian outback. Wild dogs probably arrived with early human migrants to Australia from southeast Asia. Back to Line
42] adders: small poisonous snakes common in northern Eurasia. Back to Line
44] foetid: foul-smelling, stinking. Back to Line
55] torrid: very hot and dry. Back to Line
57] bittern: a large marsh bird; the males of some species have a deep, booming call. Back to Line
58] dingo: Australian wild dog.
plover: a short-billed wading bird. Back to Line
63] ween: suppose. Back to Line
65] ruth: compassion or pity. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Leaves from Australian Forests (1869)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: