voices from the past

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Footfalls

by Henry Kendall (1839-1882)

Australian writer

The embers were blinking and clinking away,
The casement half open was thrown;
There was nothing but cloud on the skirts of the Day,
    And I sat on the threshold alone!

And said to the river which flowed by my door
    With its beautiful face to the hill,
“I have waited and waited, all wearied and sore,
    But my love is a wanderer still!”

And said to the wind, as it paused in its flight
    To look through the shivering pane,
“There are memories moaning and homeless to-night
    That can never be tranquil again!”

And said to the woods, as their burdens were borne
    With a flutter and sigh to the eaves,
“They are wrinkled and wasted, and tattered and torn,
    And we too have our withering leaves.”

Did I hear a low echo of footfalls about,
    Whilst watching those forest trees stark?
Or was it a dream that I hurried without
    To clutch at and grapple the dark?

In the shadow I stood for a moment and spake –
    “Bright thing that was loved in the past,
Oh! am I asleep – or abroad and awake?
    And are you so near me at last?

“Oh, roamer from lands where the vanished years go,
    Oh, waif from those mystical zones,
Come here where I long for you, broken and low,
    On the mosses and watery stones!

“Come out of your silence and tell me if Life
    Is so fair in that world as they say;
Was it worth all this yearning, and weeping, and strife
    When you left it behind you to-day?

“Will it end all this watching, and doubting, and dread?
    Do these sorrows die out with our breath?
Will they pass from our souls like a nightmare,” I said,
    “While we glide through the mazes of Death?

“Come out of that darkness and teach me the lore
    You have learned since I looked on your face;
By the summers that blossomed and faded of yore –
    By the lights which have fled to that place!

“You answer me not when I know that you could –
When I know that you could and you should;
    Though the storms be abroad on the wave;
Though the rain droppeth down with a wail to the wood,
    And my heart is as cold as your grave!”

About the Author

See our page on Henry Kendall. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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