voices from the past

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Cape Schanck

James Lister Cuthbertson (1851-1910)

Australian poet

The Cape Schanck Lighthouse is a historic landmark on the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. It's light can be seen from 26 nautical miles and has been in service since 1859.

Down to the lighthouse pillar
The rolling woodland comes,
Gay with the gold of she-oaks
  And the green of the stunted gums,
With the silver-grey of honeysuckle,
  With the wasted bracken red,
With a tuft of softest emerald
  And a cloud-flecked sky o'erhead.

We climbed by ridge and boulder,
  Umber and yellow scarred,
Out to the utmost precipice,
  To the point that was ocean-barred,
Till we looked below on the fastness
  Of the breeding eagle's nest,
And Cape Wollomai opened eastward
  And the Otway on the west.

Over the mirror of azure
  The purple shadows crept,
League upon league of rollers
  Landward evermore swept,
And burst upon gleaming basalt,
  And foamed in cranny and crack,
And mounted in sheets of silver,
  And hurried reluctant back.

And the sea, so calm out yonder,
  Wherever we turned our eyes,
Like the blast of an angel's trumpet
  Rang out to the earth and skies,
Till the reefs and the rocky ramparts
  Throbbed to the giant fray,
And the gullies and jutting headlands
  Were bathed in a misty spray.

Oh, sweet in the distant ranges,
  To the ear of inland men,
Is the ripple of falling water
  In sassafras-haunted glen,
The stir in the ripening cornfield
  That gently rustles and swells,
The wind in the wattle sighing,
  The tinkle of cattle bells.

But best is the voice of ocean,
  That strikes to the heart and brain,
That lulls with its passionate music
  Trouble and grief and pain,
That murmurs the requiem sweetest
  For those who have loved and lost,
And thunders a jubilant anthem
  To brave hearts tempest-tossed.

That takes to its boundless bosom
  The burden of all our care,
That whispers of sorrow vanquished,
  Of hours that may yet be fair,
That tells of a Harbour of Refuge
  Beyond life's stormy straits,
Of an infinite peace that gladdens,
  Of an infinite love that waits.

About the Author

See our page on James Lister Cuthbertson. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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