by Henry Kendall (1839-1882)
The first fair month! In singing Summer’s sphere
She glows, the eldest daughter of the year.
All light, all warmth, all passion, breaths of myrrh,
And subtle hints of rose-lands, come with her.
She is the warm, live month of lustre – she
Makes glad the land and lulls the strong, sad sea.
The highest hope comes with her. In her face
Of pure, clear colour lives exalted grace;
Her speech is beauty, and her radiant eyes
Are eloquent with splendid prophecies.
The bright-haired, blue-eyed last of Summer. Lo,
Her clear song lives in all the winds that blow;
The upland torrent and the lowland rill,
The stream of valley and the spring of hill,
The pools that slumber and the brooks that run
Where dense the leaves are, green the light of sun,
Take all her grace of voice and colour. She,
With rich warm vine-blood splashed from heel to knee,
Comes radiant through the yellow woodlands. Far
And near her sweet gifts shine like star by star.
She is the true Demeter. Life of root
Glows under her in gardens flushed with fruit;
She fills the fields with strength and passion – makes
A fire of lustre on the lawn-ringed lakes;
Her beauty awes the great wild sea; the height
Of grey magnificence takes strange delight
And softens at her presence, at the dear
Sweet face whose memory beams through all the year.
Clear upland voices, full of wind and stream,
Greet March, the sister of the flying beam
And speedy shadow. She, with rainbow crowned,
Lives in a sphere of songs of mazy sound.
The hymn of waters and the gale’s high tone,
With anthems from the thunder’s mountain throne,
Are with her ever. This, behold, is she
Who draws its great cry from the strong, sad sea;
She is the month of majesty. Her force
Is power that moves along a stately course,
Within the lines of order, like no wild
And lawless strength of winter’s fiercest child.
About her are the wind-whipped torrents; far
Above her gleams and flies the stormy star,
And round her, through the highlands and their rocks,
Rings loud the grand speech from the equinox.
The darling of Australia’s Autumn – now
Down dewy dells the strong, swift torrents flow!
This is the month of singing waters – here
A tender radiance fills the Southern year;
No bitter winter sets on herb and root,
Within these gracious glades, a frosty foot;
The spears of sleet, the arrows of the hail,
Are here unknown. But down the dark green dale
Of moss and myrtle, and the herby streams,
This April wanders in a home of dreams;
Her flower-soft name makes language falter. All
Her paths are soft and cool, and runnels fall
In music round her; and the woodlands sing
For evermore, with voice of wind and wing,
Because this is the month of beauty – this
The crowning grace of all the grace that is.
Now sings a cool, bland wind, where falls and flows
The runnel by the grave of last year’s rose;
Now, underneath the strong perennial leaves,
The first slow voice of wintering torrent grieves.
Now in a light like English August’s day,
Is seen the fair, sweet, chastened face of May;
She is the daughter of the year who stands
With Autumn’s last rich offerings in her hands;
Behind her gleams the ghost of April’s noon,
Before her is the far, faint dawn of June;
She lingers where the dells and dewy leas
Catch stormy sayings from the great bold seas;
Her nightly raiment is the misty fold
That zones her round with moonlight-coloured gold;
And in the day she sheds, from shining wings,
A tender heat that keeps the life in things.
Not like that month when, in imperial space,
The high, strong sun stares at the white world’s face;
Not like that haughty daughter of the year
Who moves, a splendour, in a splendid sphere;
But rather like a nymph of afternoon,
With cool, soft sunshine, comes Australian June.
She is the calm, sweet lady, from whose lips
No breath of living passion ever slips;
The wind that on her virgin forehead blows
Was born too late to speak of last year’s rose;
She never saw a blossom, but her eyes
Of tender beauty see blue, gracious skies;
She loves the mosses, and her feet have been
In woodlands where the leaves are always green;
Her days pass on with sea-songs, and her nights
Shine, full of stars, on lands of frosty lights.
High travelling winds, filled with the strong storm’s soul,
Are here, with dark, strange sayings from the Pole;
Now is the time when every great cave rings
With sharp, clear echoes caught from mountain springs;
This is the season when all torrents run
Beneath no bright, glad beauty of the sun.
Here, where the trace of last year’s green is lost,
Are haughty gales, and lordships of the frost.
Far down, by fields forlorn and forelands bleak,
Are wings that fly not, birds that never speak;
But in the deep hearts of the glens, unseen,
Stand grave, mute forests of eternal green;
And here the lady, born in wind and rain,
Comes oft to moan and clap her palms with pain.
This is our wild-faced July, in whose breast
Is never faultless light or perfect rest.
Across the range, by every scarred black fell,
Strong Winter blows his horn of wild farewell;
And in the glens, where yet there moves no wing,
A slow, sweet voice is singing of the Spring.
Yea, where the bright, quick woodland torrents run,
A music trembles under rain and sun.
The lips that breathe it are the lips of her
At whose dear touch the wan world’s pulses stir –
The nymph who sets the bow of promise high
And fills with warm life-light the bleak grey sky.
She is the fair-haired August. Ere she leaves
She brings the woodbine blossom round the eaves;
And where the bitter barbs of frost have been
She makes a beauty with her gold and green;
And, while a sea-song floats from bay and beach,
She sheds a mist of blossoms on the peach.
Read Kendall’s poem September in Australia.
Where fountains sing and many waters meet,
October comes with blossom-trammelled feet.
She sheds green glory by the wayside rills
And clothes with grace the haughty-featured hills.
This is the queen of all the year. She brings
The pure chief beauty of our southern springs.
Fair lady of the yellow hair! Her breath
Starts flowers to life, and shames the storm to death;
Through tender nights and days of generous sun
By prospering woods her clear strong torrents run;
In far deep forests, where all life is mute,
Of leaf and bough she makes a touching lute.
Her life is lovely. Stream, and wind, and bird
Have seen her face – her marvellous voice have heard;
And, in strange tracts of wildwood, all day long,
They tell the story in surpassing song.
Now beats the first warm pulse of Summer – now
There shines great glory on the mountain’s brow.
The face of heaven in the western sky,
When falls the sun, is filled with Deity!
And while the first light floods the lake and lea,
The morning makes a marvel of the sea;
The strong leaves sing; and in the deep green zones
Of rock-bound glens the streams have many tones;
And where the evening-coloured waters pass,
Now glides November down fair falls of grass.
She is the wonder with the golden wings,
Who lays one hand in Summer’s – one in Spring’s;
About her hair a sunset radiance glows;
Her mouth is sister of the dewy rose;
And all the beauty of the pure blue skies
Has lent its lustre to her soft bright eyes.
The month whose face is holiness! She brings
With her the glory of majestic things.
What words of light, what high resplendent phrase
Have I for all the lustre of her days?
She comes, and carries in her shining sphere
August traditions of the world’s great year;
The noble tale which lifts the human race
Has made a morning of her sacred face.
Now in the emerald home of flower and wing
Clear summer streams their sweet hosannas sing;
The winds are full of anthems, and a lute
Speaks in the listening hills when night is mute
And through dim tracks where talks the royal tree
There floats a grand hymn from the mighty sea;
And where the grey, grave, pondering mountains stand
High music lives – the place is holy land!
About the Author
See our page on Henry Kendall. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.