These are the top ten (10) most popular poems of Henry Kendall.
From How the Melbourne Cup was Won to Christmas Creek.
If you want to know his greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.
How the Melbourne Cup was Won
In the beams of a beautiful day,
Made soft by a breeze from the sea,
The horses were started away,
The fleet-footed thirty and three;
Where beauty, with shining attire,
Shed more than a noon on the land,
Like spirits of thunder and fire
They flashed by the fence and the stand.
And the mouths of pale thousands were hushed
When Somnus, a marvel of strength,
Past Bowes like a sudden wind rushed,
And led the bay colt by a length;
But a chestnut came galloping through,
And, down where the river-tide steals,
O’Brien, on brave Waterloo,
Dashed up to the big horse’s heels.
But Cracknell still kept to the fore,
And first by the water bend wheeled,
When a cry from the stand, and a roar
Ran over green furlongs of field;
Far out by the back of the course —
A demon of muscle and pluck —
Flashed onward the favourite horse,
With his hoofs flaming clear of the ruck.
But the wonderful Queenslander came,
And the thundering leaders were three;
And a ring, and a roll of acclaim,
Went out, like a surge of the sea:
“An Epigram! Epigram wins!” —
“The Colt of the Derby” — “The bay!”
But back where the crescent begins
The favourite melted away.
And the marvel that came from the North,
With another, was heavily thrown;
And here at the turning flashed forth
To the front a surprising unknown;
By shed and by paddock and gate
The strange, the magnificent black,
Led Darebin a length in the straight,
With thirty and one at his back.
But the Derby colt tired at the rails,
And Ivory’s marvellous bay
Passed Burton, O’Brien, and Hales,
As fleet as a flash of the day.
But Gough on the African star
Came clear in the front of his “field”,
Hard followed by Morrison’s Czar
And the blood unaccustomed to yield.
Yes, first from the turn to the end,
With a boy on him paler than ghost,
The horse that had hardly a friend
Shot flashing like fire by the post.
When Graham was “riding” ‘twas late
For his friends to applaud on the stands,
The black, through the bend and “the straight”,
Had the race of the year in his hands.
In a clamour of calls and acclaim,
He landed the money — the horse
With the beautiful African name,
That rang to the back of the course.
Hurrah for the Hercules race,
And the terror that came from his stall,
With the bright, the intelligent face,
To show the road home to them all!
A Birthday Trifle
Here in this gold-green evening end,
While air is soft and sky is clear,
What tender message shall I send
To her I hold so dear?
What rose of song with breath like myrrh,
And leaf of dew and fair pure beams
Shall I select and give to her—
The lady of my dreams?
Alas! the blossom I would take,
The song as sweet as Persian speech,
And carry for my lady’s sake,
Is not within my reach.
I have no perfect gift of words,
Or I would hasten now to send
A ballad full of tunes of birds
To please my lovely friend.
But this pure pleasure is my own,
That I have power to waft away
A hope as bright as heaven’s zone
On this her natal day.
May all her life be like the light
That softens down in spheres divine,
“As lovely as a Lapland night,”
All grace and chastened shine!
At dusk, like flowers that shun the day,
Shy thoughts from dim recesses break,
And plead for words I dare not say
For your sweet sake.
My early love! my first, my last!
Mistakes have been that both must rue;
But all the passion of the past
Survives for you.
The tender message Hope might send
Sinks fainting at the lips of speech,
For, are you lover—are you friend,
That I would reach?
How much to-night I’d give to win
A banished peace—an old repose;
But here I sit, and sigh, and sin
When no one knows.
The stern, the steadfast reticence,
Which made the dearest phrases halt,
And checked a first and finest sense,
Was not my fault.
I held my words because there grew
About my life persistent pride;
And you were loved, who never knew
What love could hide!
This purpose filled my soul like flame:
To win you wealth and take the place
Where care is not, nor any shame
To vex your face.
I said “Till then my heart must keep
Its secrets safe and unconfest;”
And days and nights unknown to sleep
The vow attest.
Yet, oh! my sweet, it seems so long
Since you were near; and fates retard
The sequel of a struggle strong,
And life is hard—
Too hard, when one is left alone
To wrestle passion, never free
To turn and say to you, “My own,
Come home to me!”
Hath he not followed a star through the darkness,
Ye people who sit at the table of Jephthah?
Oh! turn with the face to a light in the mountains,
Behold it is further from Achan than ever!
“I know how it is with my brothers in Mizpeh,”
Said Achan, the swift-footed runner of Zorah,
“They look at the wood they have hewn for the altar;
And think of a shadow in sackcloth and ashes.
“I know how it is with the daughter of Jephthah,
(O Ada, my love, and the fairest of women!)
She wails in the time when her heart is so zealous
For God who hath stricken the children of Ammon.
“I said I would bring her the odours of Edom,
And armfuls of spices to set at the banquet!
Behold I have fronted the chieftain her father;
And strong men have wept for the leader of thousands!
“My love is a rose of the roses of Sharon,
All lonely and bright as the Moon in the myrtles!
Her lips, like to honeycombs, fill with the sweetness
That Achan the thirsty is hindered from drinking.
“Her women have wept for the love that is wasted
Like wine, which is spilt when the people are wanting,
And hot winds have dried all the cisterns of Elim!
For love that is wasted her women were wailing!
“The timbrels fall silent! And dost thou not hear it,
A voice, like the sound of a lute when we loiter,
And sit by the pools in the valleys of Arnon,
And suck the cool grapes that are growing in clusters?
“She glides, like a myrrh-scented wind, through the willows,
O Ada! behold it is Achan that speaketh:
I know thou art near me, but never can see thee,
Because of the horrible drouth in mine eyelids.”
Feet of the flying, and fierce
Tops of the sharp-headed spear,
Hard by the thickets that pierce,
Lo! they are nimble and near.
Women are we, and the wives
Strong Arrawatta hath won;
Weary because of our lives,
Sick of the face of the sun.
Koola, our love and our light,
What have they done unto you?
Man of the star-reaching sight,
Dipped in the fire and the dew.
Black-headed snakes in the grass
Struck at the fleet-footed lord
Still is his voice at the pass,
Soundless his step at the ford.
Far by the forested glen,
Starkly he lies in the rain;
Kings of the council of men
Shout for their leader in vain.
Yea, and the fish-river clear
Never shall blacken below
Spear and the shadow of spear,
Bow and the shadow of bow.
Hunter and climber of trees,
Now doth his tomahawk rust,
(Dread of the cunning wild bees),
Hidden in hillocks of dust.
We, who were followed and bound,
Dashed under foot by the foe,
Sit with our eyes to the ground,
Faint from the brand and the blow.
Dumb with the sorrow that kills,
Sorrow for brother and chief,
Terror of thundering hills,
Having no hope in our grief,
Seeing the fathers are far
Seeking the spoils of the dead
Left on the path of the war,
Matted and mangled and red.
A splendid sun betwixt the trees
Long spikes of flame did shoot,
When turning to the fragrant South,
With longing eyes and burning mouth,
I stretched a hand athwart the drouth,
And plucked at cooling fruit.
So thirst was quenched, and hastening on
With strength returned to me,
I set my face against the noon,
And reached a denser forest soon;
Which dipped into a still lagoon
Hard by the sooming sea.
All day the ocean beat on bar
And bank of gleaming sand;
Yet that lone pool was always mild,
It never moved when waves were wild,
But slumbered, like a quiet child,
Upon the lap of land.
And when I rested on the brink,
Amongst the fallen flowers,
I lay in calm; no leaves were stirred
By breath of wind, or wing of bird;
It was so still, you might have heard
The footfalls of the hours.
Faint slumbrous scents of roses filled
The air which covered me:
My words were low — “she loved them so,
In Eden vales such odours blow:
How strange it is that roses grow
So near the shores of Sea!”
A sweeter fragrance never came
Across the Fields of Yore!
And when I said — “we here would dwell,” —
A low voice on the silence fell —
“Ah! if you loved the roses well,
You loved Aileen the more.”
“Ay, that I did, and now would turn,
And fall and worship her!
But Oh, you dwell so far — so high!
One cannot reach, though he may try,
The Morning land, and Jasper sky —
The balmy hills of Myrrh.
“Why vex me with delicious hints
Of fairest face, and rarest blooms;
You Spirit of a darling Dream
Which links itself with every theme
And thought of mine by surf or stream,
In glens — or caverned glooms?”
She said, “thy wishes led me down,
From amaranthine bowers:
And since my face was haunting thee
With roses (dear which used to be),
They all have hither followed me,
The scents and shapes of flowers.”
“Then stay, mine own evangel, stay!
Or, going, take me too;
But let me sojourn by your side,
If here we dwell or there abide,
It matters not!” I madly cried —
“I only care for you.”
Oh, glittering Form that would not stay! —
Oh, sudden, sighing breeze!
A fainting rainbow dropped below
Far gleaming peaks and walls of snow
And there, a weary way, I go,
Towards the Sunrise seas.
After Many Years
The song that once I dreamed about,
The tender, touching thing,
As radiant as the rose without
The love of wind and wing
The perfect verses, to the tune
Of woodland music set,
As beautiful as afternoon,
Remain unwritten yet.
It is too late to write them now
The ancient fire is cold;
No ardent lights illume the brow,
As in the days of old.
I cannot dream the dream again;
But when the happy birds
Are singing in the sunny rain,
I think I hear its words.
I think I hear the echo still
Of long-forgotten tones,
When evening winds are on the hill
And sunset fires the cones;
But only in the hours supreme,
With songs of land and sea,
The lyrics of the leaf and stream,
This echo comes to me.
No longer doth the earth reveal
Her gracious green and gold;
I sit where youth was once, and feel
That I am growing old.
The lustre from the face of things
Is wearing all away;
Like one who halts with tired wings,
I rest and muse to-day.
There is a river in the range
I love to think about;
Perhaps the searching feet of change
Have never found it out.
Ah! oftentimes I used to look
Upon its banks, and long
To steal the beauty of that brook
And put it in a song.
I wonder if the slopes of moss,
In dreams so dear to me
The falls of flower, and flower-like floss
Are as they used to be!
I wonder if the waterfalls,
The singers far and fair,
That gleamed between the wet, green walls,
Are still the marvels there!
Ah! let me hope that in that place
The old familiar things
To which I turn a wistful face
Have never taken wings.
Let me retain the fancy still
That, past the lordly range,
There always shines, in folds of hill,
One spot secure from change!
I trust that yet the tender screen
That shades a certain nook,
Remains, with all its gold and green,
The glory of the brook.
It hides a secret to the birds
And waters only known:
The letters of two lovely words
A poem on a stone.
Perhaps the lady of the past
Upon these lines may light,
The purest verses, and the last
That I may ever write.
She need not fear a word of blame
Her tale the flowers keep
The wind that heard me breathe her name
Has been for years asleep.
But in the night, and when the rain
The troubled torrent fills,
I often think I see again
The river in the hills;
And when the day is very near,
And birds are on the wing,
My spirit fancies it can hear
The song I cannot sing.
The Far Future
Australia, advancing with rapid winged stride,
Shall plant among nations her banners in pride,
The yoke of dependence aside she will cast,
And build on the ruins and wrecks of the Past.
Her flag on the tempest will wave to proclaim
’Mong kingdoms and empires her national name;
The Future shall see it, asleep or unfurl’d,
The shelter of Freedom and boast of the world.
Australia, advancing like day on the sky,
Has glimmer’d thro’ darkness, will blazon on high,
A Gem in its glitter has yet to be seen,
When Progress has placed her where England has been;
When bursting those limits above she will soar,
Outstretching all rivals who’ve mounted before,
And, resting, will blaze with her glories unfurl’d,
The empire of empires and boast of the world.
Australia, advancing with Power, will entwine
With Honour and Justice a Mercy divine;
No Despot shall trample—no slave shall be bound—
Oppression must totter and fall to the ground.
The stain of all ages, tyrannical sway,
Will pass like a flash or a shadow away,
And shrink to nothing ’neath thunderbolts hurl’d
From the hand of the terror—the boast of the world.
Australia, advancing with rapid wing’d stride,
Shall plant among nations her banners in pride;
The yoke of dependence aside she will cast,
And build on the ruins and wrecks of the Past.
Her flag in the tempest will wave to proclaim,
’Mong kingdoms and empires her national name,
And Ages shall see it, asleep or unfurl’d
The shelter of Freedom and boast of the world.
Daphne! Ladon’s daughter, Daphne! Set thyself in silver light,
Take thy thoughts of fairest texture, weave them into words of white –
Weave the rhyme of rose-lipped Daphne, nymph of wooded stream and shade,
Flying love of bright Apollo, – fleeting type of faultless maid!
She, when followed from the forelands by the lord of lyre and lute,
Sped towards far-singing waters, past deep gardens flushed with fruit;
Took the path against Peneus, panted by its yellow banks;
Turned, and looked, and flew the faster through grey-tufted thicket ranks;
Flashed amongst high flowered sedges: leaped across the brook, and ran
Down to where the fourfold shadows of a nether glade began;
There she dropped, like falling Hesper, heavy hair of radiant head
Hiding all the young abundance of her beauty’s white and red.
Came the yellow-tressed Far-darter – came the god whose feet are fire,
On his lips the name of Daphne, in his eyes a great desire;
Fond, full lips of lord and lover, sad because of suit denied;
Clear, grey eyes made keen by passion, panting, pained, unsatisfied.
Here he turned, and there he halted, now he paused, and now he flew,
Swifter than his sister’s arrows, through soft dells of dreamy dew.
Vext with gleams of Ladon’s daughter, dashed along the son of Jove,
Fast upon flower-trammelled Daphne fleeting on from grove to grove;
Flights of seawind hard behind him, breaths of bleak and whistling straits;
Drifts of driving cloud above him, like a troop of fierce-eyed Fates!
So he reached the water-shallows; then he stayed his steps, and heard
Daphne drop upon the grasses, fluttering like a wounded bird.
Was there help for Ladon’s daughter? Saturn’s son is high and just:
Did he come between her beauty and the fierce Far-darter’s lust?
As she lay, the helpless maiden, caught and bound in fast eclipse,
Did the lips of god drain pleasure from her sweet and swooning lips?
Now that these and all Love’s treasures blushed, before the spoiler, bare,
Was the wrong that shall be nameless done, and seen, and suffered there?
No! for Zeus is King and Father. Weary nymph and fiery god,
Bend the knee alike before him – he is kind, and he is lord!
Therefore sing how clear-browed Pallas – Pallas, friend of prayerful maid,
Lifted dazzling Daphne lightly, bore her down the breathless glade,
Did the thing that Zeus commanded: so it came to pass that he
Who had chased a white-armed virgin, caught at her, and clasped a tree.
Phantom streams were in the distance – mocking lights of lake and pool –
Ghosts of trees of soft green lustre – groves of shadows deep and cool!
Yea, some devil ran before them changing skies of brass to blue,
Setting bloom where curse is planted, where a grass-blade never grew.
Six there were, and high above them glared a wild and wizened sun,
Ninety leagues from where the waters of the singing valleys run.
There before them, there behind them, was the great, stark, stubborn plain,
Where the dry winds hiss for ever, and the blind earth moans for rain!
Ringed about by tracks of furnace, ninety leagues from stream and tree,
Six there were, with wasted faces, working northwards to the sea!
. . . . .
Ah, the bitter, hopeless desert! Here these broken human wrecks
Trod the wilds where sand of fire is with the spiteful spinifex,
Toiled through spheres that no bird knows of, where with fiery emphasis
Hell hath stamped its awful mint-mark deep on every thing that is!
Toiled and thirsted, strove and suffered! ~This~ was where December’s breath
As a wind of smiting flame is on weird, haggard wastes of death!
This was where a withered moan is, and the gleam of weak, wan star,
And a thunder full of menace sends its mighty voices far!
This was where black execrations, from some dark tribunal hurled,
Set the brand of curse on all things in the morning of the world!
. . . . .
One man yielded – then another – then a lad of nineteen years
Reeled and fell, with English rivers singing softly in his ears,
English grasses started round him – then the grace of Sussex lea
Came and touched him with the beauty of a green land by the sea!
Old-world faces thronged about him – old-world voices spoke to him;
But his speech was like a whisper, and his eyes were very dim.
In a dream of golden evening, beaming on a quiet strand,
Lay the stranger till a bright One came and took him by the hand.
England vanished; died the voices; but he heard a holier tone,
And an angel that we know not led him to the lands unknown!
. . . . .
Six there were, but three were taken! Three were left to struggle still;
But against the red horizon flamed a horn of brindled hill!
But beyond the northern skyline, past a wall of steep austere,
Lay the land of light and coolness in an April-coloured year!
‘Courage, brothers!’ cried the leader. ‘On the slope of yonder peak
There are tracts of herb and shadow, and the channels of the creek!’
So they made one last great effort – haled their beasts through brake and briar,
Set their feet on spurs of furnace, grappled spikes and crags of fire,
Fought the stubborn mountain forces, smote down naked, natural powers,
Till they gazed from thrones of Morning on a sphere of streams and flowers.
Out behind them was the desert, glaring like a sea of brass!
Here before them were the valleys, fair with moonlight-coloured grass!
At their backs were haggard waste-lands, bickering in a wicked blaze!
In their faces beamed the waters, marching down melodious ways!
Touching was the cool, soft lustre over laps of lawn and lea;
And majestic was the great road Morning made across the sea.
On the sacred day of Christmas, after seven months of grief,
Rested three of six who started, on a bank of moss and leaf –
Rested by a running river, in a hushed, a holy week;
And they named the stream that saved them – named it fitly – ‘Christmas Creek’.
These are extraordinarily poems indeed! Henry Kendall was doubtlessly one of the best poets of all time and was specifically known for his poems and tales set in a natural environment setting.
I wouldn’t miss reading my most favorite work in his poetry collection―At Dusk. In my country, we always believe in the saying: “There will be no secrets that will stay hidden forever.” And for the time being, secrets that are still hidden will only imprison those who lied.
What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of Henry Kendall?
Do you still want to add another of his poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉