Charles Harpur

23 January 1813 – 10 June 1868 / Windsor, New South Wales

To An Echo On The Banks Of The Hunter

I hear thee, echo! And I start to hear thee
With a strange shock, as from among the hills
Thy voice, reverbering in swift murmurs near me,
Dies down the stream, or with its gurgle low
Blends whisperingly, until my bosom thrills
With gentle tribulations that endear thee,
But speak not of the present. Twas as though
Some spirit of the past were then a-near thee,
Bringing back days of life’s regretted spring,
Waking wild recollections, to evince
How strong the ties that bind me to each thing
Loved, though long since.
It seems but yesterday that last I stood
Beside the Hawksbury, even as now I stand
By the swift Hunter, challenging o’er the flood
An echo thus; but with a glorious brood
Of hopes then glowing round me, and a band
Of schoolmates and young creatures of my blood,
All quick with joyousness beyond command,
And now, with that delightful time, O! Where
Are those quick joys, glad mates, and hopes of good?
Echo, declare!

Thy voice comes o’er the waters in reply,
To fail as soon! And all those young delights
Decayed (as thy peculiar accents die)
In the dusk valleys of past days and nights
To be renewed not, like thy ghostly chide;
And one to the other of those joyous creatures,
Now burthened with their manhoods, in the wide
World’s separations, have the names and features
Thus wasted out of mind. And so, at last,
Those glorious hopes are all become but lonely
And dying echoes of the hollow past,
All but one only.

E’en that around my being only strays
Like a recurring sound. In lonesome ways’
Like these it moves me still; not as of yore
In clear, strong tones, though yet its spirit plays
Upon the same old promise: that, when o’er
My country’s homes shine fair those riper days,
Her better sons shall learn to prize
My lonely voice upon the past,
And so, there may at last
From time’s dim void, an echo, thence arise,
Responsive to the swell
Of their full souls beneath these Austral skies.
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