Stella Polaris: Homebound

Above the great ship’s lifting bow
I watch the Pole Star nightly stand,
nightly climbing clearer, higher:
ancient friend to sailors, now
lead to that remembered land
the end of all my heart’s desire.

How often from my own small ship
I caught you in my sextant glass,
in those long months when hope must lie
in chrysalis, and I watched you slip
downward, and out of vision pass,
and the Southern Cross went up the sky –

those timeless months when time would slide
from watch to watch, from night to day
to night; when every thought must be
the moment’s, lest, too fiercely eyed,
our tenuous hope dissolve away
and leave us with the endless sea.

And now (these dwindling leagues remaining
between me and my soul’s delight)
fear fades, I grasp the promise given
as, scarce the turbulent joy refraining,
I stand with dumb full heart tonight
to watch the Pole Star climbing heaven.

June 1943

Poems of War

  • Alone

    Alone to walk the dripping woods of spring
       While daisies spy you?

  • Epitaph on a New Army

    No drums they wished, whose thoughts were tied
    To girls and jobs and mother,

  • The Tunnel

    This is where the water hurries under the archway,
    This is where we enter the long tunnel,

  • Australia 1914

    Gone away, away,
    Suddenly at a word departed,

  • Come Death Suddenly

    Come death suddenly from the sea or cloud,
    With the blast of thunder and the blinding shroud,

  • If I should die

    If I should die, grieve not for youth
    Blighted, and towers of hope that fell

  • The Prophetic Hour

    In this dread hour for thee and all mankind
    Britain, be Freedom’s fortress or her grave.

  • The Jervis Bay

    ..The fifth day of November, Fifty North and Forty West,
    Was edging to its departure, like an undecided guest,

  • Christmas in Iceland

    We lay in Iceland winterbound,
    And heard the blizzard blow,

  • Stella Polaris: Homebound

    Above the great ship’s lifting bow
    I watch the Pole Star nightly stand,

  • Thermopylae

    The story, as now we see, was over-written
    By Herodotus, bless his warm Hellenic heart!

  • The Last Enemy

    Could we locate the enemy of mankind
    (I mean the GHQ, the Centre itself,

  • The Anzac Graves on Gallipoli

    You may not pass this place. Here you must stop,
    Though all the world’s great tides run heedless by

  • Last Post

    Heard how often, still the notes compel
    Unused to awe, we stand listening.

Poems of Love

  • Music and the Heart

    Music and the Heart run hand in hand
    Naked over the shining sand,

  • Forestry

    My love and I in all agree
       As one, save this thing only:

  • Chemistry

    In the summit song of youth
    A quiet quick catch of the breath.

  • Colours

    Before I loved or knew you were
       I spoke as I had eyes,

  • The Well

    Seraph my soul’s content
    More longed than desert well

  • Alone

    Alone to walk the dripping woods of spring
       While daisies spy you?

  • Mutability

    ‘All things are flux: there’s nothing fast,’
    Said Heraclitus, ages past,

  • Sleeping out in the Mountains

    The host of hills encamped around,
    The sleepless army of the stars,

  • Detachment

    …the thunder growling,
    And winds mounting, and the sky falling,
    And night, and you not here.

  • Release

    As homing bird the prisoning hand releases,
    As tide, unyoked, brims up the beach anew,

  • Air and Water

    As water into sand
    As cloud into clear air

  • Come Death Suddenly

    Come death suddenly from the sea or cloud,
    With the blast of thunder and the blinding shroud,

  • Surmise

    My little son, whose face I never saw,
    Who could not wait to bless your father ’s eyes

  • Coming into the Clyde

    Part of me for ever is the January morning
    Coming into the Clyde in the frosty moonlight

  • Stella Polaris: Homebound

    Above the great ship’s lifting bow
    I watch the Pole Star nightly stand,

  • Sweet solitude

    Sweet solitude, my supple slave,
    Delicious concubine

  • Point Lonsdale

    Dark sea dark land lie close beneath
    The muffling guilt of night,

  • My nine-hours son

    My nine-hours son, so wrinkle-faced
    Wry concentration of distaste
    To find your Person so displaced,

  • Autumn Song

    The sun like a centaur leaping the ranges
    Shoots to the heart my garden, shatters
    The dew in a volley of wild carillons

  • Genesis

    You spoke, after long years, about the morning
    That followed the night your first-born son was born:

  • Space Window

    Waylaid by Handel’s theme, I think of you
    Now half a world away, and hear you say
    ‘His music always seems like coming home.’

  • Pause

    You are late coming home
    To the house we share
    An audible silence
    Chills the air

  • Airport Departure

    My love, I watch you thread your way, and turn
    with a small timeless smile, and trail your trolley
    unhurried through the gate of no return.

  • Honor Mary: Seventy-Nine – 1993

    My dearest love, at seventy-nine
    You’re not, and never have been, mine.

  • For HMST – 1994

    My dearest love, where’er you are,
    just through that door, beyond that star,

  • Willow Tree: Two Years After    

    Spring, at a bound. Once more the colourful chorus,
    Daffodils first declare their lyric yellow,

  • For HMST – 1996

    Now for your birthday the single prunus bough,
    by neighbour ’s kindness spared on a sentenced tree

  • Tsunami

    … obliterating in instant mini-time
    a universe of suns and planets
    with or without their myriad forms of life,

  • For HMST – 1997

    Always a step ahead, you’re eighty-three,
    My life-support, contending other me,

  • Just Coming

    Down arches of the years I hear your voice
    explaining serials of our late departures,

  • HMST – 1999

    Six years since your last birthday in our midst
    seems yesterday, in this same so-loved house,

  • For HMST – 2000

    For ever is the promise. I will trust
    To share with you the same light and same dust.

  • Near and Far

    ‘Eternity and time becoming one’
    you wrote for Daniel’s one day in our world.

  • Encounter Recalled

    Wrapped in my gown of self-regard sublime
    I heard your voice arrive from outer space.

  • Going up to the Rocks

    Knowing the time was short
    Yours was the instant thought
    ‘Let’s go up to the Rocks!’

  • Away Day – Ten Years After

    Ten years since that incalculable day
    When from all worlds we know you slipped away