Bellbirds

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling:
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges.
Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.
The silver-voiced bell birds, the darlings of daytime!
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;
When shadows wax strong, and the thunder bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.

October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses, to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning.

Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to the thirsty far-comers.
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels who torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and the leaves in the currents.

Often I sit, looking back to a childhood,
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion,
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion; -
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest-rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys:
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.

Henry Kendall (1839 - 1882)


There is a small suburb located on the Dawson River to the north of Taree named Cundleton. Its main claim to historical reputation lies on its tie to poet Henry Kendall and his famous 'Bellbirds‘. Generations of Australian schoolchildren memorize by heart. Employed as the local inspector of forests Kendall lived in Cundleton from 1881-1882 and passed away of consumption in 1882.

I've read many remarks about BellBirds as one of Kendall's best and that parts of it are familiar to most Australians. Published in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869)it kept my attention long enough to become enchanted by the subject matter.

The bellbird melody is an extraordinaryringing note, that seems to chime through their natural habitat of the Great Dividing Range. To Henry Kendall, these mountains were a place of refuge and beauty.

As a teacher I think it would be interesting to use this poem as a way to decribe bellbirds who are small, gray, and reclusive in my understanding and their call is much like a small bell, especially when echoed. Using clues found in the poem, it would be fun to ask students to figure out where bellbirds are found.I've never heard a bellbird's call or seen the Australian mountains, but now I think I'd like to.

Bellbirds was published in 1869, copyright has expired and the work is in public domain.

Sources:

Bellbirds :
www.mountainman.com.au/kendall.html

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/2001/kendall0101.html

Walkabout - Taree:
www.walkabout.com.au/locations/NSWTaree.shtml


CST Approved

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