The lines grow slack in our hands at full high-water;
The midnight rears in the sky; and beneath the boat
Another midnight, dwarfing the flare of a match
Or flare of a mind, expands and deepens. We float
Abandoned as driftwood on a tide that drowns all speech,
Where-movement of hand or keel can make no mark
That will stand in space or endure one moment in time.
Flashing in shallows or hiding in murderous dark,
The fish live out their lives in weeds and silence;
And, locked like them in some alien struggle or peace,
No business of ours, from the moon to the water’s edge,
Looming above us, tower the gigantic trees.
Among those rocks where time has ravaged the ridge,
In all that pattern cold and inhuman as the tide’s,
Where shall the mind make camp? How in that darkness
Shall the mind ride tranquil with light as the high moon rides?
Shine the torch on the rock: we are not the first
Alone and lost in this world of water and stone.
See, though the maker’s life has vanished like a leafs,
The carvings living a hard strange life of their own
Above the water, beneath the tormented cliffs.
They glow with immortal being, as though the stone fish
May flap and slither to the tide, and the kangaroo
Bound from the rock and crash away through the bush.
The moon lights a thousand candles upon the water,
But none for the carver of stone; and nobody comes
Of his own long-scattered tribe to remember him
With dance and song and firelight under the gums;
But he walks again for me at the water’s rim
And works at his rock, and a light begins to glow
Clear for his sake among the dark of my mind
Where the branches reach and the silent waters flow.
I watch him working through a summer afternoon,
Patient as the stone itself while his tribesmen sleep;
The children jostle, the girls cry out in the sun,
And first the fish and then the great ‘roo take shape.
The work is crude, and he knows it; but now it is done;
And whoever laughs is a little afraid in the end,
For here is a swimmer in stone, and a beast that leaps
Nowhere for ever, and both can be touched with the hand.
I could have sat down with that man and talked about fishing,
How the bream are fish of the night, and they take the bait
With a run before you are ready; of the fabulous catches
For which we always got there a week too late;
And of how a man in the lonely midnight watches
Becomes himself a part of night and the tide
And, lost in the blackness, has need of a wife or a dog
Or a blackfellow’s ghost to sit in peace by his side.
Centuries dead perhaps. But night arid the water,
And the work of your hands on the rock have brought us together,
Fishermen both, and carvers both, old man.
I know as you how the work goes naked to the weather,
How we cut our thought into stone as best we can,
Laugh at our pain, and leave it to take its chance.
Maybe it’s all for nothing, for the sky to look at,
Or maybe for us the distant candles dance.
The boat tugs at the kellick as it feels the ebb.
Good-bye, old wraith, and good luck. You did what you could
To leave your mark on stone like a mark on time,
That the sky in the mind and the midnight sea in the blood
Should be less of a desolation for the men to come;
And who can do more than you? Gone, you are gone;
But, dark a moment in the moonlight, your hand hovers,
And moves like the shadow of a bird across the stone.
(Douglas Alexander Stewart)
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Based on Keywords: bream, carver, slither, carvings, leafs, tribesmen, blackfellow, carvers, dwarfing, roo, long-scattered