Friday Australian poem #NS7 — “Araluen”—Henry Kendall 1841-1882


* A stream in the Braidwood district, New South Wales.

River, myrtle rimmed, and set
Deep amongst unfooted dells—
Daughter of grey hills of wet,
Born by mossed and yellow wells;

Now that soft September lays
Tender hands on thee and thine,
Let me think of blue-eyed days,
Star-like flowers and leaves of shine!

Cities soil the life with rust;
Water banks are cool and sweet;
River, tired of noise and dust,
Here I come to rest my feet.

Now the month from shade to sun
Fleets and sings supremest songs,
Now the wilful wood-winds run
Through the tangled cedar throngs.

Here are cushioned tufts and turns
Where the sumptuous noontide lies:
Here are seen by flags and ferns
Summer’s large, luxurious eyes.

On this spot wan Winter casts
Eyes of ruth, and spares its green
From his bitter sea-nursed blasts,
Spears of rain and hailstones keen.

Rather here abideth Spring,
Lady of a lovely land,
Dear to leaf and fluttering wing,
Deep in blooms—by breezes fanned.

Faithful friend beyond the main,
Friend that time nor change makes cold;
Now, like ghosts, return again
Pallid, perished days of old.

Ah, the days!—the old, old theme,
Never stale, but never new,
Floating like a pleasant dream,
Back to me and back to you.

Since we rested on these slopes
Seasons fierce have beaten down
Ardent loves and blossoming hopes—
Loves that lift and hopes that crown.

But, believe me, still mine eyes
Often fill with light that springs
From divinity, which lies
Ever at the heart of things.

Solace do I sometimes find
Where you used to hear with me
Songs of stream and forest wind,
Tones of wave and harp-like tree.

Araluen—home of dreams,
Fairer for its flowerful glade
Than the face of Persian streams
Or the slopes of Syrian shade;

Why should I still love it so,
Friend and brother far away?
Ask the winds that come and go,
What hath brought me here to-day.

Evermore of you I think,
When the leaves begin to fall,
Where our river breaks its brink,
And a rest is over all.

Evermore in quiet lands,
Friend of mine beyond the sea,
Memory comes with cunning hands,
Stays, and paints your face for me.



At the head of the Araluen Valley is one of the best views in the south east looking towards the Deua-Wadbilliga Wilderness. Then riding in the Araluen Valley along the Deua River is very peaceful on good quality dirt.—Sydney Cyclist

From the  Biographical Note by Bertram Stevens:

Henry Kendall was the first Australian poet to draw his inspiration from the life, scenery and traditions of the country. In the beginnings of Australian poetry the names of two other men stand with his—Adam Lindsay Gordon, of English parentage and education, and Charles Harpur, born in Australia a generation earlier than Kendall. Harpur’s work, though lacking vitality, shows fitful gleams of poetic fire suggestive of greater achievement had the circumstances of his life been more favourable. Kendall, whose lot was scarcely more fortunate, is a true singer; his songs remain, and are likely long to remain, attractive to poetry lovers.…

Of Basil Kendall’s early career little is known. While in South America he saw service under Lord Cochrane, the famous tenth Earl of Dundonald, who, after five brilliant years in the Chilean service, was, between 1823 and 1825, fighting on behalf of Brazil. Basil returned to Australia, but disappears from view until 1840. One day in that year he met a Miss Melinda McNally, and next day they were married. Soon afterwards they settled on the Ulladulla grant, farming land at Kirmington, two miles from the little town of Milton. There, in a primitive cottage Basil had built, twin sons—Basil Edward and Henry—were born on the 18th April, 1841. Five years later the family moved to the Clarence River district and settled near the Orara. Basil Kendall had practically lost one lung before his marriage, and failing health made it exceedingly difficult for him to support his family, to which by this time three daughters had been added. On the Orara he grew steadily weaker, and died somewhere about 1851.

Basil Kendall was well educated, and had done what he could to educate his children. After his death the family was scattered, and the two boys were sent to a relative on the South Coast. The scenery of this district made a profound impression upon Henry, and is often referred to in his early poems. In 1855 his uncle Joseph took him as cabin boy in his brig, the ‘Plumstead’, for a two years’ cruise in the Pacific, during which they touched at many of the Islands and voyaged as far north as Yokohama. The beauty of the scenes he visited lived in the boy’s memory, but the rigours of ship life were so severe that in after years he looked back on the voyage with horror.

Henry Kendall returned to Sydney in March, 1857, and at once obtained employment in the city and set about making a home for his mother and sisters. Mrs. Kendall, granddaughter of Leonard McNally, a Dublin notable of his day, was a clever, handsome woman with a strong constitution and a volatile temperament. Henry was always devoted to her, and considered that from her he inherited whatever talent he possessed. She helped in his education, and encouraged him to write verse.

The first verses of his known to have been printed were “O tell me, ye breezes”—signed “H. Kendall”—which appeared in ‘The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal’ in 1859…

Braidwood and Araluen will be getting a mention in the next of the Neil’s Personal Decades series. Also my mother spent some of her teenage years in Milton: see Scans worth preserving–3–“The Sydney Mail” 1928.

As for the poem: it is of interest, but I don’t think anyone would claim greatness for it. “Daughter of grey hills of wet”, for example… But the love shines through.


Milking time (Araluen Valley) – Elioth Gruner 1922