MEJ (1869 - 1948 / Australia)

Ballad Of Autumn

DOWN harvest headlands the fairy host
Of the poppy banners have flashed and fled,
The lilies have faded like ghost and ghost,
The ripe rose rots in the garden bed.
The grain is garnered, the blooms are shed,
Convolvulus springs on the snowdrop’s bier,
In her stranded gold is the silver thread
Of the first grey hair i’ the head o’ the year.

Like an arrant knave from a bootless boast,
The fire-wind back to his North has sped
To harry the manes of a haunted coast
On a far sea-rim where the stars are dead.
Wistful the welkin with wordless dread,
Mournful the uplands, all ashen sere—
Sad for the snow on a beauteous head—
For the first grey hair i’ the head o’ the year.

Time trysts with Death at the finger-post,
Where the broken issues of life are wed—
Intone no dirges, fill up the toast
To the troops that trip it with silent tread,
Merry we’ll make it tho’ skies be lead,
And March-wind’s moan be a minstrel drear—
A truce to trouble!—we’ll drink instead
To the first grey hair i’ the head o’ the year.

South Esk sings on where the furze-fires spread,
But we’ll mourn no more as of old, my dear,
When gorse flames golden and briars flush red
With the first grey hair i’ the head o’ the year.

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