When the Moon was in Eclipse
It was night upon the grey downs,
And the moon was near eclipse
As they lay beside the sheep;
One, a-babbling in his dreaming
Of white arms and clinging lips,
Stirred and muttered in his sleep.
And the other crouched and listened
To the black swans in their flight,
And the tinkling of the team –
As a shadow leaned across him
That was blacker than the night,
Did it break the sleeper’s dream?
”Waken Una!’ Raise the window!
Let me climb into your nest!”
Thus he muttered as he slept,
”Nestle closer, dear one, closer!
With your breast warm on my breast.”
And the shadow nearer crept.
“ What of bonds and creeds and symbols?
And the name words and the rite –
They are not for us, mine own!
See above the looming grey downs,
Sits our priest, the cross of white;
And athwart your window thrown
”The moon-shine and shadow mingle –
Even as your soul and mine.”
So he murmured in his sleep.
”Like a fair and folded flower,
Drooping as your warm limbs twine,
And your arms about me creep;
”Love can know no law but loving –
Let them curse with Book and Bell,
As I swoon upon your lips!
In the glory of my heaven,
While their lying mu mm ers tell ”–
And the moon was in eclipse.
One was strong with strength of hatred,
One with dazed and maddened brain:
The low moon hung, shadow-spanned,
And the night was dark as passion,
And the wind was cold as pain,
As it moaned above the sand.
Bob. the collie, leaped and listened:
If the silly things would rove,
Then goodbye to peaceful sleep,
And he panted through the darkness,
As he trotted round the drove –
There was peace among the sheep.
As the moon and shadow parted,
Dawn, the stealthy tracker, came,
Gained upon him as he crept;
Till he leaned above her bedside,
Calling harshly on her name –
Strange, how heavily she slept!
Freshly through the little window
The keen, early wind blew in,
And a blurred and blotted sheet,
The last witness of her falsehood,
And the seal upon her sin,
Fell and fluttered at his feet:
”Can you hear me, my beloved?
Where the sloping headland dips
With its tussocked greys and browns,
I can hear the wild swans crying,
And the moon is near eclipse
High above the looming downs.
”And my heart is strange to-night, dear,
How it flutters and is still!
But it may be better soon;
And a subtle, deadly menace
Seems to hold me like a chill –
’Tis the failing of the moon!”.
Never more for clasp of passion,
Never more for man’s desire!
Slow he lifted up her hand,
And a ray, blue as her eye flash,
Glittered from a pale sapphire
On her finger, jewel-spanned.
It was day upon the grey downs,
As the early sunshine fell,
As he muttered with white lips:
”You have met your lover, Una;
For you followed him to hell
When the moon was in eclipse.
‘When the Moon was in Eclipse,’ Bulletin 20 Jul 1905: 39. NSW.
See also Verses 1905: 21-23.