Arthur Henry Adams (1872-1936)

From Sonnets of Civilization

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I thought, because we had been friends so long,
That I knew all your dear lips dared intend
Before they dawned to speech. Our thoughts would blend,
I dreamed, like memories that faintly throng.
Your voice dwelt in me like an olden song.
Petal, I thought, from petal I could rend
The blossom of your soul, and at the end
Find still the same sweet fragrance. I was wrong.
Last evening in our eyes love brimmed to birth;
Our friendship faded, lost in passion's mist.
We had been strangers only! Here, close-caught
Against my heart the dim face I had sought
So long! And now the only thing on earth--
Your piteous mouth, a-tremble to be kissed!

A Spring Sonnet

Last night beneath the mockery of the moon
I heard the sudden startled whisperings
Of wakened birds settling their restless wings;
The North-east brought his word of gladness, "Soon!"
And all the night with wonder was a-swoon.
A soul had breathed into long-dreaming things;
Some unseen hand hovered above the strings:
Some cosmic chord had set the earth in tune.
And when I rose I saw the Bay arrayed
In her grey robe against the coming heat.
A pulse awoke within the stirring street--
The wattle-gold upon the pavements thrown,
And through the quiet of the colonnade
The smoky perfume of boronia blown.


In her grey majesty of ancient stone
She queens it proudly, though the sun's caress
Her piteous cheeks, ravished of bloom, confess,
And her dark eyes his bridegroom glance have know.
Robed in her flowing parks, serene, alone,
She fronts the east; and with the tropic stress
Her smooth brow ripples into weariness;
Yet hers the sea for footstool, and for throne
A continent predestined. Round her trails
The turbid squalor of her streets, and dim
Into the dark heat-haze her domes flow up;
Her long lean fingers, with their grey-old nails,
Giving her thirsty lips to the cool brim
Of the bronze beauty of her harbour's cup.

China (1899)

She lies, a grave disdain all her defence,
Too imperturbable for scorn. She hears
Only the murmur of the flowing years
That thunder slowly on her shores immense
And ebb away in moaning impotence.
Giants enduring, she and Time are peers--
Her dream-hazed eyes knowing no hopes, no tears,
Her glance a langour-lidded insolence.
And though the rabble of the restless West
In her deserted courts set their rash sway,
She heeds them not; as when the sun, withdrawn
From his untarnished sky, knows it distressed
By storm of weakling stars, that he at dawn
Will wither with one ruthless glance away.


All things must fade. There is for cities tall
The same tomorrow as for daffodils:
Time's wind, that casts the seed, the petal spills.
Grim London's ruined arches yet shall fall
Back to the arms of Earth. A quiet pall
The mother draws over those she loves--and kills;
And though brief nations vaunt their upstart wills,
The nemesis of grass shall cover all.
So--from a caravan to Mecca bound
Getting no more than one incurious glance--
Tremendous Babylon, thrice-girt with walls,
Sick of her thousand years of arrogance,
With a few tamarisks upon a mound
Her epigraph upon the desert scrawls.


One moment mankind rides the crested wave,
A moment glorious, beyond recall;
And then the wave, with slow and massive fall,
Obliterates the beauty that it gave.
When discrowned king and manumitted slave
Are free and equal to be slaves of all,
Democracies in their wide freedom brawl,
And go down shouting to a common grave.
So one by one the petals of the rose
Shrivel and fade, and all its splendour goes
Back to the earth; and in her arms embraced
Through wintry centuries the dead seeds sleep
Till spring comes troubling them, and they unleap,
Once more their petals on the world to waste.

(Texts from The Sonnet in Australasia.)