Rain forest in the Dandenong Ranges, and a favorite spot for bell-birds

Henry Kendall 's  beautiful descriptive poem "Bell Birds" is a perfect example of his wonerful talent.

The Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne with lush rain forest is a popular area for  Bell-Birds and other colourful native birds.

More from Poets Australia

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Briefly Henry Kendall was born at Kirmington near Ulladulla, in N.S.W. on 18th April 1839.  In 1857 he began writing verse for various Sydney journals.  He was by all accounts a frail and sensitive individual and knew much hardship because he could not cope with practical affairs.
Kendall's first published book of verse Poems and Songs (1862) was quite popular and not long after in 1868 he married and moved to Melbourne with his new wife.  In Melbourne he tried journalism without success. He then had published in (1869) his second volume of verse Leaves from Australian Forests which had favourable reviews but the publisher lost money on it.
He returned to New South Wales in 1870.  The next years were very traumatic with heavy drinking and great poverty.  Eventually he suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in an institution where thankfully  he was nursed back to health.
After that Kendall re-established himself physically and morally and once again wrote for the press.  In 1879 he wrote words for the canta to be sung at the opening of the Sydney International Exhibition, and he won the 100-guinea prize offered for a poem to celebrate the same exhibiton.
A third volume of verse, Songs from the Mountains, published in (1880) and was a huge financial success.  A year later a friend secured for him an inspectorship of State Forests at Cundletown.  Unfortunately the work was too strenuous and his health broke down and he died in Sydney on 1st August 1882 just 43 years of age.
His wife survived him for more than 40 years; they had seven children.  The town Kendall in northern New South Wales is named after him.

Kangaroo - clip


Henry Kendall
(1839 - 1882)

By the channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges.
Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.

The silver-voiced bell-birds, the darlings of day-time,
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;
When shadows wax strong, and thunder-bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden,
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.

October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in the cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses to listen.
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the morning.

Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to thirsty far-corners,
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever,
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels whose torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and leaves in the currents.

Often I sit, looking back to a childhood
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion.
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of passion;
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys,
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.

Henry Kendall