A Sea Child
The lover of child Marjory
Had one white hour of life brim full;
Now the old nurse, the rocking sea,
Hath him to lull.
The daughter of child Marjory
Hath in her veins, to beat and run,
The glad indomitable sea,
The strong white sun.
By The Aurelian Wall
In Memory of John Keats
By the Aurelian Wall,
Where the long shadows of the centuries fall
From Caius Cestius' tomb,
A weary mortal seeking rest found room
For quiet burial,
Leaving among his friends
A book of lyrics.
Such untold amends
A traveller might make
In a strange country, bidden to partake
Before he farther wends;
Who slyly should bestow
The foreign reed-flute they had seen him blow
And finger cunningly,
On one of the dark children standing by,
Then lift his cloak and go.
The years pass. And the child
Thoughtful beyond his fellows, grave and mild,
Treasures the rough-made toy,
Until one day he blows it for clear joy,
And wakes the music wild.
His fondness makes it seem
A thing first fashioned in delirious dream,
Some god had cut and tried,
And filled with yearning passion, and cast aside
On some far woodland stream,-
After long years to be
Found by the stranger and brought over sea,
A marvel and delight
To ease the noon and pierce the dark blue night,
For children such as he.
He learns the silver strain
Wherewith the ghostly houses of gray rain
And lonely valleys ring,
When the untroubled whitethroats make the spring
A world without a stain;
Then on his river reed,
With strange and unsuspected notes that plead
Of their own wild accord
For utterances no bird's throat could afford,
Lifts it to human need.
His comrades leave their play,
When calling and compelling far away
By river-slope and hill,
He pipes their wayward footsteps where he will,
All the long lovely day.
Even his elders come.
'Surely the child is elvish,' murmur some,
And shake the knowing head;
'Give us the good old simple things instead,
Our fathers used to hum.'
Others at open door
Smile when they hear what they have hearkened for
These many summers now,
Believing they should live to learn somehow
Things never known before.
But he can only tell
How the flute's whisper lures him with a spell,
Yet always just eludes
The lost perfection over which he broods;
And how he loves it well.
Till all the country-side ,
Familiar with his piping far and wide,
Has taken for its own
That weird enchantment down the evening blown,-
Its glory and its pride.
And so his splendid name,
Who left the book of lyrics and small fame
Among his fellows then,
Spreads through the world like autumn-who knows when?-
Till all the hillsides flame.
Grand Pré and Margaree
Hear it upbruited from the unresting sea;
And the small Gaspereau,
Whose yellow leaves repeat it, seems to know
A new felicity.
Even the shadows tall,
Walking at sundown through the plain, recall
A mound the grasses keep,
Where once a mortal came and found long sleep
By the Aurelian Wall.
To T. B. M.
IN the crowd that thronged the pierhead, come to see their friends take ship
For new ventures in seafaring, when the hawsers were let slip
And we swung out in the current, with good-byes on every lip,
'Midst the waving caps and kisses, as we dropped down with the tide
And the faces blurred and faded, last of all your hand I spied
Signalling, Farewell, Good fortune! then my heart rose up and cried:
'While the world holds one such comrade, whose sweet durable regard
Would so speed my safe departure, lest home-leaving should be hard,
What care I who keeps the ferry, whether Charon or Cunard!'
Then we cleared the bar, and laid her on the course, the thousand miles
From the Hook to the Bahamas, from midwinter to the isles
Where frost never laid a finger, and eternal summer smiles.
Three days through the surly storm-beat, while the surf-heads threshed and flew,
And the rolling mountains thundered to the trample of the screw,
The black liner heaved and scuffled and strained on, as if she knew.
On the fourth, the round blue morning sparkled there, all light and breeze,
Clean and tenuous as a bubble blown from two immensities,
Shot and coloured with sheer sunlight and the magic of those seas.
In that bright new world of wonder, it was life enough to laze
All day underneath the awnings, and through half-shut eyes to gaze
At the marvel of the sea-blue; and I faltered for a phrase
Should half give you the impression, tell you how the very tint
Justified your finest daring, as if Nature gave the hint,
'Plodders, see Imagination set his pallet without stint!'
Cobalt, gobelin, and azure, turquoise, sapphire, indigo,
Changing from the spectral bluish of a shadow upon snow
To the deep of Canton china,—one unfathomable glow.
And the flying-fish,—to see them in a scurry lift and flee,
Silvery as the foam they sprang from, fragile people of the sea,
Whom their heart's great aspiration for a moment had set free.
From the dim and cloudy ocean, thunder-centred, rosy-verged,
At the lord sun's Sursum Corda, as implicit impulse urged,
Frail as vapour, fine as music, these bright spirit-things emerged;
Like those flocks of small white snowbirds we have seen start up before
Our brisk walk in winter weather by the snowy Scituate shore;
And the tiny shining sea-folk brought you back to me once more.
So we ran down Abaco; and passing that tall sentinel
Black against the sundown, sighted, as the sudden twilight fell,
Nassau light; and the warm darkness breathed on us from breeze and swell.
Stand-by bell and stop of engine; clank of anchor going down;
And we're riding in the roadstead off a twinkling-lighted town,
Low dark shore with boom of breakers and white beach the palm-trees crown.
In the soft wash of the sea air, on the long swing of the tide,
Here for once the dream came true, the voyage ended close beside
The Hesperides in moonlight on mid-ocean where they ride!
And those Hesperidean joy-lands were not strange to you and me.
Just beyond the lost horizon, every time we looked to sea
From Testudo, there they floated, looming plain as plain could be.
Who believed us? 'Myth and fable are a science in our time.'
'Never saw the sea that colour. ''Never heard of such a rhyme.'
Well, we've proved it, prince of idlers,—knowledge wrong and faith sublime.
Right were you to follow fancy, give the vaguer instinct room
In a heaven of clear colour, where the spirit might assume
All her elemental beauty, past the fact of sky or bloom.
Paint the vision, not the view,—the touch that bids the sense good-bye,
Lifting spirit at a bound beyond the frontiers of the eye,
To suburb unguessed dominions of the soul's credulity.
Never yet was painter, poet, born content with things that are,—
Must divine from every beauty other beauties greater far,
Till the arc of truth be circled, and her lantern blaze, a star.
This alone is art's ambition, to arrest with form and hue
Dominant ungrasped ideals, known to credence, hid from view,
In a mimic of creation,—to the life, yet fairer too,—
Where the soul may take her pleasure, contemplate perfection's plan,
And returning bring the tidings of his heritage to man,—
News of continents uncharted she has stood tip-toe to scan.
So she fires his gorgeous fancy with a cadence, with a line,
Till the artist wakes within him, and the toiler grows divine,
Shaping the rough world about him nearer to some fair design.
Every heart must have its Indies,—an inheritance unclaimed
In the unsubstantial treasure of a province never named,
Loved and longed for through a lifetime, dull, laborious, and unfamed,
Never wholly disillusioned. Spiritus, read, haeres sit
Patriæ quæ tristia mescit. This alone the great king writ
O'er the tomb of her he cherished in this fair world she must quit.
Love in one farewell for ever, taking counsel to implore
Best of human benedictions on its dead, could ask no more.
The heart's country for a dwelling, this at last is all our lore.
But the fairies at your cradle gave you craft to build a home
In the wide bright world of colour, with the cunning of a gnome;
Blessed you so above your fellows of the tribe that still must roam.
Still across the world they go, tormented by a strange unrest,
And the unabiding spirit knocks for ever at their breast,
Bidding them away to fortune in some undiscovered West;
While at home you sit and call the Orient up at your command,
Master of the iris seas and Prospero of the purple land.
Listen, here was one world-corner matched the cunning of your hand.
Not, my friend, since we were children, and all wonder-tales were true,—
Jason, Hengest, Hiawatha, fairy prince or pirate crew—
Was there ever such a landing in a country strange and new?
Up the harbour where there gathered, fought and revelled many a year,
Swarthy Spaniard, lost Lucayan, Loyalist, and Buccaneer,
'Once upon a time' was now, and 'far across the sea' was here.
Tropic moonlight, in great floods and fathoms pouring through the trees
On a ground as white as sea-froth its fantastic traceries,
While the poincianas, rustling like the rain, moved in the breeze,
Showed a city, coral-streeted, melting in the mellow shine,
Built of creamstone and enchantment, fairy work in every line,
In a velvet atmosphere that bids the heart her haste resign.
Thanks to Julian Hospitator, saint of travellers by sea,
Roving minstrels and all boatmen,—just such vagabonds as we—
On the shaded wharf we landed, rich in leisure, hale and free.
What more would you for God's creatures, but the little tide of sleep?
In a clean white room I wakened, saw the careless sunlight peep
Through the roses at the window, lay and listened to the creep
Of the soft wind in the shutters, heard the palm-tops stirring high,
And that strange mysterious shuffle of the slipshod foot go by.
In a world all glad with colour, gladdest of all things was I;
In a quiet convent garden, tranquil as the day is long,
Here to sit without intrusion of the world or strife or wrong,—
Watch the lizards chase each other, and the green bird make his song;
Warmed and freshened, lulled yet quickened in that Paradisal air,
Motherly and uncapricious, healing every hurt or care,
Wooing body, mind, and spirit, firmly back to strong and fair;
By the Angelus reminded, silence waits the touch of sound,
As the soul waits her awaking to some Gloria profound;
Till the mighty Southern Cross is lighted at the day's last bound.
And if ever your fair fortune make you good Saint Vincent's guest,
At his door take leave of trouble, welcomed to his decent rest,
Of his ordered peace partaker, by his solace healed and blessed;
Where this flowered cloister garden, hidden from the passing view,
Lies behind its yellow walls in prayer the holy hours through:
And beyond, that fairy harbour, floored in malachite and blue.
In that old white-streeted city gladness has her way at last
Under burdens finely poised, and with a freedom unsurpassed,
Move the naked-footed bearers in the blue day deep and vast.
This is Bay Street broad and low-built, basking in its quiet trade;
Here the sponging fleet is anchored; here shell trinkets are displayed;
Here the cable news is posted daily; here the market's made,
With its oranges from Andros, heaps of yam and tamarind,
Red-juiced shadducks from the Current, ripened in the long trade-wind,
Gaudy fish from their sea-gardens, yellow-tailed and azure-tinned.
Here a group of diving boys in bronze and ivory, bright and slim,
Sparkling copper in the high noon, dripping loin-cloth, polished limb,
Poised a moment and then plunged in that deep daylight green and dim.
Here the great rich Spanish laurels spread across the public square
Their dense, solemn shade; and near by, half within the open glare,
Mannerly in their clean cottons, knots of blacks are waiting there
By the court-house, where a magistrate is hearing cases through,
Dealing justice prompt and level, as the sturdy English do,—
One more tent-peg of the Empire, holding that great shelter true.
Last the picture from the town's end, palmed and foam-fringed through the cane,
Where the gorgeous sunset yellows pour aloft and spill and stain
The pure amethystine sea and far faint islands of the main.
Loveliest of the Lucayas, peace be yours till time be done!
In the gray North I shall see you, with your white streets in the sun,
Old pink walls and purple gateways, where the lizards bask and run,
Where the great hibiscus blossoms in their scarlet loll and glow,
And the idling gay bandannas through the hot noons come and go,
While the ever-stirring sea-wind sways the palm-tops to and fro.
Far from stress and storm for ever, dream behind your jalousies,
While the long white lines of breakers crumble on your reefs and keys,
And the crimson oleanders burn against the peacock seas.