When the lights come out in the cottages
Along the shores at eve,
And across the darkening water
The last pale colours leave;
And up from the rock-ridged pasture slopes
The sheep-bell tinklings steal,
And the folds are shut, and the shepherds
Turn to their quiet meal;
And even here, on the unfenced height,
No journeying wind goes by,
But the earth-sweet smells and the home-sweet sounds
Mount, like prayer, to the sky;
Then from the door of my opened heart
Old blindness and pride are driven,
Till I know how high is the humble,
The dear earth how close to heaven.
The Autumn Thistles
The morning sky is white with mist, the earth
White with the inspiration of the dew.
The harvest light is on the hills anew,
And cheer in the grave acres' fruitful girth.
Only in this high pasture is there dearth,
Where the gray thistles crowd in ranks austere,
As if the sod, close-cropt for many a year,
Brought only bane and bitterness to birth.
But in the crisp air's amethystine wave
How the harsh stalks are washed with radiance now,
How gleams the harsh turf where the crickets lie
Dew-freshened in their burnished armour brave!
Since earth could not endure nor heaven allow
Aught of unlovely in the morn's clear eye.
I was spawned from the glacier,
A thousand miles due north
Beyond Cape Chidley;
And the spawning,
When my vast, wallowing bulk went under,
Emerged and heaved aloft,
Shaking down cataracts from its rocking sides,
With mountainous surge and thunder
Outraged the silence of the Arctic sea.
Before I was thrust forth
A thousand years I crept,
Crawling, crawling, crawling irresistibly,
Hid in the blue womb of the eternal ice,
While under me the tortured rock
And over me the immeasurable desolation slept.
Under the pallid dawning
Of the lidless Arctic day
Forever no life stirred.
No wing of bird --
Of ghostly owl low winnowing
Or fleet-winged ptarmigan fleeing the pounce of death, --
No foot of backward-glancing fox
Half glimpsed, and vanishing like a breath, --
No lean and gauntly stalking bear,
Stalking his prey.
Only the white sun, circling the white sky.
Only the wind screaming perpetually.
And then the night --
The long night, naked, high over the roof of the world,
Where time seemed frozen in the cold of space, --
Now black, and torn with cry
Of unseen voices where the storm raged by,
Now radiant with spectral light
As the vault of heaven split wide
To let the flaming Polar cohorts through,
And close ranked spears of gold and blue,
Thin scarlet and thin green,
Hurtled and clashed across the sphere
And hissed in sibilant whisperings,
And then the stark moon, swinging low,
Silver, indifferent, serene,
Over the sheeted snow.
But now, an Alp afloat,
In seizure of the surreptitious tide,
Began my long drift south to a remote
And unimagined doom.
Scornful of storm,
Unjarred by thunderous buffetting of seas,
Shearing the giant floes aside,
Ploughing the wide-flung ice-fields in a spume
That smoked far up my ponderous flanks,
Onward I fared,
My ice-blue pinnacles rendering back the sun
In darts of sharp radiance;
My bases fathoms deep in the dark profound.
And now around me
Life and the frigid waters all aswarm.
The smooth wave creamed
With tiny capelin and the small pale squid, --
So pale the light struck through them.
Gulls and gannets screamed
Over the feast, and gorged themselves, and rose,
A clamour of weaving wings, and hid
Momently my face.
The great bull whales
With cavernous jaws agape,
Scooped in the spoil, and slept,
Their humped forms just awash, and rocking softly, --
Or sounded down, down to the deeps, and nosed
Along my ribbed and sunken roots,
And in the green gloom scattered the pasturing cod.
And so I voyaged on, down the dim parallels,
Convoyed by fields
Of countless calving seals
Mild-featured, innocent-eyed, and unforeknowing
The doom of the red flenching knives.
I passed the storm-racked gate
Of Hudson Strait,
And savage Chidley where the warring tides
In white wrath seethe forever.
Down along the sounding shore
Of iron-fanged, many-watered Labrador
Slow weeks I shaped my course, and saw
Dark Mokkowic and dark Napiskawa,
And came at last off lone Belle Isle, the bane
Of ships and snare of bergs.
Here, by the deep conflicting currents drawn,
The inland voices Gulfward calling me
To ground amid my peers on the alien strand
And roam no more.
But then an off-shore wind,
A great wind fraught with fate,
Caught me and pressed me back,
And I resumed my solitary way.
Slowly I bore
South-east by bastioned Bauld,
And passed the sentinel light far-beaming late
Along the liners' track,
And slanted out Atlanticwards, until
Above the treacherous swaths of fog
Faded from the view the loom of Newfoundland.
In the blue sparkle of the gleaming day,
A soaring miracle
Of white immensity,
I was the cynosure of passing ships
That wondered and were gone,
Their wreathed smoke trailing them beyonf the verge.
And when in the night they passed --
The night of stars and calm,
Forged up and passed, with churning surge
And throb of huge propellers, and long-drawn
Luminous wake behind,
And sharp, small lights in rows,
I lay a ghost of menace chill and still,
A shape pearl-pale and monstrous, off to leeward,
Blurring the thin horizon line.
Day dragged on day,
And then came fog,
By noon, blind-white,
And in the night
Black-thick and smothering the sight.
Folded therein I waited,
Waited I knew not what
And heeded not,
Greatly incurious and unconcerned.
I heard the small waves lapping along my base,
Lipping and whispering, lisping with bated breath
A casual expectancy of death.
I heard remote
The deep, far carrying note
Blown from the hoarse and hollow throat
Of some lone tanker groping on her course.
Louder and louder rose the sound
In deepening diapason, then passed on,
Diminishing, and dying, --
And silence closed around.
And in the silence came again
Those stealthy voices,
That whispering of death.
And then I heard
The thud of screws approaching.
Near and more near,
Louder and yet more loud,
Through the thick dark I heard it, --
The rush and hiss of waters as she ploughed
Head on, unseen, unseeing,
Toward where I stood across her path, invisible.
And then a startled blare
Of horror close re-echoing, -- a glare
Of sudden, stabbing searchlights
That but obscurely pierced the gloom;
I towered, a dim immensity of doom.
Of tortured waters as the giant screws,
Reversed, thundered full steam astern.
Yet forward still she drew, until,
Slow answering desperate helm,
She swerved, and all her broadside came in view,
Crawling beneath me;
And for a moment I saw faces, blanched,
Stiffly agape, turned upward, and wild eyes
Astare; and one long, quavering cry went up
As a submerged horn gored her through and through,
Ripping her beam wide open;
And sullenly she listed, till her funnels
Crashed on my steep,
And men sprang, stumbling, for the boats.
But now, my deep foundations
Mined by those warmer seas, the hour had come
When I must change.
Slowly I leaned above her,
Slowly at first, then faster,
And icy fragments rained upon her decks.
Then my enormous mass descended on her,
A falling mountain, all obliterating, --
And the confusion of thin, wailing cries,
The Babel of shouts and prayers
And shriek of steam escaping
And I rolled over,
And once more came to rest,
My long hid bases heaved up high in air.
And now, from fogs emerging,
I traversed blander seas,
Forgot the fogs, the scourging
Of sleet-whipped gales, forgot
My austere origin, my tremendous birth,
My journeyings, and that last cataclysm
Of overwhelming ruin.
My squat, pale, alien bulk
Basked in the ambient sheen;
And all about me, league on league outspread,
A gulf of indigo and green.
I laughed in the light waves laced with white, --
How swiftly shrank my girth
Under their sly caresses, how the breath
Of that soft wind sucked up my strength, nor how
The sweet, insidious fingers of the sun
Their stealthy depredations wrought upon me.
I drifted, dreaming.
I saw the flying-fish
With silver gleaming
Flash from the peacock-bosomed wave
And flicker through an arc of sunlit air
Back to their element, desperate to elude
The jaws of the pursuing albacore.
Day after day
I swung in the unhasting tide.
Sometimes I saw the dolphin folk at play,
Their lithe sides iridescent-dyed,
Unheeding in their speed
That long grey wraith,
The shark that followed hungering beneath.
Sometimes I saw a school
Of porpoise rolling by
In ranked array,
Emerging and submerging rhythmically,
Their blunt black bodies heading all one way
Until they faded
In the horizon's dazzling line of light.
Night after night
I followed the low, large moon across the sky,
Or counted the large stars on the purple dark,
The while I wasted, wasted and took no thought,
In drowsed entrancement caught; --
Until one noon a wave washed over me,
Breathed low a sobbing sigh,
Foamed indolently, and passed on;
And then I knew my empery was gone;
As I, too, soon must go.
Nor was I ill content to have it so.
Gloomed o'er my sight,
With cloud, and flurries of warm, wild rain.
With amber and scarlet stain,
Swept on its way,
Glowing and shimmering with heavy heat.
A lazing tuna rose
And nosed me curiously,
And shouldered me aside in brusque disdain,
So had I fallen from my high estate.
A foraging gull
Stooped over me, touched me with webbed pink feet,
And wheeled and skreeled away,
Indignant at the chill.
Last I became
A little glancing globe of cold
That slid and sparkled on the slow-pulsed swell.
And then my fragile, scintillating frame
Dissolved in ecstasy
Of many coloured light,
And I breathed up my soul into the air
And merged forever in the all-solvent sea.
Ave! (An Ode For The Shelley Centenary, 1892)
O tranquil meadows, grassy Tantramar,
Wide marshes ever washed in clearest air,
Whether beneath the sole and spectral star
The dear severity of dawn you wear,
Or whether in the joy of ample day
And speechless ecstasy of growing June
You lie and dream the long blue hours away
Till nightfall comes too soon,
Or whether, naked to the unstarred night,
You strike with wondering awe my inward sight, --
You know how I have loved you, how my dreams
Go forth to you with longing, though the years
That turn not back like your returning streams
And fain would mist the memory with tears,
Though the inexorable years deny
My feet the fellowship of your deep grass,
O'er which, as o'er another, tenderer sky,
Cloud phantoms drift and pass, --
You know my confident love, since first, a child,
Amid your wastes of green I wandered wild.
Inconstant, eager, curious, I roamed;
And ever your long reaches lured me on;
And ever o'er my feet your grasses foamed,
And in my eyes your far horizons shone.
But sometimes would you (as a stillness fell
And on my pulse you laid a soothing palm)
Instruct my ears in your most secret spell;
And sometimes in the calm
Initiate my young and wondering eyes
Until my spirit grew more still and wise.
Purged with high thoughts and infinite desire
I entered fearless the most holy place,
Received between my lips the secret fire,
The breath of inspiration on my face.
But not for long these rare illumined hours,
The deep surprise and rapture not for long.
Again I saw the common, kindly flowers,
Again I heard the song
Of the glad bobolink, whose lyric throat
Peeled like a tangle of small bells afloat.
The pounce of mottled marsh-hawk on his prey;
The flicker of sand-pipers in from sea
In gusty flocks that puffed and fled; the play
Of field-mice in the vetches, -- these to me
Were memorable events. But most availed
Your strange unquiet waters to engage
My kindred heart's companionship; nor failed
To grant this heritage, --
That in my veins forever must abide
The urge and fluctuation of the tide.
The mystic river whence you take your name,
River of hubbub, raucous Tantramar,
Untamable and changeable as flame,
It called me and compelled me from afar,
Shaping my soul with its impetuous stress.
When in its gaping channel deeps withdrawn
Its waves ran crying of the wilderness
And winds and stars and dawn,
How I companioned them in speed sublime,
Led out a vagrant on the hills of Time!
And when the orange flood came roaring in
From Fundy's tumbling troughs and tide-worn caves,
While red Minudie's flats were drowned with din
And rough Chignecto's front oppugned the waves,
How blithely with the refluent foam I raced
Inland along the radiant chasm, exploring
The green solemnity with boisterous haste;
My pulse of joy outpouring
To visit all the creeks that twist and shine
From Beauséjour to utmost Tormentine.
And after, when the tide was full, and stilled
A little while the seething and the hiss,
And every tributary channel filled
To the brim with rosy streams that swelled to kiss
The grass-roots all awash and goose-tongue wild
And salt-sap rosemary, -- then how well content
I was to rest me like a breathless child
With play-time rapture spent, --
To lapse and loiter till the change should come
And the great floods turn seaward, roaring home.
And now, O tranquil marshes, in your vast
Serenity of vision and of dream,
Wherethrough by every intricate vein have passed
With joy impetuous and pain supreme
The sharp, fierce tides that chafe the shores of earth
In endless and controlless ebb and flow,
Strangely akin you seem to him whose birth
One hundred years ago
With fiery succour to the ranks of song
Defied the ancient gates of wrath and wrong.
Like yours, O marshes, his compassionate breast,
Wherein abode all dreams of love and peace,
Was tortured with perpetual unrest.
Now loud with flood, now languid with release,
Now poignant with the lonely ebb, the strife
Of tides from the salt sea of human pain
That hiss along the perilous coasts of life
Beat in his eager brain;
But all about the tumult of his heart
Stretched the great calm of his celestial art.
Therefore with no far flight, from Tantramar
And my still world of ecstasy, to thee,
Shelley, to thee I turn, the avatar
Of Song, Love, Dream, Desire, and Liberty;
To thee I turn with reverent hands of prayer
And lips that fain would ease my heart of praise,
Whom chief of all whose brows prophetic wear
The pure and sacred bays
I worship, and have worshipped since the hour
When first I felt thy bright and chainless power.
About thy sheltered cradle in the green
Untroubled groves of Sussex, brooded forms
That to the mother's eye remained unseen, --
Terrors and ardours, passionate hopes, and storms
Of fierce retributive fury, such as jarred
Ancient and sceptred creeds, and cast down kings,
And oft the holy cause of Freedom marred,
With lust of meaner things,
With guiltless blood, and many a frenzied crime
Dared in the face of unforgetful Time.
The star that burns on revolution smote
Wild heats and change on thine ascendant sphere,
Whose influence thereafter seemed to float
Through many a strange eclipse of wrath and fear,
Dimming awhile the radiance of thy love.
But still supreme in thy nativity,
All dark, invidious aspects far above,
Beamed one clear orb for thee, --
The star whose ministrations just and strong
Controlled the tireless flight of Dante's song.
With how august contrition, and what tears
Of penitential unavailing shame,
Thy venerable foster-mother hears
The sons of song impeach her ancient name,
Because in one rash hour of anger blind
She thrust thee forth in exile, and thy feet
Too soon to earth's wild outer ways consigned, --
Far from her well-loved seat,
Far from her studious halls and storied towers
And weedy Isis winding through his flowers.
And thou, thenceforth the breathless child of change,
Thine own Alastor, on an endless quest
Of unimagined loveliness didst range,
Urged ever by the soul's divine unrest.
Of that high quest and that unrest divine
Thy first immortal music thou didst make,
Inwrought with fairy Alp, and Reuss, and Rhine,
And phantom seas that break
In soundless foam along the shores of Time,
Prisoned in thine imperishable rhyme.
Thyself the lark melodious in mid-heaven;
Thyself the Protean shape of chainless cloud,
Pregnant with elemental fire, and driven
Through deeps of quivering light, and darkness loud
With tempest, yet beneficent as prayer;
Thyself the wild west wind, relentless strewing
The withered leaves of custom on the air,
And through the wreck pursuing
O'er lovelier Arnos, more imperial Romes,
Thy radiant visions to their viewless homes.
And when thy mightiest creation thou
Wert fain to body forth, -- the dauntless form,
The all-enduring, all-forgiving brow
Of the great Titan, flinchless in the storm
Of pangs unspeakable and nameless hates,
Yet rent by all the wrongs and woes of men,
And triumphing in his pain, that so their fates
Might be assuaged, -- oh then
Out of that vast compassionate heart of thine
Thou wert constrained to shape the dream benign.
-- O Baths of Caracalla, arches clad
In such transcendent rhapsodies of green
That one might guess the sprites of spring were glad
For your majestic ruin, yours the scene,
The illuminating air of sense and thought;
And yours the enchanted light, O skies of Rome,
Where the giant vision into form was wrought;
Beneath your blazing dome
The intensest song our language ever knew
Beat up exhaustless to the blinding blue! --
The domes of Pisa and her towers superb,
The myrtles and the ilexes that sigh
O'er San Giuliano, where no jars disturb
The lonely aziola's evening cry,
The Serchio's sun-kissed waters, -- these conspired
With Plato's theme occult, with Dante's calm
Rapture of mystic love, and so inspired
Thy soul's espousal psalm,
A strain of such elect and pure intent
It breathes of a diviner element.
Thou on whose lips the word of Love became
A rapt evangel to assuage all wrong,
Not Love alone, but the austerer name
Of Death engaged the splendours of thy song.
The luminous grief, the spacious consolation
Of thy supreme lament, that mourned for him
Too early haled to that still habitation
Beneath the grass-roots dim, --
Where his faint limbs and pain-o'erwearied heart
Of all earth's loveliness became a part,
But where, thou sayest, himself would not abide, --
Thy solemn incommunicable joy
Announcing Adonais has not died,
Attesting death to free but not destroy,
All this was as thy swan-song mystical.
Even while the note serene was on thy tongue
Thin grew the veil of the Invisible,
The white sword nearer swung, --
And in the sudden wisdom of thy rest
Thou knewest all thou hadst but dimly guessed.
Lament, Lerici, mourn for the world's loss!
Mourn that pure light of song extinct at noon!
Ye waves of Spezzia that shine and toss
Repent that sacred flame you quenched too soon!
Mourn, Mediterranean waters, mourn
In affluent purple down your golden shore!
Such strains as his, whose voice you stilled in scorn,
Our ears may greet no more,
Unless at last to that far sphere we climb
Where he completes the wonder of his rhyme!
How like a cloud she fled, thy fateful bark,
From eyes that watched to hearts that waited, till
Up from the ocean roared the tempest dark --
And the wild heart Love waited for was still!
Hither and thither in the slow, soft tide,
Rolled seaward, shoreward, sands and wandering shells
And shifting weeds thy fellows, thou didst hide
Remote from all farewells,
Nor felt the sun, nor heard the fleeting rain,
Nor heeded Casa Magni's quenchless pain.
Thou heedest not? Nay, for it was not thou,
That blind, mute clay relinquished by the waves
Reluctantly at last, and slumbering now
In one of kind earth's most compassionate graves!
Not thou, not thou, -- for thou wert in the light
Of the Unspeakable, where time is not.
Thou sawest those tears; but in thy perfect sight
And thy eternal thought
Were they not even now all wiped away
In the reunion of the infinite day!
There face to face thou sawest the living God
And worshippedst, beholding Him the same
Adored on earth as Love, the same whose rod
Thou hadst endured as Life, whose secret name
Thou now didst learn, the healing name of Death.
In that unroutable profound of peace,
Beyond experience of pulse and breath,
Beyond the last release
Of longing, rose to greet thee all the lords
Of Thought, with consummation in their words:
He of the seven cities claimed, whose eyes,
Though blind, saw gods and heroes, and the fall
Of Ilium, and many alien skies,
And Circe's Isle; and he whom mortals call
The Thunderous, who sang the Titan bound
As thou the Titan victor; the benign
Spirit of Plato; Job; and Judah's crowned
Singer and seer divine;
Omar; the Tuscan; Milton, vast and strong;
And Shakespeare, captain of the host of Song.
Back from the underworld of whelming change
To the wide-glittering beach thy body came;
And thou didst contemplate with wonder strange
And curious regard thy kindred flame,
Fed sweet with frankincense and wine and salt,
With fierce purgation search thee, soon resolving
Thee to the elements of the airy vault
And the far spheres revolving,
The common waters, the familiar woods,
And the great hills' inviolate solitudes.
Thy close companions there officiated
With solemn mourning and with mindful tears, --
The pained, imperious wanderer unmated
Who voiced the wrath of those rebellious years;
Trelawney, lion-limbed and high of heart;
And he, that gentlest sage and friend most true,
Whom Adonais loved. With these bore part
One grieving ghost, that flew
Hither and thither through the smoke unstirred
In wailing semblance of a wild white bird.
O heart of fire, that fire might not consume,
Forever glad the world because of thee;
Because of thee forever eyes illume
A more enchanted earth, a lovelier sea!
O poignant voice of the desire of life,
Piercing our lethargy, because thy call
Aroused our spirits to a nobler strife
Where base and sordid fall,
Forever past the conflict and the pain
More clearly beams the goal we shall attain!
And now once more, O marshes, back to you
From whatsoever wanderings, near or far,
To you I turn with joy forever new,
To you, O sovereign vests of Tantramar!
Your tides are at the full. Your wizard flood,
With every tribute stream and brimming creek,
Ponders, possessor of the utmost good,
With no more left to seek, --
But the hour wanes and passes; and once more
Resounds the ebb with destiny in its roar.
So might some lord of men, whom force and fate
And his great heart's unvanquishable power
Have thrust with storm to his supreme estate,
Ascend by night his solitary tower
High o'er the city's lights and cries uplift.
Silent he ponders the scrolled heaven to read
And the keen stars' conflicting message sift,
Till the slow signs recede,
And ominously scarlet dawns afar
The day he leads his legions forth to war.