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Poems by William Ernest Henley by William Ernest Henley

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As once he flamed it on his ocean round.
The dingy dreariness of the picture-place,
Turned very nearly bright,
Takes on a luminous transiency of grace,
And shows no more a scandal to the ground.
The very blind man pottering on the kerb,
Among the posies and the ostrich feathers
And the rude voices touched with all the weathers
Of the long, varying year,
Shares in the universal alms of light.
The windows, with their fleeting, flickering fires,
The height and spread of frontage shining sheer,
The quiring signs, the rejoicing roofs and spires -
'Tis El Dorado--El Dorado plain,
The Golden City! And when a girl goes by,
Look! as she turns her glancing head,
A call of gold is floated from her ear!
Golden, all golden! In a golden glory,
Long-lapsing down a golden coasted sky,
The day, not dies but, seems
Dispersed in wafts and drifts of gold, and shed
Upon a past of golden song and story
And memories of gold and golden dreams.


Out of the poisonous East,
Over a continent of blight,
Like a maleficent Influence released
From the most squalid cellarage of hell,
The Wind-Fiend, the abominable -
The Hangman Wind that tortures temper and light -
Comes slouching, sullen and obscene,
Hard on the skirts of the embittered night;
And in a cloud unclean
Of excremental humours, roused to strife
By the operation of some ruinous change,
Wherever his evil mandate run and range,
Into a dire intensity of life,
A craftsman at his bench, he settles down
To the grim job of throttling London Town.

So, by a jealous lightlessness beset
That might have oppressed the dragons of old time
Crunching and groping in the abysmal slime,
A cave of cut-throat thoughts and villainous dreams,
Hag-rid and crying with cold and dirt and wet,
The afflicted City, prone from mark to mark
In shameful occultation, seems
A nightmare labyrinthine, dim and drifting,
With wavering gulfs and antic heights, and shifting,
Rent in the stuff of a material dark,
Wherein the lamplight, scattered and sick and pale,
Shows like the leper's living blotch of bale:
Uncoiling monstrous into street on street
Paven with perils, teeming with mischance,
Where man and beast go blindfold and in dread,
Working with oaths and threats and faltering feet
Somewhither in the hideousness ahead;
Working through wicked airs and deadly dews
That make the laden robber grin askance
At the good places in his black romance,
And the poor, loitering harlot rather choose
Go pinched and pined to bed
Than lurk and shiver and curse her wretched way
From arch to arch, scouting some threepenny prey.

Forgot his dawns and far-flushed afterglows,
His green garlands and windy eyots forgot,
The old Father-River flows,
His watchfires cores of menace in the gloom,
As he came oozing from the Pit, and bore,
Sunk in his filthily transfigured sides,
Shoals of dishonoured dead to tumble and rot
In the squalor of the universal shore:
His voices sounding through the gruesome air
As from the Ferry where the Boat of Doom
With her blaspheming cargo reels and rides:
The while his children, the brave ships,
No more adventurous and fair,
Nor tripping it light of heel as home-bound brides,
But infamously enchanted,
Huddle together in the foul eclipse,
Or feel their course by inches desperately,
As through a tangle of alleys murder-haunted,
From sinister reach to reach out--out--to sea.

And Death the while -
Death with his well-worn, lean, professional smile,
Death in his threadbare working trim -
Comes to your bedside, unannounced and bland,
And with expert, inevitable hand
Feels at your windpipe, fingers you in the lung,
Or flicks the clot well into the labouring heart:
Thus signifying unto old and young,
However hard of mouth or wild of whim,
'Tis time--'tis time by his ancient watch--to part
From books and women and talk and drink and art.
And you go humbly after him
To a mean suburban lodging: on the way
To what or where
Not Death, who is old and very wise, can say:
And you--how should you care
So long as, unreclaimed of hell,
The Wind-Fiend, the insufferable,
Thus vicious and thus patient, sits him down
To the black job of burking London Town?


Spring winds that blow
As over leagues of myrtle-blooms and may;
Bevies of spring clouds trooping slow,
Like matrons heavy bosomed and aglow
With the mild and placid pride of increase! Nay,
What makes this insolent and comely stream
Of appetence, this freshet of desire
(Milk from the wild breasts of the wilful Day!),
Down Piccadilly dance and murmur and gleam
In genial wave on wave and gyre on gyre?
Why does that nymph unparalleled splash and churn
The wealth of her enchanted urn
Till, over-billowing all between
Her cheerful margents, grey and living green,
It floats and wanders, glittering and fleeing,
An estuary of the joy of being?
Why should the lovely leafage of the Park
Touch to an ecstasy the act of seeing?
- Sure, sure my paramour, my Bride of Brides,
Lingering and flushed, mysteriously abides
In some dim, eye-proof angle of odorous dark,
Some smiling nook of green-and-golden shade,
In the divine conviction robed and crowned
The globe fulfils his immemorial round
But as the marrying-place of all things made!

There is no man, this deifying day,
But feels the primal blessing in his blood.
There is no woman but disdains -
The sacred impulse of the May
Brightening like sex made sunshine through her veins -
To vail the ensigns of her womanhood.
None but, rejoicing, flaunts them as she goes,
Bounteous in looks of her delicious best,
On her inviolable quest:
These with their hopes, with their sweet secrets those,
But all desirable and frankly fair,
As each were keeping some most prosperous tryst,
And in the knowledge went imparadised!
For look! a magical influence everywhere,
Look how the liberal and transfiguring air
Washes this inn of memorable meetings,
This centre of ravishments and gracious greetings,
Till, through its jocund loveliness of length
A tidal-race of lust from shore to shore,
A brimming reach of beauty met with strength,
It shines and sounds like some miraculous dream,
Some vision multitudinous and agleam,
Of happiness as it shall be evermore!

Praise God for giving
Through this His messenger among the days
His word the life He gave is thrice-worth living!
For Pan, the bountiful, imperious Pan -
Not dead, not dead, as impotent dreamers feigned,
But the gay genius of a million Mays
Renewing his beneficent endeavour! -
Still reigns and triumphs, as he hath triumphed and reigned
Since in the dim blue dawn of time
The universal ebb-and-flow began,
To sound his ancient music, and prevails,
By the persuasion of his mighty rhyme,
Here in this radiant and immortal street
Lavishly and omnipotently as ever
In the open hills, the undissembling dales,
The laughing-places of the juvenile earth.
For lo! the wills of man and woman meet,
Meet and are moved, each unto each endeared,
As once in Eden's prodigal bowers befell,
To share his shameless, elemental mirth
In one great act of faith: while deep and strong,
Incomparably nerved and cheered,
The enormous heart of London joys to beat
To the measures of his rough, majestic song;
The lewd, perennial, overmastering spell
That keeps the rolling universe ensphered,
And life, and all for which life lives to long,
Wanton and wondrous and for ever well.



Something is dead . . .
The grace of sunset solitudes, the march
Of the solitary moon, the pomp and power
Of round on round of shining soldier-stars
Patrolling space, the bounties of the sun -
Sovran, tremendous, unimaginable -
The multitudinous friendliness of the sea,
Possess no more--no more.

Something is dead . . .
The Autumn rain-rot deeper and wider soaks
And spreads, the burden of Winter heavier weighs,
His melancholy close and closer yet
Cleaves, and those incantations of the Spring
That made the heart a centre of miracles
Grow formal, and the wonder-working bours
Arise no more--no more.

Something is dead . . .
'Tis time to creep in close about the fire
And tell grey tales of what we were, and dream
Old dreams and faded, and as we may rejoice
In the young life that round us leaps and laughs,
A fountain in the sunshine, in the pride
Of God's best gift that to us twain returns,
Dear Heart, no more--no more.


Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade
On desolate sea and lonely sand,
Out of the silence and the shade
What is the voice of strange command
Calling you still, as friend calls friend
With love that cannot brook delay,
To rise and follow the ways that wend
Over the hills and far away?

Hark in the city, street on street
A roaring reach of death and life,
Of vortices that clash and fleet
And ruin in appointed strife,
Hark to it calling, calling clear,
Calling until you cannot stay
From dearer things than your own most dear
Over the hills and far away.

Out of the sound of the ebb-and-flow,
Out of the sight of lamp and star,
It calls you where the good winds blow,
And the unchanging meadows are:
From faded hopes and hopes agleam,
It calls you, calls you night and day
Beyond the dark into the dream
Over the hills and far away

II--To R. F. B.

We are the Choice of the Will: God, when He gave the word
That called us into line, set in our hand a sword;

Set us a sword to wield none else could lift and draw,
And bade us forth to the sound of the trumpet of the Law.

East and west and north, wherever the battle grew,
As men to a feast we fared, the work of the Will to do.

Bent upon vast beginnings, bidding anarchy cease -
(Had we hacked it to the Pit, we had left it a place of peace!) -

Marching, building, sailing, pillar of cloud or fire,
Sons of the Will, we fought the fight of the Will, our sire.

Road was never so rough that we left its purpose dark;
Stark was ever the sea, but our ships were yet more stark;

We tracked the winds of the world to the steps of their very
The secret parts of the world were salted with our bones;

Till now the name of names, England, the name of might,
Flames from the austral fires to the bounds of the boreal night;

And the call of her morning drum goes in a girdle of sound,
Like the voice of the sun in song, the great globe round and round;

And the shadow of her flag, when it shouts to the mother-breeze,
Floats from shore to shore of the universal seas;

And the loneliest death is fair with a memory of her flowers,
And the end of the road to Hell with the sense of her dews and

Who says that we shall pass, or the fame of us fade and die,
While the living stars fulfil their round in the living sky?

For the sire lives in his sons, and they pay their father's debt,
And the Lion has left a whelp wherever his claw was set;

And the Lion in his whelps, his whelps that none shall brave,
Is but less strong than Time and the great, all-whelming Grave.


A desolate shore,
The sinister seduction of the Moon,
The menace of the irreclaimable Sea.

Flaunting, tawdry and grim,
From cloud to cloud along her beat,
Leering her battered and inveterate leer,
She signals where he prowls in the dark alone,
Her horrible old man,
Mumbling old oaths and warming
His villainous old bones with villainous talk -
The secrets of their grisly housekeeping
Since they went out upon the pad
In the first twilight of self-conscious Time:
Growling, hideous and hoarse,
Tales of unnumbered Ships,
Goodly and strong, Companions of the Advance,
In some vile alley of the night
Waylaid and bludgeoned -

Deep cellared in primeval ooze,
Ruined, dishonoured, spoiled,
They lie where the lean water-worm
Crawls free of their secrets, and their broken sides
Bulge with the slime of life. Thus they abide,
Thus fouled and desecrate,
The summons of the Trumpet, and the while
These Twain, their murderers,
Unravined, imperturbable, unsubdued,
Hang at the heels of their children--She aloft
As in the shining streets,
He as in ambush at some accomplice door.

The stalwart Ships,
The beautiful and bold adventurers!
Stationed out yonder in the isle,
The tall Policeman,
Flashing his bull's-eye, as he peers
About him in the ancient vacancy,
Tells them this way is safety--this way home.


It came with the threat of a waning moon
And the wail of an ebbing tide,
But many a woman has lived for less,
And many a man has died;
For life upon life took hold and passed,
Strong in a fate set free,
Out of the deep into the dark
On for the years to be.

Between the gloom of a waning moon
And the song of an ebbing tide,
Chance upon chance of love and death
Took wing for the world so wide.
O, leaf out of leaf is the way of the land,
Wave out of wave of the sea
And who shall reckon what lives may live
In the life that we bade to be?


Why, my heart, do we love her so?
(Geraldine, Geraldine!)
Why does the great sea ebb and flow? -
Why does the round world spin?
Geraldine, Geraldine,
Bid me my life renew:
What is it worth unless I win,
Love--love and you?

Why, my heart, when we speak her name
(Geraldine, Geraldine!)
Throbs the word like a flinging flame? -
Why does the Spring begin?
Geraldine, Geraldine,
Bid me indeed to be:
Open your heart, and take us in,
Love--love and me.


One with the ruined sunset,
The strange forsaken sands,
What is it waits, and wanders,
And signs with desparate hands?

What is it calls in the twilight -
Calls as its chance were vain?
The cry of a gull sent seaward
Or the voice of an ancient pain?

The red ghost of the sunset,
It walks them as its own,
These dreary and desolate reaches . . .
But O, that it walked alone!


There's a regret
So grinding, so immitigably sad,
Remorse thereby feels tolerant, even glad . . .
Do you not know it yet?

For deeds undone
Rankle and snarl and hunger for their due,
Till there seems naught so despicable as you
In all the grin o' the sun.

Like an old shoe
The sea spurns and the land abhors, you lie
About the beach of Time, till by and by
Death, that derides you too -

Death, as he goes
His ragman's round, espies you, where you stray,
With half-an-eye, and kicks you out of his way;
And then--and then, who knows

But the kind Grave
Turns on you, and you feel the convict Worm,
In that black bridewell working out his term,
Hanker and grope and crave?

'Poor fool that might -
That might, yet would not, dared not, let this be,
Think of it, here and thus made over to me
In the implacable night!'

And writhing, fain
And like a triumphing lover, he shall take
His fill where no high memory lives to make
His obscene victory vain.

VIII--To A. J. H.

Time and the Earth -
The old Father and Mother -
Their teeming accomplished,
Their purpose fulfilled,
Close with a smile
For a moment of kindness,
Ere for the winter
They settle to sleep.

Failing yet gracious,
Slow pacing, soon homing,
A patriarch that strolls
Through the tents of his children,
The Sun, as he journeys
His round on the lower
Ascents of the blue,
Washes the roofs
And the hillsides with clarity;
Charms the dark pools
Till they break into pictures;
Scatters magnificent
Alms to the beggar trees;
Touches the mist-folk,
That crowd to his escort,
Into translucencies
Radiant and ravishing:
As with the visible
Spirit of Summer
Gloriously vaporised,
Visioned in gold!

Love, though the fallen leaf
Mark, and the fleeting light
And the loud, loitering
Footfall of darkness
Sign to the heart
Of the passage of destiny,
Here is the ghost
Of a summer that lived for us,
Here is a promise
Of summers to be.


'As like the Woman as you can' -
(Thus the New Adam was beguiled) -
'So shall you touch the Perfect Man' -
(God in the Garden heard and smiled).
'Your father perished with his day:
'A clot of passions fierce and blind,
'He fought, he hacked, he crushed his way:
'Your muscles, Child, must be of mind.

'The Brute that lurks and irks within,
'How, till you have him gagged and bound,
'Escape the foullest form of Sin?'
(God in the Garden laughed and frowned).
'So vile, so rank, the bestial mood
'In which the race is bid to be,
'It wrecks the Rarer Womanhood:
'Live, therefore, you, for Purity!

'Take for your mate no gallant croup,
'No girl all grace and natural will:
'To work her mission were to stoop,
'Maybe to lapse, from Well to Ill.
'Choose one of whom your grosser make' -
(God in the Garden laughed outright) -
'The true refining touch may take,
'Till both attain to Life's last height.

'There, equal, purged of soul and sense.
'Beneficent, high-thinking, just,
'Beyond the appeal of Violence,
'Incapable of common Lust,
'In mental Marriage still prevail' -
(God in the Garden hid His face) -
'Till you achieve that Female-Male
'In Which shall culminate the race.'


Midsummer midnight skies,
Midsummer midnight influences and airs,
The shining, sensitive silver of the sea
Touched with the strange-hued blazonings of dawn;
And all so solemnly still I seem to hear
The breathing of Life and Death,
The secular Accomplices,
Renewing the visible miracle of the world.

The wistful stars
Shine like good memories. The young morning wind
Blows full of unforgotten hours
As over a region of roses. Life and Death
Sound on--sound on . . . And the night magical,
Troubled yet comforting, thrills
As if the Enchanted Castle at the heart
Of the wood's dark wonderment
Swung wide his valves, and filled the dim sea-banks
With exquisite visitants:
Words fiery-hearted yet, dreams and desires
With living looks intolerable, regrets
Whose voice comes as the voice of an only child
Heard from the grave: shapes of a Might-Have-Been -
Beautiful, miserable, distraught -
The Law no man may baffle denied and slew.

The spell-bound ships stand as at gaze
To let the marvel by. The grey road glooms . . .
Glimmers . . . goes out . . . and there, O, there where it fades,
What grace, what glamour, what wild will,
Transfigure the shadows? Whose,
Heart of my heart, Soul of my soul, but yours?

Ghosts--ghosts--the sapphirine air
Teems with them even to the gleaming ends
Of the wild day-spring! Ghosts,
Everywhere--everywhere--till I and you
At last--dear love, at last! -
Are in the dreaming, even as Life and Death,
Twin-ministers of the unoriginal Will.


Gulls in an aery morrice
Gleam and vanish and gleam . . .
The full sea, sleepily basking,
Dreams under skies of dream.

Gulls in an aery morrice
Circle and swoop and close . . .
Fuller and ever fuller
The rose of the morning blows.

Gulls, in an aery morrice
Frolicking, float and fade . . .
O, the way of a bird in the sunshine,
The way of a man with a maid!


Some starlit garden grey with dew,
Some chamber flushed with wine and fire,
What matters where, so I and you
Are worthy our desire?

Behind, a past that scolds and jeers
For ungirt loins and lamps unlit;
In front, the unmanageable years,
The trap upon the Pit;

Think on the shame of dreams for deeds,
The scandal of unnatural strife,
The slur upon immortal needs,
The treason done to life:

Arise! no more a living lie,
And with me quicken and control
Some memory that shall magnify
The universal Soul.

XIII--To James McNeill Whistler

Under a stagnant sky,
Gloom out of gloom uncoiling into gloom,
The River, jaded and forlorn,
Welters and wanders wearily--wretchedly--on;
Yet in and out among the ribs
Of the old skeleton bridge, as in the piles
Of some dead lake-built city, full of skulls,
Worm-worn, rat-riddled, mouldy with memories,
Lingers to babble to a broken tune
(Once, O, the unvoiced music of my heart!)
So melancholy a soliloquy
It sounds as it might tell
The secret of the unending grief-in-grain,
The terror of Time and Change and Death,
That wastes this floating, transitory world.

What of the incantation
That forced the huddled shapes on yonder shore
To take and wear the night
Like a material majesty?
That touched the shafts of wavering fire
About this miserable welter and wash -
(River, O River of Journeys, River of Dreams!) -
Into long, shining signals from the panes
Of an enchanted pleasure-house,
Where life and life might live life lost in life
For ever and evermore?

O Death! O Change! O Time!
Without you, O, the insuperable eyes
Of these poor Might-Have-Beens,
These fatuous, ineffectual Yesterdays!

XIV--To J. A. C.

Fresh from his fastnesses
Wholesome and spacious,
The North Wind, the mad huntsman,
Halloas on his white hounds
Over the grey, roaring
Reaches and ridges,
The forest of ocean,
The chace of the world.
Hark to the peal
Of the pack in full cry,
As he thongs them before him,
Swarming voluminous,
Weltering, wide-wallowing,
Till in a ruining
Chaos of energy,
Hurled on their quarry,
They crash into foam!

Old Indefatigable,
Time's right-hand man, the sea
Laughs as in joy
From his millions of wrinkles:
Laughs that his destiny,
Great with the greatness
Of triumphing order,
Shows as a dwarf
By the strength of his heart
And the might of his hands.

Master of masters,
O maker of heroes,
Thunder the brave,
Irresistible message:-
'Life is worth Living
Through every grain of it,
From the foundations
To the last edge
Of the cornerstone, death.'


You played and sang a snatch of song,
A song that all-too well we knew;
But whither had flown the ancient wrong;
And was it really I and you?
O, since the end of life's to live
And pay in pence the common debt,
What should it cost us to forgive
Whose daily task is to forget?

You babbled in the well-known voice -
Not new, not new the words you said.
You touched me off that famous poise,
That old effect, of neck and head.
Dear, was it really you and I?
In truth the riddle's ill to read,
So many are the deaths we die
Before we can be dead indeed.


Space and dread and the dark -
Over a livid stretch of sky
Cloud-monsters crawling, like a funeral train
Of huge, primeval presences
Stooping beneath the weight
Of some enormous, rudimentary grief;
While in the haunting loneliness
The far sea waits and wanders with a sound
As of the trailing skirts of Destiny,
Passing unseen
To some immitigable end
With her grey henchman, Death.

What larve, what spectre is this
Thrilling the wilderness to life
As with the bodily shape of Fear?
What but a desperate sense,
A strong foreboding of those dim
Interminable continents, forlorn
And many-silenced, in a dusk
Inviolable utterly, and dead
As the poor dead it huddles and swarms and styes
In hugger-mugger through eternity?

Life--life--let there be life!
Better a thousand times the roaring hours
When wave and wind,
Like the Arch-Murderer in flight
From the Avenger at his heel,
Storm through the desolate fastnesses
And wild waste places of the world!

Life--give me life until the end,
That at the very top of being,
The battle-spirit shouting in my blood,
Out of the reddest hell of the fight
I may be snatched and flung
Into the everlasting lull,
The immortal, incommunicable dream.


Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Crook
And the rope of the Black Election,
'Tis the faith of the Fool that a race you rule
Can never achieve perfection:
So 'It's O, for the time of the new Sublime
And the better than human way,
When the Rat (poor beast) shall come to his own
And the Wolf shall have his day!'

For Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Beam
And the power of provocation,
You have cockered the Brute with your dreadful fruit
Till your fruit is mere stupration:
And 'It's how should we rise to be pure and wise,
And how can we choose but fall,
So long as the Hangman makes us dread,
And the Noose floats free for all?'

So Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Coign
And the trick there's no recalling,
They will haggle and hew till they hack you through
And at last they lay you sprawling:
When 'Hey! for the hour of the race in flower
And the long good-bye to sin!'
And for the lack the fires of Hell gone out
Of the fuel to keep them in!'

But Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Bough
And the ghastly Dreams that tend you,
Your growth began with the life of Man,
And only his death can end you.
They may tug in line at your hempen twine,
They may flourish with axe and saw;
But your taproot drinks of the Sacred Springs
In the living rock of Law.

And Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Fork,
When the spent sun reels and blunders
Down a welkin lit with the flare of the Pit
As it seethes in spate and thunders,
Stern on the glare of the tortured air
Your lines august shall gloom,
And your master-beam be the last thing whelmed
In the ruining roar of Doom.


When you wake in your crib,
You, an inch of experience -
Vaulted about
With the wonder of darkness;
Wailing and striving
To reach from your feebleness
Something you feel
Will be good to and cherish you,
Something you know
And can rest upon blindly:
O, then a hand
(Your mother's, your mother's!)
By the fall of its fingers
All knowledge, all power to you,
Out of the dreary,
Discouraging strangenesses
Comes to and masters you,
Takes you, and lovingly
Woos you and soothes you
Back, as you cling to it,
Back to some comforting
Corner of sleep.

So you wake in your bed,
Having lived, having loved;
But the shadows are there,
And the world and its kingdoms
Incredibly faded;
And you group through the Terror
Above you and under
For the light, for the warmth,
The assurance of life;
But the blasts are ice-born,
And your heart is nigh burst
With the weight of the gloom
And the stress of your strangled
And desperate endeavour:
Sudden a hand -
Mother, O Mother! -
God at His best to you,
Out of the roaring,
Impossible silences,
Falls on and urges you,
Mightily, tenderly,
Forth, as you clutch at it,
Forth to the infinite
Peace of the Grave.

October 1891

XIX--I. M.--R. L. S. (1850-1894)

O, Time and Change, they range and range
From sunshine round to thunder! -
They glance and go as the great winds blow,
And the best of our dreams drive under:
For Time and Change estrange, estrange -
And, now they have looked and seen us,
O, we that were dear, we are all-too near
With the thick of the world between us.

O, Death and Time, they chime and chime
Like bells at sunset falling! -
They end the song, they right the wrong,
They set the old echoes calling:
For Death and Time bring on the prime
Of God's own chosen weather,
And we lie in the peace of the Great Release
As once in the grass together.

February 1891


The shadow of Dawn;
Stillness and stars and over-mastering dreams
Of Life and Death and Sleep;
Heard over gleaming flats, the old, unchanging sound
Of the old, unchanging Sea.

My soul and yours -
O, hand in hand let us fare forth, two ghosts,
Into the ghostliness,
The infinite and abounding solitudes,
Beyond--O, beyond!--beyond . . .

Here in the porch
Upon the multitudinous silences
Of the kingdoms of the grave,
We twain are you and I--two ghosts Omnipotence
Can touch no more . . . no more!


When the wind storms by with a shout, and the stern sea-caves
Rejoice in the tramp and the roar of onsetting waves,
Then, then, it comes home to the heart that the top of life
Is the passion that burns the blood in the act of strife -
Till you pity the dead down there in their quiet graves.

But to drowse with the fen behind and the fog before,
When the rain-rot spreads and a tame sea mumbles the shore,
Not to adventure, none to fight, no right and no wrong,
Sons of the Sword heart-sick for a stave of your sire's old song -
O, you envy the blessed death that can live no more!


Trees and the menace of night;
Then a long, lonely, leaden mere
Backed by a desolate fell,
As by a spectral battlement; and then,
Low-brooding, interpenetrating all,
A vast, gray, listless, inexpressive sky,
So beggared, so incredibly bereft
Of starlight and the song of racing worlds,
It might have bellied down upon the Void
Where as in terror Light was beginning to be.

Hist! In the trees fulfilled of night
(Night and the wretchedness of the sky)
Is it the hurry of the rain?
Or the noise of a drive of the Dead,
Streaming before the irresistible Will
Through the strange dusk of this, the Debateable Land
Between their place and ours?

Like the forgetfulness
Of the work-a-day world made visible,
A mist falls from the melancholy sky.
A messenger from some lost and loving soul,
Hopeless, far wandered, dazed
Here in the provinces of life,
A great white moth fades miserably past.

Thro' the trees in the strange dead night,
Under the vast dead sky,
Forgetting and forgot, a drift of Dead
Sets to the mystic mere, the phantom fell,
And the unimagined vastitudes beyond.

XXIII--To P. A. G.

Here they trysted, here they strayed,
In the leafage dewy and boon,
Many a man and many a maid,
And the morn was merry June.
'Death is fleet, Life is sweet,'
Sang the blackbird in the may;
And the hour with flying feet,
While they dreamed, was yesterday.

Many a maid and many a man
Found the leafage close and boon;
Many a destiny began -
O, the morn was merry June!
Dead and gone, dead and gone,
(Hark the blackbird in the may!),
Life and Death went hurrying on,
Cheek on cheek--and where were they?

Dust on dust engendering dust
In the leafage fresh and boon,
Man and maid fulfil their trust -
Still the morn turns merry June.
Mother Life, Father Death
(O, the blackbird in the may!),
Each the other's breath for breath,
Fleet the times of the world away.

XXIV--To A. C.

Not to the staring Day,
For all the importunate questionings he pursues
In his big, violent voice,
Shall those mild things of bulk and multitude,
The Trees--God's sentinels
Over His gift of live, life-giving air,
Yield of their huge, unutterable selves.
Midsummer-manifold, each one
Voluminous, a labyrinth of life,
They keep their greenest musings, and the dim dreams
That haunt their leafier privacies,
Dissembled, baffling the random gapeseed still
With blank full-faces, or the innocent guile
Of laughter flickering back from shine to shade,
And disappearances of homing birds,
And frolicsome freaks
Of little boughs that frisk with little boughs.

But at the word
Of the ancient, sacerdotal Night,
Night of the many secrets, whose effect -
Transfiguring, hierophantic, dread -
Themselves alone may fully apprehend,
They tremble and are changed.
In each, the uncouth individual soul
Looms forth and glooms
Essential, and, their bodily presences
Touched with inordinate significance,
Wearing the darkness like the livery
Of some mysterious and tremendous guild,
They brood--they menace--they appal;
Or the anguish of prophecy tears them, and they wring
Wild hands of warning in the face
Of some inevitable advance of the doom;
Or, each to the other bending, beckoning, signing
As in some monstrous market-place,
They pass the news, these Gossips of the Prime,
In that old speech their forefathers
Learned on the lawns of Eden, ere they heard
The troubled voice of Eve
Naming the wondering folk of Paradise.

Your sense is sealed, or you should hear them tell
The tale of their dim life, with all
Its compost of experience: how the Sun
Spreads them their daily feast,
Sumptuous, of light, firing them as with wine;
Of the old Moon's fitful solicitude
And those mild messages the Stars
Descend in silver silences and dews;
Or what the sweet-breathing West,
Wanton with wading in the swirl of the wheat,
Said, and their leafage laughed;
And how the wet-winged Angel of the Rain
Came whispering . . . whispering; and the gifts of the Year -
The sting of the stirring sap
Under the wizardry of the young-eyed Spring,
Their summer amplitudes of pomp,
Their rich autumnal melancholy, and the shrill,
Embittered housewifery
Of the lean Winter: all such things,
And with them all the goodness of the Master,
Whose right hand blesses with increase and life,
Whose left hand honours with decay and death.

Thus under the constraint of Night
These gross and simple creatures,
Each in his scores of rings, which rings are years,
A servant of the Will!
And God, the Craftsman, as He walks
The floor of His workshop, hearkens, full of cheer
In thus accomplishing
The aims of His miraculous artistry.


What have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?
With your glorious eyes austere,
As the Lord were walking near,
Whispering terrible things and dear
As the Song on your bugles blown,
England -
Round the world on your bugles blown!

Where shall the watchful Sun,
England, my England,
Match the master-work you've done,
England, my own?
When shall he rejoice agen
Such a breed of mighty men
As come forward, one to ten,
To the Song on your bugles blown,
England -
Down the years on your bugles blown?

Ever the faith endures,
England, my England:-
'Take and break us: we are yours,
'England, my own!
'Life is good, and joy runs high
'Between English earth and sky:
'Death is death; but we shall die
'To the Song on your bugles blown,
'England -
'To the stars on your bugles blown!

They call you proud and hard,
England, my England:
You with worlds to watch and ward,
England, my own!
You whose mailed hand keeps the keys
Of such teeming destinies
You could know nor dread nor ease
Were the Song on your bugles blown,
Round the Pit on your bugles blown!

Mother of Ships whose might,
England, my England,
Is the fierce old Sea's delight,
England, my own,
Chosen daughter of the Lord,
Spouse-in-Chief of the ancient sword,
There's the menace of the Word
In the Song on your bugles blown,
England -
Out of heaven on your bugles blown!


These, to you now, O, more than ever now -
Now that the Ancient Enemy
Has passed, and we, we two that are one, have seen
A piece of perfect Life
Turn to so ravishing a shape of Death
The Arch-Discomforter might well have smiled
In pity and pride,
Even as he bore his lovely and innocent spoil
From those home-kingdoms he left desolate!

Poor windlestraws
On the great, sullen, roaring pool of Time
And Chance and Change, I know!
But they are yours, as I am, till we attain
That end for which me make, we two that are one:
A little, exquisite Ghost
Between us, smiling with the serenest eyes
Seen in this world, and calling, calling still
In that clear voice whose infinite subtleties
Of sweetness, thrilling back across the grave,
Break the poor heart to hear: -
'Come, Dadsie, come!
Mama, how long--how long!'

July 1897.

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