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Wide, from wave to wave rekindling in rebound through radiant air, Flash the fires unwoven and woven again of wind that works in play, Working wonders more than heart may note or sight may wellnigh dare, Wefts of rarer light than colors rain from heaven, though this be rare. Arch on arch unbuilt in building, reared and ruined ray by ray, Breaks and brightens, laughs and lessens, even till eyes may hardly bear Light that leaps and runs and revels through the springing flames of spray.
Year on year sheds light and music rolled and flashed from bay to bay Round the summer capes of time and winter headlands keen and bare Whence the soul keeps watch, and bids her vassal memory watch and pray, If perchance the dawn may quicken, or perchance the midnight spare. Silence quells not music, darkness takes not sunlight in her snare; Shall not joys endure that perish? Yea, saith dawn, though night say nay: Life on life goes out, but very life enkindles every where
Light that leaps and runs and revels through the springing flames of spray. Friend, were life no more than this is, well would yet the living fare. All aflower and all afire and all flung heavenward, who shall say
Such a flash of life were worthless? This is worth a world of careLight that leaps and runs and revels through the springing flames of spray. 1884.
ON THE VERGE
HERE begins the sea that ends not till the world's end. Where we stand, Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond these waves that gleam, We should know what never man hath known, nor eye of man hath scanned. Nought beyond these coiling clouds that melt like fume of shrines that steam Breaks or stays the strength of waters till they pass our bounds of dream. Where the waste Land's End leans westward, all the seas it watches roll Find their border fixed beyond them, and a worldwide shore's control: These whereby we stand, no shore beyond us limits: these are free.
Gazing hence, we see the water that grows iron round the Pole, From the shore that hath no shore beyond it set in all the sea.
Sail on sail along the sea-line fades and flashes here on land
Flash and fade the wheeling wings on
wings of mews that plunge and scream. Hour on hour along the line of life and time's evasive strand
Shines and darkens, wanes and waxes,
slays and dies: and scarce they seem More than motes that thronged and trembled in the brief noon's breath and beam.
Some with crying and wailing, some
with notes like sound of bells that toll, Some with sighing and laughing, some with words that blessed and made us whole,
Passed, and left us, and we know not
what they were, nor what were we. Would we know, being mortal? Never breath of answering whisper stole From the shore that hath no shore beyond it set in all the sea.
Shadows, would we question darkness? Ere our eyes and brows be fanned Round with airs of twilight, washed with dews from sleep's eternal stream, Would we know sleep's guarded secret ? Ere the fire consume the brand, Would it know if yet its ashes may requicken? yet we deem
Surely man may know, or ever night unyoke her starry team,
What the dawn shall be, or if the dawn shall be not: yea, the scroll Would we read of sleep's dark scripture, pledge of peace or doom of dole. Ah, but here man's heart leaps, yearning toward the gloom with venturous glee, Though his pilot eye behold nor bay nor harbor, rock nor shoal,
From the shore that hath no shore beyond it set in all the sea.
Friend, who knows if death indeed have life or life have death for goal? Day nor night can tell us, nor may seas declare nor skies unroll
What has been from everlasting, or if aught shall alway be.
Silence answering only strikes response reverberate on the soul
From the shore that hath no shore beyond it set in all the sea.
Not the dawn, ere yet the imprisoning night has half released her,
More desires the sun's full face of cheer, than we,
Well as yet we love the strength of the iron-tongued north-easter,
Yearn for wind to meet us as we front the sea.
All thy ways are good, O wind, and all the world should fester,
Were thy fourfold godhead quenched, or stilled thy strife:
Yet the waves and we desire too long the deep south-wester,
Whence the waters quicken shoreward, clothed with life.
Yet the field not made for ploughing save of keels nor harrowing Save of storm-winds lies unbrightened by thy breath:
Banded broad with ruddy samphire glow the sea-banks narrowing Westward, while the sea gleams chill and still as death.
Sharp and strange from inland sounds thy bitter note of battle,
Blown between grim skies and waters
Till the baffled seas bear back, rocks roar and shingles rattle,
Vexed and angered and anhungered and acold.
Change thy note, and give the waves their will, and all the measure, Full and perfect, of the music of their might,
Let it fill the bays with thunderous notes of pleasure,
Shake the shores with passion, sound at once and smite.
Sweet are even the mild low notes of wind and sea, but sweeter Sounds the song whose choral wrath of raging rhyme
Bids the shelving shoals keep tune with storm's imperious metre,
Bids the rocks and reefs respond in rapturous chime.
Sweet the lisp and lulling whisper and [the sun
Soft as love or sleep, of waves whereon Dreams, and dreams not of the darkling
hours before nor after,
Winged with cloud whose wrath shall bid love's day be done.
Yet shall darkness bring the awakening sea a lordlier lover,
Clothed with strength more amorous and more strenuous will,
Whence her heart of hearts shall kindle
and her soul recover
Sense of love too keen to lie for love's sake still.
Let thy strong south-western music sound, and bid the billows Brighten, proud and glad to feel thy Scourge and kiss
Sting and soothe and sway them, bowed as aspens bend or willows,
Yet resurgent still in breathless rage of bliss.
All to-day the slow sleek ripples hardly bear up shore-ward, Charged with sighs more light than laughter, faint and fair,
Like a woodland lake's weak wavelets lightly lingering forward, [air. Soft and listless as the slumber-stricken Be the sunshine bared or veiled, the sky superb or shrouded,
Still the waters, lax and languid, chafed and foiled,
Keen and thwarted, pale and patient, clothed with fire or clouded,
Vex their heart in vain, or sleep like serpents coiled.
Thee they look for, blind and baffled, wan with wrath and weary,
Blown for ever back by winds that rock the bird :
Winds that seamews breast subdue the
sea, and bid the dreary Waves be weak as hearts made sick with hope deferred.
Let thy clarion sound from westward, let the south bear token
How the glories of thy godhead sound and shine:
Bid the land rejoice to see the landwind's broad wings broken,
Bid the sea take comfort, bid the world be thine.
Half the world abhors thee beating back the sea, and blackening Heaven with fierce and woful change of fluctuant form:
All the world acclaims thee shifting sail again, and slackening
Cloud by cloud the close-reefed cordage of the storm.
Sweeter fields and brighter woods and lordlier hills than waken
Here at sunrise never hailed the sun and thee:
Turn thee then, and give them comfort, shed like rain and shaken
Far as foam that laughs and leaps along the sea.
IN TIME OF MOURNING
"RETURN," we dare not as we fain Would cry from hearts that yearn: Love dares not bid our dead again Return.
O hearts that strain and burn As fires fast fettered burn and strain ! Bow down, lie still, and learn.
The heart that healed all hearts of pain
Its echoes, while the stars remain,
A SEQUENCE OF SONNETS ON THE DEATH OF ROBERT BROWNING
THE clearest eyes in all the world they read
With sense more keen and spirit of sight more true
Than burns and thrills in sunrise, when the dew
Flames, and absorbs the glory round it
As they the light of ages quick and dead, Closed now, forsake us: yet the shaft that slew
Can slay not one of all the works we knew,
Nor death discrown that many-laurelled head.
The works of words whose life seems lightning wrought,
And moulded of unconquerable thought, And quickened with imperishable flame, Stand fast and shine and smile, assured that nought
May fade of all their myriad-moulded fame,
Nor England's memory clasp not Browning's name.
Death, what hast thou to do with one for whom
Time is not lord, but servant? What least part
Of all the fire that fed his living heart. Of all the light more keen than sundawn's bloom
That lit and led his spirit, strong as doom And bright as hope, can aught thy breath may dart
Quench? Nay, thou knowest he knew thee what thou art,
A shadow born of terror's barren womb,
But he to him, who knows what gift is thine,
Death? Hardly may we think or hope when we
Pass likewise thither where to-night is he,
Beyond the irremeable outer seas that shine
And darken round such dreams as half divine
Some sunlit harbor in that starless sea Where gleams no ship to windward or to lee,
To read with him the secret of thy shrine. There too, as here, may song, delight, and love,
The nightingale, the sea-bird, and the dove,
Fuit with joy the splendor of the sky Till all beneath wax bright as all above: But none of all that search the heavens,
No serpent sleeping in some dead soul's tomb,
No song-bird singing from some live soul's height,
But he might hear, interpret, or illume With sense invasive as the dawn of doom.
What secret thing of splendor or of shade
Surmised in all those wandering ways wherein
Man, led of love and life and death and sin,
Strays, climbs, or cowers, allured, absorbed, afraid,
Might not the strong and sunlike sense invade
Of that full soul that had for aim to win Light, silent over time's dark toil and
Life, at whose touch death fades as dead things fade?
O spirit of man, what mystery moves in thee
That he might know not of in spirit, and
The heart within the heart that seems to strive,
The life within the life that seems to be, And hear through all thy storms that whirl and drive.
The living sound of all men's souls alive?