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That phantom now
Slides with slack canvas and unwhispering prow
Through the dark sea that this dark room has made.

Or the night of the closed eyes will turn to day,
And all day's colours start out of the gray.
The sun burns on the water. The tall hills
Push up their shady groves into the sky,
And fail and cease where the intense light spills
Its parching torrent on the gaunt and dry
Rock of the further mountains, whence the snow
That softened their harsh edges long is gone,
And nothing tempers now
The hot flood falling on the barren stone.

O memory, take and keep
All that my eyes, your servants, bring you home--
Those other days beneath the low white dome
Of smooth-spread clouds that creep
As slow and soft as sleep,
When shade grows pale and the cypress stands upright,
Distinct in the cool light,
Rigid and solid as a dark hewn stone;
And many another night,
That melts in darkness on the narrow quays,
And changes every colour and every tone,
And soothes the waters to a softer ease,
When under constellations coldly bright
The homeward sailors sing their way to bed
On ships that motionless in harbour float.
The circling harbour-lights flash green and red;
And, out beyond, a steady travelling boat,
Breaking the swell with slow industrious oars,
At each stroke pours
Pale lighted water from the lifted blade.
Now in the painted houses all around
Slow-darkening windows call
The empty unwatched middle of the night.
The tide's few inches rise without a sound.
On the black promontory's windless head,
The last awake, the fireflies rise and fall
And tangle up their dithering skeins of light.

O memory, take and keep
All that my eyes, your servants, bring you home!
Thick through the changing year
The unexpected, rich-charged moments come,
That you twixt wake and sleep
In the lids of the closed eyes shall make appear.

This is life's certain good,
Though in the end it be not good at all
When the dark end arises,
And the stripped, startled spirit must let fall
The amulets that could
Prevail with life's but not death's sad devices.

Then, like a child from whom an older child
Forces its gathered treasures,
Its beads and shells and strings of withered flowers,
Tokens of recent pleasures,
The soul must lose in eyes weeping and wild
Those prints of vanished hours.



WOMAN'S SONG

No more upon my bosom rest thee,
Too often have my hands caressed thee,
My lips thou knowest well, too well;
Lean to my heart no more thine ear
My spirit's living truth to hear
--It has no more to tell.

In what dark night, in what strange night,
Burnt to the butt the candle's light
That lit our room so long?
I do not know, I thought I knew
How love could be both sweet and true:
I also thought it strong.

Where has the flame departed? Where,
Amid the empty waste of air,
Is that which dwelt with us?
Was it a fancy? Did we make
Only a show for dead love's sake,
It being so piteous?

No more against my bosom press thee,
Seek no more that my hands caress thee,
Leave the sad lips thou hast known so well;
If to my heart thou lean thine ear,
There grieving thou shalt only hear
Vain murmuring of an empty shell.



THE WIND

Blow harder, wind, and drive
My blood from hands and face back to the heart.
Cry over ridges and down tapering coombs,
Carry the flying dapple of the clouds
Over the grass, over the soft-grained plough,
Stroke with ungentle hand the hill's rough hair
Against its usual set.
Snatch at the reins in my dead hands and push me
Out of my saddle, blow my labouring pony
Across the track. You only drive my blood
Nearer the heart from face and hands, and plant there,
Slowly burning, unseen, but alive and wonderful,
A numb, confusèd joy!
This little world's in tumult. Far away
The dim waves rise and wrestle with each other
And fall down headlong on the beach. And here
Quick gusts fly up the funnels of the valleys
And meet their raging fellows on the hill-tops,
And we are in the midst.
This beating heart, enriched with the hands' blood,
Stands in the midst and feels the warm joy burn
In solitude and silence, while all about
The gusts clamour like living, angry birds,
And the gorse seems hardly tethered to the ground.
Blow louder, wind, about
My square-set house, rattle the windows, lift
The trap-door to the loft above my head
And let it fall, clapping. Yell in the trees,
And throw a rotted elm-branch to the ground,
Flog the dry trailers of my climbing rose--
Make deep, O wind, my rest!



A LONELY PLACE

The leafless trees, the untidy stack
Last rainy summer raised in haste,
Watch the sky turn from fair to black
And watch the river fill and waste;

But never a footstep comes to trouble
The sea-gulls in the new-sown corn,
Or pigeons rising from late stubble
And flashing lighter as they turn.

Or if a footstep comes, 'tis mine
Sharp on the road or soft on grass:
Silence divides along my line
And shuts behind me as I pass.

No other comes, no labourer
To cut his shaggy truss of hay,
Along the road no traveller,
Day after day, day after day.

And even I, when I come here,
Move softly on, subdued and still,
Lonely as death, though I can hear
Men shouting on the other hill.

Day after day, though no one sees,
The lonely place no different seems;
The trees, the stack, still images
Constant in who can say whose dreams?





* * * * *





J.C. SQUIRE



ELEGY

I vaguely wondered what you were about,
But never wrote when you had gone away;
Assumed you better, quenched the uneasy doubt
You might need faces, or have things to say.
Did I think of you last evening? Dead you lay.
O bitter words of conscience!
I hold the simple message,
And fierce with grief the awakened heart cries out:
'It shall not be to-day;

It is still yesterday; there is time yet!'
Sorrow would strive backward to wrench the sun,
But the sun moves. Our onward course is set,
The wake streams out, the engine pulses run
Droning, a lonelier voyage is begun.
It is all too late for turning,
You are past all mortal signal,
There will be time for nothing but regret
And the memory of things done!

The quiet voice that always counselled best,
The mind that so ironically played
Yet for mere gentleness forebore the jest.
The proud and tender heart that sat in shade
Nor once solicited another's aid,
Yet was so grateful always
For trifles lightly given,
The silences, the melancholy guessed
Sometimes, when your eyes strayed.

But always when you turned, you talked the more.
Through all our literature your way you took
With modest ease; yet would you soonest pore,
Smiling, with most affection in your look,
On the ripe ancient and the curious nook.
Sage travellers, learnèd printers,
Divines and buried poets,
You knew them all, but never half your lore
Was drawn from any book.

Stories and jests from field and town and port,
And odd neglected scraps of history
From everywhere, for you were of the sort,
Cool and refined, who like rough company:
Carter and barmaid, hawker and bargee,
Wise pensioners and boxers
With whom you drank, and listened
To legends of old revelry and sport
And customs of the sea.

I hear you: yet more clear than all one note,
One sudden hail I still remember best,
That came on sunny days from one afloat
And drew me to the pane in certain quest
Of a long brown face, bare arms and flimsy vest,
In fragments through the branches,
Above the green reflections:
Paused by the willows in your varnished boat
You, with your oars at rest.

Did that come back to you when you were dying?
I think it did: you had much leisure there,
And, with the things we knew, came quietly flying
Memories of things you had seen we knew not where.

You watched again with meditative stare
Places where you had wandered,
Golden and calm in distance:
Voices from all your altering past came sighing
On the soft Hampshire air.

For there you sat a hundred miles away,
A rug upon your knees, your hands gone frail,
And daily bade your farewell to the day,
A music blent of trees and clouds a-sail
And figures in some old neglected tale:
And watched the sunset gathering,
And heard the birdsong fading,
And went within when the last sleepy lay
Passed to a farther vale,

Never complaining, and stepped up to bed
More and more slow, a tall and sunburnt man
Grown bony and bearded, knowing you would be dead
Before the summer, glad your life began
Even thus to end, after so short a span,
And mused a space serenely,
Then fell to easy slumber,
At peace, content. For never again your head
Need make another plan.

Most generous, most gentle, most discreet,
Who left us ignorant to spare us pain:
We went our ways with too forgetful feet
And missed the chance that would not come again,
Leaving with thoughts on pleasure bent, or gain,
Fidelity unattested
And services unrendered:
The ears are closed, the heart has ceased to beat,
And now all proof is vain.

Too late for other gifts, I give you this,
Who took from you so much, so carelessly,
On your far brows a first and phantom kiss,
On your far grave a careful elegy.
For one who loved all life and poetry,
Sorrow in music bleeding,
And friendship's last confession.
But even as I speak that inner hiss
Softly accuses me,

Saying: Those brows are senseless, deaf that tomb,
This is the callous, cold resort of art.
'I give you this.' What do I give? to whom?
Words to the air, and balm to my own heart,
To its old luxurious and commanded smart.
An end to all this tuning,
This cynical masquerading;
What comfort now in that far final gloom
Can any song impart?

O yet I see you dawning from some heaven,
Who would not suffer self-reproach to live
In one to whom your friendship once was given.
I catch a vision, faint and fugitive,
Of a dark face with eyes contemplative,
Deep eyes that smile in silence,
And parted lips that whisper,
'Say nothing more, old friend, of being forgiven,
There is nothing to forgive.'



MEDITATION IN LAMPLIGHT

What deaths men have died, not fighting but impotent.
Hung on the wire, between trenches, burning and freezing,
Groaning for water with armies of men so near;
The fall over cliff, the clutch at the rootless grass,
The beach rushing up, the whirling, the turning headfirst;
Stiff writhings of strychnine, taken in error or haste,
Angina pectoris, shudders of the heart;
Failure and crushing by flying weight to the ground,
Claws and jaws, the stink of a lion's breath;
Swimming, a white belly, a crescent of teeth,
Agony, and a spirting shredded limb,
And crimson blood staining the green water;
And, horror of horrors, the slow grind on the rack,
The breaking bones, the stretching and bursting skin,
Perpetual fainting and waking to see above
The down-thrust mocking faces of cruel men,
With the power of mercy, who gloat upon shrieks for mercy.

O pity me, God!



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Keywords: silence, though, always, flying, lonely, ground, closed, clouds, memory, living
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