The Drowned Alive

I was one so deeply drowned,
That when the drag my body found,
Twas void of motion, void of breath,
And to sensation dead as death.
In a languid summer mood
I had plunged into a flood,
That to the low sun’s slanting beams
Gleamed with only quiet gleams,
Each with a wide flicker sheeting
From its still floor, fast and fleeting,
E’en such a flood as, one would say,
Could never, or by night or day,
Have drenched a man’s warm life away.

But what are these down in its bed
That trail so long and look so red,
Moving as in conscious sport?
Are they weeds of curious sort?
But I’ll drive to them and see
Into all their mystery.

Down I dive. A plentious crop!
Some shall with me to the top,
For here there is too dim a light
To show their character aright.
I wind them in my arms, intent
To root them up in my ascent;
But they resist me, and again
I tug them with a stronger strain.
Full well, I trow, they hold their own,
Gripping fast each bedded stone
With their tuby roots, that go
Down through the stiff slime below.
Well at last I find that I
Must leave them.—But in vain I try!
Fierce as lightning on my brain
Smites the dread truth—I try in vain!
Yea, more and more, in coils and flakes
Like long blood-red watersnakes,
The deadly things around me clasp—
The more I tug the more they grasp!
My pent breath, growing hot and thin,
Explodes with a dull booming din;
While through my unclenched teeth the wave
Comes drenching! Is there none to save?
None near to see, to guess, to trace
Under the water s gleaming face
The dread extremity of one
Thus fastened down? Ah! Is there none?
Wild as vain my struggles grow—
Horror, horror, life must go!

Hope gives up her ghost, despair;
I am dying; round me here
The long weeds erst so deeply red,
Look, even where nearest, grey as lead,
As mid them, settling down, I sway
To and fro, and fast away
Life keeps bubbling—bubbling, aye
Through my cold lips wide agape,
White, and stiffening to that shape
They take at last when done with breath
In the rigid face of death.

And now, while sullen drummings make
My spirit through mine ears to ache,
Life-long memories interwrought
With all I ever felt or thought,
Sacred fancies hidden long
Lest the world should do them wrong,
Pent-back feelings that for years
Just below the source of tears
Folded close their glowing wings,
With a million other things,
All thick interthronging press
Through my drowning consciousness;
Then comes the thought of how my doom
Must wrap my mother in its gloom;
And give my sire to hold his breath
For anguish, hearing of my death,
And wound one fond heart to the core
In the wide world evermore.
All in the same instant so
Do these quick thoughts come and go,
Life within my failing brain
Full of pity, full of pain.

Lastly a drear stupor blent
With a comfortless content,
Into one mass of clammy clay
Kneads mind and body. Drenched away
With one faint shudder, one last throe,
Life stagnates and its shell lies low,
Swaying weed-bound to and fro,
Void of feeling and of breath,
How die we, if this be not death?

Ah! What thrilling, thrilling pain
Kindles through my heart and brain!
Ah! What horrors o’er me wave,
Shadowing forth as from the grave;
Ah! Those sudden gleams of light,
They fall like firebrands on my sight!
Ah! What vast and heavy world
Is all at once upon me hurled,
Massing into one immense
Oppression, every tortured sense.

. . . . .
Yes; I now remember well
How my sudden fate befell;
And are we, then, in death s grim thrall,
Thus consciousness of our funeral?
But where are they who most should mourn
When by bier is graveward borne?
With her whose face I yearn to see—
Where are they? And where is she?
Where the crape-trimm’d followers all?
Where the coffin and the pall?
Or do death and nature strive
Within me? Is the drowned alive?

 

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Charles Harpur

Charles Harpur was an Australian poet. more…

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"The Drowned Alive" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 24 Jun 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/5186/the-drowned-alive>.

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