FIFTEEN miles and then the harbour! Here we cannot choose but stand,
Faces thrust towards the day-break, listening for our native land!
Close-reefed topsails shuddering over, straining down the groaning mast;
For a tempest cleaves the darkness, hissing, howling, shrieking past!
Lo! the air is flecked with stormbirds, and their melancholy wail
Lends a tone of deeper pathos to the melancholy gale!
Whilst away they wheel to leeward, leaving in their rapid flight
Wind and water grappling wildly through the watches of the night.
Yesterday we both were happy; but my soul is filled with change,
And I’m sad, my gallant comrade, with foreshadowings vague and strange!
Dear old place, are we so near you? Like to one that speaks in sleep,
I’m talking, thinking wildly o’er this moaning, maddened deep!
Much it makes me marvel, brother, that such thoughts should linger nigh
Now we know what shore is hidden somewhere in that misty sky!
Oh! I even fear to see it; and I’ve never felt so low
Since we turned our faces from it, seven weary years ago.
Have you faith at all in omens? Fits of passion I have known
When it seemed in crowded towns as if I walked the Earth alone!
And amongst my comrades often, o’er the lucent, laughing sea,
I have felt like one that drifteth on a dark and dangerous lee!
As a man who, crossing waters underneath a moony night,
Knows there will be gloomy weather if a cloudrack bounds the light,
So I hold, when Life is splendid, and our hopes are new and warm,
We can sometimes, looking forward, see the shade and feel the storm.
When you called me I was dreaming that this thunder raged no more,
And we travelled, both together, on a calm, delightful shore;
That we went along rejoicing, for I thought I heard you say,
“Now we soon shall see them, brother—now our fears have passed away!”
Pleasant were those deep green wild-woods; and we hurried, like a breeze,
Till I saw a distant opening through the porches of the trees;
And our village faintly gleaming past the forest and the stream;
But we wandered sadly through it with the Spirit of my Dream.
Why was our delight so fickle? Was it well while there to mourn;
When the loved—the loving, crowding, came to welcome our return?
In my vision, once so glorious, did we find that aught was changed;
Or that ONE whom WE remembered was forgotten or estranged?
Through a mist of many voices, listening for sweet accents fled,
Heard we hints of lost affection, or of gentle faces dead?
No! but on the quiet dreamscape came a darkness like a pall
And a ghostly shadow, brother, fell and rested over all.
Talking thus my friend I fronted, and in trustful tones he spake—
“I have long been waiting, watching here to see the morning break;
Now behold the bright fulfilment! Did my Spirit yearn in vain;
And amidst this holy splendour can a moody heart remain?
Let them pass, those wayward fancies! Waking thoughts return with sleep;
And they mingle strangely sometimes, while we lie in slumber deep;
But, believe me, dreams are nothing. If unto His creatures weak
God should whisper of the Future, not in riddles will He speak.”
Since he answered I have rested, for his brave words fell like balm;
And we reached the land in daylight, and the tempest died in calm;
Though the sounds of gusty fragments of a faint and broken breeze
Still went gliding with the runnels, gurgling down the spangled leas!
So we turned and travelled onward, till we rested at a place
Where a Vision fell about us, sunned with many a lovely face;
Then we heard low silvery voices; and I knelt upon the shore—
Knelt and whispered, “God I thank Thee! and will wander never more.”