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We have wandered through the dim valleys of sleep
—That lie so still and far—
Have bathed in the lakes of silence,
Where each star
Shines brighter than its own reflection in the heavens;
Where, diving deep,
My soul has sought to catch and keep
The silver feathers of the moon
That float like down upon the waters,
In whose pale rest
Forgetfulness of death
That comes so soon
—Waters that lull the mind
With some sweet breath
Of wind, of flowers,
With summer showers of rain,
Or quicken it with recreative pain.
We have fled further from this leaden cage,
Seeking those rainbow forests,
Where the light
Thrills through you, shaking, fainting, with delight;
Where sway tall luminous trees
Wind-swept in one vast flashing harmony,
That like a wave
Splashes its seething sound
And then envelops you.
We have strayed to other places,
Courts of fear,
That stretch like echoes through the endless dusk
Drenched with dead memories;
They cling about you
In a heavy cloud.
Each shadow-sound we hear
Clutches the heart.
With fevered hands we tear
The terror-pulsing walls
—Fight our way out
Into other Courts
As vague and full of fear.
And we have found the proud and distant palaces of night.
THE SILENCE OF GOD
One night upon the southern sea
In helpless calm we lay,
Waiting for day,
Waiting for day.
As goldripe fruit fall from a tree
A comet fell; no other sight,
But in the ocean tracks of light
Trembled—then passed away,
No sound broke on our waiting ears,
Though instinct whispered wayward fears
Of things we cannot tell—
Of things the sea could tell.
No wisp of wind, no watery sound
Reached us; as if high on the ground
We stayed. A sense of fever fell
Upon each mind,
Each soul and mind.
Until our eyes, that ever sought
The cloying empty darkness, find
Another shape—or is it wrought
Of terror?—on the deep
The endless deep.
All dark it lay. No light shone out;
And though we cried across, no shout
Came back to us. As if in sleep
The black bulk lay so still,
No sign came back; no answering cry
Cleft the immense monotony
That swathed us like a funeral pall,
In folds of menace; almost shrill
The silence seemed,
And we so small.
Swiftly a boat was lowered down;
The rowlocks creaked; our track shone white
Behind us like God's frown,
We clambered up that great ship's height;
There was no light; there was no sound;
Nor was there any being found
Upon that ship,
We groped our way along. God knows
How long the rats had been alone
With dust and rust! Yet flight was shown
To have been instant, in the grip
Of some force stronger than its foes
—Its human foes.
* * * * *
Then sudden from the dark there thrilled
The distant dying of a song
That hung like haze upon the sea, and filled
Each soul with joy and terror strong,
With joy and terror strong.
Upon the sombre air were spent
These notes, as from a hidden place
Where all time and all love lay pent
In lingering embrace—
In lingering embrace.
Deep in our hearts we felt the call;
We knew that if our fate should send
That song again, we must leave all
And follow to the end,
Down through the torrid seas we swept,
Sails curved like bows about to shoot.
As an arrow speeds through the air
Our ship parted the clinging waters.
Then, out of the ocean
Blossomed a distant land.
* * * * *
The air quivered,
Dancing above it
In a frenzy of passion.
Waves of heat trembled towards us
Across the cool lassitude of the ocean.
They rolled new odours at us,
Sounding the chords of hidden senses,
Till we were alert
With minds as sensitive and taut
As resined strings.
The sea itself
Crouched down behind us,
Urging us on,
Driving us on,
* * * * *
Ships and sea were forgotten.
Through the burning sand
To the hot shroud of the squat threatening forest,
Where, as you walked,
You tore apart
A solid sheet of air.
Brown satyrs grimaced at us,
Swinging with long hairy arms
From crooked branch to crooked branch.
Was at its height.
Rays pierced the hot shade;
White lines of light
Shot through the shadows
To where a point of green
Shuddered with dangerous movement,
Throbbed and hummed with the whirr of insects.
Birds more bright than any streamers from the sun
Cleft the air
Tossed patches of colour
Into the dark shimmering air.
Whistled like knives
Hurled through the empty heat.
Frantic chattering rose up.
Through the honeycombed darkness
—Their hides splashed with false sunlight—
Into the hollow distance.
Or clattered past us,
Kicking at the hard, bent trunks
Of gnarled trees.
Large hairy fruits of wood
Were cast at us,
From the darkness.
—Faces peered down
From the interwoven boughs.
Hastily we stumbled on;
Hurriedly we stumbled back,
Tripped through the blackness
Hither and thither;
Twigs crawled from under our feet,
—And we were bewildered.
Rumbling in curling patterns through the ground,
The beating of drums.
As winds bellow into caves,
As waves swirl and curl into hollows,
We heard the blowing of wooden trumpets
And of pipes.
Under the western canopy of the sun,
Where the fevered hills lay huddled together,
We saw great gourd-shaped palaces
Loom up like mountains.
Figures played on trumpets,
Twisted like snakes,
Or on the curved, carved horns of unknown beasts.
In the sound was mirrored
The panic seizures of the night,
—The fear of things that walk in darkness.
The drums were painted
In hot colours
That, even through the dusk,
Glowed torture and writhing torment.
Like a shower of molten lead
The din fell down upon us
From the Palaces.
Bare yellow women
To greet us;
Their heels swayed inward
As they walked.
They offered fruits
—Fruits that were strange to us;
Mellow they were, and with a scent
Of sun, of summer,
And of woodland nights.
—And dreams closed round.