Selected Writings of Wm Sharp, Vol 1, Poems





While still the dusk impends above the glimmering waste
   A tremor comes: wave after wave turns silvery bright:
A sudden yellow gleam athwart the east is traced:
   The waning stars fade forth, swift perishing pyres.
   The moon lies pearly-wan upon the front of Night.
   Then all at once upwells a flood of golden light
   And a myriad waves flash forth a myriad fires:
Now is the hour the amplest glory of life to taste,
Outswimming towards the sun upon the billowy waste.


The pure green waves! with crests of dazzling foam ashine,
   Onward they roll: innumerably grand, they beat
   A wild and jubilant triumph-music all divine!
   The sea-fowl, their white kindred of the spray-swept air,
   Scream joyous echoes as with wave-dipped pinions fleet
   They whirl before the blast or vanish 'mid blown sleet.
   In loud-resounding, strenuous, conquerinplay they fare,
Like clouds, high over head, forgotten lands i' the brine---
Great combing deep-sea waves with sunlit foam ashine.


On the wide wastes she lives her lawless, passionate life:
   Enslaved of none, imperious mighty the Sea!
   How glorious the music of her waves at strife
   With all the winds of heaven that, fiercely wooing, blow!
   On high she ever chants her psalm of Victory;
   Afar her turbulent paean tells that she is free;
   The tireless albatross with wings like foam or snow
Flies leagues on leagues for days, and yet the world seems rife
With nought save windy waves and the Sea's wild free life!


How oft the strange, wild, haunting glamour of the Sea,
   The strange, compelling magic of her thrilling Voice,
   Have won me, when, 'mid lonely places, wild and free
   As any wand'ring wind, I have heard along the shore
   The wondrous ever-varying Searsong loud rejoice.
   I have seen a snowy petrel, arising, poise
   Above the green-sloped wave, then pass for evermore
From keenest sight, and I have thought that I might be
Thus also deathward lured by glamour of the Sea.


Hark to the long resilient surge o' the ebbing tide;
   With shingly rush and roar it foams adown the strand:
   The great Sea heaves her restless bosom far and wide---
   Heedless she seems of winds and all the forceful laws
   That bar her empire over the usurping Land:
   Enough, she dreams, is her imperial command
   To make the very torrents, waveward falling, pause:
She scorns the Bridegroom-Land, yet is a subject Bride
For she must come and go with each recurrent tide.


On moonless nights, when winds are still, her stealthy waves
   Creep towards the listening land; with voices soft and low
   They whisper strange sea-secrets 'mid the hollow caves:
   A wondrous song it is that rises then and falls!
   Deep-buried memories of the ancient long ago,
   Confused strange echoes of some vanished old world woe,
   Weird prophecies reverberant round those wave-worn walls:
When loud the wrathful billows roar and the Sea runes
Her deepest mourning broods beneath the foaming waves.


As some aerial spirit weaves a rainbow-veil
   Of mist, his high immortal loveliness to hide;
   So too thy palpitant waters, duskily pale,
   Oft-times take on a sudden splendour wild.
   Then thy sea-horses rise, fierce prancing side by side,
   And-like the host of the dead-arisen-ride
   Ghastly afar to bournes where all the dead lie piled! . . .
Superb, fantastic, crown'd with flying splendours frail,
Thou, when in dreams, thou weav'st thy phosphorescent veil


Vast, vast, immeasurably vast, thy dreadful peace
   When heaving with slow, miglity breath thou liest
   In utter rest, and dost thy ministering winds release
   So that with folded wings they too subside,
   Floating through hollow spaces, though the highest
   Stirs his long tremulous pinions when thou sighest!
   Then in thy soul, that doth in fathomless depths abide.
All wild desires and turbulent longings cease---
Profound, immeasurable then, thy dreadful peace


But in thy noon of night, serene as death, when under
   The terrible silence of that archéd dome
   Not a lost whisper ev'n of thy wandering thunder
   Ascends like the spiral smoke of perishing flame,
   Nor dying wave on thy swart bosom sinks in foam---
   Then, then the world is thine, thy heritage, thy home!
   What then for thee, O Sea, thou Terror! or what name
To call thee by, thou Sphinx, thou Mystery, thou Wonder---
Above thou art Living Death, Oblivion under!


Over the lonesome hollows
And secret haunts of the river,
Past fields and homestead and village,
Past the grey wharves and the piers
The darkness moves like a veil,
Save when obscure, vast, nigrescent
Flakes from the travelling gloom
Slant westward great fans of blackness.

Then a inist of radiance,
Lamps with red lights and yellow,
Foam-white, and blue as an ice-floe,
Lamps intermingling with gas-light,
Leagues of wind-wavered gas-light,
Lamps on the masts of barges,
Lamps upon sloops and on steamers,
Lamps below quays and dark bridges
Yellow and red and green,
Like a myriad growths phosphorescent
When a swamp, erewhile flooded with waters,
Lies low to the stare of the moon
And the stealthy white breath of the wind.

And, over all, one light
Palpitant, circular, wide,
Sweeping the city vast---
Yonder, beyond where in shadow
The thronged Champs-Elysées are filling
With echoes of human voices,
With shadows of human lives,
With phantoms of vampyre-vices---
Beyond where the serpentine river
Curves in a coil gigantic,
And straight, a thin shaft, through the vagueness
Soars the high lighthouse of Paris,
Soars o'er the sea of the city
With all its shoals and its terrors,
Its perilous straits and its breakers,
High o'er the brightness and splendour
Of shores where the sirens sing ever.

Then, shadows enmassed once again
And the river moving slowly,
And the hills making darkness deeper.
The lamps now fewer and fewer---
Fewer the red lights and yellow,
Till only a dusky barge
Moves like a water-snake
On the face of a dark lagoon,
A stealthy fire 'mid the stillness
While from a weir in the distance
Comes a sound like the cry of waters
When the tides and the sea-winds gather
And the sands of the dunes are scattered
In the scud of the spray.


One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
                  Never doubted clouds would break,
         Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph:
         Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
                  Sleep to wake.
          (Died at the Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice, December 12, 1889.)

So, it is well: what need is there to mourn?
   What of the darkness was there, of the dread,
Of all the pity of old age forlorn
   When the swift mind and hand are though as dead?
Nothing: the change was his that comes to days
   When, after long, rich, restful afternoons,
      A sudden flush of glory fills the skies:
   Thereafter is the peace of dream-fraught moons,
And then, oh! then for sure, in the eastern ways
      At morn, once more Life's golden floods arise.
Ay, it is well: what better fate were his?
   Why wish for him the twilight-greyness drear?
He hath not known the bitter thing it is
   To halt, and doubt, grope blindly, tremble, fear:
The reverend snows above his forehead brought
   No ominous hints of that which might not be,
      No chill suggestion of the ephemeral soul:
   Unto the very end 'twas his to see
Failure no drear climacteric, but wrought
      To nobler issues, a victorious goal.

There, where the long lagoons by day and night
   Feel the swift journeying tides, in ebb and flow,
Move inward from the deep with sound and light
   And splendour of the seas, or outward go
Resurgent from the city that doth rest
   Upon the flood even as a swan asleep,
      Or as a lily 'niid encircling streams,
   Or as a flower a dusky maid doth keep,
An orient maid, upon her love-warrn breast,
      Thrilled with its inspiration through her dreams---
There, in the city that he loved so well,
   And with the sea-sound in his ears, the sound
Of healing waters in their miracle
   Of changeless and regenerative round,
The strange and solemn silence that is death
   Came o'er him. 'Mid the loved ones near
      The deep suspense of the last torturing hope
   Hung like a wounded bird, ere swift and sheer
It fall with the last frail exhausted breath
      And feeble fluttering wings that cannot ope.

There death was his: within his golden prime,
   Painless, serene, unvanquished, undismayed,
He fronted the dark lapse of mortal time
   With eyes alit, through all the gathering shade,
With the strange light that clothes immortal things---
   Beauty, and Truth, Faith, Hope, and Joy and Peace,
      The garnished harvest of our human years,
   Fair dreams and hopes that triumphed o'er surcease,
The immaculate sweetness of all bygone Springs,
      The rainbow-glory of transfigured tears.

Over him went the Powers, the Dreams, the Graces,
   The invisible Dominations that we know
Despite the mystic veil that hides their faces
   The immortal faces that divinely glow:
Fair Hope was there to take him by the hand;
   White Aspirations smiled about his bed
      Desires and Dreams moved gently by his side;
   Beauty stooped low, and shone upon the dead;
Joy spake not, for, from out the Deathless land;
      She led God's loveliest gift, his long-lost Bride.

Oh, what a trivial mockery then was this,
   The change we so involve with alien terror
How lorn in light of that supernal bliss
   The ruinous wrecking f olly of our error!
Sweet beyond words the meeting that was there,
   Sweet beyond words the deep-set yearning gaze,
      Sweet, sweet the voice that long had silent been!
   Ah, how his soul, beleagured by no maze,
No glooms of Death, i' that Paradisal air
      Knew all was well, since She was there, his Queen.

They are not gone, those Dreams, Fair Hopes, and Graces,
   Those Powers and Dominations and Desires,
They are not passed, though veiled the immortal faces,
   Though dimmed meanwhile their eyes' wild starry fires.
Meanwhile, it may be, on wan wings and slender
   Invisible to mortal gaze, they gleam
      In solemn, sad, processional array
   There where the sunshafts through stained windows stream,
And flood the gloomful majesty with splendour,
      And charm the aisles from out their brooding grey.

They are not gone: nor shall they ever vanish,
   Those precious ministers of him, our Poet
What madness would it be for one to banish,
   To barter his inheritance, forego it,
For some phantasmal gift, some transient boon!
   Thus would it be with us were we to turn
      Indifferently aside, when they draw nigh,
   To look with callous gaze, nor once discern
How swift they come and get, how all too soon
      They evade for ever the unheeding eye.

They are not gone: for wheresoe'er there liveth
   One hope his song inspired---whom they inspired---
Yea, wheresoever in one heart there breatheth
   An aspiration by his ardour fired:
Where'er through him are souls made serfs to Beauty,
   Where'er through him hearts stir with lofty aim,
      Where'er through him men thrill with high endeavour,
There shall these ministers breathe low his name,
Linked to ideals of Love and Truth and Duty,
      And all high things of mind and soul, for ever.

No carven stone, no monumental fane;
   Can equal this : that he hath builded deep
A cenotaph beyond the assailing reign
   Of Her whose eyes are dusk with Night and Sleep,
Queenly Oblivion: no Pyramid
   No vast gigantic Tomb, no sepulchre
      Made awful with imag'ries of doom
   Evade her hand who one day shall inter
Man's proudest monuments, as she hath hid
      The immemorial past within her womb.
For he hath built his lasting monument
   Within the hearts and in the minds of men:
The Powers of Life around its base have bent
   The Stream of Memory; our furthest ken
Beholds no reach, no limit to its rise;
   It hath foundations sure; it shall not pass ;
      The ruin of Time upon it none shall see,
   Till the last wind shall wither the last grass,
Nay, while man's Hopes, Fears, Dreams, and Agonies
      Uplift his soul to Immortality.



Upon the mountain-heights thou goest,
   As swift as some fierce wind-swept flame;
Thy doom thou scornest while thou knowest
   Men mock thy name.

But thou---thou hast the mountain-splendour
   The lonely streams, blue lakes serene,
Wouldst thou these virgin haunts surrender
   For man's demesne ?

Wouldst thou, for peaks where eagles gather,
   Where moon-white skies slow flush with dawn,
Where, drenched with dew thy chieftain-father
   Is far withdrawn---

Wouldst thou all these exchange, give over
   Thy wild free joys and all delights,
Thy proud and passionate mountain-lover,
   Thy starry nights,

For that drear life in huddled places
   Where men, like ants move to and fro
Tired men,
with ever on their faces
   The shadow of woe?


I would not change---did not the waters
   Did not the winds, all living things
Proclaim that we, the sons and daughters
   Of Time's first kings,

That we must change and pass and perish
   Even as autumnal leaves that fall;
Even as the wind the hill-flowers cherish,
   At Winter's call:

That we, even we should know no morrow
   For as our body, so our soul:
O human, fair thy life of sorrow,
   Thou hast a Goal!


(Opening Fragment of a Lyrical Drama)

Opening Scene

Verge of an upland glade among the Himalayas.

Time : Sunrise


                                             . . . Hark! I hear
Aerial voices---




                                               It is the wind
Leaping against the sunrise, on the heights.


No, no, yon mountain-springs---


Hark, hark, oh, hark!----


Are budding into foam-flowers : see, they fall
Laughing before the dawn---


            Oh, the sweet music!


(Timidly peeping over a cistus, uncurling into blooms.)

Dear brother, say, oh say, what fills the air ?
The leaves whisper, yet is not any wind:
I am afraid.


                           Be not afraid, dear child:
There is no gloom.


                              But silence : and-- and-- then,
The birds have suddenly ceased : and see, alow
The gossamer quivers where my startled hare---
Slipt from my leash---- cow'rs 'mid the fox-glove-bells,
His eyes like pansies in a lonely wood!
Oh, I am afraid-- afraid-- though glad:--


            Why glad ?


I know not.


                                      Never yet an evil god
Forsook the dusk. Lo ! all our vales are filled
With light : the darkest shimmers in pale blue :
Nought is forlorn : no evil thing goeth by.


They say---


What ? who ?


                                         They of the hills: they say
That a lost god---


Hush, hush: beware!


                                                           And why?
here is no god in the blue empty air ?
Where else ?


                                   There is a lifting up of joy
The morning moves in ecstasy. Never!
Oh, never fairer morning dawned than this.
Somewhat is nigh!


                                          Maybe: and yet I hear
Nought, save day's familiar sounds, nought see
But the sweet concourse of familiar things.


Speak on, though never a single leaf but hears,
And, like the hollow shells o'the twisted nuts
That fall in autumn, aye murmuringly holds
The breath of bygone sound. We know not when---
To whom-these little wavering tongues betray
Our heedless words, wild wanderers though we be.
What say the mountain-lords ?


                                                    That a lost god
Fares hither through the dark, ever the dark.


What dark ?


                         Not the blank hollows of the night
Blind is he though a god: forgotten graves
The cavernous depths of his oblivious eyes.
His face is as the desert, blanched with ruins.
His voice none ever heard, though whispers say
That in the dead of icy winters far
Beyond the utmost peaks we ever clomb
It hath gone forth-a deep, an awful woe.


What seeks he ?


No one knoweth.


                                                              Yet a god,
And blind !


                        Ay so: and I have heard beside
That he is not as other gods ; but from vast age---
So vast, that in his youth those hills were wet
With the tossed spume of each returning tide---
He hath lost knowledge of the things that are,
All memory of what was, in that dim Past
Which was old time for him; and knoweth nought,
Nought feels, but inextinguishable pain.
Titanic woe and burden of long æons
Of unrequited quest.


                                      But if he be
Of the Immortal Brotherhood, though blind,
How lost to them?


                                 I know not, I. 'Tis said---
Lython the Centaur told me in those days
When he had pity on me in his cave
Far up among the hills-that the lost god
Is curs'd of all his kin, and that his curse
Lies like a cloud about their golden home
So evermore he goeth to and fro
The shadow of their glory . . .
                                                  Ay, he knows
The lost beginnings of the things that are
We are but morning-dreams to him, and Man
But a fantastic shadow of the dawn
The very Gods seem children to his age,
Who reigned before their birth-throes filled the sky
With the myriad shattered lights that are the stars.


Where reigned this ancient God ?


                                                                Old Lython said
His kingdom was the Void where evermore
Silence sits throned upon oblivion.


What wants he here ?


                                           He hateth Helios,
And dogs his steps. None knoweth more.


I heed no dotard god ! Behold, behold,
My ears betrayed me not : Oh, hearken now!


Brother, O brother, all the birds are wild
With song, and through the sun-splashed wood there goes
A sound as of a multitude of wings,


The sun, the sun ! the flowers in the grass!
Oh, the white glory!


                                         'Tis the Virgin God!
Hark, hear the hymns that thrill the winds of morn,
Wild pæans to the light! The white processionals !
They come! They come! . . .



What is the song the sea-wind sings---
   The old, old song it singeth for aye ?
When abroad it stretches its mighty wings
   And driveth the white clouds far away,-
   What is the song it sings to-day ?
From fire and tumult the white world came,
   When all was a mist of driven spray
And the whirling fragments of a frame!

What is the song the sea-wind sings---
   The old, old song it singeth for aye ?
It seems to breathe a thousand things
   Ere the world grew sad and old and grey---
   Of the dear gods banished far astray---
Of strange wild rumours of joy and shame!
   The Earth is old, so old, To-day---
Blind and halt and weary and lame.

What is the song the sea-wind sings---
   The old, old song it singeth for aye?
Like a trumpet blast its voice out-rings,
   The world spins down the darksome way
It crieth aloud in wild dismay.
The Earth that from fire and tumult came
   Draws swilt to hey weary end To-day,
Her fires are fusing for that last Flame!


What singeth the sea-wind thus for aye,
   From fire and tumult the white world came!
What is the sea-wind's cry To-day---
   Her central fires make one vast flame!