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William Watson

(1858-1935 / England)

An Epistle: (To N.A.)


So, into Cornwall you go down,
And leave me loitering here in town.
For me, the ebb of London's wave,
Not ocean-thunder in Cornish cave.
My friends (save only one or two)
Gone to the glistening marge, like you,--
The opera season with blare and din
Dying sublime in _Lohengrin_,--
Houses darkened, whose blinded panes
All thoughts, save of the dead, preclude,--
The parks a puddle of tropic rains,--
Clubland a pensive solitude,--
For me, now you and yours are flown,
The fellowship of books alone!

For you, the snaky wave, upflung
With writhing head and hissing tongue;
The weed whose tangled fibres tell
Of some inviolate deep-sea dell;
The faultless, secret-chambered shell,
Whose sound is an epitome
Of all the utterance of the sea;
Great, basking, twinkling wastes of brine;
Far clouds of gulls that wheel and swerve
In unanimity divine,
With undulation serpentine,
And wondrous, consentaneous curve,
Flashing in sudden silver sheen,
Then melting on the sky-line keen;
The world-forgotten coves that seem
Lapt in some magic old sea-dream,
Where, shivering off the milk-white foam,
Lost airs wander, seeking home,
And into clefts and caverns peep,
Fissures paven with powdered shell,
Recesses of primeval sleep,
Tranced with an immemorial spell;
The granite fangs eternally
Rending the blanch'd lips of the sea;
The breaker clutching land, then hurled
Back on its own tormented world;
The mountainous upthunderings,
The glorious energy of things,
The power, the joy, the cosmic thrill,
Earth's ecstasy made visible,
World-rapture old as Night and new
As sunrise;--this, all this, for you!

So, by Atlantic breezes fanned,
You roam the limits of the land,
And I in London's world abide,
Poor flotsam on the human tide!--
Nay, rather, isled amid the stream--
Watching the flood--and, half in dream
Guessing the sources whence it rose,
And musing to what Deep it flows.

For still the ancient riddles mar
Our joy in man, in leaf, in star.
The Whence and Whither give no rest,
The Wherefore is a hopeless quest;
And the dull wight who never thinks,--
Who, chancing on the sleeping Sphinx,
Passes unchallenged,--fares the best!

But ill it suits this random verse
The high enigmas to rehearse,
And touch with desultory tongue
Secrets no man from Night hath wrung.
We ponder, question, doubt--and pray
The Deep to answer Yea or Nay;
And what does the engirdling wave,
The undivulging, yield us, save
Aspersion of bewildering spray?
We do but dally on the beach,
Writing our little thoughts full large,
While Ocean with imperious speech
Derides us trifling by the marge.
Nay, we are children, who all day
Beside the unknown waters play,
And dig with small toy-spade the sand,
Thinking our trenches wondrous deep,
Till twilight falls, and hand-in-hand
Nurse takes us home, well tired, to sleep;
Sleep, and forget our toys, and be
Lulled by the great unsleeping sea.

Enough!--to Cornwall you go down,
And I tag rhymes in London town.

Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Edited: Saturday, May 07, 2011

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