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Ada Cambridge

(21 November 1844 – 19 July 1926 / St Gemans, Norfolk)

At Sea


When the investing darkness growls,
And deep reverberates to deep;
When keyhole whines and chimney howls,
And all the roofs and windows weep;
Then, through the doorless walls of sleep,
The still-sealed ear and shuttered sight,
Phantoms of memory steal and creep,
The very ghosts of sound and light--
Dream-visions and dream-voices of a bygone night.


I see again, I hear again,
Where lightnings flash and house-eaves drip,
A flying swirl of waves and rain--
That storm-path between Sound and Rip.
I feel the swaying of the ship
In every gust that rocks the trees,
And taste that brine upon my lip
And smell the freshness of the breeze
That sped us through the welter of those racing seas.


I hear the menace of the call
To rope and rivet, wheel and mast,
In the swift onrush of the squall,
The challenge of the thundering blast
To daring men as it sweeps past;
And in my dream I have no dread.
Rivet and rope are firm and fast,
The clear lights shining, green and red,
The quiet eyes of sentry watching overhead.

What epic battles pass unsung!
It was a war of gods befell
On that wild night when we were young.
They rode, like cavalry of hell,
The mighty winds, the monstrous swell,
On their white horses, fierce and fleet;
They stood at bay, invincible,
Where pulsed beneath our sliding feet
The faithful iron heart that never lost a beat.


How the sharp sea-spume lashed and stung!
How the salt sea-wind tugged and tare
And clawed and mauled us where we clung,
With panting breasts and streaming hair,
To our frail eyrie in mid-air!
How we exulted in the fight--
With neither haste nor halt to dare
Those Titans furies in their might,
Undaunted and unswerving in our insect flight!


No lap of exquisite repose!
A mortar wherein souls are brayed;
An anvil ringing to the blows
Whereby true men are shaped, and made
Divinely strong and unafraid.
Such gallant sailor-men there be--
Never unready or dismayed,
Though 't's the face of death they see
In cyclone, fire and fog, and white surf on the lee.


Not only in the sylvan bower,
On dreaming hill, by sleeping mere,


The holy place--the sacred hour.
Beset by every form of fear,
Darkness ahead and danger near,
Sorely hard-driven and hard-prest,
But still unspent and of good cheer--
He finds them who can pass the test,
Who never winks an eye and never stays to rest

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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Read poems about / on: epic, dream, fog, sea, memory, war, house, rain, hair, green, red, fire, sleep, fear, lost, wind, night, death, light, howl

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