James Brunton Stephens

(17 June 1835 – 29 June 1902 / Borrowstounness, on the Firth of Forth, Scotland;)

Cape Byron


Upon the orient utmost of the land,
Enfranchised of the world, alone, and free,
I stood; before me, and on either hand,
The interminable solace of the sea.

A white-winged hour of heaven, a fugitive
Of which the angels wist not, hither fled,
Whose plumy, rustling whispers bid me live
Its length of moments as if grief were dead.

Oh memorable hour of beauteous things!
The heaving azure melting into light;
The chequered sport of fleet o'ershadowings;
The nearer emerald curling into white;

The shoreward billows merging each in each,
To sunder yet again, fold, and unfold;
The shining curve of far-receptive beach;
The silvery wave-kiss on the gladdened gold;

The grandeur of the lone old promontory;
The distant bourne of hills in purple guise,
Athrob with soft enchantment; high in glory
The peak of Warning bosomed in the skies!

Oh all too fair to be so seldom seen,
This shadowy purple on the mountains sleeping—
This sapphire of unutterable sheen—
This beauty-harvest ever ripe for reaping!

For what high end is all this daily boon,
Unseen of man, in sightless silence spent?
Doth lavish Nature vainly importune
The unconscious witness of the firmament?

Or is it that the influent God, whose breath
Informs with glory sea and shore and hill,
His infinite lone rejoicing nourisheth
Upon the beauteous outcome of His will?
Or is it but a patient waiting-while
Against a day when many an eye shall bless,
From lowly cottage and imperial pile,
This wide tranquillity of loveliness;—

Against a day of many-thronging feet,
Of virtues, valours, all that builds and saves—

Of human loves responsive to the sweet
Melodious importunity of waves?

I only know that this empurpled range,
This golden shore, this great transcendent sea,
Are now a memory that will not change
Till I become as they—a memory.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

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