Emmanuel George Cefai

(12th March 1955 / Victoria, Gozo)

How silent the sea-waves the rocks caress


How silent the sea-waves the rocks caress
The breeze
That set this evening in the Port
The fair precursor of the Autumn’s cool
And welcome hand all crossed
Over the forehead starred with sweaty drops
That shine all starry in the scorching suns
And wither as unwelcome pearls:
Even so with morning dews
That in the first fit of life at dawn
The petal-opening flowers soft bedeck
These too will wither with the warmth
That from the grass arises vapor-like
As the red sun ascends from sea’s rim
Where long the sea stretches linear and still:
And orange-like then gold will paint the waves.
Not Raphael seated in some gold-crossed barge
Alone amidst the ocean deeps
A fairer picture could he paint
Or capture the sweet lull of Ocean’s bosom:
Basking and surfeiting plays with the gold rays
Of the fast-rising Sun nearer by far
To the vast wilderness of the Ocean deeps
That in the midst of all those waters wild
To be lazy dares, will choose to dream.
Then will the song of sirens rise
Like a sweet-hissing serpent from the shores
And from the jutting rocks their voices lull
The Ocean already surfeiting to more
And more sweet laziness and dreams
Fond in the giddiness of their drowsiness:
Hist! I hear the siren-call from shore to shore
The echo flies over those wild waves
That in their madness like blind lovers respond
To the sweet-hissing siren calls of morn:
And no barge passed
And no barge is seen
Over that wild expanse of waters wild and raw:
The Ocean full prefers to keep alone
The secrets or its surfeiting
Prohibits the sea-waves rolling to shores
Its hours of sweet laziness to unfold
Or else be seen or spied by human eyes:
But in
in majestic waves and raw and bold
Will echoing roll his armies white
Wave after wave unto the shores of earth
That all expectant wait.
Not when the blinding Sun in midday wrath
Over the red desert scalds the redder sand
And aches the pilgrim’s feet or wanderer’s
And no oasis in the welcome distance seen
And parched are throats but worse
Hope still upon some dizzy rock
Its radiant smile will fail to shine:
So like the desert wanderer
The shores of earth expectant the sea-waves
To lave their wounds received day by day
Await and Hope half-robed will sit
On some high eastern rock to watch and wait:
Not when the Ganges flows in all its pride
Will larger crowds to cleanse pray
The wounds and ills received and made that day:
How silent the sea-waves weave through the caves
That line and grace the opposite shore
And in them full rebound with echoes sweet
Half-lulled half-heard and unexpected full
Into the sweet glooms of those dark caves
Tincted from pitch dark by the faint rays
That the pale languid moon to them sends
As it if in tribute to their Sovran rule:
As when the Caliph held in Arab lands
His sway over the eastern lands to Ind
And heard the timbrels were by Oxus’ shores
And one by one over the desert sand
Wherein the Caliph’s men encamped were
Glittering within the sight of palace gates
And all the towers red that shimmering stood
Melting in the vapors blue and mirage white
Of the vast desert and its lonely sands:
And one by one the vassals tribute-bearing
Before the Caliph brought their tributes due
Carried and cared for from distant lands
Where winter snows the dizzy mountains capped.
So the still moon his tributary rays shot
Unto the depth and stillness of those echoing caves
And in the dark silver fingers gleamed
over the still waters that cooled the dome
That rocky overhung their sleepy charge.
And in the even a thousand thoughts and more
Sweet sentinels guarding the sacred brain
Raced through it.
As when in cities fortified the sentinels
Unwelcome movements and enemy presence sense
In the long distance buried in the dark
And folding robes of the oncoming night
And down the city-streets with torches bright
Give the sad warning of the coming wrongs:
So did my thoughts overrun all streets
That winding through the brain pass and by-pass
Each every nook and zone and site.
A skiff of lone dimension plied the sea
With slow and lapping oars the wavelets danced
And all around the night fell on the waves.
Beyond, beyond the cities and the towns
Lay dreaming in the night up to the shores
In the dark mantle that the night yclept
Into this mantle a thousand lights shone bright
Some moved, some not, some white or colored were
And all together moving like a feast of stars
They looked when in the silent dome
Of azure heaven the stars celebrate:
No bell from the church steeples rang or sound
Of voices human was; but in the distant shores
The sound of lapping waves the mind becalmed.
How skilful the thoughts blended in the night
And from the terrace where on the Port I looked
An air of sylphs seemed in that night to grace
As if with dancing Graces that still place:
The minutes passed and more and hours
And in the night profound stood I and looked
And in my mind the thoughts in thousands teemed
No drowsiness my senses held; only thoughts
Came treading in an army with no end
Long, long the night and full profound
Into that peerless quiet full embalmed lay:
And the hours of sleep I on the terrace passed
Looking at the Port, the waves and the dark sea
And in my mind a thousand thoughts full teemed.
How many a night wished I to pass like this
And never came!
How plan we with strategy and yet
What comes whenever it comes doth come
By sheer chance and accident (so we human say) .
How many a night behind the closed windows I
Heard the storm roar and knock to enter in:
And the strong wind with treacherous claws
Like a strange monster roared and cruel full:
Awhile in the gelid air the rain drops pattered soon
On the still window-panes and I
Could by wavering candle-light the drops espy
Sliding into streams and rivers small:
Awhile the clock the hour struck or else the time
And all lay quiet: till from the distant bourn
A roar I heard and then the lightning high
High and full white into the torrid sky:
Sometimes it hideous shrieked, sometimes me thought
The wintry billows on the tempest seas it was;
Sometimes the Night seemed to talk and shout
In the same thunder-clap that roared in it.
How pleasant welling in my breast felt I
The teeming thoughts, the vague emotions lulled
In to that long and wondrous night:
While the lone skiff moved closer to the shore
And lo! Another skiff appeared in the door
That to the Port led from distant seas
And after that full many another skiff
Passed into the shores and in the night:
Sweet Dawn was waking in her bed embalmed
When I went down: and in my look I saw
A pleasure I had witnessed not before.
The Night with me and hand in hand it seemed
A half-exhausted with numbed pleasures sweet
Seemed to retire to its western cave:
Awhile the sea’s vast face turned to more grey
And more and more with white it gleamed
When Dawn out of her bed arose and walked:
The waters still as in the night they lapped
The dreaming shores: and far away
The Ocean’s breast enchanted immense lay.

Submitted: Saturday, October 29, 2011

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