George Sterling

(1869-1926 / United States)

Beyond The Sunset - Poem by George Sterling

Ere dawn of that grey hero did I read-
Hard Ulysses, whose oars
Followed the sunset and the winds that lead
Time's galleys to the shores
Of demigod and siren, and I said:
'Whose was the Hand that led,
And in what faith did those intrepid men
Fare forth on waters wide,
Whose western foam they should not cross again?
What hunger and what pride
Were at the helm? Surely their hearts were great
And deep their trust in Fate;
For they went not as we,
Guarded and buttressed from the hostile sea.
For they had but their arms,
A width of oak, and stronger thews than ours
To brave the ocean powers
And all the deep's mysterious alarms.
What bulwark walled Ulysses from the wave?
What engines from the reef and tempest, save
The piston and the staunchions of his heart?
Aye! and a thing apart,
A thing our weaker flesh and wiser brain
Have lost, or slowly lose—the old-time trust
In One whose angels sway the huricanes,
And whose designs make swift the mortal dust!
They had the gods, but sought for realms unknown,
But we have overthrown
Old faiths and old illusions—on our charts
Each isle of earth is shown,
But no eternal harbor for our hearts.'

And still our old men fare into the West,
And still the timeless quest
Of happiness awaits us, and we go
On paths they did not know—
Those men whose names are as a trumpet-blast
From out the armored Past.
To them the deep was as infinity,
Lies sounded and familiar, and our rule
Is over empires that the child at school
Must learn by name, but which old Ulysses
Held buried in his faith's wide mysteries.
Aye! we have sought and found, but did not find
Something the ancient mind
Found greater than our engines and our charts—
A trust that old-world hearts
Found equal to the tempest and the wave,—
Something the western wind
Whispered to spirits harborless and brave,
And sang on oceans wide:
'Fear not, for I the god am at thy side I'
And now as men go forth
To islands of the Orient and North,

Fended and sheltered from the sea's alarms,
Something perhaps they lose—~
A sense of mighty Arms
That shield and shadow and, in some wise, use
Our journeys to a purpose not our own.
And I have dreamt I heard from the unknown
A voice from past our years,
A quiet voice that saith:
'Thou, man, dost still thy fears,
And dare the sea's broad ways of toil and death
And put thy faith in keels thy strength hath planned
And charts thy captains read.
Yea, the great deep is spanned
And all earth's forces broken to thy need:'
Me only, child of dust,
Thou wilt no longer trust!'


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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