Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

In The Corsican Highlands - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

CLOUD-CHAOS surges o'er a crest sublime,
That seems forked lightning spell-bound into stone;
Abruptly steep flame-pointed precipices,
Dark as the night, dissolve to opaline
In phantom foldings of circumfluent sea.
Their natures blend confused; the mists assume
A semblance of impenetrable rock;
Stern rock relents to luminous faint cloud.

Their banners rent as in uproarious war,
Behold! the vaporous battalions
Unclose, dispelled and routed of loud winds,
That drive them scared, and scattered; so Jehovah
Clove that astounded sea for Israel.
Yonder beneath me, the enormous crag
Reveals, between grey ghostly robes of them,
Solid, and rude, and perpendicular,
A mighty front of Titans grandly piled,
Umber, and gory red, and pallid green,
Reared in some alien world beyond the cloud,
Stronghold stupendous of immortal gods.

The rude, immense, straight pillars of grey pine
Scale heaven, sustaining tempest-writhen roofs
Of scant, green, level umbrage; they are built
Athwart yon vaporous and vasty walls
Of far-off mountain: over them arise
Ruinous tower, fantastic pinnacle,
And icy spire in a blue burning air.
They overhang deep, forest-filled ravines
Wandering seawards; whose dim serpentine
Night ever hears a solemn utterance
Of torrents, with deep monotone attuned
To these wind-oracles of ancient pine.
Yonder a gaunt trunk-Skeleton upbraids
With blasted arms the Bolt that shattered it.
Tusky black monsters reign within the gloom
Of forest, and dead waters desolate:
Dim mists drive blindly through portentous trees
While a weird Sun blinks dwarfed within the drift:
Legions of shadowy shaggy ilex climb
Yon narrow-cloven hollows of the crag.

Now evening falls: an aromatic breath
Of amber oozing from a dun-red bark,
And mountain herb, and many a mountain flower
Pervades the air slow clearing from the cloud:
A vaselike cleft between two snowy peaks
Glowingly fills with a pale violet;
Beneath appears fair Ocean's purple line,
Far away from far portals of the pass.
Lower, a surge of huge dun purple rock,
Tumultuously contorted, rolls a rude
And shadowy chaos interposed between
Dark peaks and me: Night's ever-deepening gloom
Engulfs the gorges: all is mighty Music,
Phantasmal symphony of ghostly Form,
A visionary Chorus with no sound!

Stern-visaged Isle! upon thy rocky breast
Two sons were nurtured, heritors of fame.
The one drew pride and ruin from thy veins,
Towering portentous, terrible, alone,
A scourge of God; Napoleon drew power
To desolate the world; while Paoli
Drank from dark fountains of thy resolute blood
The patriot's unshamed integrity.

Behold! I stand within a place of graves,
Low wooden crosses o'er the lonely dead.
Within the wondrous amphitheatre
Of mountains overshadowing they rest;
Watched, warded, in those awful arms they lie.
Ah! Nature here hath roused herself to robe
Her oft unheeded royalty in robes
Of godlike splendour, that our eyes may see;
Hath sounded, as with trumpet-blast of doom,
That our dull ears may slumber not, but hear!
Brands with fierce fire upon the heedless heart
Her name of wonder! yea, I know ye now:
I bow my head in worship: yea, I feel
Your majesty of godlike Presences;
Stand here abashed, with mortal head bowed low
Before you, Angels, Demons of the Lord!

Yet with no rapture of strong youth's acclaim
I hail you, as a lowlier brother may
Hail a liege lord, a hero, or a king.
But I have come into your awful courts,
A poor blind broken pilgrim from afar,
Who faltering chances upon some august
Assembly of dread princes, and bows low,
Yet only craves to learn if haply he,
Who used to lead his poor blind footsteps on
With such clear-seeing love, a little child,
Who has been lost to him, alas! for long,
And whom he vainly seeks about the world,
About the dreary, barren world, be here?
But meeting no response to his demand,
He can but idly weep a moment, ere
He grope his weary way abroad again.

These are but void and ruined courts to me
Of faded splendour, unremembered Power!
I cannot see aright, I cannot feel.
And while men prate of knowing all the laws,
The mortal cold possessing human hearts
Weighs down their eyes in deep sepulchral gloom.
But if some Angel's sword from forth the night,
With vasty voice of Doom, by human tongues
Called thunder, leapt, and smote me out of all
These evil dreams named living, might I find
My little child, and with him find the Lord?

We journey ever higher, through a grove
Of moonlit chestnut, where a babbling stream,
At intervals, in open forest glades,
Flashes with ruffled, wandering, pale flame.
The air is richly laden with sweet spoil
From fragrant flower, and foliage faint-green;
Shadowy-folded hills and dells involved
Whisper of verdure lush, luxuriant,
Known to fair elves, or rills who tinkling glide,
Telling sweet secrets, haunted of shy beams,
Whene'er the whims of leafy Ariels,
And cloudy gossamer, aloft allow
Their gentle wandering; tall asphodel,
And flowery fennel, either side our way,
Often we dim discern; but where the woods
No longer in their colonnades of gloom
Involve our path, beyond the precipice,
Behold! how all the regions of the north,
Height, depth, and breadth, are held, filled, dominated
By one supreme pale presence, Monte d'Oro!
His spirit-robes far floating, a dim grey,
Sombre with forest, pallid with the moon,
His kingly crest snow-gleaming to the stars.

Pan is not dead! He lives! He lives for ever!
These awful Demiurgic Powers named Nature
Nourish, involve a half-alive, blind soul,
A human soul, who fondly deems them dead.
Surely the Lord is making us alive!
Mine aching wound shall heal; for I shall find
My lost, for whom I long; from thee, my friend,
The weary burden of thy doubt shall pass.
Sorrow and Wrong are pangs of a new birth:
All we who suffer bleed for one another;
No life may live alone, but all in all;
We lie within the tomb of our dead selves,
Waiting till One command us to arise.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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