Henry Kendall

(18 April 1839 – 1 August 1882 / Ulladulla, New South Wales)

Safi - Poem by Henry Kendall

Strong pinions bore Safi, the dreamer,
Through the dazzle and whirl of a race,
And the earth, raying up in confusion,
Like a sea thundered under his face!
And the earth, raying up in confusion,
Passed flying and flying afar,
Till it dropped like a moon into silence,
And waned from a moon to a star.

Was it light, was it shadow he followed,
That he swept through those desperate tracts,
With his hair beating back on his shoulders
Like the tops of the wind-hackled flax?

“I come,” murmured Safi, the dreamer,
“I come, but thou fliest before:
But thy way hath the breath of the honey,
And the scent of the myrrh evermore!”

His eyes were the eyes of a watcher
Held on by luxurious faith,
And his lips were the lips of a longer
Amazed with the beauty of Death.

“For ever and ever,” he murmured,
“My love, for the sweetness with thee,
Do I follow thy footsteps,” said Safi,
“Like the wind on a measureless sea.”

And, fronting the furthermost spaces,
He kept through the distances dim,
Till the days, and the years, and the cycles
Were lost and forgotten by him.

When he came to the silver star-portals,
The Queen of that wonderful place
Looked forth from her towers resplendent,
And started, and dreamed in his face.

And one said, “This is Safi the Only,
Who lived in a planet below,
And housed him apart from his fellows,
A million of ages ago.

“He erred, if he suffers, to clutch at
High lights from the wood and the street;
Not caring to see how his brothers
Were content with the things at their feet.”

But she whispered, “Ah, turn to the stranger!
He looks like a lord of the land;
For his eyes are the eyes of an angel,
And the thought on his forehead is grand!

“Is there never a peace for the sinner
Whose sin is in this, that he mars
The light of his worship of Beauty,
Forgetting the flower for the stars?”

“Behold him, my Sister immortal,
And doubt that he knoweth his shame,
Who raves in the shadow for sweetness,
And gloats on the ghost of a flame!

“His sin is his sin, if he suffers,
Who wilfully straitened the truth;
And his doom is his doom, if he follows
A lie without sorrow or ruth.”

And another from uttermost verges
Ran out with a terrible voice—
“Let him go—it is well that he goeth,
Though he break with the lot of his choice!”

“I come,” murmured Safi, the dreamer,
“I come, but thou fliest before:
But thy way hath the breath of the honey,
And the scent of the myrrh evermore.”

“My Queen,” said the first of the Voices,
“He hunteth a perilous wraith,
Arrayed with voluptuous fancies
And ringed with tyrannical faith.

“Wound up in the heart of his error
He must sweep through the silences dire,
Like one in the dark of a desert
Allured by fallacious fire.”

And she faltered, and asked, like a doubter,
“When he hangs on those Spaces sublime
With the Terror that knoweth no limit,
And holdeth no record of Time—

“Forgotten of God and the demons—
Will he keep to his fancy amain?
Can he live for that horrible chaos
Of flame and perpetual rain?”

But an answer as soft as a prayer
Fell down from a high, hidden land,
And the words were the words of a language
Which none but the gods understand.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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