Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

Suspiria. Lines Addressed To H. F. B. - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

Do you remember the billowy roar of tumultuous ocean,
Darkling, emerald, eager under vaults of the cave,
Shattered to simmer of foam on a boulder of delicate lilac,
Disenchantless youth of the clear, immortal wave?
Labyrinths begemmed with fairy lives of the water,
Sea-sounding palace halls far statelier than a King's,
Seethe of illumined floor with a never-wearying motion,
Oozy enchased live walls, where a sea-music rings?

Do you remember the battle our brown-winged arrowy vessel
Waged with wind and tide, a foaming billowy night,
To a sound as minute guns, when gloomy hearts of the hollows
With sullen pride rebuffed invading Ocean's might?
Do you remember the Altarlet towers that front the cathedral,
Dark and scarred sheer crag, flashed o'er by the wild sea-mews?
How they wheel aloft lamenting, souls of the ululant tempest!
And the lightning billows clash in the welter Odin brews!

A sinister glare from under brows of the Storm-Sun!
Brows of piled-up cloud, threatening grim Brechou,
Bleaching to ghastly pale the turbulent trouble of water,
While the ineffable burden of grey world o'er me grew!
Yea, all the weary waste of cloud confused with the ocean
Fell full-charged with Doom on a foundering human heart:
Our souls were moved asunder, away to an infinite distance,
While all the love that warmed me waned, and will depart.
Fiends of the whirlwind howl for a wild carousal of slaughter
Of all that is holy and fair, so shrills the demon wail;
Ruin of love and youth, with all we have deemed immortal!
My child lies dead in the dark, and I begin to fail!
Wonderful visions wane, tall towers of phantasy tumble;
I shrink from the frown without me, there is no smile within;
I cower by the fireless hearth of an uninhabited chamber,
Alone with Desolation, and the dumb ghost of my sin.

I have conversed with the aged; once their souls were a furnace;
Now they are gleams in mouldered vaults of the memory:
All the long sound of the Human wanes to wails of a shipwreck,
Drowned in the terrible roar of violent sons of the sea!
In the immense storm-chaunt of winds and waves of the sea!
And if we have won some way in our weary toil to the summit,
Do we not slidder ever back to the mouth of the pit?
When I behold the random doom that engulfs the creature,
I wonder, is the irony of God perchance in it?
'Tis a hideous spectacle to shake the sides of fiends with laughter,
Where in the amphitheatre of our red world they sit!
Yea, and the rosiest Love in a songful heart of a lover,
Child of Affinity, Joy, Occasion, beautiful May,
May sour to a wrinkled Hate, may wear and wane to Indifference,
Ah! Love an' thou be mortal, all will soon go grey!
O when our all on earth is wrecked on reefs of disaster,
May the loud Night that whelms be found indeed God's Day!

Our aims but half our own, we are drifted hither and thither;
The quarry so fiercely hunted rests unheeded now;
And if we seized our bauble, it is fallen to ashes,
But a fresh illusion haunts the ever-aching brow.
Is the world a welter of dream, with ne'er an end, nor an issue,
Or doth One weave Dark Night, with Morning's golden strand,
To a Harmony with sure hand?
Ah! for a vision of God! for a mighty grasp of the real,
Feet firm based on granite in place of crumbling sand!
O to be face to face, and heart to heart with our dearest,
Lost in mortal mists of the unrevealing land!
Oh! were we disenthralled from casual moods of the outward,
Slaves to the smile or frown of tyrant, mutable Time!
Might we abide unmoved in central deeps of the Spirit,
Where the mystic jewel Calm glows evermore sublime!
The dizzying shows of the world, that fall and tumble to chaos,
Dwell irradiate there in everlasting prime.
But the innermost spirit of man, who is one with the Universal,
Yearns to exhaust, to prove, the Immense of Experience,
Explores, recedes, makes way, distils a food from a poison,
From strife with Death wrings power, and seasoned confidence.
O'er the awakening infant, drowsing eld, and the mindless,
Their individual Spirit glows enthroned in Heaven,
Albeir at dawn, or even, or from confusion of cloudland,
Earth of their full radiance may remain bereaven:
Yea, under God's grand eyes all souls lie pure and shriven.

Nay! friend beloved! remember purple robes of the cavern,
And all the wonderful dyes in dusky halls of the sea,
When a lucid lapse of the water lent thrills of exquisite pleasure,
A tangle of living lights all over us tenderly,
When our stilly bark lay floating, or we were lipping the water,
Breast to breast with the glowing, ardent heart of the deep!
That was a lovelier hour, whispering hope to the spirit,
Breathing a halcyon calm, that lulled despair to sleep;
Fairy flowers of the ocean, opening innermost wonder,
Kindle a rosy morn impearled in the waterways,
A myriad tiny diamond founts arise in the coralline,
Anemones love to be laved in the life of the chrysoprase:
The happy heart of the water in many unknown recesses
Childly babbled, and freely to glad companions:
We will be patient, friend, through all the moods of the terror,
Waiting in solemn hope resurrection of our suns!

Cherish loves that are left, pathetic stars in the gloaming;
Howe'er they may wax and wane, they are with us to the end;
The Past is all secure, the happy hours and the mournful
Involved i' the very truth of God Himself, my friend!
It is well to wait in the darkness for the Deliverer's moment,
With a hand in the hand of God, strong Sire of the universe;
It is well to work our work, with cheering tones for a brother,
Whose poor bowed soul, like ours, the horrible gulfs immerse;
Then dare all gods to the battle! Who of them all may shame us?
The very shows of the world have fleeting form from thee:
Discover but thy task, embrace it firm with a purpose;
Find, and hold by Love, for Love is Eternity.

O to be sure for ever! weary of hopes and guesses,
I would the film might fall that veils our orbs in night!
At eve grey phantom armies guard the mighty mountain,
Denying free approach to wistful wondering sight:
A Presence dim divined through blind impalpable motion,
An awful formless Form, i' the core of change unmoved,
No more was ours, until the grand invincible Angel,
The clear-eyed North blew bare Heaven's azure heights, and proved
Hope's heavenliest flight weak-winged; his breath with clangorous challenge
Dissolved the cloud-battalions, withering shamed away:
Behold, in sunrise dyed, a wondrous vision of high crag,
Spires of leaping flame arrested in mid-play;
Peak, rock-tower, and dome; huge peals of an ocean of thunder
Assumed a bodily form in yonder wild array!
And the long continuous roll of cloudy storm subsiding
Was tranced to awful slopes of smooth grey precipice,
While over all up-soared, retiring into the heavens,
Ever higher and higher, snows and gleaming ice!
Plain beyond plain, the strophes of a glorious poem,
Voyaging stately and calm to heights of the argument . . .
How to be sure for ever? deepening all our being,
And emptying self of self, with Truth we shall be blent.

Yon hierarchy sublime of calm ethereal mountain
Was born of earth's fierce passion, world-confounding throes,
Fire, and battle, and gloom; the livid demon of lightning
Flashed his zigzag blaze to be a norm for those;
Birth and death, monotonous toil in deeps of the ocean,
Co-operant blind to fashion a far-off repose.
Whose brief earth-hour may taste ripe future fruit of the ages?
Gauge with a life's one pace the march of the armies of God?
Forestall results of time, flash all the sun from a dew-drop?
But where the Sire hath willed, there every footstep trod.

'Tis only a little we know; but ah! the Saviour knoweth;
I will lay the head of a passionate child on His gentle breast,
I poured out with the wave, He founded firm with the mountain;
In the calm of His infinite eyes I have sought and found my rest.
O to be still on the heart of the God we know in the Saviour,
Feeling Him more than all the noblest gifts He gave!
To be is more than to know; we near the Holy of Holies
In coming home to Love; we shall know beyond the grave.

Ah! the peace of the beautiful realm, like dew, sinks into my spirit;
True and tender friend, I love to be here with thee.
The pines, tall fragrant columns of a magnificent temple,
Are ranged before the ethereal mountain majesty:
While a dove-coloured lapse of the water merrily murmurs a confidence
Into a quiet ear of twilit beautiful bowers;
Sweet breath of the pyrola woos us, white waxen elf of the woodland,
And two tired hearts may play awhile with the innocent flowers.

(Sark and San Marino.)

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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