Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

The Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

TIME spake to me: 'Behold!
I slay your dearest one!
And with him, dead beneath the churchyard mould,
Your living heart I bury from the sun!'
More scornfully he said:
'When you have anguished long,
I will erase remembrance of your dead:
You shall arise, singing an idle song,
As were you glad again;
For you were glad of yore!
New circumstance, new care, shall cause to wane
His very image, till your eyes no more
Behold him in the deep
Dark mere of memory;
Although you peer therein, and wail and weep,
You shall but find a vacant, smiling sky;
Till with faint listless wonder you espy
Wan, withered Love, who falters there to die!
Even from your heart's shrine
Your idol shall be torn;
As erst your joys, so now your sorrows fine
I scatter with cold scorn!
All ye shall jeer at your own oath
Of infinite fidelity;
Ye shall forswear yourselves, and be to both
Heaven and earth, and your own selves a mockery;
Poor fool! I will extinguish every ember,
Love, hope, grief, all remaining of you yet!
Yea, though thou vow to God thou wilt remember,
Thou shalt forget!'

And I replied to Time:
'Thou shalt abolish me,
Ere thou dissolve all sanctities sublime
Of mine own being; when I perish utterly,
I moan no more in pain, nor lie foredone,
Self-scorned, a hissing to white orbs that roll,
Flawless, annealed, obedient to their sun.
If thou hast plunged in night his precious soul,
How wilt thou hinder me
From taking sanctuary
In that eternal gloom from woe and shame?
A holiest Altar, if the child who was all free from blame
Be lying mute before
The dim grey stone of Silence, cold for evermore!
Ah! there I shall be free
From pain, from sin, from folly, and from thee!
There he and I shall rest in peace,
Nor know what may be born, nor what may cease,
Nor any God may torture us with false hopes of release!'

I spake again to Time:
'Thou liest in thy throat!
All may change, or fall, or climb,
Yet all lives self-retained in change, tho' never so remote,
Yea, the old form I knew
Abideth out of view,
Now first fulfilled in other,
For each is by a brother;
In some alien guise
The dead are risen; lo! to longing eyes,
When Occasion calls aloud
To the Past within the shroud,
When Destiny, the omnipotent, shall wave
Her hand, the Past shall start from his deep grave
And Memory restore
What seemed in wan Oblivion buried evermore,
Sea that moans for human ravage, ever hungering for more!
All abideth in a sphere
Aloof from mortal eye and ear;
Faith discerns in flowing time
Fair reflex of a holier crime,
In ruffled mirrors of dark memory
The still face of Eternity.
Yea, and every tiny sprout
Of bloom or leaf is yonder still,
Though many a wind may waft us doubt,
And they play hide and seek at will
In the spirit's fairy fountain,
From holy halls of night divine so musically mounting!

'Doth not the aged man recover
What seemed long perished of his primal youth?
Once more he is the child, the blithe boy-lover,
Who lay concealed below life's lavish later growth.
And though the soul bewildered err from life to life,
She shall possess them all in God, afar from mortal strife!

'Oft on me in dream
My blessed one will gleam,
All palpable as when at first
He quenched my spirit's longing thirst;
I fold him close, I feel him kiss,
I feel his hands, his hair; the bliss
No fuller was of yore,
And asking for no more,
I thank the Lord for this.
Howbeit I clasp him closer than of old,
As if I knew I only may enfold
For a brief moment, dim divining why,
Foreboding him compelled anon to fly.
Troubled I own that somewhat seems amiss,
And nor asleep nor waking may I unravel this!
Often I am aware that he hath died,
And yet I hold him living by my side.
Enough! he gleams upon my lonely tomb,
Among stern crags, from wan night-clouds, he gloweth in my gloom!'

Nature reveals high lineaments of souls,
Confused from sad suffusion of our eyes,
Veiled with our tears; in these poor earthly shoals
Of low-lapsed life, she may not wear the guise
She wore when we were innocent and wise.
And while I muse, the cold tremendous Shade,
Who spake the cruel words, appears to fade.
I know Time for a shadow of man's mind
Thrown on the wide world; human souls are blind;
And lo! the Lord is shining from behind!
Ah! strengthen, purge our eyes! we would behold Thy day!
Then error, wrong, and sorrow shall vanish all away!

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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