I sought the long clear twilights of my home, Far in the pale-blue skies and slaty seas, What time the sunset dies not utterly, But withered to a ghost-like stealthy gleam, Round the horizon creeps the short-lived night, And changes into sunrise in a swoon. I found my home in homeliness unchanged: The love that made it home, unchangeable, Received me as a child, and all was well. My ancient summer-heaven, borne on the hills, Once more embraced me; and once more the vale, So often sighed for in the far-off nights, Rose on my bodily vision, and, behold, In nothing had the fancy mocked the fact! The hasting streams went garrulous as of old; The resting flowers in silence uttered more; The blue hills rose and dwelt alone in heaven; Householding Nature from her treasures brought Things old and new, the same yet not the same, For all was holier, lovelier than before; And best of all, once more I paced the fields With him whose love had made me long for God So good a father that, needs-must, I sought A better still, Father of him and me.
Once on a day, my cousin Frank and I Sat swiftly borne behind the dear white mare That oft had carried me in bygone days Along the lonely paths of moorland hills; But now we sought the coast, where deep waves foam 'Gainst rocks that lift their dark fronts to the north. And with us went a girl, on whose kind face I had not looked for many a youthful year, But the old friendship straightway blossomed new. The heavens were sunny, and the earth was green; The large harebells in families stood along The grassy borders, of a tender blue Transparent as the sky, haunted with wings Of many butterflies, as blue as they. And as we talked and talked without restraint, Brought near by memories of days that were, And therefore are for ever; by the joy Of motion through a warm and shining air; By the glad sense of freedom and like thoughts; And by the bond of friendship with the dead, She told the tale which here I tell again.
I had returned to childish olden time, And asked her if she knew a castle worn, Whose masonry, razed utterly above, Yet faced the sea-cliff up, and met the waves:-- 'Twas one of my child-marvels; for, each year, We turned our backs upon the ripening corn, And sought some village on the Moray shore; And nigh this ruin, was that I loved the best.
For oh the riches of that little port!-- Down almost to the beach, where a high wall Inclosed them, came the gardens of a lord, Free to the visitor with foot restrained-- His shady walks, his ancient trees of state; His river--that would not be shut within, But came abroad, went dreaming o'er the sands, And lost itself in finding out the sea; Inside, it bore grave swans, white splendours--crept Under the fairy leap of a wire bridge, Vanished in leaves, and came again where lawns Lay verdurous, and the peacock's plumy heaven Bore azure suns with green and golden rays. It was my childish Eden; for the skies Were loftier in that garden, and the clouds More summer-gracious, edged with broader white; And when they rained, it was a golden rain That sparkled as it fell--an odorous rain. And then its wonder-heart!--a little room, Half-hollowed in the side of a steep hill, Which rose, with columned, windy temple crowned, A landmark to far seas. The enchanted cell Was clouded over in the gentle night Of a luxuriant foliage, and its door, Half-filled with rainbow hues of coloured glass, Opened into the bosom of the hill. Never to sesame of mine that door Gave up its sanctuary; but through the glass, Gazing with reverent curiosity, I saw a little chamber, round and high, Which but to see was to escape the heat, And bathe in coolness of the eye and brain; For all was dusky greenness; on one side, A window, half-blind with ivy manifold, Whose leaves, like heads of gazers, climbed to the top, Gave a joy-saddened light, for all that came Through the thick veil was green, oh, kindest hue! But the heart has a heart--this heart had one: Still in the midst, the ever more of all, On a low column stood, white, cold, dim-clear, A marble woman. Who she was I know not-- A Psyche, or a Silence, or an Echo: Pale, undefined, a silvery shadow, still, In one lone chamber of my memory, She is a power upon me as of old.
But, ah, to dream there through hot summer days, In coolness shrouded and sea-murmurings, Forgot by all till twilight shades grew dark! To find half-hidden in the hollowed wall, A nest of tales, old volumes such as dreams Hoard up in bookshops dim in tortuous streets! That wondrous marble woman evermore Filling the gloom with calm delirium Of radiated whiteness, as I read!-- The fancied joy, too plenteous for its cup, O'erflowed, and turned to sadness as it fell.
But the gray ruin on the shattered shore, Not the green refuge in the bowering hill, Drew forth our talk that day. For, as I said, I asked her if she knew it. She replied, "I know it well. A woman used to live In one of its low vaults, my mother says." "I found a hole," I said, "and spiral stair, Leading from level of the ground above To a low-vaulted room within the rock, Whence through a small square window I looked forth Wide o'er the waters; the dim-sounding waves Were many feet below, and shrunk in size To a great ripple." "'Twas not there," she said, "--Not in that room half up the cliff, but one Low down, within the margin of spring tides: When both the tide and northern wind are high, 'Tis more an ocean-cave than castle-vault." And then she told me all she knew of her.
It was a simple tale, a monotone: She climbed one sunny hill, gazed once abroad, Then wandered down, to pace a dreary plain; Alas! how many such are told by night, In fisher-cottages along the shore!
Farewell, old summer-day! I turn aside To tell her story, interwoven with thoughts Born of its sorrow; for I dare not think A woman at the mercy of a sea.