Aye as it listeth blows the listless wind,
Filling great sails, and bending lordly masts,
Or making billows in the green corn fields,
And hunting lazy clouds across the blue:
Now, like a vapour o’er the sunny sea,
It blows the vessel from the harbour’s mouth,
Out ‘mid the broken crests of seaward waves,
And hovering of long-pinioned ocean birds,
As if the white wave-spots had taken wing.
But though all space is full of spots of white,
The sailor sees the little handkerchief
That flutters still, though wet with heavy tears
Which draw it earthward from the sunny wind.
Blow, wind! draw out the cord that binds the twain,
And breaks not, though outlengthened till the maid
Can only say, I know he is not here.
Blow, wind! yet gently; gently blow, O wind!
And let love’s vision slowly, gently die;
And the dim sails pass ghost-like o’er the deep,
Lingering a little o’er the vanished hull,
With a white farewell to the straining eyes.
For never more in morning’s level beam,
Will the wide wings of her sea-shadowing sails
From the green-billowed east come dancing in;
Nor ever, gliding home beneath the stars,
With a faint darkness o’er the fainter sea,
Will she, the ocean-swimmer, send a cry
Of home-come sailors, that shall wake the streets
With sudden pantings of dream-scaring joy.
Blow gently, wind! blow slowly, gentle wind!
Weep not, oh maiden! tis not time to weep;
Torment not thou thyself before thy time;
The hour will come when thou wilt need thy tears
To cool the burning of thy desert brain.
Go to thy work; break into song sometimes,
To die away forgotten in the lapse
Of dreamy thought, ere natural pause ensue;
Oft in the day thy time-outspeeding heart,
Sending thy ready eye to scout the east,
Like child that wearies of her mother’s pace,
And runs before, and yet perforce must wait.
The time drew nigh. Oft turning from her work,
With bare arms and uncovered head she clomb
The landward slope of the prophetic hill;
From whose green head, as on the verge of time,
Seer-like she gazed, shading her hope-rapt eyes
From the bewilderment of work-day light,
Far out on the eternity of waves;
If from the Hades of the nether world
Her prayers might draw the climbing skyey sails
Up o’er the threshold of the horizon line;
For when he came she was to be his wife,
And celebrate with rites of church and home
The apotheosis of maidenhood.
Time passed. The shadow of a fear that hung
Far off upon the horizon of her soul,
Drew near with deepening gloom and clearing form,
Till it o’erspread and filled her atmosphere,
And lost all shape, because it filled all space,
Reaching beyond the bounds of consciousness;
But ever in swift incarnations darting
Forth from its infinite a stony stare,
A blank abyss, an awful emptiness.
Ah, God! why are our souls, lone helpless seas,
Tortured with such immitigable storm?
What is this love, that now on angel wing
Sweeps us amid the stars in passionate calm;
And now with demon arms fast cincturing,
Drops us, through all gyrations of keen pain,
Down the black vortex, till the giddy whirl
Gives fainting respite to the ghastly brain?
Not these the maiden’s questions. Comes he yet?
Or am I widowed ere my wedding day?
Ah! ranged along our shores, on peak or cliff,
Or stone-ribbed promontory, or pier head,
Maidens have aye been standing; the same pain
Deadening the heart-throb; the same gathering mist
Dimming the eye that would be keen as death;
The same fixed longing on the changeless face.
Over the edge he vanished–came no more:
There, as in childhood’s dreams, upon that line,
Without a parapet to shield the sense,
Voidness went sheer down to oblivion:
Over that edge he vanished–came no more.