Far Horizons

by Bliss Carman


 

BELLS OF YS


 

ONCE of old there stood a beauteous city
By the Breton sea,
Towered and belled and flagged and wreathed and pennoned
For the pomp of Yule-tide revelry;
All its folk, adventurous, sea-daring,
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Gay as gay could be.

And at night when window, torch, and bonfire
Lighted up the sky,
Down the wind came galleon and pinnace,
Steered for that red lantern, riding high;

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Every brown hand hard upon the tiller,
Shoreward every eye.

Well I see that hardy Breton sailor
With the bearded lip,—
How he laughed out, holding his black racer

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Where the travelling sea-hills climb and slip,
Chased by storm, but lighted on to haven,
Ship by homing ship.

Every sail came in, a deep-sea rover
Who had heard afar

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Wild and splendid hyperborean rumours
Of a respite made to feud and war,—
Making port where sea-wreck and disaster
Should not vex them more.

What of Ys? Where was it when gray morning

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Gloomed o’er Brittany?
Smothered out in elemental fury,
Wrecked and whelmed in the engulfing sea,
To become a never-fading story
In sea-legendry.
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There at ebb of tide, when no wind vexes
That lone tragic shore,
Through the sea’s pale light entranced towers
May be seen uprising from its floor,
Safe within that beryl deep embosomed
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Lovely as of yore.

Still along that haunted coast men tell us
They can hear at times,
When the tide is half asleep and musing,
The faint sound of unsubstantial chimes

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Ringing through the world’s tumultuous daybeat
From enchanted climes.

And they say those peals of fairy music
Are the city’s bells,
Drowned long since with all their silver joyance,—

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That a deathless rapture in them dwells,
Part forever of the surge of being
As it sinks and swells.

In each heart there is a sunken city,
Wonderful as Ys.

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In hours of ebb we hear the mellow pealing
Of its mystic bells of joy and peace,
Rocked by tides that wash through all its portals
Without let or cease.

In from nowhere blow those freshening seaturns,

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Haunting all our ways
With melodious inspiring echoes
Of old transports and forgotten days.
Through the entries and the doors of being
Their faint music strays.
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That’s the magic of our deathless sea-bells,
Chiming all life long
Ever-healing canticles of beauty,
Joy’s ecstatic triumph over wrong,—
The love theme that haunts this human dwelling
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With immortal song.