Later Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

Off Monomy


 

HAVE you sailed Nantucket Sound
By lightship, buoy, and bell,
And lain becalmed at noon
On an oily summer swell?

Lazily drooped the sail,

5
Moveless the pennant hung,
Sagging over the rail
Idle the main boom swung;

The sea, one mirror of shine
A single breath would destroy,

10
Save for the far low line
Of treacherous Monomoy.

Yet eastward there toward Spain,
What castled cities rise
From the Atlantic plain,

15
To our enchanted eyes!

Turret and spire and roof
Looming out of the sea,
Where the prosy chart gives proof
No cape nor isle can be!

20

Can a vision shine so clear
Wherein no substance dwells?
One almost harks to hear
The sound of the city’s bells.

And yet no pealing notes

25
Within those belfries be,
Save echoes from the throats
Of ship-bells lost at sea.

For none shall anchor there
Save those who long of yore,

30
When tide and wind were fair,
Sailed and came back no more.

And none shall climb the stairs
Within those ghostly towers,
Save those for whom sad prayers

35
Went up through fateful hours.

O image of the world,
O mirage of the sea,
Cloud-built and foam-impearled,
What sorcery fashioned thee?

40

What architect of dream,
What painter of desire,
Conceived that fairy scheme
Touched with fantastic fire?

Even so our city of hope

45
We mortal dreamers rear
Upon the perilous slope
Above the deep of fear;

Leaving half-known the good
Our kindly earth bestows,

50
For the feigned beatitude
Of a future no man knows.

Lord of the summer sea,
Whose tides are in thy hand,
Into immensity

55
The vision at thy command

Fades now, and leaves no sign,—
No light nor bell nor buoy,—
Only the faint low line
Of dangerous Monomoy.

60