In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

AFLOAT


 

Afloat!—
Ah Love, on the mirror of waters
All the world seems with us afloat,—
All the wide, bright world of the night;
But the mad world of men is remote,
5
And the prating of tongues is afar.
We have fled from the crowd in our flight,
And beyond the gray rim of the waters
All the turmoil has sunk from our sight.
Turn your head, Love, a little, and note
10
Low down in the south a pale star.
The mists of the horizon-line drench it,
The beams of the moon all but quench it,
Yet it shines thro’ this flood-tide of light.
Love, under that star is the world
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Of the day, of our life, and our sorrow,
Where defamers and envious are.
Here, here is our peace, our delight,—
To our closest love-converse no bar.
Yet, as even in the moonbeam’s despite
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Still is seen the pale beam of the star,
So the light of our rapture this hour
Cannot quench the remembrance of morrow.
Though the wings of all winds are upfurled
And a limitless silence hath power,
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Still the envious strife we forget not;
For the future is skilful to mar,
And the past we have finished not quite.

But this hour—Ah Love, if it might
With this splendor, this shining moon, set not!

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If only forever as now
In this silence of silver adrift,
In this reeling, slow, luminous sphere,
This hollow great round of the night,
We might drift with the tide-flow, and lift
35
With the infinite pulse of the waters,
See each but the other, and hear
Our own language alone, I and thou,
I here at the stern, at the prow
The one woman, God’s costliest gift!
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So only to see you, to hear you,
To speak with you, Love, to be near you,—
I should reckon this life, well content.

But this dream is in vain, is in vain;
I will dream you one other. Suppose

45
This one hour some nepenthe were lent,
So pain, nor remembrance of pain,
Nor remembrance nor knowledge of care,
Nor distrust, nor fear, nor despair,—
For these, and more also, God knows
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We have known and endured them, full share,—
Should have power to approach us! Suppose
To us drifting and dreaming afloat
On this shadowless shining of waters,
This mirror of tide without stain,
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It were possible just for one hour
To forebode, or remember, or fear,
Nothing; of one thing aware
And one only, that we two are here,
And together, unhindered: then, Dear,
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This one hour were our life,—all the past
But the ignorant sleep before birth,
All the future a trance, that should last
Till we turn us again to our earth!
And this dream, hadst thou courage to hear
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Me interpret, were dreamed not in vain.
For this hour, O Love, was not meant,
With its rapture of peace, to endure,
Intense, calm, passionate, pure,—
My spirit with thy spirit blent
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As the odor of flower and flower,
Of hyacinth blossom and rose.
Heart, spirit, and body, and brain,
Thou are utterly mine, as I thine;
But the love of the flesh, tho’ at first
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When I saw you and loved you it burst
With the love of the spirit one flame,
Neither greater nor less, but the same,
Is yet finite, attains not the height
Of the spirit enfranchised, and must
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With the body slip back into dust.
Our soul-passion is deathless, divine.

So, we strike now the perfectest note
That man’s heart is attuned to, attain
The white light of the zenith supreme,

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Pierce the seventh and innermost sphere;
We are gods! Let us cast adrift
From the world of the flesh and its power!
It is only a plunge, a quick roll
Of our skiff—I will gather and fold
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You close, for the waters are cold,—
A few sobs, and we rise one soul,
Undissevered for ever and ever.