In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

THE ISLES—AN ODE


 

I

 

Faithful reports of them have reached me oft!
   Many their embassage to mortal court,
   By golden pomp, and breathless-heard consort
                              Of music soft,—
By fragrances accreditied, and dreams.
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   Many their speeding herald, whose light feet
Make pause at wayside brooks, and fords of streams,
   Leaving transfigured by an effluence fleet
                              Those wayfarers they meet.

 

II

 

No wind from out the solemn wells of night
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   But hath its burden of strange messages,
   Tormenting for interpreter; nor less
                              The wizard light
That steals from noon-stilled waters, woven in shade,
   Beckons somewither, with cool fingers slim.
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No dawn but hath some subtle word conveyed
   In rose ineffable at sunrise rim,
                              Or charactery dim.

 

III

 

One moment throbs the hearing, yearns the sight.
   But tho’ not far, yet strangely hid—the way,
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   And our sense slow; nor long for us delay
                              The guides their flight!
The breath goes by; the word, the light, elude;
   And we stay wondering. But there comes an hour
Of fitness perfect and unfettered mood,
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   When splits her husk the finer sense with power,
                              And—yon their palm-trees tower!

 

IV

 

Here Homer came, and Milton came, tho’ blind.
   Omar’s deep doubts still found them nigh and nigher,
   And learned them fashioned to the heart’s desire.
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                              The supreme mind
Of Shakspere took their sovereignty, and smiled.
   Those passionate Israelitish lips that poured
The Song of Songs attained them; and the wild
   Child-heart of Shelley, here from strife restored,
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                              Remembers not life’s sword.