Beyond the Hills of Dream

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

Sebastian Cabot


 

I

 

NEW startled from her sensual dreams,
Europa half-expectant lay,
Revolving dimly broken gleams
Of some far-off unrisen day,
As one sees through dim mists of night
5
Some far, majestic, moon-paved mountain way.
On grim and barbarous couch reclined,
Groped blindly toward her ultimate goal,
When she through midnight of the mind
Would wake to knowledge of her soul.
10
So with a prescience all divine,
She left her bestial gods behind,
And turned her toward the western stars,
When this old rugged, princely tar-of-tars
Beat bravely out, where heaving leagues on leagues
15
Billowed the western brine.

 

II

 

Greater than power or splendor,
Or birth, or might of gold,
Is the noble life of a noble man
Of a heart both brave and bold—
20
All honor to the spirit
That knows not earth’s defeat,
That meets with courage true and strong
What brave souls have to meet—
And honor to the hero,
25
Who centuries ago
Sailed out from old Bristowe
Into the trackless waters of the west;
Who bravely beat and beat
Where sky and waters meet,
30
Till he saw his white cliffs vanish
Under ocean’s heaving breast;
Nor cowardly turned him back,
But held straight on his track,
Through old ocean rose up ravening in gray and angry wrack,
35
And bravely beat and bore up to the west;
All honor to his spirit,
For the glories we inherit,
And peace of mighty slumber
Breathe calmly round his rest!
40
Where’er his earthly bed,
About his pillowed head
Forever beats old Ocean’s monotone:—
For even from a child he loved its voices wild,
Its splendid throb that made his heart its own.
45

 

III

 

I dream his name, and there doth come to be,
A vision of league-long breakers landward hurled;
Of olden ships far-beating out to sea;
Of splendid shining wastes of heaving green
Far-stretching round the world;
50
Of many voices heard from many lands,
Torrid and Arctic, Orient, and the Line;
Of heaving of vast anchors, vanishing strands;
And over all the wonder and thunder and wash
Of the loud, world-conquering brine.
55
Of sky-rimmed waste, or fog-enshrouded reef,
Where some mad siren ever sings the grief
Of all the mighty wrecks in that weird span
Since ocean and time began.
60

 

IV

 

Venice and England cradled!
65
Could this seaman be
Other than ocean’s child,
With heart less restless than that vast and wild
Great heart of the thrilling sea?
Wakened to her long thunders,
70
Cradled in her soft voice,
Could other voice of all earth’s voices sweet
Make his stern heart rejoice?
Yea, this was better than all, greater than all to him,
Truer than youth’s mad whim,
75
The only love of his youth, the only lore of his age,
To gaze on her vast tumultuous scroll,
To pore on her wrinkled page:—
For he was very soul of her soul,
And she meet mother for him.
80

 

V

 

Over the hazy distance,
Beyond the sunset’s rim,
Forever and forever
Those voices called to him.
Westward! westward! westward!
85
The sea sang in his head,
At morn in the busy harbor,
At nightfall on his bed—
Westward! westward! westward!
Over the line of breakers,
90
Out of the distance dim;
Forever the foam-white fingers
Beckoning, beckoning him.

 

VI

 

This was no common spirit,
This sailor of old Bristowe;
95
Not one of the mart-made helots
Such as the world doth know;
But a bronzed and rugged veteran,
Adrift in the vanguard’s flow;
A son of the world’s great highway
100
Where the mighty storm winds blow.

 

VII

 

All honor to this grand old Pilot,
Whose flag is struck, whose sails are furled,
Whose ship is beached, whose voyage ended;
Who sleeps somewhere in sod unknown,
105
Without a slab, without a stone,
In that great Island, sea-impearled.
Yea, reverence with honor blended,
For this old seaman of the past,
Who braved the leagues of ocean hurled,
110
Who out of danger knowledge rended,
And built the bastions, sure and fast,
Of that great bridgeway grand and vast
Of golden commerce round the world.
All honor! yea, a day shall come,
115
If glory lives in human rhyme,
When our poor faltering lips are dumb;
A greater and more splendid time,
When larger men of mightier aim
Shall do meet honor to his name.
120
Yea, honor! only greatness keeps
Its sanctuary where this seaman sleeps;
This old Venetian, Briton-born,
Who held of fear a hero’s scorn,
Who nailed his colors to the mast,
125
Who sought in reverence for the true,
And found it in the rifting blue
Of those broad furrows of the vast:—
Who knew no honors, held no state,
But in his ruggedness was great.
130
Who like some sea-shell, in him felt
The universe of ocean dwelt,
Whose whole true being nature cast
Like his own ocean-spaces, vast!

 

VII

 

Yea, he is dead; this mighty seaman!
135
Four long centuries ago.
Beating westward, ever westward,
Beating out from old Bristowe,
Saw he far in visions lifted,
Down the golden sunset’s glow,
140
Through the bars of twilight rifted,
All the glories that we know.
Beating westward, ever westward,
Over heaving leagues of brine,
Buffeted by arctic scurries,
145
Languid trade-winds from the line;
With a courage heaven-gifted,
And a fortitude divine.
Yea, he is dead; but who shall say
That all the splendid deeds he wrought,
150
That all the lofty truths he taught
(If truth be knowledge nobly sought),
Are dead and vanished quite away?
Nay nay, he lives; and such as he,
In every lofty human dream,
155
In every true sublimity
That splendors earth and makes it teem
With inward might and majesty;
This grand old Pilot of Bristowe,
Incarnate, comes to earth again,
160
As when, four hundred years ago,
He swept in storm and shine and snow,
Athwart the thunders of the main.

 

IX

 

Greater far than shaft or storied fane,
Than bronze and marble blent,
165
Greater than all the honors he could gain
From a nation’s high intent,
He sleeps alone, in his great isle, unknown,
With the chalk-cliffs all around him for his might grave-yard stone,
And the league-long sounding roar
170
Of old ocean, forevermore
Beating, beating, about his rest,
For fane and monument.