The Dread Voyage Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

THE LAST RIDE


 

It seems his soul had lived that moment before, when he should come to the dread place.   I KNEW of it ages before,
Yea, it seemed that the years knew it too;
That I should come to that shore,
Where the foam and the wild waters flew—
Where the winds and the bleak night blew;—
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    And the name of that place, No More.

 
That he and she and death should ride together.
I knew of it ages ago,
That I should thunder that ride,
With her and the night for my woe—
With her and death by my side—

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    Her and her pitiful pride;—
And the long hours whose shudd’ring flow

 
Where the black was as Eblis, and the sounds as worms moving in a grave.   Grew, while the black grew thick
As the close, hot air of a cave
In Eblis, where death-watches tick,
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  Like the moving of worms in a grave;—  
    Grew, till the dawn outdrave
The black night, shudd’ring and sick.

 
The mines chant their despair to the night.   Who were the mimes in the air
That wept for the woe of our flight,
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    That chanted a bitter despair,
To the dark, haunted heart of the night—
That knew not of wrong or right,
Save but of the moments that were?

 
He sees the past, as ruined sunsets, and the early morning of life.   The ruins of sunsets that hung
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  On the far, reeling edge of the world;—
The long-uttered thoughts that upsprung
Like the ghosts of a past that was furled,
Where the dreams of a life were impearled,
In a morning forevermore young!
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She also knew the demons that haunted.
 
And she; she knew even as I,
 
  Of the phantoms that haunted us there;
Of the demons that never could die,
While the world’s heart pulsed our despair;
And out where the mad waters fare,
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    The ghostly, wan shorelands should lie.

 
They ride by the hoarse sea, and the bitter winds and hell with them.   O, that night, and that terrible ride—
With the bitter, sharp wind in the face,
And the hoarse, great tongues of the tide,
As it beat on the black of that place;
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    Till all hell joined in the race,
With death and despair for a guide!

 
He slays the foes of his guilty thoughts, while the demons trouble him.   Many the foes that I slew,
With the sword of my guilt, red as blood—
Many the demons that blew
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  Their mad, flame-horns through my mood,
As I thundered that horrible wood,
To the place where a world went through.

 
Now he hates the morrows to come   White, meagre, the days yet to come
Seemed wintry and hateful to me:
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    Would mornings wake, pitiless, dumb,
With horror and dread agony—
And the moan of that terrible sea
Beat the dead-march of life like a drum,

 
with the remorse for his wrecked days.   In the hands of some hideous mime—
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  Some strange, inextinguishable flame
That would burn at my heart for all time—
Some horror to dread to have name,
As of one who had played for a game,
Then slipped and was lost in the slime?
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He knows the end cometh.
 
(I am but the poor wreck of a man,)
When I came to that horrible place,
(Love was never a part of God’s plan,)
And looked her and death in the face,
And knew me unworthy and base,
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    And the shores where the black waters ran;—

 
They come to the outer shore and look each on each through the mists, and read the ancient curse there,   When we came to that lone, outer shore,
Where the world sundered, parting us two;
(God and the dread nevermore!)
When we came where the thick mists blew,
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  So face could scarce on face, through,
Read the woe-rune of earth’s ancient lore;—

 
and feel the dread agony of parting. Their souls feel for one another as the seas for the land.   When hand stretched longing for hand,
And that strange, wild cry of the soul;
As the feeble sea feels for the land,
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  Or a racer far, far from the goal;—
So we, ere we drank of death’s dole,
Knew the black night that hope never spanned.

 
But he knows the hour has come,   Then I knew as I looked on her face,
(Black, black is the night and the rain,)
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    Sweet as a flower in that place,
And heard the hoarse roar of the main;
That this was the hour for us twain,
The last, bitter end of the race.

 
and the anguish of the gate of the nevermore.   And I gripped her as man only grips
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  The last gift that God has for him,
And lived with my lips on her lips
An age that was anguished and dim;
And time was as bubbles that swim,
Or the hailing of out-faring ships.
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They plead in vain with time while their doom waits.
 
We pleaded and haggled with time,
 
  With time who was haggard and hoar;
And met the dread hell of our crime,
While fate stood there at the door;—
With our doom in his hand he upbore,
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    Till I heard each second’s beat chime.

 
He feels that they died there. He is but a lost wreck on the coast of the ages ere the evil had power.   And I know now we died in that hour:—
I am all but the ghost of a man,
A mariner stranded ashore
On some continent out of God’s plan,
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  Made before misery began,
Or evil got men in its power.

 
And dreams a dead life with but one thing real for him which he liveth over and over forever, that night and the woe that her face held.   In dreams my imaginings trace,
I feel I lived somewhere before,
Ere life was, in some phantom place,
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  Some land of the haunted No More;—
But, O God, that night and that shore,
And that ride, and the woe of her face!