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Fires of Driftwood

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Fires of Driftwood

ON what long tidesDo you drift to my fire,You waifs of strange waters?From what far seas,What murmurous sands,What desolate beaches—Flotsam of those glories that were ships!

I gather you,Bitter with salt,Sun-bleached, rock-scarred, moon-harried,Fuel for my fire.

You are Pride’s end.Through all to-morrows you are yesterday.You are waste,You are ruin,For where is that which once you were?

I gather you.See! I set free the fire within you—You awake in thin flame!Tremulous, mistlike, your soul aspires,Blue, beautiful,Up and up to the clouds which are its kindred!What is left is nothing—Ashes blown along the shore!

When as a Lad

  WHEN, as a lad, at break of day  I watched the fishers sail away,My thoughts, like flocking birds, would followAcross the curving sky’s blue hollow,  And on and on—  Into the very heart of dawn!

  For long I searched the world—ah, me!  I searched the sky, I searched the sea,With much of useless grief and rueingThose wingéd thoughts of mine pursuing—  So dear were they,  So lovely and so far away!

  I seek them still and always must  Until my laggard heart is dustAnd I am free to follow, follow,Across the curving sky’s blue hollow,  Those thoughts too fleet  For any save the soul’s swift feet!


DEATH met a little child who criedFor a bright star which earth denied,And Death, so sympathetic, kissed it,Saying: “With meAll bright things be!”—And only the child’s mother missed it.

Death met a maiden on the brae,Her eyes held dreams life would betray,And gallant Death was greatly taken—“Leave,” whispered he,“Your dream with meAnd I will see you never waken.”

Death met an old man in a lane;So gnarled was he and full of painThat kindly Death was struck with pity—“Come you with me,Old man,” said he,“I’ll set you down in a fair city.”

So, kingly Death along the wayScatters rare gifts and asks no pay—Yet who to Death will write a sonnet?If any dare,Let him take careNo foolish tear be spilled upon it!

Out of Babylon

THEIR looks for me are bitter,  And bitter is their word—I may not glance behind unseen,  I may not sigh unheard.

So fare we forth from Babylon,  Along the road of stone;And no one looks to Babylon  Save I—save I alone!

My mother’s eyes are glory-filled  (Save when they fall on me)The shining of my father’s face  I tremble when I see,

For they were slaves in Babylon,  And now they’re walking free—They leave their chains in Babylon,  I bear my chains with me!

At night a sound of singing  The vast encampment fills;“Jerusalem! Jerusalem!”  It sweeps the nearing hills—

But no one sings of Babylon  (Their home of yesterday)And no one prays for Babylon,  And I—I dare not pray!

Last night the Prophet saw me;  And, while he held me there,The holy fire within his eyes  Burned all my secret bare.

“What! Sigh you so for Babylon?”  (I turned away my face)“Here’s one who turns to Babylon,  Heart traitor to her race!”

I follow and I follow...!