Behind the Arras: A Book of the Unseen

by Bliss Carman


A Song Before Sailing

"Cras ingens iterabimus aequor."


WIND of the dead men's feet,
Blow down the empty street
Of this old city by the sea
With news for me!

Blow me beyond the grime


And pestilence of time!
I am too sick at heart to war
With failure any more.

Thy chill is in my bones;
The moonlight on the stones


Is pale, and palpable, and cold;
I am as one grown old.

I call from room to room
Through the deserted gloom;
The echoes are all words I know,


Lost in some long ago.

I prowl from door to door,
And find no comrade more.
The wolfish fear that children feel
Is snuffing at my heel.


I hear the hollow sound
Of a great ship coming round,
The thunder of tackle and the tread
Of sailors overhead.

That stormy-blown hulloo


Has orders for me, too.
I see thee, hand at mouth, and hark,
My captain of the dark.

O wind of the great East,
By whom we are released


From this strange dusty port to sail
Beyond our fellows' hail,

Under the stars that keep
The entry of the deep,
Thy somber voice brings up the sea's 


Forgotten melodies;

And I have no more need
Of bread, or wine, or creed,
Bound for the colonies of time
Beyond the farthest prime.


Wind of the dead men's feet,
Blow through the empty street!
The last adventurer am I,
Then, world, good-by!