The Dread Voyage Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell




OVER these wastes, these endless wastes of white,
     Rounding about far, lonely regions of sky,
Winter the wild-tongued cometh with clamorous might;
     Deep-sounding and surgent, his armies of storm sweep by,
     Wracking the skeleton woods and opens that lie
Far to the seaward reaches that thunder and moan,
Where barrens and mists and beaches forever are lone.

Morning shrinks closer to night, and nebulous noon
     Hangs, a dull lanthorn, over the windings of snows;
And like a pale beech-leaf fluttering upward, the moon

     Out of the short day, wakens and blossoms and grows,
     And builds her wan beauty like to the ghost of a rose
Over the soundless silences, shrunken, that dream
Their prisoned deathliness under the gold of her beam.

Wide is the arch of the night, blue spangled with fire,

     From wizened edge to edge of the shrivelled-up earth,
Where the chords of the dark are as tense as the strings of a lyre
     Strung by the fingers of silence ere sound had birth,
     With far-off, alien echoes of morning and mirth,
That reach the tuned ear of the spirit, beaten upon
By the soundless tides of the wonder and glory of dawn.

The stars have faded and blurred in the spaces of night,
     And over the snow-fringed edges wakens the morn,
Pallid and heatless, lifting its lustreless light
     Over the skeleton woodlands and stretches forlorn,

     Touching with pallor the forests, storm-haggard and torn;
Till out of the earth’s edge the winter-god rises acold,
And strikes on the iron of the month with finger of gold.

Then down the whole harp of the morning a vibration rings,
     Thrilling the heart of the dull earth with throbbings and dreams

Of far-blown odours and music of long-vanished Springs;
     Till the lean, stalled cattle low for the lapping of streams,
     And the clamorous cock, to the south, where his dung-hill
Looks the sun in the eye, and prophesies, hopeful and clear,
The stir in the breast of the wrinkled, bleak rime of the year.