Hiram Ladd Spencer (1829-1915)
Text from A Century of Canadian Sonnets.
"Upon the beach I walked at eve alone"
Upon the beach I walked at eve alone
And listened to the moaning of the sea,
And watched the sails that in the moonlight shone
As the horizon. Straightway unto me
There came a voice, as from below the waves:
"The less'ning sail will soon be seen no more,
And as I sweep thy footprints from the shore,
Time mosses o'er a world of unknown graves.
And it is well. If men could not forget,
With phantoms all the world would peopled be;
The ghosts of buried joys their hearts would fret--
A flood of tears, like blood, would drown the sea.
Rail not at Time--the healer of thy woes--
As of those thou hast forgotten, shall be thy last repose."
With eyes suffused and heart dissolved with sorrow,
How often have I fled the realms of sleep,
And sought, not vainly, from thy page to borrow
That which forbids or eye or heart to weep!
Thy Thanatopsis! fraught with tenderest feeling,
Is like a June breeze to the ice-bound heart;
To us, thy humble followers, revealing
The sage, the seer, the poet that thou art,
Still roll "The Ages," still "Green River" flows,
And odorous blossoms load the "Apple Tree,"--
Into "The Lake" still fall the fleecy snows,
And Nature everywhere doth speak of thee.
Oh, for a poet's tongue to name thy name!
But does it matter? Thine is deathless fame.
O Sea, that to these grey and solemn shores
Dost pour thy plaint through all the circling years;
I would that to my ever-listening ears
Some spirit might translate thy language! Roars
The wave that spends its force against the rocks
That its assaults deride; a giant's pain
It voices! Soft dost thou complain
By pebbly beach to Summer's fields and flocks.
Tell'st thou of cities hid beneath thy breast?
Of famed Atlantis, known in story only?
Of sepulchres innumerable, where rest
The wrecks of ages, peacefully and lonely?
Tell why thou plaintest, melancholy sea!
And the sea answers, Hush, it may not be.
The Buried Years
The twilight shadows creep along the wall,
Without, the sobbing of the wind I hear,
And from the vine-clad elm that marks the mere
The ivy leaves in crimson eddies fall.
Deeper and deeper grow the shades of night,
And, gazing in the fire, to me appears
The form of one departed with the years--
The buried years of hope, and faith and light.
"Oh that those lips had language"--would they tell
The old, old story of the bygone days--
Ere on our heart the blighting shadow fell,
And we henceforward followed parted ways?
I ask, but as I ask the embers die--
The vision fades--and answer none have I.