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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts 1860–1943

The Isles


FAITHFUL reports of them have reached me oft!

Many their embassage to mortal court,

By golden pomp, and breathless-heard consort

Of music soft,—

By fragrances accredited, and dreams.

Many their speeding heralds, whose light feet

Make pause at wayside brooks, and fords of streams,

Leaving transfigured by an effluence fleet

Those wayfarers they meet.

No wind from out the solemn wells of night

But hath its burden of strange messages,

Tormenting for interpreter; nor less

The wizard light

That steals from noon-stilled waters, woven in shade,

Beckons somewhither, with cool fingers slim.

No dawn but hath some subtle word conveyed

In rose ineffable at sunrise rim,

Or charactery dim.

One moment throbs the hearing, yearns the sight.

But though not far, yet strangely hid, the way,

And our sense slow; nor long for us delay

The guides their flight!

The breath goes by; the word, the light, elude;

And we stay wondering. But there comes an hour

Of fitness perfect and unfettered mood,

When splits her husk the finer sense with power,

And—yon their palm-trees tower!

Here Homer came, and Milton came, though blind.

Omar’s deep doubts still found them nigh and nigher,

And learned them fashioned to the heart’s desire.

The supreme mind

Of Shakespeare took their sovereignty, and smiled.

Those passionate Israelitish lips that poured

The Song of Songs attained them; and the wild

Child-heart of Shelley, here from strife restored,

Remembers not life’s sword.