The Flower Of Flame

AS round the cliff I came alone
The whole bay bared its blaze to me;
Loud sang the wind, the wild sun shone
The tumbled clouds fled scattering on,
Light shattered on wave and winking stone,
And in the glassy midst stood one
Brighter than sun or cloud or sea.

She with flame-vehement hair untied,
Virginal in her fluttering dress,
Watched, deafened and all dazzle-eyed,
Each opulent breaker's crash and glide
And now flung arms up high and wide
As if, possessing all, she cried
Her beauty, youth and happiness.

Loud rang the waves and higher, higher
The surge in chains of light was flung,
The wind as in a wild desire
Licked round her form—she seemed a spire
Of sunny drift ! a fount of fire!
The hymn of some triumphant lyre
Which sounded when the world was young!

Purified by the scalding glare,
Swept clear by the salty sea-wind's flow,
My eyes knew you for what you are—
The daemon thing for which we dare,
Which breaks us, which we bid not spare.
The life, the light, the heavenly snare,
The turretted city's overthrow,
Helen, I knew you standing there!

The long, low wavelets of summer
Glide in and glitter along the sand;
The fitful breezes of summer
Blow fragrantly from the land.

Side by side we lie silent
Between sunned cliffs and blown seas:
Our eyes more bright than sea ripples,
Our breaths more light than the breeze.

When a gust meets a wave that advances
The wave leaps, flames, falls with a hiss
So lightly, so brightly each heart leaps
When our dumb lips touch in a kiss.

Foamless the gradual waters well
From the sheer deep, where darkness lies,
Till to the shoulder rock they swell
With a slow cumulance of sighs.

O, waters gather up your strength
From the blind caves of your unrest,
Loose your load utterly at length
Over the moonlight-marbled breast.

There sleep, diffused, the long dim hours,
Nor let your love-locks be withdrawn
Till round the world-horizon glowers
The wrath and chaos of the dawn.

She picked a whorled shell from the beach
And laid it close beside her ear;
Then held it, frightened, at full reach
Toward my face that I might hear.

And while she leaned and while I heard
Our dumb eyes dared not meet for shame,
Our hearts within us sickly stirred,
Our limbs ran wax before the flame.

For in the despairing voice and meek
An echo to our hearts we found
Who through love-striving vainly seek
To coop the infinite in bound.

All is estranged to-day.
Chastened and meek,
Side by side taking our way,
With what anguish we seek
To dare each to face the other or even to speak!

The sun like an opal drifts
Through a vapourous shine
Or overwhelms itself in dark rifts,
On the sea's far line
Sheer light falls in a single sword like a sign.

The sea, striving in its bed
Like a corpse that awakes,
Slowly heaves up its lustreless head,
Crowned with weeds and snakes,
To strike at the shore bareing fangs as it breaks.

Something threatening earth
Aims at our love;—
Gone is our ignorant mirth,
Love like speech of the dove;
The Sword and the Snake have seen and proclaim now

The narrow pathway winds its course
Through dwarfish oaks and junipers
Till suddenly beyond the gorse
We glimpse the copse of stunted firs,

That tops the headland, round whose base
The cold tide flings a drowned man's bones
All day against the cliff's sheer face,
All night prolongs his lasting groans.

The Drowned—who in the copse once stood
Waiting the Dead: to end both vows—
Heard, as we hear, the split of wood
And shrieking of the writhen boughs

Grow shrill and shriller. Pass the spot,
The strained boughs arch toward collapse.
A whistle and—CRACK! there's the shot!
Or is it but a bough which snaps?

Ever, when we have left the gorse
And through the copse each hastening hies,
We, lovers on the self-same course,
Dare not look in each other's eyes.

Before I woke I knew her gone
Though nothing nigh had stirred,
Now by the curtain inward blown
She stood not seen but heard
Where the faint moonlight dimmed or shone . . .
And neither spoke a word.

One hand against her mouth she pressed,
But could not staunch its cry,
The other knocked upon her breast
Impotently . . . while I
Glared rigid, labouring, possessed
And dared not ask her why.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:50 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 4,076
Words 759
Stanzas 24
Stanza Lengths 8, 7, 7, 8, 5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4, 7, 6

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