by Alfred Austin
``In the depth of Night, on the heights of Day,
Would you know where I rest or roam?
In vain will you search, for I nowhere stay,
And the Universe is my home.
``When you think to descry on the craggy steep
My skirts as I mount and flee
From the wrecks I have wrought, I am sound asleep
In the cradles rocked by the sea.
``There is never an eye that hath seen my helm,
Though I traverse the ocean's face;
There is never a foot that hath trod my Realm,
Or can guide to my dwelling-place.
``Then how will you challenge my Will and me,
Or, how what I do, arraign?
Bewail as you may, I alone am free,
You can neither imprison nor chain.
``Your dungeons clang on the blood-red hand,
And fetter the monster's claw.
If I merge 'neath the wave, if I level on land,
It is that my will is law.
``You have cleared the main of the corsair's keel,
And the forest of outlaws' tread;
Your hounds follow swift on the felon's heel,
And the trail of the ravisher fled.
``But when I harry the woods, or scour
The furrows of foam for prey,
The blushing bloom of the Spring deflower,
Or outrage the buds of May,
``Where, where are they that can hunt me down,
Or catch up my tacking sail,
Can bridle my lust with scourge or frown,
As I speed me away on the gale?
``I heed no menace, I hark no prayer
And, if I desire, I sate:
'Tis but when I want not that I spare,
But neither from love nor hate.
``Let the feeble falter in their intent,
Or, slaking it, feel remorse.
Though I never refrain, I never repent
I am nothing but Will and Force.
``The flocks of the wandering waves I hold
In the hollow of my hand,
And I let them loose, like a huddled fold,
And with them I flood the land;
``Till they swirl round villages, hamlets, thorpes,
As the cottagers flee for life:
Then I fling the fisherman's flaccid corpse
At the feet of the fisherman's wife.
``I blow from the shore as the surges swell,
And the drenched barque strains for port,
But heareth in vain the lighthouse bell
And the guns of the hailing fort.
``Where speedeth the horseman o'er sand or veldt
That boasteth a seat like mine?
I ride without stirrup, or bit, or belt,
On the back of the bounding brine.
``And it rears and plunges, it chafes and foams,
But I am its master still,
And its mettle I tame till it halts or roams
At whatever pace I will.
``I shatter the stubborn oak, and blanch
The leaves of the poplar tree,
And sweep all the chords of bough and branch,
Till I make them sound like the sea.
``O, where is there music like to mine,
When I muster my breath and roll
Through the organ pipes of the mountain pine,
Till they fill and affright the soul?
``Then smoothly and softly, 'twixt shore and shore,
I float on the dreaming mere;
And motionless then you suspend your oar,
And listen, but cannot hear.
``For I have crept to the water's edge,
And deep under reed-mace crest
Am faintly fanning the seeded sedge,
Or rocking the cygnet's nest.
``If I strip the maidenly birches bare
Of their dainty transparent dress,
It is that their limbs may look more fair
In their innocent nakedness.
``I weave from the leaves of the beech-capped steep
A coverlet gold and red,
And under its quiet warmth I creep,
And sleep till the snows are fled.
``Then I wake, and around the maiden's feet
I flutter each fringe and fold,
And playfully ripple the vestal pleat
That hints of her perfect mould.
``I linger round dimpled throat and mouth,
Till her warm lips fall apart,
And with the breath of the scented south
Keep thawing her chaste cold heart.
``Then she harks to the note of the nightingale
And the coo of the mated dove,
And murmurs the words of the poet's tale,
Till the whole of her life is Love.
``I unlimber the thunder, I aim the bolt,
Till the forest ranks waver and quail,
Then hurl down the hill and over the holt
My squadrons of glittering hail.
``I soar where no skylark mounts and sings,
But the heavenly anthems swell,
And fan with the force of my demon wings
The furnace of nethermost Hell.
``Like the Soul of Man, like God's Word and Will,
Whence I come and whither I go,
And where I abide when my voice is still,
You know not, and never shall know.''
Last updated January 14, 2019