Southward Sidonian Hanno

by Hervey Allen

Hervey Allen

Southward Sidonian Hanno lashed his slaves
Farther than mortal barks had dared before,
Around a sphinx-shaped cape that looked at stars, —
Then north they labored at the salty oar.

Northward and westward, till they saw at morn
A peak that vaulted upward into light,
Catching the crescent moon upon its horn,
An ivory tusk set in the jaw of night.

Under the stars a dream was born in mist,
While clouds streamed from the nipples of low hills,
Leaving the slopes below pale amethyst,
Veined with the silver lightning of the rills.

High as the peak itself, a lark began,
And each as in a shell could faintly hear
The voice of ocean from a far-off beach,
Whisper its hoary secret at his ear.

Behind the line of water upward smote
The petaled tangents of the rising sun,
Till straight from boat to sun, from sun to boat,
The liquid glory of his face had run.

And in the gardens underneath the keel
They saw the orange spiders on the corals,
Fiddling a demon music to the reel
Of gold-eyed serpents in vermilion quarrels.

The scent of woods rolled to them from the land,
While conjured at the oars they listless lay,
Mixed with a whiff of cresses from the cliff
And upland orchards redolent of May.

Each thought that he alone beheld the dream,
Fearful that if he spoke it would be gone,
Until a thousand mast-lengths overhead
The sunrise leaped from lawn to gilded lawn.

Then with a throaty " ha " at every stroke
They walked the leaking ship toward the strand,
Making her weedy prow break into smoke
That drifted like an incense to the land.

Yet never might they find a place to beach;
At noon they beat their shields, but mocking hails
Blent with a god-like laughter out of reach,
Answered the friendly wafture of their sails.

It seemed a land where mortals had no part,
Red, ringed about with granite-teeth and foam,
With fiery-glinted pastures where Melcart
Or Baal with all his sons might be at home.

So, till the sun plunged into molten brass,
When horns of inland cities hailed the moon;
Down cliffs, all night, across a sea of glass,
Toppled the talking timbrel's toneless tune.

And from the ooz the dead-faced krakens came
To peer with lidless eyes into the ship,
Or dive beneath through clouds of milky flame,
In arctic-light that streamed from fin and lip.

Until the quaking crew began to fret,
And murmur, saying one had left his sire,
And one his wife and babe, — so Hanno set
His bow into the Bear and steered for Tyre.

Glad were his bearded men; with steady stroke
They sank the peak below the ocean-stream,
And afterwards of many lands they spoke,
But always of the island as a dream.

Last updated September 05, 2017