In Front of the Landscape

Plunging and labouring on in a tide of visions,
          Dolorous and dear,
Forward I pushed my way as amid waste waters
          Stretching around,
Through whose eddies there glimmered the customed landscape
          Yonder and near

Blotted to feeble mist. And the coomb and the upland
Ancient chalk-pit, milestone, rills in the grass-flat
          Stroked by the light,
Seemed but a ghost-like gauze, and no substantial
          Meadow or mound.

What were the infinite spectacles bulking foremost
          Under my sight,
Hindering me to discern my paced advancement
          Lengthening to miles;
What were the re-creations killing the daytime
          As by the night?

O they were speechful faces, gazing insistent,
          Some as with smiles,
Some as with slow-born tears that brinily trundled
          Over the wrecked
Cheeks that were fair in their flush-time, ash now with anguish,
          Harrowed by wiles.

Yes, I could see them, feel them, hear them, address them —
          Halo-bedecked —
And, alas, onwards, shaken by fierce unreason,
          Rigid in hate,
Smitten by years-long wryness born of misprision,
          Dreaded, suspect.

Then there would breast me shining sights, sweet seasons
          Further in date;
Instruments of strings with the tenderest passion
          Vibrant, beside
Lamps long extinguished, robes, cheeks, eyes with the earth’s crust
          Now corporate.

Also there rose a headland of hoary aspect
          Gnawed by the tide,
Frilled by the nimb of the morning as two friends stood there
          Guilelessly glad —
Wherefore they knew not – touched by the fringe of an ecstasy
          Scantly descried.

Later images too did the day unfurl me,
          Shadowed and sad,
Clay cadavers of those who had shared in the dramas,
          Laid now at ease,
Passions all spent, chiefest the one of the broad brow

So did beset me scenes miscalled of the bygone,
          Over the leaze,
Past the clump, and down to where lay the beheld ones;
          — Yea, as the rhyme
Sung by the sea-swell, so in their pleading dumbness
          Captured me these.

For, their lost revisiting manifestations
          In their own time
Much had I slighted, caring not for their purport,
          Seeing behind
Things more coveted, reckoned the better worth calling
          Sweet, sad, sublime.

Thus do they now show hourly before the intenser
          Stare of the mind
As they were ghosts avenging their slights by my bypast
          Body-borne eyes,
Show, too, with fuller translation than rested upon them
          As living kind.

Hence wag the tongues of the passing people, saying
          In their surmise,
‘Ah — whose is this dull form that perambulates, seeing nought
          Round him that looms
Whithersoever his footsteps turn in his farings,
          Save a few tombs?’

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