Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Penelope to Ulysses
By Stephen Phillips (1868–1915)
 
THOU marvellest, husband, that I sit so mute
And motionless, but gazing on that face
Which now the pine-fire throws up in a flame,
Now leaves in darkest night as thou dost lean
Massily drooping toward the log-fed blaze.        5
Such silence has come down upon us two!
Yet a good silence after so long years.
We only are awake and the live sea!
But thou who hast borne all things may’st perhaps
Bear with a woman’s fancies while she speaks them.        10
Think not, my man of men, that I am cold
In passion or heart! Far otherwise! I see,
And nothing else I see, the brow that took
The blow of strange waves and the furious kiss
Of different winds, the sad heaven-roaming eyes,        15
The mighty hands that piloted all night.
Yet art thou paler than my dream of thee.
Forgive me, O my lord, but I must speak.
Well—all these years have I imagined thee
So constantly that now thy visible form,        20
How noble! seems but shadow of such sight.
For I have seen thee in the deep of night
Leap silent, sudden up the stair, and I
Fell toward thee in the darkness with a cry,
Fluttering upon thy bosom like a bird.        25
And I have seen thee spring upon this earth;
Then have I often just upon daybreak
Started and run down to the beach and heard
Thy boat grate on the pebbles: or again
It has been noon and thou hast come in arms        30
Over the sweet fields calling out my name.
Sometimes in tragic nights of surf and cloud
Thou hast been thrown headlong in howling wind
On the sharp coast and up the sea-bank streamed,
Alone. This then I strive to shape to words—        35
Thou hadst become with passing days and years,
With night and tempest, and with sun and sea,
A presence hovering in all lights and airs.
Thou wert the soul then of the evening star,
And thou didst roam heaven in the seeking moon,        40
Thou secretly wouldst speak from stirring leaves,
And what was dawn but some surprise of thee?
So, husband, though this heart beats wild at thee,
Yet lesser in imagination
Art thou returned than evermore returning.        45
Nature is but a body from henceforth,
The soul departed, the spirit gone of her.
The waves cry unintelligibly now,
That then “Ulysses” and “Ulysses” still
Hissed sweetly, privately, the livelong night.        50
Ah! but thou hear’st me not, canst only hear
A roar of memories, and for thee this house
Still plunges and takes the sea-spray evermore.
Yet come! How thou art weary none can tell,
How wise, how sad, how deaf to babbled words.        55
Yet come, and fold me, not as in old nights,
But now with perils kiss me, wind me round
With wonder, murmur magic in my ear,
And clasp me with the world, with nothing less!
 
 
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