By the plunging light, In beetle-haunted, most unwomanly bower Of the wild-swerving cabin, hour by hour . . .

Schooner 'Equator.'

XXXIV - TO MY OLD FAMILIARS

DO you remember - can we e'er forget? - How, in the coiled-perplexities of youth, In our wild climate, in our scowling town, We gloomed and shivered, sorrowed, sobbed and feared? The belching winter wind, the missile rain, The rare and welcome silence of the snows, The laggard morn, the haggard day, the night, The grimy spell of the nocturnal town, Do you remember? - Ah, could one forget!

As when the fevered sick that all night long Listed the wind intone, and hear at last The ever-welcome voice of chanticleer Sing in the bitter hour before the dawn, - With sudden ardour, these desire the day: So sang in the gloom of youth the bird of hope; So we, exulting, hearkened and desired. For lo! as in the palace porch of life We huddled with chimeras, from within - How sweet to hear! - the music swelled and fell, And through the breach of the revolving doors What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!

I have since then contended and rejoiced; Amid the glories of the house of life Profoundly entered, and the shrine beheld: Yet when the lamp from my expiring eyes Shall dwindle and recede, the voice of love Fall insignificant on my closing ears, What sound shall come but the old cry of the wind In our inclement city? what return But the image of the emptiness of youth, Filled with the sound of footsteps and that voice Of discontent and rapture and despair? So, as in darkness, from the magic lamp, The momentary pictures gleam and fade And perish, and the night resurges - these Shall I remember, and then all forget.

Apemama.

XXXV

THE tropics vanish, and meseems that I, From Halkerside, from topmost Allermuir, Or steep Caerketton, dreaming gaze again. Far set in fields and woods, the town I see Spring gallant from the shallows of her smoke, Cragged, spired, and turreted, her virgin fort Beflagged. About, on seaward-drooping hills, New folds of city glitter. Last, the Forth Wheels ample waters set with sacred isles, And populous Fife smokes with a score of towns.

There, on the sunny frontage of a hill, Hard by the house of kings, repose the dead, My dead, the ready and the strong of word. Their works, the salt-encrusted, still survive; The sea bombards their founded towers; the night Thrills pierced with their strong lamps. The artificers, One after one, here in this grated cell, Where the rain erases, and the rust consumes, Fell upon lasting silence. Continents And continental oceans intervene; A sea uncharted, on a lampless isle, Environs and confines their wandering child In vain. The voice of generations dead Summons me, sitting distant, to arise, My numerous footsteps nimbly to retrace, And, all mutation over, stretch me down In that denoted city of the dead.

Apemama.

XXXVI - TO S. C.

I HEARD the pulse of the besieging sea Throb far away all night. I heard the wind Fly crying and convulse tumultuous palms. I rose and strolled. The isle was all bright sand, And flailing fans and shadows of the palm; The heaven all moon and wind and the blind vault; The keenest planet slain, for Venus slept.

The king, my neighbour, with his host of wives, Slept in the precinct of the palisade; Where single, in the wind, under the moon, Among the slumbering cabins, blazed a fire, Sole street-lamp and the only sentinel.

To other lands and nights my fancy turned - To London first, and chiefly to your house, The many-pillared and the well-beloved. There yearning fancy lighted; there again In the upper room I lay, and heard far off The unsleeping city murmur like a shell; The muffled tramp of the Museum guard Once more went by me; I beheld again Lamps vainly brighten the dispeopled street; Again I longed for the returning morn, The awaking traffic, the bestirring birds, The consentaneous trill of tiny song That weaves round monumental cornices A passing charm of beauty.

Songs of Travel and Other Verses Page 08

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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