IV

My Tembinok' from men like these Inherited his palaces, His right to rule, his powers of mind, His cocoa-islands sea-enshrined. Stern bearer of the sword and whip, A master passed in mastership, He learned, without the spur of need, To write, to cipher, and to read; From all that touch on his prone shore Augments his treasury of lore, Eager in age as erst in youth To catch an art, to learn a truth, To paint on the internal page A clearer picture of the age. His age, you say? But ah, not so! In his lone isle of long ago, A royal Lady of Shalott, Sea-sundered, he beholds it not; He only hears it far away. The stress of equatorial day He suffers; he records the while The vapid annals of the isle; Slaves bring him praise of his renown, Or cackle of the palm-tree town; The rarer ship and the rare boat He marks; and only hears remote, Where thrones and fortunes rise and reel, The thunder of the turning wheel.

V

For the unexpected tears he shed At my departing, may his lion head Not whiten, his revolving years No fresh occasion minister of tears; At book or cards, at work or sport, Him may the breeze across the palace court For ever fan; and swelling near For ever the loud song divert his ear.

Schooner 'Equator,' at Sea.

XXXVIII - THE WOODMAN

IN all the grove, nor stream nor bird Nor aught beside my blows was heard, And the woods wore their noonday dress - The glory of their silentness. From the island summit to the seas, Trees mounted, and trees drooped, and trees Groped upward in the gaps. The green Inarboured talus and ravine By fathoms. By the multitude The rugged columns of the wood And bunches of the branches stood; Thick as a mob, deep as a sea, And silent as eternity. With lowered axe, with backward head, Late from this scene my labourer fled, And with a ravelled tale to tell, Returned. Some denizen of hell, Dead man or disinvested god, Had close behind him peered and trod, And triumphed when he turned to flee. How different fell the lines with me! Whose eye explored the dim arcade Impatient of the uncoming shade - Shy elf, or dryad pale and cold, Or mystic lingerer from of old: Vainly. The fair and stately things, Impassive as departed kings, All still in the wood's stillness stood, And dumb. The rooted multitude Nodded and brooded, bloomed and dreamed, Unmeaning, undivined. It seemed No other art, no hope, they knew, Than clutch the earth and seek the blue. 'Mid vegetable king and priest And stripling, I (the only beast) Was at the beast's work, killing; hewed The stubborn roots across, bestrewed The glebe with the dislustred leaves, And bade the saplings fall in sheaves; Bursting across the tangled math A ruin that I called a path, A Golgotha that, later on, When rains had watered, and suns shone, And seeds enriched the place, should bear And be called garden. Here and there, I spied and plucked by the green hair A foe more resolute to live, The toothed and killing sensitive. He, semi-conscious, fled the attack; He shrank and tucked his branches back; And straining by his anchor-strand, Captured and scratched the rooting hand. I saw him crouch, I felt him bite; And straight my eyes were touched with sight. I saw the wood for what it was: The lost and the victorious cause, The deadly battle pitched in line, Saw silent weapons cross and shine: Silent defeat, silent assault, A battle and a burial vault.

Thick round me in the teeming mud Brier and fern strove to the blood: The hooked liana in his gin Noosed his reluctant neighbours in: There the green murderer throve and spread, Upon his smothering victims fed, And wantoned on his climbing coil. Contending roots fought for the soil Like frightened demons: with despair Competing branches pushed for air. Green conquerors from overhead Bestrode the bodies of their dead: The Caesars of the sylvan field, Unused to fail, foredoomed to yield: For in the groins of branches, lo! The cancers of the orchid grow. Silent as in the listed ring Two chartered wrestlers strain and cling; Dumb as by yellow Hooghly's side The suffocating captives died; So hushed the woodland warfare goes Unceasing; and the silent foes Grapple and smother, strain and clasp Without a cry, without a gasp. Here also sound thy fans, O God, Here too thy banners move abroad: Forest and city, sea and shore, And the whole earth, thy threshing-floor! The drums of war, the drums of peace, Roll through our cities without cease, And all the iron halls of life Ring with the unremitting strife.

Songs of Travel and Other Verses Page 10

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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